Category Archives: 365 project

Day 184 – A day in the life of a wedding photographer

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Day 184 – Sep 17th

A lot of people probably have the idea that the life of a wedding photographer is a glamorous and easy one, they just turn up on the morning, take some photos for a couple of hours after bossing everyone around, charge a small fortune and go home. If only it was really like that.

My wedding preparations have started well in advance of the day, meeting the couple to discuss the details of the day, sometimes at the wedding venue, and continue for many weeks after it, editing photos and putting albums together. The price may seem expensive, but when you consider the cost of the equipment I need, the cost of travelling brides house > church > reception venue > home (and don’t forget the meetings with the couple too), buying software, running my website, the cost of the albums, new memory cards and batteries, and then finally making a profit on top, its not quite the money pit people imagine.

On the actual day itself, I often begin with an early start, filling the car up with all my gear once I’m showered and dressed. I have to be pretty strict on leaving the house to ensure I meet the bride on time, as I’ll be starting with the bride and bridesmaids hair and make up photos and can’t miss the bride getting hers done if she’s first. This is generally a fairly relaxed part of the day, with an opportunity to get some lovely shots for the album. 

The stress really begins as soon as the bride is getting ready to leave for the church. I need to be hot footing it over to the church myself well in advance to meet the groom and speak to the vicar about what I’m allowed and not allowed to photograph during to service. Each vicar can have very different views about what is acceptable, some of them are really cool about it and will pretty much let you shoot anything, some of them don’t mind too much  providing you don’t move around, and to the rest… well, you’re pretty much just the devil to them, and they’d just rather you weren’t in there at all, you bloody nuisance!

I’ll need to capture shots of guests arriving at the church, the groom waiting anxiously inside, orders of service being handed out, bridesmaids arriving… then finally it’s time, the brides car has arrived… at this point you hope that you’ve made it to the toilet recently, because the next few hours are going to be chaos, there’s no time for toilet breaks or looking at mobile phones or snacks, as no-one wants to be waiting around for an absent photographer, the service is happening whether I’m ready or not, and if I miss a shot, well, there’s no going back and reshooting it, you have to deal with the consequences. As the bride gets out of the car and heads down the aisle, experience will tell me where I need to be and when so that I can capture everything I need to, for the next hour or so.

Throughout the service there are random moments to grab, people hugging, touching, looks between two people, but essentially there are also a number of key shots that I must grab, the ring exchange, the first kiss, the signing of the register, walking back down the aisle and being in the wrong place will simply mean missing the shot!

After the service there will be a number of photos outside of the church to take, the couple, their parents, the bridesmaids etc, but first you have to remember to let the church empty as there are a lot of people inside waiting to get out, and they will ALL want to speak to the couple. I always give it a few minutes so that people aren’t butting in when I try to take my shots. This part is tricky and needs some direction as people tend to wander around like lost sheep. Once the essential shots are done, I am often the first to leave for the reception venue (my car is often parked tactically so I can get out quickly!) so I can be ready and waiting for the couple to arrive and capture them in the back of the car, and as they get out of it. If they are taking a while to arrive once I am there I will head into the reception room with a few spare minutes to capture some detail shots of the tables, the cake, and decorations.

The next step is group shots and these can really eat into your time if you’re not careful, especially if there isn’t much of a gap between arriving at the venue and everyone sitting down to eat, but once everyone is sat down ready for food, it is a chance for me to slow down and relax for a little while, rest my feet which will be feeling tender by this point, and hopefully grab a bite to eat myself. Most of the time the couple will think to feed me, and this is massively appreciated, as it can be a really long day, 12 hours almost without a break is not unusual. Even when I am sat down I will be reviewing the shots I have taken!

Traditionally speeches will follow either the main course or dessert, and I’ll need to get a good spot, but without blocking the view of people behind me. Typically at least one of these shots will end up in the album, so I need to get a good one of everyone talking.

The cake cutting is often next, although some wait for the evening guests to arrive, but mostly it happens soon after the speeches. Some venues often request a mock cutting of the cake for the sake of a photo, but I rarely do this as I prefer the natural expressions and focus of a couple actually cutting into the most expensive cake they have ever paid for!

