What We Shoot During The Off Season

Weddings are great. They fill up our summers and let us shoot in fresh air, in spectacular locations and bring joy to hundreds of people. Once the season has wrapped up in early Autumn, we only typically shoot a handful of weddings between then and mid-spring the next year. This is our booking and preparation stage, where you’ll find us at wedding fayres or upgrading our site. We do however, need to keep our photography skills sharp throughout the year, so when we start back at the first wedding of the season we’re still as fresh as we were the year before. I’ve decided to put a few pictures in here of what I’ve been up to since the end of the 2016 season – just to give you a flavour of what an off season wedding photographer does when brides aren’t in front of our camera.

Landscapes

My parents live on the end of the earth, after relocating a few years ago from Bristol, UK. It takes a good 6-9 hours to reach, but just a few steps outside the backdoor produces spectacular cliffscapes and blue water. These were shot at the beginning of December 2016, despite the cold weather it was still brilliantly warm. I use the same photographic process to shoot landscapes as I do with couples at a wedding, as well as applying film emulation colours to make it look like it was shot on a roll film camera.

Model Portfolios

I’ve been shooting model portfolio images since before weddings, with my first model shoot in 2011. I love to be able to keep my skills sharp and practice flattering and interesting lighting. The lighting techniques I use to give great light for models is the same as what I’d use for bridal portraits. The techniques and physics behind how light affects an object will always remain the same from one picture to the next, so these are more of a gentle reminder to myself on how to interact with people and how to edit skin to a high calibre.

Running photography workshops

Keeping on the model theme, I run portfolio building days in London. These are a great opportunity for starting or semi-pro photographers to book a group of high end models, and shoot with the highest end camera and lighting kit available. I run and manage these, helping the students get the most out of their images, with help on lighting direction, power and settings. I’ve always wanted to get into the educational sphere in later life and this is my first foray into the world of helping others. I want to be able to run wedding portfolio days too, to help other local photographers with their passion and update their websites without the constraints of a wedding day.

I’d like to say that I keep myself busy, but in reality only 10% of the off season involves picking up a camera. The rest is admin, paper filing and double/triple checking notes for the next seasons weddings. When you start to deal with 30 or more weddings a year all through the country, filing is an essential part of office life. I’ve also been experimenting with shooting rolls of film in creative ways, using my dads old Nikon. We have just introduced a film-only wedding package now for those who love the creative blur and grain of roll film, and would love their images to have that timeless quality that digital just can’t achieve.

Our Wedding Photography Kit

An often asked question is “What kit is that?”. We hear it at most weddings by guests and onlookers, so we’ve decided to create a little post which shows what wedding photography kit we use the most, and why. We think its very important to know your kit inside and out, every setting and function, and to not carry anything un-needed on the wedding day.

The Cameras: Canon 6D 

The Canon 6D is a high end, full frame digital SLR camera. It gives us everything we ever need – speed, battery life, interchangeable lenses and a huge sensor. The big sensor inside the camera means we can capture finer detail, and better quality shots in low light. The 6D is in the top range of Canon cameras, up alongside wildlife and studio cameras. With a simplified menu system and easy to reach controls, it gives us more time shooting and less time configuring the camera mid-shoot.

Fujifilm X100s

Accompanying the Canon is the diminutive Fujifilm x100s, which is about the same size as a smartphone. With a built in lens and Electronic View Finder, we carry the Fuji around or neck at all times during a shoot. It’s so easy just to put down the main Canon and snap a few shots using the Fuji’s wide 35mm lens, and then switch back to our heavy duty Canon. Despite its point-and-shoot appearances, the Fujifilm x100s packs more power than 90% of cameras on the market, and most people have a difficult time distinguishing the difference between shots taken on it and the Canon 6D.

The Lenses: Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art

This is a prime lens, which is camera-speak for a lens which doesn’t zoom. By sacrificing the zoom ability you can build lenses that have so much optical glass in them they can shoot in extremely low light. The 35mm lens length is slightly wide, so we get more action in the pictures than a standard camera lens. Coupling the lenses ability to shoot in low light with the Canons own ability to shoot in low light gives us a huge advantage  – we can shoot without flash and still get crisp and clear images all day long, even at night. Prime lenses are great for artistic effects too – we can shoot the couple in sharp detail whilst having the background blur out into colourful swirls and clouds. We call this “background separation” in the industry, and is a signifier of a professional photographer and camera combination.

