Sunday, 29 November 2009

Herding Cats

Getting everyone together and arranging them into groups for portraits at weddings can be rather like herding cats. No sooner have you got the last straggler to come and join in, one of the first arrivals wanders off.

Still, it is amazing how even big groups can be pulled together with a bit of leaping around, a sense of humour and some shouting. Where possible, I like to jump up on a bench or table. I’m sure that it must look quite funny, as that’s the sort of thing you do when you are eight, not in your thirties, in a suit. But it gets people’s attention, when there is a big crowd. Most wedding guests are willing to pose for group pictures but need to know clearly what is required of them. Whispering whilst the church bells ring, simply won’t do. It is of course, shouting with a smile. Personality and presence are essential attributes of a good wedding photographer, during this session. Later, documentary pictures may be required and then it is about subtlety of approach.

Group dynamics are always fascinating to me and I try not to make too many assumptions about what any particular group will be like until I am actually on-board, at the wedding. Meeting the couple gives me clues but doesn’t tell me precisely how I should be interacting with any one set of families and friends. Needs vary, depending upon many factors and so does my volume level and method. Weddings are unique times and gatherings and at these events, some families are quiet, some rowdy and heckling, some are very disciplined in themselves and just need little coaxing, whilst others look to me for order. Many are a mixture of these with a few organisers and a few comedians and a few shy-hiders, who need to be brought from the back to the side or front.

As a photographer I often find myself wanting to push the boundaries a little with making the groups creative and fun but one has to temper such desires to some extent, as the time I take impacts on others, such as caterers and the guests themselves. I am always conscious that it is the people who are most important, so getting a clear picture of everyone in a group is the primary aim; preferably smiling.

I try and keep the post-service group portrait session down to 30 minutes or less. Once it goes over that it can become quite tedious for all involved, so a list of half a dozen is ideal. It is usually a kind of semi-controlled chaos. After all, one unarmed person cannot force 100 free people to do what they do not want to do. The chaos can be humorous, as long as it does not go on too long and become frustration. Then chaos becomes order and we have satisfaction. Bliss. We did it. Well done everyone!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Wedding Fayre at Newstead Abbey

We exhibited at Newstead Abbey's wedding fayre on Sunday. Its a great setting for a wedding or a wedding fayre. 600 people went through on the clicker. It was good to hear everyone being so enthusiastic about their wedding plans and taking an interest in our photography and the many other wedding services and options on offer at the show.

There were a number of other wedding photographers also at the show, mostly from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and it was good to catch up with a few friends and see how they were all doing.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Attaching a Gentleman’s Buttonhole

Whilst photographing weddings, I am regularly asked by the groom, best man and ushers how to attach a buttonhole. It was about time we made a movie to show everyone the best way of performing this crucial wedding task.

At a wedding fair in Nottingham, we got it together.

Many thanks to April Flowers for providing the flower

And to Slaters Formal Hire for providing both the suit and the demonstration

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Deciding upon your wedding group portraits. Part 2: Timing. Scenarios and Solutions

Let’s assume that half an hour has been allocated for groups and another half an hour for portraits and casual pictures of the wedded couple. Some photographers like 90 minutes for these 2 sessions but it can be kept to 60 minutes + any travel time, if the lists of required pictures are not too long. If you have an early wedding, you may choose to permit a bit more time, just to take some pressure off this section of the day.

Scenario 1: Church wedding, with nice, large church grounds or parkland next to the church and most importantly, at least an hour between the end of the wedding service and the start of the next at that church. The reception may be a hotel, hall, club or a public house. In this case it will make sense to make the group portraits at the church, followed by confetti, which may have to take place at some distance from the church door or even beyond the gates of the church. After this, there will be couple portraits and some travel time.

