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

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!


Day 183 – Its the halfway point

Day 183 – Sep 16th

So this is it, the official half way point of the 365 project. Six months has gone so fast, I’ve produced some lovely photos, and some absolutely duff ones, but it has been fun.

Todays photo was taken in Sandwell Valley Country Park, a venue so close to where we live, yet somewhere that I’ve never been to before. It was a lovely little place, and somewhere we’ll definitely be going to again. We met some friends there in the morning with their two little ones, one of them being Olivia’s best friend at nursery, for a fun few hours. The kids played on the play area for a while, before we took them around the farm to feed the animals, and then finally stopped off for a spot of lunch in the wasn’t quite as cheap as you’d hope for a trip to the park, but we enjoyed ourselves.

After we got home I still had time to pop into the city centre for this years Chilli Festival, as I’d sadly missed out on last years due to photographing a wedding on that day. It felt smaller this year than previously, although I’d been assure it as the, and due to the rain it was definitely considerably quieter too. On my own I was pretty much done in half an hour or so, but I had picked up some new chilli sauces. I was tempted to try som of the delicious food on offer, but I’d already had lunch at the park and knew we wouldn’t be eating late tonight. 

Before any films or putting my feet up this evening I had the task of putting all my camera batteries on charge and making sure all my memory cards, cameras and lenses were ready and packed. Early start in the morning. It’s an essential job to make sure I am fully prepared for any eventuality, including a smashed camera or a battery totally failing on me. I still have to get all the shots I need regardless. It can be a stressful day, and there is a lot of pressure, particularly around moments that will only happen just the once and can’t be repeated, and definitely can’t be missed. Once I’m happy everything is ready, I can relax. 

Day 182 – It never rains but it pours

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 175 – No-one said parenting would be easy

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 168 – Next stop… Christmas!

Day 168 – Sept 1st

The 1st of September already, and with the exclusion of the weekend, it is technically the final day of the summer holidays. Although it is still very much Summer, schools are about to start what is called the Autumn term, and the weather is beginning to feel just a little bit more like Autumn too.

First thing in the morning I walked Olivia to nursery with Chloe in tow, and after that it was very much a day of looking after Chloe by myself as Clare was busy most of the day, making a birthday cake for Olivia’s birthday party and trying to squeeze in lunch with her friends too.

I was lucky to be able to watch some of the free practise for this weekends upcoming Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix as Chloe was happy to entertain herself for a while, but we did get out in the garden for a while and turn the tv off, especially as I had to put together the new parasol for our patio area. Taking the girls outside is never an effort, something they never refuse. There is something that kids just love about being outside, whatever the weather. I remember myself, when growing up and and wondering why there was so much fuss about the rain when I wanted to go out on a wet day. As a child a few spots of rain just wasn’t something I cared much about, thats what coats and hoods were for, right?!

Thankfully we still have a bit of sunshine ahead of us today and over the weekend if the forecast is to be believed, so getting out in the garden while we can is important, especially for a bit of fresh air and exercise if we’re not going very far. While it is nice during the day, we are starting to see the temperatures drop noticeably in the evening, and the sunset time has shot forward. From it still being a bit light at 10pm, its now almost completely dark by 8:30pm. Over the last couple of weeks I have put up some solar lights in the garden, which have made it look very pretty, and the chiminea has had a number of uses since it went up, although I am hoping we will get a few more out of it yet before it gets too cold to sit out in the evening, or the weather turns.

Monday morning is just around the corner, and means me going back to work after a wonderful six weeks off with the family, and between now and Christmas there is only one weeks holiday, and it won’t be too long after that before we start talking about putting up the Christmas tree! There is plenty going on between now and Christmas, but it feels like we’re already on the countdown!

Day 163 – Summer isn’t over yet

Day 163 – Aug 27th

Its a beautiful Sunday morning outside, and I’ve made the executive decision that we’re getting out early and doing something. The initial suggestion was swimming, a firm favourite with the girls, especially Olivia. I am keen to get Chloe in the water more as she has only been in a couple of times so far, and Clare was happy to join us, which meant taking both the girls was a lot easier… until we realised we were out of swimming nappies! These little things are essentially when taking little ones swimming. They’re not going to stop a toddler peeing in the pool, but the reality is that its half a cup full in several thousand gallons of water that is already pumped full of chemicals to remove any traces of body fluids anyway. No, the nappies are only to stop the number two’s, those bad boys can only be contained by a nappy that won’t disintegrate in the water, and so the swim nappy is as essential and swimming costumes!

Being a Sunday meant that the supermarkets did not open until 10am, but we needed to be at the swimming pool for 10am for the first session or we wouldn’t get in on time, and consequently wouldn’t get out on time for us to get home so I could see the one thing on TV that I had been waiting weeks for, the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix!

Thinking about it a little, I figured that swimming was an indoor thing anyway, and something we could do in any weather, so stressing about nappies, and times was pointless, lets get outside and enjoy the sunshine, after all, we’ve waited weeks for it, and we’re not even sure how long its here for!

So the decision was made, Clent Hills it was. Its only 10 minutes away, its a lovely walk, and we can be out there for as little or as long as we want. The girls can stretch their legs, explore nature, burn off a little energy, feel the sun on their skin and the wind in their hair, which is something I have always been keen to make sure we do with them, from even before they were born. This generation of techno-addicts who are either glued to a xbox/playstation console or a mobile phone seem to have lost touch with nature, and I always wanted my girls to enjoy the world around them, ask questions about the changing colours of the leaves, taste the blackberries on the brambles, listen to the sounds of the birds, climb the trees, and just be kids. There is a time and a place for technology, and I am fine with them using it, but as the age old saying goes… everything in moderation!

