Chesterton Windmill: taking bridal photos whatever the weather.

We all have the ideal image of how we imagine the things we plan will turn out. This is perhaps true of weddings most of all. The time choosing each element, the theme, the locations, so many things could go wrong. I have no doubt that brides and grooms worry about a number of things leading up to their wedding day: the cake being delivered, the reception room being set up, arriving to the ceremony on time - all are common contenders. But there's something else that fleetingly torments both the bride and groom and their photographer: the weather.

The thought of a torrential rainstorm on your wedding day may be your worst nightmare, and it's totally understandable. But should it be? Now I'm not going to focus on all the issues it could cause, instead I want to focus on why unfavourable weather shouldn't stop you having great memories and in turn, great photographs.

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I recently produced a bridal photoshoot at a fantastic country location near Leamington Spa, Chesterton Windmill. As with all shoots I did a recce, just like a couple would visit their venue before the big day. I found the areas I wanted to use and the angles that would give me some strong compositions and those that would give the opportunity to shoot more creatively. Everything was coming together and because I was visiting during golden hour the entire landscape looked incredible which made me even more excited for the shoot.

Here's some of the images I took whilst scouting the area.


Then it happened. The impending worry about the weather kicked in a few days prior to the shoot. The forecasts didn't look good but there was a promising break in the weather during the times the shoot was planned for. At this point i'll confess, the photoshoot was booked for late February. I could appreciate (and indeed foresee) that is was going to be a tad cold and as with most location shoots preparations had been made to keep the model warm and comfortable: gloves, blankets and hand warmers. 

Top tip! Hand warmers aren't just great to hold onto to keep your fingers warm they are also great to slip inside the wedding dress to help keep the body warm too. If you're worried about a rainy wedding or standing in the cold for your signature photos - pack several!

What I couldn't plan for was just how much the weather would change and how sudden. There was a barrage of stormy gusts, sunshine, rain showers, blue skies, hail stones, dark looming cloud formations, more gusts and one last break of blue skies and sun. All within an hour. I have to thank the rest of the team who worked on the shoot here for their patience, ability to laugh their way through what was a ridiculous weather experience and as always their hard work.

You may think - why didn't you just cancel the shoot? Well, it wasn't until we were at the location that the weather became such a problem. But more importantly, a couple can't just cancel their wedding because of a change in the weather. There's always going to be times when the conditions aren't favourable, or even practical but the photos still need taking. And certainly, they can still be taken in an interesting or creative way. Gloomy weather doesn't mean gloomy photos.

My reason for sharing this (and for not cancelling the shoot) is to demonstrate that great photos reside in all circumstances. My reassurance to any couples reading this is that there are things that can be done to help ensure your photos don't remind you of a cold wet day and instead when you recount your wedding tales you can say "the weather wasn't great but look at our photos!".

From a technical point of view on this shoot a few simple changes to the white balance and exposure settings made the images feel warmer and brighter straight away. These changes were enough to make the majority of shots feel like a different set of conditions altogether.


However, in terms of getting good shot variation the wider shots were more problematic. Not because of the looming grey clouds filling the sky as these can look stunning and cinematic, but because of the wind. It was so strong and constant that any effort to lay out the bottom of the dress in order to capture those long flowing full length shots were thwarted by the dress being blown out of position instantaneously. So some clever framing (and a fortunate break in the clouds) meant that we were able to capture some shots that paid homage to the scale and beauty of the windmill even if we couldn't shoot as wide as we had hoped to capture the shape and detail of the entire dress.

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My ending note reflects on the phrase "if you can't beat them, join them" but rather from a photographical point of view: "if you can't change something, embrace it". Instead of thinking how you can make the situation look like what you hoped it would be, focus on how you can work with what's available. I didn't get the golden hour experience of the recce for the shoot itself but I made it work. If there are huge grey clouds across the landscape work with the scale by making the couple small in frame and exaggerate how big and looming the clouds really are. Shoot for a darker exposure and use off camera flash to make them pop in the shot to create something moody and contrasty. If there's rain: umbrella's are an excellent prop, but adding some backlighting will also highlight all the tiny droplets and create something beautiful and atmospheric. 

Yes a day of bad weather hit during a photoshoot and I had to adapt, but the approach would be exactly the same if it was a pre-wedding shoot or a wedding itself. It doesn't have to bright, sunny and colourful to take images that are impressive, creative or unique.Think creatively, keep calm and carry on.

For the couples reading this, my first blog post talks about the trust and creativity you should feel in choosing your professional photographer, and the real beauty in that is it being an open dialogue between all of you. Trust their ideas and embrace your photos, whatever the weather.

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