Scenario 2: Civil service at a hall/bespoke wedding venue, where the grounds are well suited for portraiture and other forms of photography. The venue likes to serve a drink to the guests immediately after the service and perhaps some canapĂ©s. The worst thing we could do here would be to insist that the guests immediately put down their drink and canapĂ©, no sooner as having been served. Therefore it makes sense to make portraits of the wedded couple at this time, to give the guests half an hour. Then upon return from the ‘couple portraits’, we can make the group pictures.

Scenario 3: Civil service at a location with grounds but reception drinks served at a separate reception. In this case it makes most sense to make the group portraits first. Then the guests can go ahead to the reception and receive their welcome drink and in some cases, book into hotel rooms, whilst the couple have their portraits made.

Scenario 4: Civil service at a small register office, with little or no garden, followed by reception at a large hotel. Typically the confetti is thrown here. Then everyone departs for the reception. Couple portraits may be made here and perhaps somewhere en-route, if there is a sensible beauty spot between the two locations. Then the groups are made at the hotel gardens or even inside.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Deciding upon your wedding group portraits. Part 1: Creating a list

As a general principal, it’s a good idea to keep the group portrait session fairly swift, as guests get bored if it goes over half an hour. One should aim to keep it down to what you really need, in order to remember who was there at your wedding, rather than an exhaustive set of every combination and arrangement of your guests.

Every family is different, so it’s almost impossible to have a perfect standard list. For instance, let’s look at the portrait, ‘Couple and parents’. It sounds simple and one would imagine that it comprises of a couple + 2 parents on each side. Whilst this is not uncommon, it is certainly not a rule. On one side, there may be just one parent and on the other, the parents may have both re-married, so there are 4. Other people see this picture as less important than a photograph of themselves with a grandparent or auntie and uncle, who played a bigger part in their childhood than their actual parents.

Grandparents can also be a tricky one. Many people getting married do not have living grandparents or their grandparents are unable to travel. For this reason, ‘couple and grandparents’ is not on my standard list but that is not to say it should not be included, if you are one of the ones lucky enough to have grandparents with you on your big day.

Another factor to take into account is that there is no real need to replicate the same groups throughout the day. Groups may also be made before service, such as

1. Groom, best man, ushers (typically 30 minutes before service begins)
2. If having a morning visit: Bride + parents/bridesmaids

My standard list is a recommendation. It won’t work for everyone and can therefore be edited. If the list is extended by more than a few groups, additional time should be incorporated into the schedule.

1. Couple
2. Couple and parents
3. Bridal party
4. Couple and Bride’s family
5. Couple and Groom’s family
6. Everyone
7. Confetti

No. 1 is primarily to set the scene, so that everyone knows what is happening

No. 3 consists of: couple, best man, maid of honour, ushers, bridesmaids, paige boys, flower girls and ring bearer. It does not usually include parents, unless they have been designated one of the roles above.

No’s 4 and 5 are usually ‘all relatives’ but this can be exchanged for ‘immediate family’ if preferred.

Other popular groups include:
• Hens
• Stags
• All friends

But care should be taken not to overload the group portrait time.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

A personalised wedding poem by Leigh Maynard

For Tina and Stuart

Through eyes so full of tears of joy,
We look upon a life,
A journey thanks to Sophie,
Who introduced a wife.

A first date full of nerves and fears,
Trepidation burning through,
Tina looked around the room,
For the first time seeing Stu.

The minutes turned to hours,
Day melted into night,
As Tina told her story,
Stuart sat polite.

Pure radiance surrounded,
Every word and every smile,
Tina looked at Stuart,
The world seemed so worthwhile.

On a moonlit night in Newquay,
Upon his bended knee,
Stuart posed the question,
Sweet Tina, marry me.

As hectic weeks and frantic months,
Grew into serenades,
With gorgeous little Scarlett,
And Sophie as bridesmaids.

Beneath a glorious Cornish sky,
The wedding day began,
Jack and Mike each held a ring,
Both being the bestman.

As Tom walked proudly down the aisle,
With Tina by his side,
A glow of warmth, a joie de vivre,
Enveloped this new bride.

