I’ve written a couple of blog posts recently about my approach to wedding photography. The first was about the fact that I’m not a wedding photographer and why. The second was about the fact that I cover less formal rites such as Christenings and Renewal Of Vows. So it’s somewhat ironic that this month I’m actually covering two civil unions.
The first was between an English girl and her American boyfriend, who will be formally tying the knot later in the year in the US. They wanted a ceremony in the UK to declare their devotion in front of friends and family who will not be able to travel to America for the official ceremony. This as an occasion presided over by a respected member of the community known to all involved. The ceremony involved an exchange of vows and rings, much like any other formal union. My role was to photograph the ceremony and take formal posed photos immediately afterwards.
The second is a Registry Office wedding at Hertford’s County Hall, followed by a reception at Hertford Castle. The brief here is to provide informal reportage coverage of the wedding, rather than traditional big-budget photography.
If you’re interested in having your function photographed without a big budget then why not get in contact for an informal chat.
One of my oldest clients is Hertford Dramatic & Operatic Society and every year I’m delighted to be asked to photograph their youth group’s annual production at Hertford Theatre.
This year’s production was The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe and featured a cast of around 40, together with a supporting adult crew of technicians, make-up artists, chaperones and front of house staff.
Shooting takes place during the final dress rehearsal, which typically runs in real time, stopping only for serious technical issues.
The photographs are taken from the auditorium – anywhere from the back of the raked seating right up to the front of the stage.
As with all theatrical productions I never use flash. Stage lighting is more than adequate and a lot of work goes in to putting together a lighting plot that adds visual drama to the production.
I’ve written previously about the fact that I don’t do weddings, due to the fact that it’s a specialised skill (you can find the article here). However, I’m happy to cover less formal (and lower budget) functions, such as christenings, anniversaries and other ceremonial events.
One such recent event was for a couple who wanted to mark their ten years of marriage with a Renewal Of Vows.
The ceremony took place at Hertford Registry Office in front of around 20 guests and I was asked to cover the afternoon from the arrival of guests to formal photos, taking in the ceremony itself and the happy couple exiting the Registry Office to flurries of confetti.
I met the couple a few weeks before the ceremony to discuss their requirements and to look over the location to get an idea of the environment and best places to take formal shots.
I also made a point of keeping an eye on the weather forecast in the days before the event as this can have an impact on the available shots.
If you’re interested in having a family function or social occasion photographed you can find out more about what I can offer by visiting my page about Party & Family Function photography.
The months of February and March are when many civic institutions hold their formal dinners. I covered one such event last week when the chairman of East Herts District Council hosted a charity dinner at The Rhodes Centre, Bishop’s Stortford, in aid of Cazfest, a local charity that works to raise awareness of heart risk in young people and to help finance heart screening for sixth form students in Hertfordshire & Essex.
The brief was to provide formal photographs of guests – mostly local dignitaries such as mayors and the chairs of council committees – the reception, dinner and entertainment, which was provided by the Bishop’s Stortford High School Swing Band and the Jacqui Ison School of Dance and Theatre Arts.
Prior to the event taking place I was able to visit the venue and chat with staff and the event co-ordinator so that I could get an idea of how the evening would work and what I would need.
One of the main requirements was for an area where I could set up the mobile studio so that I could take formal photographs and print off instant 6×4″ prints for anyone that wanted them (these proved popular). I was given an area of around 15sq.m in the corner of the bar and this worked well, allowing me to set up a background and lighting, together with my camera, laptop and portable printer.
As well as formal shots, I also took a selection of informal shots of guests arriving and socialising before the main dinner. Timescales during this part of the evening were quite tight as there was only a 45 minutes period between guests arrived and the formal start of the dinner.
Founded in 2005, Amici Cantate is a Bishop’s Stortford based choir who perform a wide range of material from all parts of the world. Their most recent concert was a performance of Zimbe!, a 40 minute fusion of traditional African song and jazz by Alexander L’Estrange. I was asked to cover the event by the choir’s Musical Director, John Tripp.
