14.01.10

The UK's Top 10 winter wedding photographers

November Issue

Jeff Ascough

What is the main difference between shooting weddings in the winter, rather than at any other time of the year?
Winter weddings tend to have a warmth about them, not just in terms of light, but in terms of the atmosphere that surrounds the whole event. In terms of shooting, it’s just a different mindset than in the summer. I find I can be more creative during the winter, and a lot of my signature images have been taken between October and March.

What kind of lighting set-up do you use?
I only use available light. I don’t even take a flash gun with me anymore. I find flash photography to be vulgar and intrusive, and in all honesty, it is completely unnecessary – if you learn how to use light quality, rather than become
obsessed with light quantity.

What is your favourite camera set-up?
In the winter, I tend to shoot with a Canon 1Ds MKIII camera and a Canon 5D MKII.

How would you describe your work?
I am a photographer that prefers to document the wedding day without directing or getting involved in the wedding. In a nutshell, I simply turn up to a wedding and seek out images from what is happening around me.

Any secrets for shooting in low light or no light you can pass on?
Always look for light direction and quality and learn to work with that. It may mean having to use very fast lenses and perfecting your shooting technique to cope with slow shutter speeds, but low light photography is often very beautiful.

Tell us about your post-production process and work flow.
All the images are imported into Apple’s Aperture software. I create a project for the RAW files, and two smart-folders are also created: one marked ‘picks’ and one marked ‘finished’. The picks folder is set up to hold images that have been marked with one star, and the finished folder is set up to hold PSD files. I select the images I like by assigning one star (these images immediately go to the picks folder). I open the folder then edit each image. I do the basic colour and density correction in Aperture then export the image into Photoshop, where I run my own set of Silver Actions on the image. The image is saved as a PSD (which goes into the finished folder) and that’s it. I then open up the folder, do a batch rename on the files and export them as JPEGs at different sizes, depending on what they are needed for. Finally, the Aperture library is then backed up to a Vault on a separate hard drive.

How do you prefer to present your clients with the finished images?
Clients will see their images online first. Their finished images are presented in an album.

Has the weather ever been too bad to shoot in, and do you have any humorous stories to tell about this?
I remember one wedding about 10 years ago at Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire, where a blizzard hit as soon as the bride stepped out of the car! Due to the possibility of snow, I had taken the precaution of putting UV filters on the end of my lenses. As the bride came up the drive, I put the camera to my eye and couldn’t see anything as the lens was covered in snow. Rather than trying to scrape the snow off, I took the filter off and was able to get three or four images before it got snowed up again.

Ryan Browne

What is the main difference between shooting weddings in the winter, rather than at any other time of the year?
It is usually a real challenge and quite often throws up some interesting lighting situations. The winter – especially December – is usually one of my busiest months. The lack of light is the main difference along with the shorter days, but with the sun being so low in the sky this time of year, it really does make for some stunning images. The winter really opens up the opportunity to get creative, making use of man-made light sources that you have around you.

What kind of lighting set-up do you use?
I use whatever natural light there is around me whenever possible, but this is not to say that I will not use flash. The flash is always mounted on one of my cameras. I will also use whatever lighting the venue has to offer, from downlighters, vapour lamps to candles. I also always have a dimmable video light in the car.

What is your favourite camera set-up?
I always work with two cameras: a Nikon D3 with a 24-70mm f/2.8 and another Nikon D3 with a 70-200mm f/2.8 image stabiliser – a great bit of kit in low light. No matter what time of year, this is my main set-up.

Describe your work?
Observational.

Any secrets for shooting in low light or no light you can pass on?
Don’t be afraid to use the high ISO settings on the cameras. My D3 cameras are regularly being used at 6400 and above with fantastic results. In my opinion, it is all about the moment. If I have to use 6400 to capture that moment then so be it.

Has the weather ever been too bad to shoot in, and do you have any humorous stories to tell about this?
Coming from a sporting background, I used to have to spend hours sitting out in the snow and rain to provide images – so shooting weddings is a bit of a joy really, as I never have to stay out in bad weather for too long.

Barrie Downie

What kind of lighting set-up do you use?
I want to keep the ambience of the location I may be in and not overwhelm it with additional light. If I need to add some light, I use a Canon 580EXII and 430EXII with PocketWizard TT1 and TT5s. I also use a Lowel iD light. I use a Lastolite softbox or umbrella if I need soft light, and adjust the flash compensation on-camera or set the
flash manually.

How would you describe your work?
I am usually booked by couples for my creative signature images.

