Bringing a photoshoot to life

I previously wrote a blog about the feeling of having a photoshoot published for the first time, you can read it here. What I want to give in this blog is an insight into what it takes to bring those ideas into reality.

Firstly i’d like to say that putting together stylised bridal photoshoots across Coventry and the West Midlands is a fantastic experience, there are lots of incredible wedding suppliers based in the region and there is a strong community feeling to that as well - or at least that’s been my experience of it. So producing new ideas is a very welcomed, supportive and creatively charged process.

This particular shoot was a collaboration between several suppliers which was hosted by Fazeley Studios and The Custard Factory. The shoot originated with Judith of Pollen Floral Joy commissioning a metal ceremony archway. Judith and I have worked together on several shoots in the past and Judith wanted to achieve something different with this set of images that would celebrate the arch.

 
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It was a fantastic feature to centre a shoot around and with also having the opportunity to shoot at a rustic space that was being renovated at The Custard Factory the context was perfect. At the time I had been developing ideas for photoshoots that were minimalist and editorial, I shared a mood board with Judith who loved the creative vision and the direction for the shoot grew from there.

The day started with the team arriving meeting at The Custard Factory. This was actually quite an experience as everyone had their equipment, we brought along a collection of props and accessories to dress the space and there was also a host of fresh flowers as Judith had to create the arch on location.

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We shipped everything into the space which, and you wouldn’t tell this from the photos, had a team of builders working away preparing it for a reopening - drilling, plastering, painting. We bartered for the section of the room we wanted - they were lovely really - and then we were cordoned off with metal railings for health and safety.

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We then watched in awe as Judith, along with her colleague, crafted an archway full of colour, texture and shape working through buckets of fresh flowers and leafage. Here is a video I created of that process:

 
 

Helena and Nicola, our stylist team, created a gorgeous natural look on model Louise and we matched up the dresses provided by TDR BridalWear with the bouquets and headpieces and we were ready to go.

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The signature shots for the shoot showcased the model within the arch but I also wanted those key images to be supported by a collection of images that captured all the details of the look in a way that was in keeping with the editorial style of the shoot. To do this I incorporated key objects into the space that would allow creative placing of the bouquets and interaction with the model whilst retaining the minimalist qualities of the concept.

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We used large guilt gold frames, a rustic metal chair and artisan cake maker Emilia of Emilia’s Cakes created two minimalist cakes with gold details which we could add fresh flowers to during the shoot.

The combination of the visual style of the photoshoot, and both the careful choosing of elements and the arrangement of those elements within the space brought to life the essence of what we identified in our initial mood boards and discussions.

It’s safe to say that it didn’t take as long to dismantle the arch and pack everything down.

What photography package is right for me?

When it comes to planning your wedding day there is a whole list of things to choose and book. Some of those may be easy to decide on and some may be things you had never really thought about. When it comes to choosing what you want from your wedding photography how do you decide which package is right for you?

What sorts of packages are there?

Wedding packages can cover a wide range of different formats and items but generally things that they can include are: an online gallery or all images on USB, prints, slideshow DVDs, photo-books and albums.

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So what are important things to consider?

One of the driving factors here may be budget. Paying for a professional wedding photographer for your big day can be expensive and knowing your budget will govern how much you can realistically afford to devote to photography. This shouldn’t be a problem however. Most wedding photographers offer a selection of packages that vary in price according to what is included. So it may be about finding the balance between which photographers you like and what your budget offers you in terms of their packages.

This leads onto factor number two - what is important to you, do you just want to receive the images themselves whether that’s via an online gallery or on a USB, or do you want something you can physical unwrap and look through such as individual prints or a photo album.

Taking time to think about what you’d like to receive and browsing packages online to see how they vary from photographer to photographer is a great way of identifying what matters to you. It will also help give you an idea of what to expect price wise. A package of all images via an online gallery are less expensive than an album package for example.

