Lindsay & Joe’s Big Day

To say the day went well would be well… A little bit of a lie. I’d scouted the couples venue for the wedding on Google Maps, simple enough, I even managed to find the bride’s parent’s house too, so I knew exactly where I had to be. Roughly 2 hours drive down from my Greysteel base here in County Londonderry heading for the Orchard County of Armagh. Cameras were all charged, flash batteries too, memory cards wiped and gear all centrally assembled so that I didn’t have to panic thinking I might leave something behind, as there was no way I would be able to just nip back and get the bag of memory cards, or that other lens that I knew I’d need. Everything was meticulously planned out.

The drive down was uneventful, I had my iPhone fully loaded with podcasts chosen from various stations, mainly BBC Radio 4, I have to admit I’m a ways off the Radio 1 demographic and I prefer to listen to intellectual conversations that biennial music, unless it’s a bit of Bowie, or Blondie, but I’ve just recently updated my hardware from PC to Mac, and have yet to fully transport my music on to the new device, so I’m stuck with podcasts for now.

Anyway… I get to the brides house a few hours before the 1pm service start. All is calm in the house, the mother of the bride is in the final stages of having her hair done, all make-up was done hours ago, and an offer of tea was gratefully accepted. I don’t usually partake in offers of refreshments as I’m thinking how on earth will I get rid of the post body processing of same during what’s going to be a busy day. But, knowing I had plenty of time I thought why not… I took the time then to return to my (normally) trusty motor to retrieve my gear with a view to taking the album background images of the flowers/cards/jewellery and the like before I got down to the serious business of capturing the day in full. When I actually got back to my van I noticed a trickling pool of fluid running down hill towards the nearest drain. Power steering fluid…

I knew it was this because only the week before it was blowing this stuff out of the filler reservoir and had been booked in for a check up at the mechanics this coming Tuesday. I’d bought replacement fluid just incase because I knew I had a wedding to shoot, but this was much worse. This was just pouring out of the pipes behind the pump belt. Things had gotten a lot worse.

I phoned my trusty RAC pals to get things sorted, I had 2 hours before I really had to worry, they would certainly be here in time, they’ve always said that somebody would be here to look at it within 2 hours in the past. Surely they wouldn’t let me down on this occasion either. Having spent 10 minutes on hold due to a high number of calls being experienced at this time – a common mantra for these sorts of organisations I was finally put through. A patrol vehicle had been tasked and I should anticipate a call from the patrol man and that I shouldn’t worry. Happy days… I didn’t need to sort out a hire car just yet. I got the call. It was a recovery only contractor, not someone coming to fix the car. Not good. I promptly rang back and again stressed the situation I was in, wedding photographer, doing a wedding, no transport stuck at the brides house! Basically as it turns out, because I’d have to wait until the recovery driver had had a chance to review the situation (me, not being able to go anywhere) I wouldn’t be able to have a hire car delivered because it was going to be after 12pm on a Saturday and they don’t deliver after that time. Not a response I was hoping for obviously. Stressed to the max I did my best to still capture the morning preparations  the flower girls, the bridal party and still maintain a conversation with the RAC muppets who were sending me round and round in circles. I was about to flex my forearms and move myself off to the chapel with a busted van when the recovery guy turned up and organised it’s return to Greysteel. I was going to have to catch a lift with the brother of the bride, or start paying out for taxis. Luckily for me, there was a spare car in the family, and the Bride’s father was kind enough to lend it to me for the weekend, which meant I was able to cover the day and get home.

Not how I wanted my first wedding of the 2013 season to kick off! I have a spare of just about everything, except a spare vehicle, which wouldn’t be much use if I was 85 miles away from home when it decided to break down. Though I might consider getting a moped now and have that sit in the back of the van, or have it written in my contract that the bride’s family must have a back up car on standby just incase.

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90 Page Albums – The Truth

Okay okay okay, before I get started on this ‘rant’ I know that we all had to start somewhere along the road of being professional wedding photographers, but what most of us ‘genuine’ wedding professionals did was, we trained hard, we read everything, we practised loads, and where ever possible we asked to shadow what were to be our peers.

I have learned allot over the years by watching my fellow wedding photography peers do their stuff, both on YouTube (from those who have the time to produce films), being second shooter, and working alongside some very creative types, as I worked in my capacity as a standby videographer.

I’ve also played it forward, allowing those who are interested in this side of the business shadow me. Always after the event I’ve summarised our time by passing on one mantra:

Don’t ever get start out by undercutting!

This has consequences that will ripple through your new business for years to come. But despite this there is the ever rising flood of new ‘wanna-be-get-rich-wedding-togs’ appearing online, but not online in the sense that they’re publishing low quality cheap websites, oh no… They’re showing up on Facebook, and get this, they don’t even have their own ‘Pages’, they’re posting on these bloody ‘Buy & Sell’ community group ones offering 90 page wedding albums for £160!

