I own a good camera so I should be a wedding photographer!

In August I will be shooting my first wedding. This is not something that I have thought about trying before but I agreed to do this one as a favour to my sister. One of her best friends is getting married and I was only too happy to do this favour for her.

My blog post today is about the skills required to be a wedding photographer. Recently a request was posted on Facebook asking for recommendations for local wedding photographers. I was absolutely stunned by the number of names that were put forward to be considered. I didn't realise there were so many out there in the local area.

When you start to dig a little deeper you find that very few of the names provided are professional photographers. Many of the recommendations are for people that have a camera and feel that their technical ability is at a level where they can charge for their work. Many just have a Facebook page and no website. There are no portfolios to look through, some have hardly any examples of their work on show.

Having seen quite a few wedding photographs posted on social media I am stunned that some people have the audacity to call themselves professional photographers. The technical standard of a lot of images posted could at best be described as "snaps". Of course, if the client is happy with the quality and the price they have paid then there is not a problem. As with all things in life "you get what you pay for".

As a pro wedding photographer I would say that the qualities required would be: 1. An ability to manage people in an efficient and personable manner. 2. Excellent photographic skills and an ability to capture those special moments whatever the conditions. You should know your equipment inside out and be able to deal with any situation that may arise. 3. The photographer is at the wedding to record the occasion and should not interfere with everyones enjoyment. He/she should blend into the crowd, after all the photographer is not the star of the show, the bride is! You hear of too many photographers that act as if they are the centre of attention and that is just not the case.

My advice to anyone looking to book a photographer would be as follows: 1) Never book a photographer without seeing their portfolio, especially images of the type required. After all its no good looking at landscape images when you're booking a wedding photographer. 2) On your big day you need everything to run as smoothly as possible. Never book a photographer that you can't get on with. No matter how good a photographer is don't even consider booking them unless you connect with them. 3) Always check out recommendations yourself, don't take the word of others. After all the recommendations could all be from friends and family of the photographer. 4) A professional photographer will be insured to cover any eventualities, check this out. 5) Make sure that you agree a contract with the photographer so that both parties know exactly what is expected and what will be delivered.

The wedding that I will be shooting in August will be my first and I will be doing my best for the happy couple. My part in the wedding will be well organised and I will be working with the happy couple to produce a shot list so that I don't miss any shots that would be especially important.

Who knows this may turn out to be a side of photography that I enjoy and the start of something new. On the other hand I will be putting myself under pressure to do the best job on the day and it may be my first and last wedding. 

I will post a few shots after the big day and you can all judge for yourselves whether I did a good job or not.

Saltwick Bay

On the North Yorkshire coast, just south of Whitby, is a magical place called 'Saltwick Bay'. Its a fantastic location for any photographer to visit and you never leave disappointed. Whatever the weather conditions you can always find an interesting shot. The main features of the bay is a rock formation known as 'The Whale' at one end, another called 'Black Nab' and a shipwreck. The bay consists of two very flat rock shelves and a sandy beach between.

The wreck is all that remains of a trawler called the 'Admiral von Tromp' which ran aground in October 1976. It went down on a stormy night with the loss of 2 lives. When you visit Saltwick Bay there is an eeriness about the place, a stillness which is very calming but not at all unnerving.

For a photographer the flat rocky shelves are left covered with a shallow covering of water at low tide and the reflections are spectacular. When the sun sets (or rises) the colours reflected in the pools can be amazing. Across the pools rocks are scattered providing interest which breaks up the water and produces interesting images.

The only downside to the bay is the steep climb back up the cliff path. Many of the best beaches and bays on the North Yorkshire coast are surrounded by high cliffs and require a bit of effort to access them. Although I say this is a downside it is well worth all the effort!

I would recommend that all photographers make at least one visit to this amazing location!    

Action on the high seas!

This weekend brought the super stock powerboat racing to the South Bay at Scarborough. All the excitement of high powered boats racing around the bay.

For all the photographers it was a chance to get out and capture images of high speed racing. I captured a few images using a technique called "panning" which is basically tracking the action with the camera and then shooting using a slower shutter speed. If this is done correctly then the subject should be sharp but the background blurred. This is a techniques used to add a sense of speed to the shot. Not an easy technique to master but will worth the effort of trying. Of course it is easy for any photographer to freeze the action but that does not convey the sense of high speed movement in the shot.

It is important for all photographers to master every skill involved in the art, that way you are prepared to deal with every opportunity that arises,

There is no substitute for hours spent practicing! Photography is an addictive hobby but like all things you only get out what you put in. Many people think that the standard of photography  directly corresponds to the amount spent on equipment. This is a fallacy and an experienced photographer should be able to capture amazing images with whatever camera they have.

The best camera is always the one you have in your hand!

What does your website say about you?

As human beings our lives are very much directed by our instincts. It is often said that when we view a potential new home our minds are made up within seconds of seeing it. The same can be said when we meet new people, rightly or wrongly we make judgements about people. 

The same can be said for our online presence. For most potential clients their first impressions of us are gained as soon as they see our websites. What does your website say about you? 

