How do I photograph a wedding?

wedding photographer for essex and suffolk
The Bride and Groom under the veil at Gosfield Hall in Essex

How do I photograph a wedding?

You may notice that most of my blogs are aimed at people who either already are, or want to be, wedding photographers so I thought it was about time I wrote an article which potential clients will find interesting as well.

I have chosen a wedding which took place in August last year at St Catherine’s Church and Gosfield Hall in Essex to use as the focal point for my explanation of how I do things.

My clients, Jessica and Stuart, got in touch through my “contact me” page on my website after a friend of theirs (whose wedding I had photographed the year before) had recommended me to them. We made an appointment for me to call on them for a chat about their day.

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This is jessica and Stuart on their wedding day at Gosfield Hall.

A couple of weeks later we met to discuss their plans and really seemed to “hit it off”. I showed them examples of my work on my iPad and some sample Queensberry wedding albums.

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Queensberry wedding albums. In my view, the best available.

The wedding album samples proved to be quite important as they said they would be wanting a good quality printed record of their day. After a couple of hours I left to allow them time to decide whether I was the right photographer for them.

A couple of days later I was delighted to hear back from them. They wanted to meet again so that we could complete contracts and they could officially book my services for their wedding day. Contract completed, terms and conditions signed and understood and booking fee paid, I was officially booked!

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I think that’s what they call “The Look of Love”!

The next time I met up with Jessica and Stuart was a couple of months before their wedding day. During the intervening period, Jessica had been in touch to ask advice on matters like make up (her own and that of her bridesmaids) and whether I was happy to take some very specific photographs she wanted.

Naturally I’m always happy to take photos that are specifically requested by clients and I was happy to give advice on the make up. I even offered a “test shoot” to see how her make up would look in photographs so that she could feel confident about it on her big day.

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The make up just perfect!

So we met at Gosfield Hall a couple of months before their wedding day and spent a couple of hours walking around this beautiful wedding venue, both in the main building and around the grounds.

We came up with two plans and a more detailed “time line” for when and where to take the requested photographs. Plan A was for good weather, whilst plan B was for wet weather. I think it’s sensible to have two plans as you never know what the weather will be like. We had a little practice shoot which was great fun then Jessica and Stuart advised me of the date they would be having a practice for their ceremony at St Catherine’s Church, which is on the edge of  the grounds at Gosfield Hall.

A few days before their wedding we met again. This time it was at St Catherine’s Church for the rehearsal of their ceremony. I always go to the rehearsal if possible for several reasons.

Firstly, it gives me an opportunity to introduce myself to the officiant. In my experience, they tend to appreciate the photographer making this effort to introduce themselves before the wedding day, when no one has time to chat. I realise that some officiants have had bad experiences with wedding photographers and as a result, can be quite strict with us.

I have found that by meeting them before the day, we can address any concerns they might have about how I conduct myself when photographing a wedding and I am often granted a little more freedom as a result.

Secondly, I have found different officiants have different ways of doing things. Sometimes the Bridesmaids walk up the aisle in front of the Bride, sometimes behind the Bride. Things like that which will influence where I need to stand to get the photographs my clients are after. Staying for the practice really does have benefits.

Thirdly I get a chance to meet all the main participants in the day. Bride and Groom’s parents, Bridesmaids, Best Man, Page Boys Flower Girls and anyone else involved in the day. That way, I’m not a complete stranger when it comes to taking their photos on the day itself.

Lastly it gives me a chance to go through their entire time line once more in case there have been any last minute changes. It also gives my clients the opportunity to ask any questions that they may not have thought of up until now.

The rehearsal is usually just a day or two before the wedding so it really does give us a chance to check nothing has changed from our earlier conversations and I think the more I see of my clients, the better. It tends to help them feel more relaxed around me.

The big day arrived and the weather was fabulous. I left home early as usual just in case there are any unexpected hold ups on the roads. There weren’t any, so I arrived nice and early at Gosfield Hall. As I was early, I had a chance to grab a coffee and a croissant with the Bridesmaids before the make up artist and hairdresser arrived.