Canon 70-200 2.8 IS L MkII

One of the most coveted camera lenses ever produced, this zoom lens is a wedding photographers best friend. It is a telephoto lens, meaning we can capture detail far away from where we’re standing, and the zoom range lets us zoom in on peoples faces and even further away things. Unmistakable and painted white, the huge 2kg lens has built in stabilisers which counteracts the shake the photographer has when pressing the shutter button. This eliminates and motion blur and keeps the subjects looking sharp and in focus. The background separation on this lens is famous, for being able to select someone out of a crowd and blurring the background and foreground out to a lovely smooth blur. To top of the amazing functions of this lens, it has a low aperture (the 2.8 number), meaning it can even take great shots in low light levels, unheard of with most telephoto lenses.

Canon 17-40mm f4 and Helios 44-2

These lenses are less used than the two mentioned previously, but provide specific jobs. The Canon 17-40mm is a superwide zoom lens, and will let us get everyone in a large group shot into frame, or get large shots of a building in somewhere where maybe we can’t get any further back to use our Sigma lens. Whilst not the best for portraits and ceremony shots, the wide zoom lens is versatile enough to cover all aspects when we just can’t get everyone in shot. The Helios is an old Russian lens, with an adapter on the back of it to attach to our Canon camera. It’s a great portrait lens, giving swirly spinning background blur to the images and making everything look smooth and dreamy. As its a manual focus lens with limited functionality, we only really bring it out for the couples portrait sessions or for video work.

 The bag we carry is also filled with little goodies such as LED light panels, monopods and spare batteries, everything you would need to make sure every eventuality is covered. We will run another blog post on our video kit in the future, which contains a lot more accessories and extras than our photography bag.

Capturing Pro Audio At Weddings

If you’re booking a wedding videographer to make a film for you for your special day, you need someone who knows how to capture audio professionally. On-camera audio, the little microphones built in to cameras do a bad job for capturing clear audio, so external equipment are needed to make sure every part of the speeches and ceremony are crisp and free of background noise. We will walk you through just one of the few setups that we employ at each wedding when filming, to show you how far we go to get clean audio. These behind the scenes shots are from a New Years Eve Wedding at the beautiful Pittville Pump Rooms in Cheltenham.

Our video camera has external ports (pictured at the right hand end of the top handle) to take professional level audio microphones, such as the mic attached to the front in the furry covering.Whilst this is a great ability, we only use the on camera audio as a tool to sync up external microphones in editing. The reason why we don’t use the on camera audio primarily is that as it is so directional, anyone talking to our left or right won’t be as loud as whats in front, and you are also subjected to any ambience and background noise near your subject.

These are our microphones of choice, called lapel mics, or lav mics. You would have seen these on TV shows for interviews and maybe on stage performances. The tiny little mic clips to your lapel or shirt collar, and is positioned so closely to the persons mouth that all background noise is effectively eliminated. The Tascam DR-10C recording device is no larger than a matchbox, and will record the audio from the mic onto its inbuilt storage. These units can run for hours at a time, and are kept on the person who has been mic’ed up in a pocket or on a belt. All we need to do is sync this unit to our camera at the start of recording and we can get perfect audio for the subject. We use three of these units on various people throughout the wedding, including the officiant, groom and even father of the bride.

In post production, we can hop between the audio recordings of these little units to make sure that the person speaking has the lead in the wedding film. The units have two audio level tracks recording simultaneously, one louder than the other, meaning we can even get clean audio from the bride without micing her up, just by taking one of the audio streams from the groom.

Thi is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to professional audio recordings, we’ll upload another blog in the future detailing how we capture room noise, PA desks and live musicians.

Why Our Pictures Looks Like Film Shots

Wedding film Photography has gone through a lot of changes over the past decade or two. Back when my dad was shooting in the 80s, it was all film. You had to choose before you took the shot your ideal film stock – a certain brand of film that would give you the best look, colour and grain for your project. You’d then be confined to that limited dynamic range (you may not be able to shoot in very bright or very dark situations easily), and the white balance of lights would be how the camera caught it, no altering it afterwards. It sounds like digital has come along to save the day, with its infinite adjustability before each shot, making sure you get your perfect shot in one take. So with digital being so great, why do we make our shots look like they’re taken on film cameras?

I started shooting weddings on film.