It’s worth noting here that photographers fall into different price brackets too not just their respective packages and one album package could vary considerably in price to another. But remember, you don’t need to have an extensive knowledge of all the different options available to customise a package, your photographer will be able to discuss this with you and will likely have particular companies they use. So instead it’s simply worth building an idea of what type of package you’d like in line with your budget and take any additional discussions from there in terms of materials, type of paper, fishing touches, etc.

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Why do photographers offer different packages?

In much the same way, as photographers we appreciate the value of the images we take and we appreciate the cost of having those images taken. So the range of packages each photographer offers will be to both accommodate the varying budgets of their clients and more importantly will be designed to give a certain experience of the story they have captured for you.

Understandably photographers are inherently creative people and care about the images they take and how you as their client will experience them so offering a particular journey in their packages is something they will have spent time developing.

Of course, if you find it a challenge to find the package that is right for you then contact the photographers you like to ask if they can tailor a package for you.

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Why do I offer the packages I do?

First and foremost I wanted my packages to be simple, stress free and include all the essentials that a prospective client would want covered. So both of my packages include all day photography and all images on USB. So you don’t have to worry about what times i’ll be around for and what images you will or won’t have from the day.

They also include a pre-wedding shoot which is where I find real value in building a journey with my clients. I get to know them more, find out what they like, how they are together and also get an idea of any troubleshooting such as potential nervousness in front of the camera. It’s also the experience of celebrating their relationship and receiving signature shots before the big day which builds the trust and confidence in advance.

Those three elements are the heart of my packages and the final presentation boxes are where people can choose what’s right for them, whether that be a slideshow DVD or a designed album.

What would be your ideal wedding package?

10 essential wedding photos.

Your wedding is a special occasion. The whole day has been planned around the choices you have made over months or even years. Everything from the venues and flowers to the food, favours and finishing details have been carefully chosen to create an expression of your personality and to celebrate your commitment together.

However, whatever your theme may be, when it comes to wedding photography there are certain photos that every bride and groom should want to see in their wedding collection. A list that showcases the peppering of personal touches you’ve added from start to finish to make the whole experience individual to you - and your family and friends.

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My list of 10 must have wedding photos.

1. Getting Ready.

2. Wedding Dress.

3. The Aisle & First Look.

4. The First kiss.

5. Ceremony Exit / Confetti.

6. Bridal Party Antics.

7. Rings.

8. Bouquet.

8. The Cake.

9. First Dance

10. Couple Portraits.

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For me everything beyond this list boils down to reportage photography, that is to say: capturing the wider events and interactions of the day in as relaxed and unobtrusive way as possible. Whether it be your guests mingling, your close family sharing a quiet tear, an outburst of laughter or even the speeches.

That’s not to say the elements that aren’t on this list won’t be creative or impressive and similarly I’m not saying that the moments on the list won’t be candid. Finding an interesting way of capturing every part of the day is always the focus (and the challenge) for any wedding photographer and for me that resides somewhere between moments being candid and approaching them creatively.

This list simply highlights what I consider the must-have shots to be from a wedding, regardless of photographic style or creative approach.

What does your must-have list look like?

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Getting my first published photoshoot.

The value of a stylised photoshoot.

As a wedding photographer there is nothing as fantastic as someone choosing you to document their wedding. You’re invited to share a significant part of their lives together with the trust and freedom to capture those moments with your individual eye and creative flair.

But there is a lot of other work that goes into being a photographer, and being a creative at heart, in order to keep developing and building that client base and demonstrating why you are worth considering and that you can be given that trust.

Collaborative work with other industry suppliers is a big part of that for me. It’s not a formal networking activity or a sterile business meeting by any means. Instead it’s an experience of working with people who fiercely love what they do, genuinely care about their craft and who want to produce ideas that push the best practise of the industry. Above all, they want to excel their own work to continually offer exciting services to their clients.

 
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Being part of that process of displaying originality and best practise across the industry with passionate suppliers is inspiring. But it’s not without its challenges. The industry is understandably saturated with images, case studies, style guides and testimonials displaying the work of local and national professionals of all levels.