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The wedding dress hanging in the Bridal Suite at Gosfield Hall in Essex.

I set to photographing the dress, shoes, jewellery, perfume, flowers and all the other important little things that, when all put together, go to create the perfect day.

Then it was time to photograph the Bride (after the hair and make up are finished, of course) in some “getting ready” photos. Then casual photos of her and her Bridesmaids generally having fun.

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Getting ready for the big day at Gosfield Hall in Essex

The Groom was getting ready at Gosfield Hall as well and he wanted some photos of him with his friends and family before the ceremony. So we made our way to the location in the grounds which we had identified during an earlier meeting (it was a plan A type of day!) and had some fun taking some photos before they set off for St Catherine’s Church.

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Our Bride is ready for the day ahead!

I returned to see the Bride in the Bridal Suite at Gosfield Hall and we took all the photos she had requested, together with a few she had not! I arrange for Dad to come into the Bridal Suite to see his daughter in her wedding dress for the first time (always a special moment) and took the important photos showing his reaction.

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Dad sees his Daughter in her wedding dress for the first time.

Then I photographed the entire Bridal party making their way down the stairs as they prepared to set off to St Catherine’s Church before making my way to the church myself.

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The Bridal Party leave for the church.

I reached the church in time to record the arrival of the Bridal Party

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The Bridal Party arrive at St Catherine’s Church, Gosfield.

and the look on the Groom’s face as she walked up the aisle.

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The Groom watches as his Bride walks up the aisle.

The wedding ceremony went beautifully and I managed to get all the photos they had requested,

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The First Kiss, a must get photo!

as well as a few they hadn’t!

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The “little touches” during the day that sometimes get overlooked.

Outside for the confetti shot! I organised all the guests into two lines and, on the count of three, the couple walked down the middle of the tunnel whilst being showered with confetti.

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The confetti flies at St Catherine’s Church


Off to Gosfield Hall for the wedding breakfast and evening celebration! Once more I was able to reach the destination before the Bride and Groom, so I recorded their arrival at Gosfield Hall. We gathered together all the guests and set about getting all the “group” photos. Three cheers for the Bride and Groom. Hip hip……………

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The “Group Photo” at Gosfield Hall

I always encourage my clients to make a list of their “must get” group photos. Usually I can enlist the help of the Best Man with indetification and marshalling the guests to a location identified in advance so that we can get these photos done as quickly as possible. Let’s face it, the guests want to get at the drinks and canapés, they don’t want to be waiting around taking photos!

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Let’s face it, not all the group photos go according to plan!

Then I took the Bride and Groom off for some special “couple” photos which, when done correctly, can be a really fun part of the day.

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The photos don’t all need to be “serious”.

I usually get the Best Man or a Bridesmaid to bring along some drinks and canapés for the couple so they don’t miss out.

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The Bride and Groom at Gosfield Hall

Several photos and lots of laughs later, they went to join their guests.

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The Bride and Groom pause for a kiss on their way to join their guests at Gosfield Hall in Essex.
wedding photographer for essex and suffolk
The Bride and Groom join their guests in the courtyard at Gosfield Hall in Essex.

After taking some casual photos of the happy couple chatting to their guests, I went to prepare for the wedding breakfast. After taking some photos of the room set up,

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The Wedding Breakfast room at Gosfield Hall in Essex

place settings, table centres

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Place setting at a wedding breakfast at Gosfield Hall in Essex

and some other important “finishing touches”, I made ready for the Bride and Groom’s announced entrance.

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The Bride and Groom are announced in for their Wedding Breakfast at Gosfield Hall in Essex

When everyone had taken their seats I made myself scarce so that they could enjoy their meal without having to worry about a camera lens being pointed at them. Having told the Bride and Groom exactly where they would be able to find me, I went to have a sandwich and cold drink (non alcoholic, obviously).