£160 wouldn’t get me a 15 page album! This is where there’s an obvious tell tale sign too, we don’t call a page a page in the way you would a book, oh no. A page has two sides you see, so our albums typically start from 15 pages, which is 30 sides. Now if I was to create a 90 sided album which would be 45 pages I would be near bankrupted if I offered it for £160, and you would have an album you’d struggle to lift, plus the farmers in Italy would run out of cattle in no time due to all the leather needed to bind the damn thing.

So what does an 90 pages album look like? Simple, you can make one yourself on – They cost £99.

Album Design

Photobox Quality Album

Not a bad price, but just how many good quality wedding pictures are you going to have in your album from a photographer who is possibly only making £60 from a weeks worth of work. Sorry… I mean a days worth of work at your actual wedding. Us proper wedding photographers spend over a week on your wedding.

“Over a week? Sure your only there a day!” – Ah, your only there a day, but how long did it take you to prepare for that day? Well the same is for us, but only in reverse. We would have scouted the area, checked out some likely after service locations for bridal formals and done a little research as to whats on offer. Then after the wedding (which is typically the only time you’ll actually see us doing any work) we have to set about going through all our memory cards, picking out the winners and ditching the losers. Then going through it all again to see if we can pick any more losers and then rethink some of those winners and maybe ditch those (they’re could be in excess of a 1,000 images to choose from here). Once that’s done, we’re on to the editing, just a rough first draft in my case, as I want you to see your images as soon as possible. I’ve gotten quiet skilled in this process by the way, then there’s the renaming, grading and formatting in to JPEG from our RAW files – Ask your 90 page album photographer what a RAW file is!

Again, I can only speak as to what I do. I’d set about uploading those into a secure password protected area on my website which I pay a high monthly fee for, so that you can use such features as a LightBox to pick your own winners.

Having received notification that you’ve picked your own personal winners, I’ll then go through them again to see if you maybe hadn’t noticed something special about a picture that I might be able to use in your album design. You’d be surprised at how many of my clients miss amazing shots due to the overwhelming nature of having to pick a selection from those I’ve made available.

“Why only a selection?” – Well, because if you have too many of the same thing, the album looks boring, or if you simply have too many the designs look just too busy and each image doesn’t have an opportunity to shine in it’s own right.

Needless to say, we spend allot of time with your pictures, looking at them, inspecting them for flaws like colour correction, sharpness, exposure, and don’t get me started on the plug sockets, exit signs over the doors, or fire extinguishers all over the show. These all have to be removed too. I tend to this when I’m actually designing your wedding album. Yes, we actually design your album. If you haven’t played with Photobox yet, you would see that it designs it all by itself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking what PhotoBox do, quiet the contrary, I use them myself for some products, but I wouldn’t use them for a wedding album, because I want you to have a wedding album, not a picture book

“So what’s your point?” – My point is this! A 90 page album costs £99. If a photographer is only charging in the region of £160 for a wedding, what does that tell you? Do you honestly think there was any point in buying a dress if all your pictures of it are from a low quality, possibly fuzzy, unimaginative picture printed on a thick paper in a cardboard book? Since your at it, skip the reception and get a drive through. It’s at that level, and if I’m honest, if this is where the industry is going then count me out.

Oh by the way – You could only wish to get the pictures that are in that picture above if your only paying £160, unlike us proper wedding photographers, we would insist upon ourselves to produce those pictures and you would have a contract that says so!

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Anne and Paddy’s Big Day, Redcastle, County Donegal

There wasn’t long between meeting Paddy & Anne and their big day, it was only a matter of months. They both called out to my studio to discuss the sorts of pictures they wanted, and to discuss the album and design choice they had in mind. They were to have their wedding just over the border from where I’m now living, which was great, as it wasn’t too far away for change. Not that I mind, but it’s always nice to work on your doorstep from time to time (I class an hours drive on my doorstep these days, as I’m shooting weddings across the whole of the UK and Ireland now).

I’d taken a scoot out the week before, just to familiarise myself with the area, as the chapel was on the same road as another chapel, and I really didn’t want to find I’d been taking pictures of the wrong couple on the day, and the road signs in County Donegal are ambiguous at the best of times, so I wanted to have a little peace of mind.

The morning of the service at Anne’s mothers was the usual foray of activity, bridesmaids running round looking for hairspray, lip gloss, shoes, and the usual order of things on any wedding morning. Anne however was cool, calm and collected. We’d done a few shots of them in their Bridal dressing gowns, a few candid shots of them all getting ready before I set off for the Chapel to meet a nervous Paddy on a glorious sunny day.

The service went smoothly, a few tears of emotion from the bride (dutifully caught on camera) and then a ‘High Five’ moment between Paddy & Anne after their vows which had their guests applauding (I nearly missed it, as it was completely unexpected, I stress the word ‘nearly’).

We then headed off to some gardens of a friend of theirs, where we did the bridal party pictures. The grounds were immaculate, with a man made lake of sorts, with a bridge spanning over the water, none of which could be seen from the front of the property, and a real surprise and delight to work in. We were all treated to copious amounts of tea, coffee, biscuits, cakes and sandwiches from our hosts.