So investing the time and resources to achieve images that offer something new and refreshing is no easy task and as suppliers we have to put our own trust in each other to bring those ideas into realisation. But when things come together and a collaboration gets into full swing, well, the results can be incredible.

Producing a unique and stylistically focused shoot is an absolute delight and sharing that process with local suppliers is deeply rewarding.

For my first published shoot I had the privilege of being part of a fantastic team of local suppliers from the West Midlands working on a photoshoot at The Custard Factory in Digbeth, Birmingham. The shoot was uniquely styled under a minimal and textural theme to create a contemporary collection of images centred around a custom made wedding arch commissioned by talented florist Pollen Floral Joy.

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The full details of the creative process of the shoot will follow in a behind the scenes blog but the experience of sharing that process with local suppliers was an absolute delight and deeply rewarding. The attention to detail, the creative direction and the energy on the day was superb. The final images from the shoot were a testament to the work involved across the whole team.

Following the shoot the images were selected by Your West Midlands Wedding Magazine’s for their February/March issue as a stylised feature. I provided a selection of 30 images showcasing every element from the shoot and each supplier. Surprisingly they included pretty much every image and presented the project as a three page feature which was fantastic to find out as the images say everything for the shoot!

It’s a humble pat on the back for how my practise and my style is refining.

As a relatively early career wedding photographer having this added exposure for the shoot was incredibly fortunate. I’ve given a lot of attention to my craft and how I shoot in a number of ways. Now, both the maturity of the concepts I’m developing has grown massively and the projects i’m invited onto are also increasingly ambitious. On a personal level this printed feature was a note to stop and take a humble pat on the back for those changes and how my style is refining. Of course, it also gave the satisfaction of having given a greater purpose to the images and more importantly recognition to the work of everyone involved.

 
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This is by no means the pinnacle of things to come. The hard work, the crafting of new ideas and the collaborations will undoubtedly continue and I hope to be able to blog again in the future about other features and showcased images.

This blog is simply a reflection on the experience of taking something from concept to being published. An experience which has only reiterated the importance of trust within our industry. The trust amongst fellow suppliers, the trust of clients and also our own sense of certainty and ambition - our inner-trust to pursue our journey and to project our ideas into the world.

For me, the achievement of seeing those images in print is a small nod to the enjoyment I have for making images being something that people can invest in and trust. And that feels awesome!

If you’d like to get your hands on a copy of the magazine it is on sale until April at several high street stores and also available online as an e-magazine via www.yourwestmidlands.wedding

Full list of suppliers: Pollen Floral Joy, Helena Shakespeare MUA, Nicola Honey Artistry, Emilia’s Cakes Coventry, TDR Bridal Halesowen, Louise Blakemore.

12 essential questions to ask a wedding photographer

The task of choosing your wedding suppliers is an exciting part of planning your wedding and the first step in the process of bringing your ideas to life. But it’s not without its challenges and some decisions will be harder to make and which wedding photographer to book is one such decision.

So how do you feel confident that the photographer you are looking at is right for you?

The following questions are intended to help you feel both prepared and confident to find out the information you need before making the choice of who to book.

 
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1) Are you available on our wedding date?

It may seem obvious but it’s probably one of the first questions you should ask, if the photographer isn’t free on the date of your wedding (and presuming you can’t change it) it’ll save you a lot of time asking many of the other questions before finding out.

2) Can I see previous examples of your work?

In most situations it’s probably safe to say that if you’re at the point of wanting to ask questions you have already viewed their images - and like them. However, if you haven’t or you’re at a wedding show for example meeting several new suppliers then seeing their previous work is crucial. Look at their style, the types of shots they take and if they are consistent. Ask questions about the shots you like too, it will give you an insight into their process and how they may approach your own wedding photos.

3) How will I receive my final images?

You’re happy with the standard of work you will receive but in what form will you get your final images? There are various packages out there covering online galleries, usb devices, prints and albums. Photographers will have different preferences about what they want to offer their clients so make sure you’re fully aware what you will be getting. Ask about what’s customisable, what materials and finishes are available and what papers you can choose for prints. It is also a good opportunity to find out if the photographer will do all the designing themselves.