I returned for the “speeches”. Lots of laughter and a little “embarrassment” later, I had taken photos of all the main protagonists and the reactions of their guests.

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The Groom makes his speech at Gosfield Hall in Essex

Then, as had been requested by Jessica and Stuart, we went to take some more “couple” photos at a few locations inside the building.

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The Bride and Groom read their vows at Gosfield Hall, Essex.

The architecture is beautiful and we had decided to take advantage of that fact.

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The Bride and Groom in the hallway of Gosfield Hall in Essex

For me, it was then time to set up my lights for the First Dance. Having set the lighting, we had the official “cutting of the cake” first before moving straight into the dance room for the dancing to begin.

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First Dance focussing on the hands

After a couple of minutes, they were in the middle of the dance floor completely surrounded by guests so out came my ladder (which was nearby and ready) so that I could still get photos of Jessica and Stuart.

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The Bride and Groom surrounded by their guests during their First Dance at Gosfield Hall in Essex

A few photos of the party in full swing with the guests having a fabulous time and I was finished for the day. Absolutely exhausted but boy had I enjoyed it.

I checked with Jessica and Stuart to make sure we had taken all the photos they wanted before packing everything into my van and setting off home.

I have tried my best to keep the “word count” down but I hope there is enough here to give you an idea of how I go about photographing a wedding. Quite simply, it’s a job I love and hope to be doing for many years to come.

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The Bride and Groom at the end of a fabulous day.

The Wedding Photographer – an endangered species?

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The Happy Couple, with “Happy” never being a more appropriate word!

The Wedding Photographer – an endangered species?

I’m posing that question because of events I have experienced in the past few weeks. Taken individually, they are of little significance. Taken as a whole I think there is cause for concern.

As usual, these are my opinions and mine alone. I have no doubt some will find them a great bone of contention and that not everyone will agree with me.

The first was coming across the scene depicted in this photo which I took whilst in Australia.

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A wedding photographer using a cameraphone?

I’ve posted this photo before and the feedback I received is that some do see it as the future of wedding photography because the cameras built into today’s mobile phones are already pretty good and they are constantly improving.

I’m not going to debate that subject in much detail here because it has been covered in other blogs elsewhere, but I would like to mention the camera element. Whatever form the camera takes, it is just a tool and the shape of told does change over time. The end of the wedding photographer was predicted before with the advent of digital over film, a time when the “tool” changed..

As with that period of change, the Photographer, regardless of the tool they are using, still needs to possess all the other skills (people management, organisational skills, lighting skills, their creativity and so on) to be an effective wedding photographer.

The next event that got me thinking was a comment my neighbour and friend made. He works in insurance and twice in two weeks he has told me about insurance claims being made by newly married couples against their wedding photographers.

Now I have known this neighbour over 10 years and he has been in the same job throughout that time yet he has never mentioned this problem before. You might think it’s just some couples “trying it on” but in these instances, that’s not the case. He has seen the photographs and the standard of them has given him cause for concern.

Talking to him, there does indeed appear to be a rise in the number of claims being made. I can’t help but wonder if this is another example of the  “where there’s blame, there’s a claim” culture we seem to be going through, or has the general standard of wedding photography gone down?

Let’s face it, pricing for wedding photography has come under a great deal of pressure in recent years. I’m not criticising any individual here but there are a lot of “cheap” photographers out there and a lot of consumers who are hiring purely on price.

To me, simple economics dictates the following. You have to earn a certain amount of money to be able to live and stay in business. If you are not charging very much for your services, you need to get more bookings. If you have more bookings, you cannot spend too much time on each one otherwise you will fall behind.

This means, just my opinion remember, you take “short cuts”. You spend less time preparing for the weddings ( I carry out venue visits with clients and spend a lot of time getting to know them and exactly what they want ) and you spend less time on editing. I believe it’s inevitable that the quality of the images will suffer as a result.

Also, if you haven’t had the time to “get to know them”, you may not be providing them with the images they were expecting and that can ( in fact I know it actually has ), prompt a “claim”.