My very first wedding was by assisting another photographer (who we eventually shot his own wedding for), and was bold enough to try shooting film right from the off. Whilst Bertie was the lead photographer and got the important shots on digital, I had the ability to try out some film shots. I loaded the camera with Ektar 100, a fine grain shot used for outdoors situations, and shot using a newly bought Nikon camera. I was absolutely smitten by the colour rendition of the hues in the scene, and decided right there that everything I shoot should be film-looking in the future.

A groom looks at a reception book whilst the bride smiles.

I worked in a printing lab.

My first job outside of university was working in a high street printing lab, this was at the cross over where film was slowly dying in popularity and cheap DSLR were appearing on the market. In my first year we were taking in 100 rolls of film a day, and two years on, 5 a week. In that first few years however, I developed thousands of films, of all the different brands and stocks that were available. Each time I put the films through the computer for scanning, I saw how the film stocks varied the colour tones, and which ones would be most suitable for certain conditions. It was this love affair with film that pushed me to love film photography even more. It also helped that I was given free developing and processing whilst there, so I could experiment with my own bought films and cameras.

Hasselblad 500CM Medium Format Camera for wedding film photography

The images are timeless.

With the way we edit our photos, you could put a print of ours next to a wedding shot from 25 years ago, the all film era, and you would have a hard time telling the difference. Everything down to the grain structure, how different colours are effected with the luminosity of the scene are all taken into consideration to give the pictures a truly timeless feel. Gone are the days of gimmicky photography styles, selective colour and Photoshop effects. We concentrate on making the images look classic, clear and crisp.

Perhaps you’ve shot on a film camera in the past and would love your wedding to reflect your taste in photography. We love to shoot hybrid too – that is bringing a spare film camera along to weddings to fire off some genuine film shots, alongside the digital ones.

Why I Love This Shot – Cripps Barn

Every once in a while I look back through the vast archives or wedding images I’ve taken, totally in the hundreds of thousands. I sometimes look back all the way to my early days, before I owned a pro-level camera, when I was shooting film. You might mistake me for older photographer whose been shooting since the 70s right now, but my first wedding was 2012. Back then I was working full time as a manager of a printing lab in my town, and was completely obsessed with film photography, all the film stock choices out there and how they affected an image.

I had just bought a lovely little Nikon FM2N on eBay and a 35mm 1.4 lens to go on it (if I knew how good this lens was now I’d have kept it instead of selling it on a few months later), and wanted to test myself with a few rolls of film. I was second photographer to a friend who shot the main important images, whilst I had free roam to try out new techniques, learn the process and have the ability to make mistakes without affecting the wedding days final print volume. The venue was Cripps Barn near Bibury, if you haven’t heard of it they’re one of a string of beautiful barn wedding venues, and always booked up years in advance. The have a cute outside wedding spot, with log seats for the guests and a forest to walk through en route.

So why do I like this shot? It’s the first one in my wedding career that I look back on and feel was a defining image. I knew that choosing your film stock (what brand to use to load into the camera) would influence the outcome and feel of the picture, and my choice was spot on. Using Kodak Ektar 100 gave me lovely colour rendition, more than a digital camera can – soul over colour accuracy. The couple were so fantastic all day, and began the start of our bohemian and boutique styled wedding photography journey. Since then we’ve shot many more images, but nearly all on digital. Looking back at this picture has given us faith in the world of film photography, and we’re vowing to  bring our little Nikon film cameras to each and every wedding in 2017, to compile a film-only section of our website.

Why Book A Wedding Videographer?

As our name says, we primarily focus on photography. Both Scott and I used to work together as a pair of photographers for a wedding, but about a year or so we started to look into videography as well. We noticed there was a need for video work to accompany (and not just accompany, but compliment) the photography work at a date, taking your experience of viewing from just images to films. We think videography is great, but if you need some convincing why you should book one for your wedding date, then read on.

1. Capture important speeches.

Photography can do a great job in getting your best smile, brilliant light and capturing the glorious experience of the day. Unfortunately, photographs can’t capture your words at the altar to each other, the speech from the family and the toasts. Videography comes to save the day, getting perfectly captured audio from the days big moments.

2. Have that cinematic looking feel.

Sometimes its great to feel like you’re in a movie. Forget the shaky hands and portrait-orientated video footage from phones, videographers have a handy selection of tools and equipment to steady their cameras out. Using sliders, stabilisers and should rigs taken from the movie industry, we get silky smooth flowing shots, beautifly slow gliding panoramic shots of the venue and sweeping guest clips. There is no experience that even comes close!