The last event I will often stay to capture is the first dance, it can often be resented by the groom (us men aren’t natural dancers!), sometimes even the bride as well, but usually most couples embrace it for what it is… the start of the evenings celebrations and time to party! I need to utilise my lighting skills by using my flash guns, sometimes aiming them at the ceiling, sometimes placing them around the room and firing them remotely, but at least one, sometimes two of these images will always go in the album, these are essential. Its not uncommon for the first dance to end up running late, but my promise is to stay until its done, and so thats what I do. If it is going in the album, then I need to be there to capture it! I certainly don’t want to be remembered as the photographer who couldn’t be bothered to wait.

Todays wedding did run over a bit, but it was a fun day, a very relaxed couple and a lovely family. After getting home later than expected, I decided to treat myself to a glass of red wine or two! Finally, I can put my feet up and relax!

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Day 182 – It never rains but it pours

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Day 182 – Sep 15th

Ah Friday, the superhero of the working week! 

I’m looking forward to a bit of a quiet Friday and Saturday as my Sunday is going to be pretty hectic, my first wedding for a while. For one reason or another it has been a bit of a quiet year on the wedding photography front, which is fine as it means more time at home at the weekend with my girls, but Sunday I am back into it, and the wedding weekend starts tonight with the wedding rehearsal. Normally I don’t attend these, but I wanted to make sure I could find the church and check out the parking situation.

The church isn’t too far away, and so I decide to hop on the motorbike, its cheaper to run than the car, and more fun too!

Cue the rain!!

I had to hang around a bit longer with the rehearsal than I wanted to, but it was worth it as I found out I was entitled to a limited spot outside the church, reserved for photographers! This news takes a huge amount of stress out of the wedding day!

So now its time to head home, put my feet up and relax with a film and a drink. On the way home I manage to pull the bike over and grab todays lovely photo… right before it started raining again! I seem to be cursed on two wheels at the moment, every time I climb onto my motorbike or bicycle I get drenched!! Oh well, a few beers and a good comedy film will soon take my mind off that! At least I got home in time to put the girls to bed!

Day 181 – Tomorrow is a new day

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Day 181 – Sep 14th

When your previous evening hasn’t gone to plan and you start the next day still feeling grumpy about it you have to give some consideration to the fact that most of your problems are generally going to be trivial ones that you just need to let go of, and it’s only you that can change whether you’re going to let yourself be happy or not. Take a reality check on the situation, if you have a house, a job, hopefully people around you that you love, food in the cupboards… you’re already better off than half the people on the planet. 

So that’s what I had to do. I can’t take my grumpy mood to work, as it certainly won’t help thing. When I get home my girls don’t deserve the grumpy version of me either, they should have the best version of me that I can be. Sometimes it’s not that easy to arrive home after a day at work with the enthusiasm of a childrens tv presenter, especially when you’re tired, hungry, and inevitably annoyed with some idiots driving on the commute home. Riding home on two wheels frequently means that someone will have had me swearing at some point, whether they can hear me or not, and so when I get home I’ll put the bike in the garage, take a deep breath and give myself a second to let all of the days frustration just drain away. As soon as you walk in the door and see those two little smiling faces looking up at you, everything else just melts away. You can close the door and shut the big bad world out.

Mindset is a big thing, and a while back at work we had a training day, which was called The Art Of Being Brilliant. Presented by a particularly enthusiastic and motivating guy, it was all about positivity and making the choice to be happy. There were mixed feelings about it afterwards, some found it ridiculous and patronising, some found it an utter waste of time, but like myself a lot of people remained open minded and found it interesting and inspirational, enough so to pick up a free copy of the book that had been offered with it. It was very much about this “better version of you” mindset. I never did read the book in the end, as I have many books at home still waiting to be read, although a lot of what was said on the day did stick with me, I just need to remember to put it into practise a bit more often. Maybe I should go back and pick the book up after all. 

How do you pick yourself up when the day isn’t going your way?

Day 180 – Don’t leave it too late

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Day 180 – Sep 13th

One thing I’d had on my mind today was about making a bit more effort to take a photo, I was keen to capture some traffic trails, as I always think these look lovely. I knew the spot I wanted to use, a big traffic light junction near home, that is nearly always busy.