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Thankfully they also use “proper” cameras in Australia.

This brings me on to the third event which I think is worth mentioning. I learned just yesterday that a very well known and respected photography training company has gone into “voluntary liquidation”.

This company has trained a lot of well known and very successful wedding and portrait photographers over a period of decades and it has gone out of business. It will be a great loss to the industry and it has made me wonder, after such a long period of success, what has changed to make this company fail?

Could it be bad management? Well, the same duo have managed the company successfully for a long time and I don’t think they would suddenly become “bad” managers overnight. Personally, I suspect they were unable to generate sufficient revenue in a changing market place.

Put another way, when the world has reached the stage that using a camera phone is ok for wedding photography, that “cutting corners” is ok to keep your prices down, then the chances are people starting out in this industry don’t think they need any training. Either that or, because they are having to keep their prices down so low, they simply can’t afford it.

I can’t help but think the industry is in a dangerous downward spiral. Most people are quite simply used to seeing photos on their phone. That is what they have come to expect to see when they look at photos and a growing number seem to be satisfied with that.

Because of this, with the photos being on such a small screen, I personally believe most people don’t know a bad photo from a good one. Following on from that, people don’t value photography any more and will simply hire the cheapest photographer they can find without realising there is more to taking a good photograph than pushing a button on a mobile phone.

Following on from that, photographers who are trying to earn a living are having to keep their prices unrealistically low. They simply have to “cut corners” and don’t have the money available to invest in good training.

With no training, the standard goes down and you end up with insurance claims. I can’t help but think the three events I have mentioned are all connected.

So is the wedding photographer an endangered species?

Look at artists, musicians, footballers and so on. All have a few “super stars” who earn a very good living at their chosen profession and I think Photography is no different. Whilst a few will do very well, a lot will find it impossible to earn a decent living from photography on a full time basis.

I believe there are simply too many photographers in a very crowded market place. I also believe that, with the advent of the “camera phone”, photography has become devalued. As I pointed out earlier, most people don’t know a good photo from a bad one.

Because they can take a snap on their mobile phone they think taking photos is easy and end up shopping for their wedding photographer on price alone. After all, they are only paying someone to push a button on a phone for a few hours, aren’t they!

Most wedding photographers are already “part time” with their earnings from photography being their “secondary” source of income. (By the way, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being part time, in case you were wondering. That debate has already been done to death! ).

When it comes to training I can see other problems. As I’ve mentioned, an established company with a great track record has gone out of business, and what do we see?  “Photographers” with relatively little experience suddenly becoming experts and advertising “cut price training days” to try and earn enough money to pay their way in life because they can’t earn enough from weddings alone.

I’ve been photographing weddings for over eight years now and been on several training courses during that time ( including successfully completing a “judges” training course ), yet I’m still learning and I don’t consider myself qualified enough to charge for “teaching” wedding photography effectively. How someone with only a couple of years experience can really think they are an “expert” and qualified to teach is beyond me.

I don’t want this blog to be all “doom and gloom”, rather just point out a few things that have recently given me cause for concern. A bit of a “reality check”, if you like.

In general, we wedding photographers are a very positive bunch but it’s no good putting our heads in the sand. Whilst I know most of us photograph weddings not to “get rich” but because we genuinely love doing it, we do have to strike a balance and earn a living.

The end of this wonderful profession has been foretold in the past, yet we are still here. It is my hope that we are going through a temporary “phase”. When “digital packages” came into “fashion”, people stopped buying wedding albums. I have found people returning to wedding albums because they are now learning the limitations and shortfalls of the “digital only” wedding package.

With a lot of people now just looking for “cheap” photography, in time it’s limitations and shortfalls will become apparent as they did with “digital only” packages. Then it may go “out of fashion”.

Until then, I like to think that those photographers who are able to meet the challenges presented by this changing and challenging market place will survive, but it isn’t going to be easy and don’t expect to get rich doing it! At least not until the “fashion” for cheapness changes!!

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The Bride and Groom set out on life’s journey together.