Once we got home we treated the girls to a splash in the paddling pool to cool off a bit, as it was still sunny and warm and they both love any excuse to play in water and splash about, not surprisingly they were straight in there in no time at all. We threw the gazebo up over them for a bit of shade, and although it was a little late in the day for a gazebo to be going up, the following day was also supposed to be sunny again and even warmer, so it was worth putting up for two days.

What do you like to do when the weather is nice?

Day 161 – Make hay while the sun shines

Day 161 – Aug 25th

The last Friday of the holidays that I don’t have to consider work (although I clearly already am thinking about it, proven by just the fact that I am typing this!) as next Friday will be the final weekend of the summer holidays.

So what do we do with a Friday and no plans? Well, with the weather forecast continuing to look dry and fairly pleasant, so one thing that I have to do is get all the wood in the garden cut into little pieces that will fit in my chiminea, ready for some late night burning.

Life was made a little easier by Chloe napping and Clare disappearing off to her mothers for an hour with Olivia. This meant I could get the saw out and chop up wood to my hearts content. It’s about all you can ask for when you have kids.

Again, as is traditional on a Friday night, we attempted a film. This time we had opted for one we’d seen before, as Clare had nodded off the last time we tried to watch it. Sadly naaaaah, she missed the last 10 mins of this one too, even if it is a good film! We were doing so well at the start, and even up to half way through. So close, and yet no cigar! 

Day 142 – If only Sunday was a day of rest

Day 142 – Aug 6th

So much for resting on the Sabbath, the wife was off out this morning to meet her friends for breakfast, leaving me to sort the girls out. So consequently I am taking no responsibility for any mismatched clothes the girls may end up wearing today though, I apparently always seem to make poor choices where this is concerned!

Me and the girls decided to take some lunch outside onto the new garden furniture, which made a nice change as its not something we’ve really done before, and todays pleasant weather allowed us a chance to do that. Poor little Chloe was just too tired to eat anything with us though, so she was soon up to bed for a nap, leaving me and Olivia free to play a few games and do some reading that is a bit more difficult to do with her energetic little sister around, leaving a trail of destruction behind her.

Once Clare was home, I was free to jump on my motorbike and head out to briefly catch up with a friend who had moved out to Australia a few years ago and was back for a short while to catch up. It was very last minute, and the original plan had been to take the girls over to see my mother, so I left Clare to put them in the car while I was out and meet me at my moms house. Having the motorbike certainly has been a huge benefit. For me, all the benefits of being able to get about without having to deprive the wife of a car while she has the girls.

The best thing about tonight is the fact that its Sunday night and there is no Sunday night feeling. No work for me in the morning!!

Day 141 – Where does the time go?

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Day 141 – Aug 3rd

Four years. Where has four years gone? It seems like five minutes since we were sat in a room with a bunch of strangers, six other first time heavily pregnant women with their six rather anxious fathers-to-be, about to be taught the joys/horrors of child birth, and what to actually do with a baby when you get it home.

This bunch of strangers turned out to be a really cool bunch of people who we have remained friends with ever since. The moms regularly meet up, and so do the dads, and occasionally we get the whole gang together, which is tricky as there is so many of us, but for the joint birthday party and usually christmas too, everyone always puts the effort in to be there.

The location has changed each year, for the first year we met at Pizza Express, but have since moved on to having it at each others homes as there is more room for the kids, as we don’t need to book any tables or have a time allowance. We all contributed by bringing some different food with us to put on the buffet, and helped to clear up at the end. Clare had found a piñata at the supermarket, which we filled with sweets and took with us, the kids loved it! We were just grateful to get outside at all though, the weather had been crazy this morning… black clouds, torrential rain, thunder and lightning as we arrived, followed by blazing sunshine and clear blue skies, followed by torrential rain and hail stones! Thankfully the sunshine bit hung around long enough to dry most of the garden out so that we could all get out.

All in all a great day, even if the dads were feeling a little fragile after meeting for a few beers the night before!

Day 140 – Don’t assume you know everything

Day 140 – Aug 4th

The day I had been dreading, the first step towards my full motorbike license started today with my motorbike theory test. I had never done a theory test before, as they weren’t actually introduced until the year after I passed my driving test all those years ago. I’d done a practise of the theory test online when I signed up for it, and did okay, so I was fairly confident that my knowledge and 20 years experience of driving would be sufficient to get me through it. A little arrogant, or over confident maybe? You could say so, but I figured my road knowledge had always been quite strong.

The night before I decided to try the practice test again, and got a reasonable and sufficient score again, but then happened to notice all the training material that they had available to purchase, and suddenly wondered if I should have done more to prepare for this. Obviously the questions were going to be different on the day, and what if I knew none of them?? What if I not only failed, but did so in spectacular fashion?

Luckily a good portion of it is common sense, and so I managed to get through and pass it. Not with the same score I’d got on the practise, but it was sufficient all the same.

I headed home feeling much relieved and was pleased to see a little bit of sunshine. A chance to get a few more chores done inside the house and out, and continue sorting the garage out by taking stuff we no longer need to the tip. There has been a number of items that have been stored in there for various reasons that just haven’t been touched in the four years since we moved in, so it seems that being a little more ruthless is something I clearly need to work on.

By the afternoon the garage was starting to feel a little more spacious, although there is still work to be done, but at least it is considerably easier to walk through and bring things like garden wheelie bins through when we need to.

I decided to reward myself with a little time relaxing on our new garden furniture, as I hadn’t had much chance to take advantage of it before.

That evening I was dropped into town to catch up with some friends, the dads from our antenatal group, on one of our few nights out. Its so nice keeping up with this lovely group of people and watching the kids all grow up together.

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