The weather forecast had suggested a bit of a rough day, I’d even taken the motorbike to work, to avoid the high winds and heavy rain that never ended up appearing anyway, but I was still aware that the long exposure shot I wanted to take could have been ruined if it got too windy and the camera moved while I was trying to take the shot. Thankfully the weather remained calm that evening, but because I’d left it too late to go out, I had literally missed the bulk of the traffic, and the resulting shot was not exactly what I’d had in mind. 

Stil, it wasn’t a bad shot, especially as I’d technically only gone out to get milk  for work the next day and failed because the shop had changed their hours and shut early, so at least it wasn’t a wasted journey.

Not the first time I’d had to make do with something because I’d yet again left it until the last minute. You’d think at my age it would be a lesson I’d learnt by now!

Day 178 – If you don’t try, you’ll never know

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Day 178 – Sep 11th

With hurricane Irma destroying Florida and the Caribbean I find it hard to really complain much about our fairly placid weather, plus it’s doesn’t make for a very exciting blog either, but today was a day of relative extremes for us here in the UK, glorious sunshine followed by torrential downpours, followed by glorious sunshine, followed by torrential downpours… you get the idea. It’s really stating to feel like Autumn has arrived, regardless of what the calendar is telling us it should be. The wind has picked up, a few leaves on the trees have started to turn red, some have even started falling off already. 

The biggest changes have to be the overnight temperature and the sunset times. At the height of summer there was still light in the sky at 10pm, but now it is almost completely black outside by 8pm. We’ve been lucky to have some very mild nights over the summer and haven’t even shut some of the upstairs windows in weeks, but over these last few nights we’ve really started to feel a significant drop in the temperature after the sun goes down, and the outdoor thermometer had recently been telling us that the temperature has dropped down into single figures during the night, (that’s basically below 50°F for our transatlantic friends) and it’s starting to feel a bit chilly at night, we are going to need to get our winter quilt back out of the loft and onto the bed this week, the summer quilt is just too thin to keep us warm at night! A brand new electric blanket to have the bed nice and toasty for when we get in, is already on order from Amazon!

The weather isn’t the only change going on at the moment, I also decide it was finally time to do something about my hair. I can’t even think of the last time that I had it cut, and I was beginning to get worried that if I sat for too long in one spot with a McDonalds cup in my hand that people may start throwing spare change into it! It was desperate!

I’d decided that I was doing something about it tonight, but instead of just buzzing the lot off like I usually do, I’d quite enjoyed having it a little longer on top, and so asked the wife for her help on doing something a little different with it. 

I was very pleased with the results, and considering the wife is no hairdresser, or even had much experience cutting hair, I think she did a cracking job! It seemed the perfect opportunity to try out my new backdrop to grab a photo of it. A single off-camera flash placed off to the side on a stand, and the black £10 backdrop hanging from the curtain rail was pretty much all I needed with my camera set up on a tripod. It turned out just as I’d hoped it would. Nice photo, shame about the subject!

Day 177 – Try to keep up with me

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Day 177 – Sep 10th

Sunday wasn’t supposed to be much busier than Saturday, but we still had a couple of things we wanted to do.

Our first thing was a trip out to the park to meet a friend and her little girl who was the same age as Olivia. They had both recently turned 4 and both of them had new bikes. We’d agreed to head for one of Birminghams most well known parks, Cannon Hill park as its nice and flat for the girls to ride the bikes, and there is plenty of space of the path for bikes and all the people on foot. The other added bonus is the Garden Tea Room.

Cannon Hill Park may be well known for the infamous arts centre, or MAC as its better known, located at the main entrance to the park, with its shiny new appearance, its shows, its sleek cafe and the courses and other things it puts on, but the Garden Tea Room sat on the opposite side of the park gets a little overlooked. It serves good food at a good price and you rarely have to queue or wait for your food for long. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, plenty of room to store buggies inside and they offer high chairs for the little ones. In fact about the only complaint I have about this place is the fact that they don’t accept card payments for any of the food or drink. A bit of an inconvenience, but if you know about this in advance then you won’t go hungry when you get there, as one of the things the entire park, and the MAC centre are missing is a cash point. Luckily we had cash, so when a rain shower appeared on our walk around the park, we took the opportunity to duck inside and grab a bite to eat and a hot drink.