3. Most brides recommend it.

We all know photography is one of the most important services to book for your big day, but videography is often overlooked. There are countless online posts about brides regretting not booking a videographer, saying that as the day moves through so fast, you sometimes miss out on the details. The videographer is there to get those shots, filming the guests having a great time and capturing those moments you weren’t around to see.

4. We’re in the digital age.

As we are in 2016, the entire world loves to share digital content. We can offer a “social media reel”, a short 2-3 minute film of the very best bits from the day for you to share with family and friends. No more needing to post out VHS tapes, your family and friends on the other side of the world can relive your day within minutes of sending. Videography is an important step into making your wedding day futureproof – your film will be viewable online (if you want to), or it can be a closely guarded secret for just you and your partner to look back at in years to come.

If you want to look at our previous wedding films and prices, head to our videography page.

The Online Gallery – And Why You Will Love It

In these futuristic days of social media, super fast internet and pocket-sized computers (as of 2016 at least), wedding needs to be taken online. I had a chat with a retired photographer recently and we discussed how the images were given to the wedding couples back in the 80s and 90s. The photographer used to finish the days shooting, then courier the films off to a fast printing lab, who would then send back contact sheets of the negatives. Each image would then be assigned a specific number and code, sent off to the couple and left to them to choose their favourite images. They are then sent back to the photographer, who goes to the printers (again), gets the prints, posts them out and collects the money in exchange. Quite a lengthy process – especially if you’re a photographer working 30-40 weddings a season!

Thankfully that’s not the process anymore. Imagine an online photo gallery as a corridor in a Library, with rows of locked doors. You’re given the key by the photographer that opens just one of these doors, and inside are all your images saved on the internet, in a non physical form. You can pick the ones you like, and take them home with you. You can even give that key to a friend on the other side of the world to access that same room the very same time you’re in there, order a prints and have the physical object created and posted out to them. Best of all, it’s free and included in every package we offer.

What does it look like?

If you follow this link to our online photo gallery, you can see the “corridor”. It’s a public page where anyone can go to and see the collections of previous weddings we’ve done. If you click on nearly any of them (bar one), you’ll find you need a password to get to the next step. This is our privacy function – making sure you only show these pictures to people you want to. The password is generated and given at the wedding reception usually, and is something memorable to you as a couple.

This is what the main screen looks like – a list of previous weddings. Each one is locked but you can identify yours from the thumbnails.

Trying to click on one of the pictures will end in a password prompt, stopping any unwanted browsers from seeing your photos.

What’s beyond the password prompt?

Once the correct passwords entered, you gain full access to the gallery. Every photo that we give you on your customised USB will be on here (remember that we always give you your images on a USB as standard for any wedding package, the online gallery is additional to this). You can browse through the images from the day, and click on any to bring them up large on screen. There’s a little shopping cart icon above each picture when enlarged which will let you purchase a print of that image. As a couple you may not need this function (after all, you have the images on a USB so can pop into a printing lab and get copies done quickly), but this function is useful for relatives who may want a copy for their own. If you have a great aunt in Canada who couldn’t make the wedding, now they can find any picture they like from the day, order a print and have it shipped out directly to them, without needing to hassle you for proofs and ordering. The internet has truly closed the boundaries of distance, making a special event easy and accessible to all.

If you want to look inside one of these photo galleries, Steph and Jon have kindly given use permission to use their images from the day. Feel free to browse the collection, see how the images lay out on the adaptable grid, and click on an image to see how easy it is to buy prints (we’d rather you didn’t buy pictures of their day unless you know them however!) There’s also social media share links if you want to show your friends the images.

The grid manipulates and moves itself around to fit the variety of portrait and landscapes taken on the day.

Clicking the shopping cart icon on any picture will give you a list of available print sizes, all the way up to huge A1 poster sizes.

What other advantages does it have?

There is a function we can enable, which will let you download all the images to your device. This will let you create copies of your images even if you have lost or misplaced your USB. We generally limit this facility to stop the spreading of images online too much, but we are happy to let you use it three or four times.

Of course, if you’d prefer we can disable the online gallery if we were to shoot your wedding day. It’s just a great option to have. The images stay on the gallery for between one and two years after the wedding date – so you have plenty of time to access and re-download your images if need be.

It’s a free service, something we think couples love to have and use and just one extra you get with us as your wedding photographers.