Any secrets for shooting in low light or no light you can pass on?
I have a Manfrotto carbon tripod I use at all my winter weddings. It’s lightweight and very stable; as my style of photography is not pure reportage I can take a couple of minutes to set up my tripod and lighting, then I bring
in the bride and groom for the shot when I need them.

How do you prefer to present your clients with the finished images?
We use Jorgensen and Graphistudio albums, and Loxley for prints and framed prints.

Has the weather ever been too bad to shoot in?
It’s never been too bad that I have not found somewhere to photograph – it is essential to be able to adapt to difficult conditions. I had one winter wedding where during the speeches all the power to the marquee went down in a storm, so the speeches were completed using our video light to illuminate the speaker!

Alistair Freeman

What is the main difference between shooting weddings in the winter, rather than at any other time of the year?
Natural light in winter, in particular January and February, is in short supply, especially with winter ceremonies often starting so late in the day – often 3pm or 4pm. The strength of a winter wedding as opposed to a peak season date comes in the form of artificial lighting. Warm light sources such as candle and fairy lights are great for creating more atmosphere, especially in old manor houses and castles. Winter brides and grooms tend to aspire to this cosy, intimate ambiance – and so the lack of bright natural light tends to be less of an issue to them.

What kind of lighting set-up do you use?
My lighting set-up is no different to that of a summer wedding, in that I don’t really have one – I very rarely use flash. Throughout the day I use very fast, prime lenses – these allow me to use any available light source to capture reflective, honest images of the day.

What is your favourite camera set-up?
Because of my style, I tend to use fairly large apertures most of the time, unless otherwise required.

How would you describe your work?
I like natural, documentary-based photography, and apply this to my weddings. Although I work very closely with the family and guests, I tend to mingle fairly unnoticed; people just accept you being there and that’s when the best shots are captured. For me, it needs to be an accurate, very honest portrayal of the day.

Any secrets for shooting in low light or no light you can pass on?
No great secrets really – just decent, fast glass and a camera with good noise levels at higher speeds.

Tell us about your post-production process and work flow.
I will do as much work on-camera to limit the amount of work that is required in post-production. I use Lightroom to carry out my initial edits; I may correct the white balance and tweak the exposure, but only if it is required. I then convert these RAW files into JPEGs, applying the finishing touches in Photoshop.

How do you prefer to present your clients with the finished images?
I always invite the couples back to the studio for the initial viewing. I do provide online proofing at a later stage – but not until I know that customers have viewed their images at full potential on a good, calibrated screen.

Has the weather ever been too bad to shoot, and do you have any humorous stories to tell about this?
Oddly enough, the weather has never been too bad to shoot a wedding in the winter. I did have to deal with a leaky roof during the floods in July 2007, which resulted in a bucket being put on the table in front of the groom while he
was making his speech. Although it didn’t stop me shooting!

Christian Keenan

What is the main difference between shooting weddings in the winter, rather than any other time of year?
I find that winter weddings are generally more intimate – due, in part, to low lighting conditions and to the cold
weather. These factors seem to bring the people closer together.

What kind of lighting set-up do you use?
I typically only use lights during the dancing in the evening. When I do have to use flash, I try as much as possible to use it off camera along with a PocketWizard and Canon 580 EXII. If the off-camera flash option is not working for me I would always bounce the flash from on top of the camera. I always use the flash on manual as I like to have total control over it at all times.

Describe your work?
My work is 95% documentary. I started off as a photojournalist at a newspaper before working as a documentary photographer for several years in China, so covering clients weddings with a documentary approach is very important to me.

Tell us about your post-production process and work flow.
I use Apple’s Aperture to import, choose my selections and for slight colour correction before completing final post production work in Photoshop.

Has the weather ever been too bad to shoot in, and do you have any humorous stories to tell about this?
Never. However, last year I did have a summer wedding in Slovenia when a thunderstorm came rolling over the mountains. The entire wedding party, including myself, were travelling in a series of gondolas in the middle of Lake Bled at the time. It was quite a scary experience and mild panic swept through everyone as we came to the verge of capsizing. Everyone was completely drenched within the space of five minutes. I kept shooting throughout and it made for some interesting pictures!

Gordon McGowan

What is the main difference between shooting weddings in the winter, rather than at any other time of the year?
To be honest, it is the coldness and the failing light – and as the bride will no doubt have an off-the-shoulder dress for her special day, you will have to work twice as fast to get the shots before she will say she can’t stand the cold anymore.