4) Can I make special requests?

Special requests could take various forms. Everyone will have a certain expectation of the coverage they will recieve on the day but are there any images you really want captured? Talking about any specific images that matter to you is a great starting point for chatting with a photographer that will also allow you to gage how you get on, how accommodating they are and that they are generally interested and excited about shooting your wedding. Of course, special requests don’t just have to be specific photos on the day, they could be additional features to your package such as extra prints or an album. All professional photographers should be happy to tailor things to you.

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5) How long will you stay for on the day?

Weddings are long days full of lots of smaller special moments from morning preparations with your bridesmaids and groomsmen to the parents seeing the bride in her dress for the first time as well as the essential elements such as the ceremony itself. Having a general understanding of how timings will run on the day is really useful for knowing the times you will need your photographer and checking what coverage they offer in their packages. Some photographers will detail a specific time or event that they will stay until, 9pm or until the first dance for example. If you want them to stay longer an additional fee may be added, it may even be on a cost per hour basis. Other photographers (such as myself) won’t apply any time limits and will stay into the after party or until they are happy they have got all the shots they wanted for you. In either case it’s worth making sure you know what to expect so you’re confident all the things you want will be captured.

6) Do you offer a pre-wedding photoshoot?

This may not be a high priority for some couples but it’s definitely something worth discussing with a photographer. Pre-wedding shoots (aka engagement shoots) are a fantastic way of getting to know your photographer more, experiencing what it’s like to work with them as well as having the opportunity to have more fantastic images of your engagement to treasure. A pre-wedding shoot may already be included in the packages your photographer offers or they may be a separate item you can book. There may even be an offer if you have a shoot and go on to book them for your wedding or vice versa.

7) Is a deposit required to book you and when is the final fee due to be paid?

Getting to the formal side of booking a photographer is knowing how much it will cost to book them for your date and when you need to pay the remaining balance by. The deposit will be a percentage of the total package fee and usually needs to be accompanied by a signed wedding contract.

8) Are there any additional costs?

It’s always worth asking if there are any extra costs connected with the package you are booking. Such costs may come from: booking a second shooter (if you want one), adding extra prints or usb’s to your package or for requesting the photographer to stay later than detailed in their packages. If your wedding is out of the area where the photographer is based they may also apply a cost for travel and accommodation.

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9) Have you shot at our venues before? If not, will you visit them beforehand?

It is not essential that the photographer you book has shot at your venues before, although that may give you some comfort that they are familiar with the location and how things will run across the day. The venue may even have examples of their work in sample albums or be using them in their own promotional materials. However, if they haven’t shot there before it shouldn’t be a point for concern, chat to them and ask if they will visit beforehand to do a recce. For the majority of photographers this will be common practise to visit any venues prior to the wedding anyway.

10) What information do you need from me before the wedding?

With all the questions that may spring to mind to understand the photographers role and what to expect from them it’s equally important that you feel confident with what is needed from you. Typically this will be completing a wedding contract at the point of booking but nearer the time of the wedding providing a breakdown of all the timings and suppliers for your wedding day will be essential for your photographer planning their approach so everything can run smoothly. They may have their own wedding schedule they’ll ask you to complete and return to them. Asking what you’ll need to do along the process is good for making sure you feel well informed and also establishes that open dialogue between the two of you.

 
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11) Do you have backup equipment?

This may sound like a cheeky question to ask for some prospective couples but knowing what backup measures are in place for the things that can go wrong isn’t something you should avoid when talking with a photographer. And you don’t have to be technically minded to ask this by any means, just having a general understanding of what they do to cover any potential problems such as a failed camera or corrupt memory card is important for you to know. How they convey this to you should help reassure you that they are professional in their practise.

12) Questions to ask yourself!

  • Do I feel a good rapport with this photographer?

  • Do I like their images and their style?

  • Has this photographer listened to what I’ve said and been happy to share the information I need?

  • Would I feel happy to ask more questions if I needed to?

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