For many people their website is either something they have designed themselves or purchased via an online company. There are many companies out there that will provide you with a functional website for a low cost. The downside with these companies is that in order to keep the costs low the websites they produce are based on a series of templates. Although this will get your online presence up and running it will probably look very similar to hundreds, if not thousands, of other websites out there in cyberspace.

As a photographer I see so many websites that incorporate images captured by the designer and are often of a poor quality. Again, the quality of these images reflects directly on you, the person represented by the website. An alternative for designers is to use "stock libraries". These are vast libraries of images supplied by photographers all around the world and available to be licensed for use by the designer. The positive side of this is that the quality of the image is usually high, stock libraries are usually pretty strict when it comes to the images they accept for promotion. Sadly the downside is that using stock images can be very impersonal, after all the images do not actually show you or your business. They are just generic images that could be used in a variety of different ways. 

The alternative is to have a bespoke website designed specifically for you. Tailored to suit your style and personality, something which offers a far better first impression to potential clients. The photography can be produced specifically for you and show you or your actual business. This is a far more personal touch and will reflect a much more positive impression of you and your business.

At the end of the day it all comes down to how much you are prepared to invest in your online presence. What may seem like an expensive option could serve you far better than a low quality option. You may be the best at what you do but if potential clients don't get past that first view of your website then they will never know.

A good example of a bespoke website is this one which was created for my wife, author Jessica Redland.

www.jessicaredland.com

If you are considering a website for you or your business then why not get in touch. As a photographer I work very closely with a very talented web designer, Phil Welbourn. We would be happy to discuss your needs, after all it costs nothing to talk and explore the options we could deliver.

Take a closer look around you!

One of my big interests with photography is macro. For those who don't know what this is I'll explain. 

Macro photography is all about capturing images of very small things and you don't have to look far to find interesting things. The world around us looks very different when you get up close and it can be like exploring a whole new planet once you start to look.

For the photographer there are several ways of exploring this world and the costs vary. If you are just wanting to dabble in this area you can buy extension tubes which work with all your lenses. These tubes have no glass in them and just act as a spacer between camera and lens. The increase in distance between the lens and the camera sensor makes it possible to focus on objects at a much shorter distance.

The next option is to buy close-up filters. These are glass filters that screw onto the front of your lens. The disadvantage is that different lenses have different diameter front elements so you either need to buy filters for each lens or buy the largest you can get and then buy step up rings. This is a good system but the quality may not be fantastic. After all you are putting a cheap piece of glass in front of a possible expensive lens. To me its just like taking photographs through a window.

The final and best option is a dedicated macro lens. The downside is that this is the most expensive option but if you are going to be doing a lot of macro photography it is well worth the investment. Of course, a macro lens is not just for macro photography it is also a good prime lens. Just in case you don't know a prime lens has a fixed focal length, no zoom. They are often much sharper than a zoom lens but of course you are working with a fixed focal length.

Although you can achieve stunning results with all of these techniques macro photography is by no means easy. Working so close to your subject can cause you all sorts of problems with depth of field as the closer you get the shallower it becomes. The main problem is capturing enough light to maintain fast shutter speeds. Of course this doesn't matter if you are using a tripod. 

The shot below of a dandelion clock was taken using a dedicated macro lens, a Sigma 105mm. I actually used a close-up filter in combination with the macro lens which is something I don't usually do. On this occasion I just wanted to be able to focus at a slightly shorter distance.

I hope this post is useful and if you have any questions you can always contact me and I'll help if I can.

Bluebells Everywhere!

On Wednesday evening I headed off with my dad to meet a friend of his, a fellow photographer, that would lead us to a fantastic wood that flows with bluebells. 

For now the location will not be revealed but it was a good drive to get there. As the bluebells only flower for a couple of weeks the location had to be checked out before we set off. The report came back that the bluebells were in flower and we headed off. 

Once we eventually arrived at the wood we were not disappointed, the wood was covered in a blanket of blue, an amazing sight. The wood itself is on a west facing hillside and runs for a good couple of miles. Sadly the evening was overcast and although we hoped that the sun would break through the cloud it never quite made it. Still, we managed to capture a few nice shots and its a location that will now be marked to revisit next year.

The wood is surrounded by farmland and a couple of cows visited us while shooting in the wood. They were very inquisitive and one of them took an interest in my tripod. Luckily I had my camera with me when this particular cow came across for a look at the tripod and proceeded to push it over. The cows both had calves in the next field and they were keenly watching through the fence. I managed to capture a few shots of them but they were quite nervous. 

All in all a great evening and it was a good opportunity to get out with the camera. I will definitely be returning next year and hopefully at a time when I can capture the setting sun batching the hillside with its warm evening light.

Bluebell Wood.jpg

The adventure starts here!

Up until this point photography has always been a hobby that has been pushed into the background, something that I've always struggled to find the time for amid the day-to-day tasks associated with having a family and running a business.

Now, after 15 years of hard work I have a successful typesetting business and loyal clients. The business is streamlined and I'm finding more time to devote to my passion, photography. Sadly, I don't think that my photography will ever be a full-time job but if I can find a balance with my day job then that is a good start and I foresee interesting times ahead!