What kind of lighting set-up do you use?
I tend to use only two video lights on my weddings – I just love the look it gives me for the final shot – and I only use flash for the group and dancing shots. The video light is a Lowell iD video light with a 100w halogen lamp with a set of barn doors. I also have a snoot attachment to give me a spotlight, and the video light has a facility to give you an open beam which spreads the light. With the settings in between, you can change the spread of the light, too, and finish off with a spotlight. My assistant attaches the video light on the end of a monopod to give me the height that I would require for some of my shots. You can also put the other video light on a tripod and use this for backlighting the veil. When using the video light, I have my white balance set to tungsten, then just work away using the video light to create the effect I like for the final image. The one thing you have to do when working with video light is to learn the skill of being a lighting director as well, because you have to direct the assistant who is holding the video light to place it in the right direction, to create the effect that you require.

What is your favourite camera set-up?
The cameras I take to the weddings are two Canon 5D MKIIs, with one camera having a Canon 24-105mm lens and the other with a Canon 17-40mm lens. I also take a 15mm fish-eye lens with me, but very seldom use it.

How would you describe your work?
Traditional with a twist of fashion thrown in to make the image more current. I also like putting a lot of drama into the final image and working on all the files I give to the customer, which has become my trademark over the past 10 years or so.

Any secrets for shooting in low light or no light you can pass on?
With the Canon 5D MKII, I can easily shoot at 6400 ISO quite happily. I know some photographers are frightened to go so high, but for me it is not a problem.

How do you prefer to present your clients with the finished images?
When I come back from a wedding I will download the 300 images taken on the day on to an external hard drive. I will look at the files and edit out the images I don’t think meet the standard I’d like the bride and groom to see. I’ll then work on roughly 250 images in Photoshop that I want to show the couple; giving them the finished image in a photographic quality 5x4" proof size from which they keep.

Has the weather ever been too bad to shoot in, and do you have any humorous stories to tell about this?
In all the years I have been taking wedding photographs, the one wedding that will always come to mind will be of photographing a bride and groom in a bus shelter. That was due to the weather turning into a torrential downpour that lasted for about an hour. As we waited for the rain to stop, we got some real nice images of a very loving couple who just seemed to have forgotten about the weather, and gave me some nice fun and intimate images in the shelter. When they came to pick up their proof prints, they selected one to be framed so it could be placed on their living room wall.

David Murray

What is the main difference between shooting weddings in the winter, rather than at any other time of the year?
Winter weddings are more challenging to a documentary photographer because the weather and, more importantly, the light is generally less favourable. I don’t control my clients during any part of the day, so I simply have to work with the light that is available at the moment I press the shutter. And it’s not only the light – because of the cold, clients and their guests are often confined to celebrate inside their venue, which as a consequence restricts space and opportunities. I, therefore, have to work faster and double my concentration.

How would you describe your work?
Rob Heyman, who is a Master Photographer from Australia and incredibly well respected, said this of my work: “David, your work has an intimate touch that is absolutely glorious.” Of all the nice words that people have said, this is the compliment that means the most to me. I am driven by emotion; capturing a moment in time that can never
be repeated. The power of the still image is incredible and I like to think that my clients hire me for the intimacy in my work, along with the emotion and, at times, the intense feel.

Any secrets for shooting in low light or no light you can pass on?
A photographer who is shooting in the winter should consider each press of the shutter, to wait, anticipate and not panic. By doing this, even the most difficult light and environmental conditions can
be overcome.

Tell us about your post-production process and work flow.
I shoot and delete in-camera if needed, however, this is always done in a controlled and considered way. Then on my return to the office I download all the cards. Within 24 hours I always edit, as the wedding is fresh in my mind. I edit ruthlessly in Breeze Browser, then save the chosen images to external hard drives. A couple of weeks later, or whenever I can, I then process each image individually, I never use Actions and I make each image as perfect in my eyes as it can be. When all images have been processed (usually around 120-220, depending on the length of the wedding) I design the album. I send the design to Jorgensen in Australia. Clients have no input into the design or choice of pictures, that is up to me. Around six to 10 weeks later, the client receives their album: an album that is complete and tells the story of their day without gaps.

How do you prefer to present your clients with the finished images?
I always present them in a beautiful hand-crafted album. I design the album so that certain pictures work with others and are a visual journey. Because I put all the pictures in the client’s album and don’t force them to eliminate pictures, it means their album is complete and will wow people when they show it. I am a documentary photographer, and it becomes pointless if certain aspects of the day are missing.

Has the weather ever been too bad to shoot in, and do you have any humorous stories to tell about this?
Yes. In fact, my first wedding was a baptism of fire. It was a long time ago in the month of February. I was inexperienced and lacking in confidence. I had a camera failure on the morning of the wedding! Because I had never shot a wedding before, I didn’t have back-up, so I drove 20 miles to Jessops to buy one. On the way it hailstoned, then the sun came out, then it rained. The winds were about 70mph. The driver couldn’t get the wedding car door open and when he did he let go because of the wind, it slammed right into the legs of the bride, who started crying. I recall standing there thinking that I could never do this as a living; it was too stressful. I also used direct flash for the groups and portraits – crazy!