The morning was a lot of fun, the girls had a fantastic time on the bikes, riding in circles, charging through puddles, racing each other, and frequently stopping to jump off and pick up feathers or horse chestnuts, all before we headed for the duck pond to feed the ducks. We chose a smaller pond, away from the main boating lake, as it is literally plagued by geese, and we would have been mobbed within seconds!

After leaving the park it was over to my mothers for a couple of hours. We knew we were going to be pushing Chloe through her nap time a bit, but she’s coping better with waiting now, although we can’t push her too far, no-one wants a meltdown… and when this girl goes, everyone knows about it!

After getting home and Chloe getting a much needed nap on the way back in the car it was time for dinner, and the good old english classic of toad in the hole being cooked up by the wife. What a way to finish a Sunday!

Day 176 – What shall we do today?

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Day 176 – Sep 9th

It’s Saturday and we’d decided it was going to be a fairly quiet weekend, I know it makes the wife happy when we break the busy weekends up with a few where we’re not doing much. 

The one thing with not making any plans in advance though is that if you don’t just want to sit around the house, you still need to be up and dressed at a reasonable time, or by the time you’re dressed and showered it’s almost lunchtime , the girls will be wang something to eat and we have to consider that Chloe will need to nap shortly afterwards. Essentially what this means is that if we’re not up and out of the house by 10am, we may not end up going until 2-3pm. It’s almost feels like a bit of a waste of a day, especially when we have to be back by 5pm to cook dinner, think about a bath and then get them both in bed by 7:30pm. 

Theses small windows do mean that if we are just staying local then at least we don’t really have to take travel times into account, and we don’t have to commit ourselves to being out for more than a couple of hours at a time. They’re good for trips to the park, swimming or even a trip to the shops. On this particular Saturday, as we had literally nothing planned, I suggested we head down to Toys’R’Us to see if Olivia wanted to spend some of her birthday money. Yes, she’d been bought some lovely gifts for her birthday, but none of which she’d actually chosen herself. Its a nice way to spend a little time, letting the girls wonder round being amazed by this Aladdins cave of childrens toys, although at 18 months I knew Chloe was going to struggle with the concept of putting things back on the shelves a little, and we did spend some time trying to wrench things out of her hands and coerce her to let things go.

Finally the shopping trip was successful, and we were heading back out to the car when we spotted the fire engines that were parked up for the charity car wash, with one of the wagons parked up and allowing children to sit inside and have everything explained to them. Olivia naturally was keen to have a look, and after having a look around the back, was allowed in the front to sit in the drivers seat, which she thought was amazing! It was a nice surprise from a random trip to a shop we don’t normally visit. It might not seem like much, but when you’re a child its super exciting, and when you’re a parent trying to entertain a child on a wet Saturday afternoon, you’ll take every opportunity.

Day 175 – No-one said parenting would be easy

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Day 175 – Sept 8th

Friday at last, and it was the end of the first week of term after we’d come back from the summer holidays. After being back at work for a week, this was one day that the wife was really missing me and wishing I was at home, and sadly not because my charismatic personality or the charming wit that she’d clearly married me for… no, its because Chloe was about to get listed on eBay on a 7 day auction! Little miss whingy pants was beginning to do mommy’s head in!

We have created two beautiful, unique and very different girls, and the youngest of those is really showing us how different two girls brought up in the same environment can be, and testing our patience on a seemingly increasing basis with her episodes of moaning, whinging, wanting this, that and the other, and of course her little tantrums. She’s an absolute delight to be around for 90% of the time, but she is clearly not as placid and calm as her big sister.  

As a friend had recently commented on facebook though, you have to admire this fire and passion in her, even as an 18 month old toddler she is developing such a feisty personality, and I love it… as challenging as it can be!