Stuart stood resplendent,
So tall and dignified,
All declared as man and wife,
As each ring signified.

Now every speech and toast request,
Greeted from the heart,
Reinforced and strengthened,
This wonderful new start.

In Antipodean honeymoons,
Rejoicing dreams upon the shore,
Tina and then Stuart,
Swore their love forever more.

You can read more about Jo and Leigh and their bespoke poetry writing service at

Sunday, 6 September 2009

The Beginning – A Beautiful Wedding Poem by Leigh Maynard

The Beginning (Jo & Leigh)

As early dawns awaken souls,
Through mists of milky light,
The sunrise stretches out to touch,
A warming world from night.

Thoughts of Jo emerge afresh,
Help guide this mortal child,
Save one prayer, one more for Leigh,
And everyone that smiled.

Each smile from Jo, each touch, each kiss,
Each look, each light array,
With every road we travel down,
With every word we say.

For certainty, one thought stays true,
Forever now to be,
From this day on, remain as one,
Forever Jo and Leigh.

You can read more about Jo and Leigh and their bespoke poetry writing service at

Friday, 7 August 2009

Ten Top Wedding Tips from a Wedding Photographer

  1. Brides – tell your Dad to get ready in good time. Dad has worked out that if the service is at 1pm, it takes 10 minutes to get there, it takes him 10 minutes to get dressed and 10 minutes to have a shower, so he can start to get ready at 12.30. In fact the photographer might be getting there at 11.15 and leaving to go to meet the groom at the church at 12.15, so there are now no pictures of bride and dad at the house.
  2. Hair and makeup can often take up to 40 minutes longer to do than the make-up artist estimates. Having overrun their slot and left you running late, they can walk away, not having to face the consequences of the bottleneck that follows. Book them a bit earlier and if they are swift and you are ready early, you can have an extra glass of champagne.
  3. Take the labels off your shoes before the day and before you have had your nails done.
  4. Don’t forget to turn your mobile phone onto silent before the service starts.
  5. Wedding photography can be great in the rain. Don’t stress as you can often still have great pictures in all weather but don’t get caught holding a brolley when there is lightening about.
  6. You can ask the florist to make you up a cheap throwing bouquet, with flight in mind. This saves your main bouquet, in case you want to keep it or give it as a present.
  7. Warning: Catching the bouquet can be the end of a relationship. Mind you maybe it wasn’t meant to be and it just focuses the mind.
  8. Try not to lose any friends in the run-up. Organising a big event can be quite stressful, so try and be aware of your new stress levels when you are dealing with people. And enjoy it and if possible share the organising with anyone else who would also enjoy playing a part.
  9. If you have booked the honeymoon suite and want some portraits in the room, during your portrait session time, make sure the groom has the key, not Mum, as come the portrait session, Mum could be anywhere and then half the portrait slot time is lost trying to find her to get the key.
  10. Make sure the DJ knows your first dance song and even consider taking it on disk, just in case they cannot locate it on the day.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Tips for Wedding Guests . Part 2. The Reception

Is it your first time being a guest at a big British wedding? Or first time with your young children in tow? Part of your stress is the not knowing. Forewarned is forearmed, so here is a bit of an explanation of what to expect and a few tips to help you avoid confusion, faux pas, relax and enjoy your day.

  • At the wedding reception, there will most likely be a seating plan. You can check this and then you’ll have an idea where you will be going once inside the room in which you will be eating.

  • If it is a formal affair, there will be a greeting line or line-up। This is an opportunity for the couple and sometimes parents and even bridal party to greet guests personally and thank them for coming. Its handshakes and hugs.

  • After not eating for hours, you are approaching tea time and depending on the time of year, possibly darkness. It is now it is time for the Wedding Breakfast. Clever eh?
    The couple will be introduced and all the guests greet them into the room। Once they are seated, everyone else can sit down. You can usually expect 3 courses + coffee and champagne and 3 speeches: Father of the Bride, Groom and Best Man, along with a few gifts to key persons. The champagne is for toasts during the speeches.