Copyright vs Reproduction Licence, Explained

So this isn’t the most interesting or glamorous blog post, as there’s not too many videos or pictures I could put in to spice this post up. It is however, an oft-asked question, one which we believe is so important to differentiate the distinction between copyright and reproduction licence that we needed to make a blog post all about it. So to make things more interesting, I’ll splice in some behind the scenes shots of us at work, completely unrelated to legal information, but at least they look nice.

So here we go – What is copyright? What is Reproduction Licence? Why do you give us one not the other, when another wedding company says we can have the copyright?

1. Copyright

Copyright, at least in the UK, is automatically generated when an artist creates a piece of Intellectual Property (IP). When a singer thinks up a song, or an artist draws a picture, they automatically own that copyright. Photographers create their IP when they press the button to take the picture. The copyright is a legal shield covering your work, that if someone tries to pinch your work, claim it as their own or make money off it, you can step in and say “wait a minute, I own the copyright, it’s my picture and you can’t do that!” You wouldn’t like it if you, an architect, had just built an awe-inspiring building and then a stranger walks up and claims its theirs, takes all the publicity and credit for it. You can sell your copyright off to someone if you choose, and if you work for another party and are getting paid for the job, there’s a very strong chance your copyright automatically will belong to the person who hired you.

2. Reproduction Licence

This is where we start to delve into the deep depths of UK Law. A Reproduction licence is a licence (obviously), which I, the owner of the Intellectual Property can give to another person, so they can use my IP for some things. Typically in photography, you would give a licence to a media outlet, so they can use your images for their site, and in return you’d either get paid, credited or other services in trade. Reproduction Licences can vary, some can let you copy, share and print the images but not sell them yourself – some will let a newspaper use your images for a certain period of time (like 3 months) on their website before having to take it down. All reproduction licences are customisable and there is no set rule for whats included in them, you adjust them as you see fit to best suit the licensee. A reproduction Licence does not transfer the copyright of the image to another party.

3. Why do you give a Reproduction Licence for Wedding Images?

We hear it all the time, at wedding fayres we can overhear other wedding photographers tell the couples that “you get full copyright on your images”, and “that wedding photographer over there offers the copyright, can you do the same?”. We have to answer with a no, but back it up with you recieve the full reproduction licence to print, share and own the images indefinitely. So why have we such a firm stance on not giving the copyright away? Let’s assume these scenarios:

You are a hollywood A-lister, and you hire me for your wedding photography for the day, for which I give you the copyright. Once I’ve given you the images, I can no longer legally say I took or own the images, as every picture and their legal ownership is given to you. I can’t promote my business with your pictures, I can’t say I’ve shot your wedding and you can now sell my images to media outlets for big bucks. A little mean, no?

I take photographs for your wedding, and you get the copyright. You then take my images, and set up a photography wedding service, using my pictures for promotion and get loads of bookings. The people you book are booking you under the pretence that they will receive images of the quality displayed in our images.

By giving the reproduction licence to the couple, we grant them permission to print off what they need, share them online and post them around the world to family and friends, but they can’t say they took the images. It’s a small distinction but one which can have a very big impact to a creative business that survives solely on the integrity of their Intellectual Property. We promise we’re not trying to stiff you and give you only access to three of your pictures to only be viewed under a full moon, or some other vicious licence – we give you free and unlimited use to the pictures, after all you’re in them and it’s your big day! We just need to protect our work under the ever-complex UK laws.

Why We Love Hatherley Manor

Halfway between Cheltenham and Gloucester lies a 17th century manor, Hatherley Manor. A modern hotel inside with 37 acres of land, it is also one of the best wedding venues in the area. Purportedly made for the illegitimate son of Oliver Cromwell, the Manor still stand today and houses many weddings a year.

We had the honour of shooting a reception there in 2016, and we’d like to share with you some of the images from the day. The staff were so helpful – accommodating my requests where possible. I managed to be let in to the kitchen for some shots of the food before it was taken out to the waiting guests, and the DJ even let me borrow part of his lighting rig to attach my own spotlight for when the first dance started.

We love working at Hatherley Manor, if you’d like to book them head to http://www.hatherleymanor.com/ and see what they can do for your day.

Special Day Photography

Looking for www.specialday.photography?

We use CheltenhamWeddingPhotographer.com as well to help our local area know we’re here for them.

Contact Us

Special Day Photography,
info@specialday.photography
01242 802389

Find Us

Special Day Photography

Brook Vale, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham GL52 6JD

01242 802389