Sure, it drives us a little nuts at times, but we have two awesome little girls, and I love to embrace their differences. I sometimes look at what they’re like now and  wonder what they’ll become when they’re older, what will interest them, what will they be passionate about or skilled in. So far we’ve got Olivia down as an author, and Chloe as the backpacking around the world adventurer! Who knows, the world is changing, possibilities are endless, creativity and imagination can go a long way… I mean if you can earn a living, and a very wealthy living too, by being a “youtuber” or an Instagram star, then who knows what the future holds!? Even blogging is paying the bills for those dedicated enough… if only I could work out a way to get more people reading!

Day 174 – we are made of star dust

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Day 174 – Sept 7th

Its tough getting back into the swing of things after six weeks off work, and a poor track record of going to bed far too late. After feeling a little run down and unwell yesterday I decided to take the motorbike to work today, and it was so much nicer!

Sadly changes at work mean having to stay a little later than usual on a Thursday, so I couldn’t race home to collect Olivia from nursery, I had to leave that to the wife. As soon as I was home, Olivia was keen to get out on her new bicycle and go riding. She’d only had it two days, and I thought we’d end up just going up and down the length of our road, but she’d clearly been practising while she was at home yesterday and looked like she’d got this thing mastered, even using her brakes to slow herself down.

Todays photo was pretty much just an observation of how badly I need a hair cut. It was also a planned, deliberate pose… a close-up shot using the ultra wide angle lens, with a bounce flash illuminating me from above, and then converted to black and white using one of my favourite actions from my Totally Rad actions collection in Photoshop. It came out exactly as I’d imagined, that always makes me happy!

Day 173 – be grateful… there are people who would love to have your bad days

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Day 173 – Sep 6th

Third day of the new Autumn term and the first day of the kids being back in meant a new class and some new faces to get used to. I wanted to feel more switched on, and be more on the ball, but I definitely wasn’t functioning at 100% today. I think a few cold germs, with the cumulative effects of repeated late nights over the holidays, on top of cycling to work again and pushing it hard in the rush hour traffic to keep up (after getting on the scales this morning and feeling truly horrified at the results)… it has all started to take its toll. I need a couple of days to slow down a little, get to bed early and do something about my diet.

This evening I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely couple, plus the mother of the bride who was proving to be a very useful point of contact, to have some final discussions about their wedding which is now less than two weeks away. The church is one that I haven’t photographed a wedding at before, but the reception venue thankfully is, and in fact it also happens to be where the wife and I had our wedding reception too, so it was lovely to head back there five years later. The last time I photographed a wedding there it had rained all day, so I am hoping for a little dry weather this time around. 

As it was an early evening meeting it meant that I missed out on some time at home with the girls, so it was great to get home and have time to see them before they went to bed, and be able to read bedtime stories, as I didn’t think they would still be up when I got back.

Once the girls were in bed, it was time to sit down for dinner, and as usual the TV was on, I wasn’t really paying much attention until the wife flicked on DIY SOS. Now normally I don’t watch a great deal of TV, largely because me and the wife have very different viewing tastes, but also because there is rarely much on that interests me anyway. The wife will sit down with the sole intention of watching something, and will flick through the channels until something grabs her interest, whereas I will generally not watch any TV at all, unless there is something specific I want to see and I will make time to watch it before going back to what I was doing.

I knew that DIY SOS was going to tug at the heart strings though, it always does. For anyone that has never seen it, it is based around a family in need, either a parent or child with a life limiting illness or disability in a house that is totally unsuitable and unliveable, and in just over a week a huge team of local tradesmen and women all give up their time for free to strip the house back to a shell and transform it, and the garden, into something absolutely amazing. The results are often mind blowing and the family are invariably reduced to tears. This particular episode featured a lovely, decent, honest family where the dad, who wasn’t especially old, had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease, and was given just three years to live. Not even long enough to see his young girls finish school. As a father myself, I just found the thought of this absolutely crushing, life can be so unfair… and so to all those who thought the ALS ice bucket challenge was a waste of time and water… screw you, man! The $100 million or £76 million that was raised in a single month as a result, enabled ALS researchers to uncover a major breakthrough in identifying and working towards treating the disease.

Its things like this that make you stop and think about everything you have, and everything you should be grateful for, appreciating every day because you just don’t know how many you have left.

What have you been thankful for today?

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