  • There may be disposable cameras on the table, for you to snap the other guests. It’s a good idea to make use of them but don’t forget to charge the flash before making a picture. Then keep your fingers away from the flash and the lens when making your picture.
    You may well be asked to fill in a guest book। If you are not the kind of person who can make something up on the hoof, you may wish to have a sentence or two worked out in advance, perhaps saying something positive or just wishing the couple good luck and happiness.

  • During the meal, circulation time or in the evening, try and spend some time with the couple। They invited you so clearly want to spend time with you. All too often, everyone thinks the couple are too busy and try and give them space. In the end they can end up feeling lost at their own party. The couple may circulate during the meal but they may feel too overwhelmed themselves. Remember they are the same people you normally see in jeans and a t-shirt and now they are sandwiched between parents on the top table and would probably appreciate you giving them a temporary rescue of a chat about the stag or hen do, their honeymoon plans or just whatever it is you normally do together.

  • On the whole, most couples prefer to be the only ones on the dance floor for at least the first half of their first dance, so if you have children with you, please hold them back between the time the DJ or entertainer introduces the first dance and a point when they invite other people to join them on the floor. This is not the case 100% of the time and some couples can’t wait to not be the only ones on the floor. It’s worth checking if you think you’ll have a job holding the kids back.

Tips for Wedding Guests . Part 1. The Service

Is it your first time being a guest at a big British wedding? Or first time with your young children in tow? Part of your stress is the not knowing. Forewarned is forearmed, so here is a bit of an explanation of what to expect and a few tips to help you avoid confusion, faux pas, relax and enjoy your day.

  • Eat well before-hand. It’s generally a long day and there’s a lot to get in before the meal.

  • If you haven’t bought gifts on-line, through a gift-service, label your gifts and cards clearly. Upon arrival at the reception, place your gifts on the gift table. There will often be a cardboard post box for cards. All too often, unlabelled gifts are thrust into the arms of the groom, at the church, just before he gets married or into the arms of the bride in their receiving line and there’s really nothing they can do with them at those times. Usually someone has to rescue them and remove the cards and presents, so that they can perform their duties. Then later they are unable to thank people, as gifts have not been labelled, which is unsatisfactory for guests and the couple.

  • Bring some confetti or rose petals . Rose petals are environmentally friendly and some venues do not allow the use of traditional confetti.
  • Arriving: For most guests the ideal time to arrive at the church or register office is 20 minutes or so before the service begins. If you arrive earlier, before the groom an ushers get there, just wait until they have arrived before entering the church. But do not arrive after the bride. This is a sin and you must do the walk of shame.

  • Once at the church or civil service location, you must be seated before the bride and (typically) her father arrive. Although it is the ushers job to ensure that everyone is inside and seated in good time, it is often their first time at the job and will be nervous and may not wish to tell people they don’t know, what to do. Get inside around 15 – 20 minutes before the service starts.

  • You may be asked by the ushers whether you are ‘bride’ or ‘groom’. To clear this up once and for all, they have not confused you with the guy in tails or the lady in the white dress. They wish to know whether you are a relative or a friend of the bride or the bridegroom, so they know where to seat you.

  • Guests with children: It can be stressful taking small children to a wedding. More and more churches have taken this into account and provide a designated play area, with a selection of toys and books, towards the back of the church. The vicar probably won’t mention this until you are seated by which time it’s too late. Look out for this on arrival and if you are lucky and they have one, head straight for it. Don’t battle on in the isles, attempting to maintain silence, until the inevitable explosion occurs, just go for the play area. You’ll find quiet play a lot less stressful and no one minds the sound of parents talking to their children and introducing toys to them. They’ll just be grateful it’s not screaming.
  • At some point you will most likely be asked to pose in group photos and engage in the tradition of throwing confetti. I’m sure you’ll do a grand job.