The concert took place in Bishop’s Stortford Baptist Church, a modern building that has more in common with a conference centre than a house of worship. I visited the church beforehand to get an idea of the space and lighting, something I always try and do before such events. I was a little concerned about the lighting (churches aren’t often generously lit) but I was pleased that the choir brought their own additional floodlighting for the event. The venue also featured a gallery, which allowed a good view of the performers.
The choir themselves were thoughtfully decked out in simple bright colours, whilst the junior singers wore all black.
Tickets for the event sold quickly at the church was nearly full to capacity, limiting the available angles somewhat. When photographing public performances I try to be as discreet as possible – the event is for the public’s enjoyment, not mine – so I try to be as unobtrusive as possible.
I took many of the shots from the back of the auditorium using a 70-300mm telephoto lens in Aperture Priority mode with the aperture around f5. Speed was set to ISO1600. Other shots were taken from the gallery and wings.
Following the event I created a slideshow in the client area of my website so that members of the choir could view the photos. I also provided information about how to order prints or photo CDs.
If you’re interested in having an event photographed and would like more information about the services I can offer, just fill in the contact form on my website.
The idea of photographing a funeral may at first appear to be somewhat unconventional. After all, grief does not make a pretty picture and why would anyone want to record such an unhappy event anyway? Well, the reason I was asked to cover a funeral recently was because the deceased had close family in Australia and New Zealand and were unable to attend the event. I was approached to provide a photographic record of the day and provide an online slideshow of proceedings so that those who were unable to pay their respects in person could get an idea of how the day went.
One of the first things to establish from the client is exactly what they want, and just as important, what they don’t want from the coverage. For this particular assignment I was given a pretty free range, with the obvious commitment not to intrude on grief or picture sobbing friends and relatives. It is also very important to be as discreet as possible.
As with many such assignments, where you’re providing a photographic documentary of the day, planning is key. Before the event I visited all the locations and met some of the key players, such as undertakers, priests and gravediggers. My plan was to cover the day from the moment the hearse left the undertakers through to the wake following the burial. I visited the funeral director to make them aware of my engagement and to discuss timings. I also visited the church to meet the priest and to get an idea of the layout of the church so that I could establish the best positions from which to take photos so as to get the best angle and make the most efficient use of light. It also helps to think about how and when you are going to move about the church quietly and discreetly during the service without becoming a distraction. I then visited the graveyard to view the location for the burial and introduce myself. Obviously the sight of someone with a long lens photographing a burial is going to arouse suspicions so it’s important that key people are forewarned as to what’s happening.
I cover a number of music festivals during the season but most are around the middle or end of Summer, so it was great to be able to cover the Stortford Music Festival over the Mayday bank holiday this year.
The two-day event took place on St.Mary’s School field in Windhill, Bishop’s Stortford and featured three stages, a beer tent, children’s entertainment and the usual selection of festival stalls selling vintage clothes, jewellery, sunglasses, airbrushed tattoos, hair braiding, face painting and more.
As with all festivals I make a point of photographing not only the performers, but the fans, traders, stewards and everyone and everything that makes a successful festival what it is.
Events like these are of course great places to meet people and I always make sure I have an adequate supply of business cards (I come away with as many as I give away).
I always post my festival photos on Facebook and it’s always gratifying to see how much people appreciate my pictures. I also often post my photos on the artists and traders’ own Facebook pages. Links to the Facebook galleries are below.
I was asked to photograph a small charity gig at the 12 Bar Club in London’s Denmark Street a few weeks back. This was an event to raise money for the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity and featured a number of acoustic acts including Keef Jackman, Chloe Turner, Pat Crilly and Steve Ingrey.
The main performance area is relatively small and lit by a handful of LED PAR lamps, so the conditions were quite challenging. This is where my fast f1.8 lens comes in useful! Despite the subdued lighting I was very pleased with the results I achieved. I’ve posted a slideshow of the event in the galleries section of the website, so just click on the link below to see the shots. I’ve also includee links to the club and charity for anyone who’s interested.