David Pullam

How would you describe your work?
Documentary. I don’t set up anything, including the dress and shoes. I spend 20 minutes on formal group shots and 20 minutes on the couple’s shots. I never ask my couples to look at the camera or repeat anything they have just done, I am purely looking for moments.

Tell us about your post-production process and work flow.
I shoot RAW, edit them in Photomechanic and process the RAWs in LR [Lightroom] – the resulting JPEGS are cropped and sharpened in Photoshop. I use Dr Browns 1-2-3 JPEG to produce my online gallery images. I use Photocart to show the images to my clients.

Has the weather ever been too bad to shoot in?
I have never had the weather so bad that I have not been able to shoot. I don’t mind getting wet, and I always make sure my clients are aware that if it does rain then we will still go outside to shoot some images. I’m afraid I don’t have any humorous stories to tell.

Crash Taylor

What kind of lighting set-up do you use?
It can be anything from natural light – with or without reflectors and diffusers – on-camera and off-camera flash, multiple wireless flash and/or video lights. The majority of the wedding day, though, is shot using natural light. It really just depends on the look I’m after and the location I’m shooting in. I always carry four Canon speedlites, a Lowel iD video light, a Lenser P7 LED torch and a Lastolite reflector and diffuser. But regardless of all this equipment, you cannot beat using natural light.

How would you describe your work?
I photograph 35 exclusive wedding adventures a year throughout the UK and internationally. Documentary wedding photography is my passion. At a wedding, I consider myself
more of a wedding day storyteller than a photographer. The camera is just a tool that records what I see on the day.

Any secrets for shooting in low light or no light you can pass on?
No secrets – again it’s all about being able to find or create the light you are looking for, and knowing what to do with it. As we know, light is photography’s essential ingredient.

Tell us about your post-production process and work flow.
My workflow consists of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CS4. The entire wedding is processed in Lightroom. Afterwards, I take some of my favourites into Photoshop, turning them into Crash-Art for the blog. A lot of my clients purchase these images for wall art in their homes.

How do you prefer to present your clients with the finished images?
In a beautiful Queensberry album handcrafted in New Zealand.

Has the weather ever been too bad to shoot in, and do you have any humorous stories to tell us about?
A few months ago, I was shooting the bride and her friends when all of a sudden the heavens opened big time. We all got extremely soaked, but it made for some amazing, candid moments full of laughter and memories that will be treasured forever. I always carry a spare set of clothes for these moments. In this business, you have to be able to shoot in all kinds of weather. I actually prefer the UK weather as opposed to Spain and so on. Harsh sunlight is cool for certain shots, but you just can’t beat a beautiful overcast English day.

Mark Wallis

What is your favourite camera set-up?
I shoot most of the day on one Canon 5D MKII – alternating between a 16-35mm f/2.8 and an 85mm f/1.2. I also keep a 50mm f/1.4 in the bag for more cramped situations. Nice and simple.

Any secrets for shooting in low light or no light you can pass on?
Embrace high ISO, use fast lenses, look for the light (even if there’s only a tiny amount) and don’t be afraid of blurred action and silhouettes.

Tell us about your post-production process and work flow.
On return from a wedding, I download the cards (4GB, SanDisk Extreme III) using a Lexar Firewire reader and back up on to an external drive. I then cull using Camera Bits’ Photomechanic and create a new Lightroom catalogue with the edited selection. I have my own presets within LR for b/w conversion, other curves adjustments and so forth. I run through the images, deleting a few more as I go. I then export the final selection as JPEGs and run Photoshop Actions to create sharpened images for the web gallery. I upload the images to my website and burn both high-res and low-res images on to a disk then post it. Job done.

How do you prefer to present your clients with the finished images?
I consider my work done once the web gallery is live. I offer a couple of books and albums, but I don’t go to town on the design of these. Very simple layouts. I’d rather the images speak for themselves. I do also send my clients a DVD slideshow with the images set to music, which is a great way to appreciate the story that I capture.

Has the weather ever been too bad to shoot, and do you have any humorous stories to tell about this?
I think if the weather was too bad to shoot, it would be too bad to go ahead with the wedding. I’ve been lucky to escape heavy snow, Biblical rain or anything else that couldn’t be handled with a brolly and a pair of sturdy shoes. Bad weather just makes for more interesting photographs!

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