Next stop, Redcastle Hotel, County Donegal. I’d been to the hotel a few weeks previous, and was given a tour of the complex by the wedding coordinator who showed me some of the usual spots that photographers used. This only spurs me on to look for something different, which I found behind the hotel. I’d told the drivers to follow me down past the service entrance where there was a jetty of sorts and to position the wedding car in reverse so I could use the Foyle Lough as a backdrop to the image. It was a bit windy, but I used the wind to my advantage, with a perfect shot of Anne in Paddy’s embrace, with the wind taking the dress to dramatic effect. Having got the shots I was after, we then headed off to the reception, where they had a singer belting out some tunes until they’d all be called for the reception dinner and speeches. I covered the event until the first few dances, which I think look great at the back of the wedding album, as they show the newly married couple dancing to ‘their song’ in such a way that it’s as if nobody else exists in the room… As it should be…

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First wedding of 2012 – Kees Hotel, Ballybofey, County Donegal

Managed to get to use the tiny ‘Nifty Fifty’ (Canon 50mm f1.8) on the morning of this shoot, it’s been sitting in my bag for about 3 years with little or no use at all, and I really wanted to try a bit of prime lens shooting on this wedding. It gave me some great DOF and the light coming in was amazing.

I’d been scanning the web to find some inspiration over the winter months, and I have to say, there are some amazing things going on in the world of wedding photography. This has inspired me to change the business model, hence this totally focused wedding photography website. The DMFoto site will still remain the ‘Warehouse’ for the wedding images, but this site will take the lead from a ‘Front of House’ stand point. Anyway… Getting back to my B&G.

The service was held at St. Joseph’s Chapel in Galliagh, County Londonderry. I’ve not done a wedding in there before, though I have to say, the layout is fantastic for photography. Wide open spaces between the pews means you can move around without causing any distraction. The priest was great, no restrictions at all other than the usual “don’t become the focus of attention” ~ goes without saying really.

No balcony, which is a shame, I’m a sucker for the balcony angle, but plenty of light. The grounds however are a little bland, and not somewhere I would use for any external family style gatherings. This wasn’t going to be a problem, as we were all heading straight to Ballybofey to the Kees Hotel, with a quick stop off at a local forest walk for the location part of the shoot.

A February wedding is always going to pose some problems, the soft ground, the lack of foliage on the trees, puddles and mud to dodge, but we had a great time despite all this. There’s a little bridge which goes over a dry ditch, which I used for some angled bridal party shots, then a couple on the river bank before heading back to the waiting Chrysler C300 Limos.

Off to The Kees Hotel, where Paul the Duty Manager took charge and made sure that everything ran like clock work. The staff at the hotel we’re very helpful, and there is a dedicated space for the guests to remain in the same area during the whole of the evening. The Videographer and I headed to the restaurant to get a bite to eat, giving me a chance to get to work on the evenings ‘Picture Show’ which is part of the Evening Coverage package. If the food the guests were served was anything like what we were served in the restaurant, then everyone should have been impressed, as we couldn’t find fault with it.

All in all, for the first wedding of 2012, I think I have to say it was without drama, apart from me forgetting to sync the times on the Canon 40D and 5D. That won’t happen again, as it’s causing me no end of fiddling now I’m editing!

Bring on the next wedding I say…

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Carlton Mitre Hotel, Hampton Court (London Wedding)

I had the great fortune to be booked for a wedding in Hampton Court, London last October, this wasn’t a totally random affair as I’d known the groom for some years (I was actually the best man at his last wedding, but that’s another story). The booking did throw up a few things I had to consider.

The main issue was equipment transportation. I would be flying over the day before the big event, so I set about booking a flight to the closest airport (Heathrow in this case) with the cheapest operator I could find flying out of Belfast. The next thing was to find the cheapest hotel in the area, closest to the reception venue. I’d assumed that the place would be booked out by guests, so I didn’t even bother checking (knowing that the bride was from Scotland and the groom from Nottingham, there would obviously be some travelling guests looking for places to stay) the Carlton Mitre Hotel was where they’d booked their ceremony to be held at. So I therefore opted for a Premier Inn in Kempton Park (£90 per night) which was only a few miles away.

I then returned to the main issue at hand, which was transporting my equipment in such a manner that it would never leave my side. After all, I didn’t want to turn up to the wedding with nothing buy my iPhone4 in my hand, in the hope of capturing the days events while my cameras were on a flight to Timbuktu.

I have a great Lowepro Nova 200 camera bag, which I can just about squeeze in my Canon 5D & 40D, along with the 4 lenses I usually operate with, and the two flash units and trust me, I took me some time to work out that little jigsaw puzzle so I could get everything to fit inside (snuggly). However, this didn’t leave any space for even a pair of socks, never mind a weekends worth of clothing. So what to do..?

Calumet in Belfast was my first port of call for a solution. I wanted something I could safely get my camera gear into, that would also allow me to stuff in a few tops, socks, boxers, wash kit, pair of jeans or maybe just the suit I’d planned to wear. I couldn’t find a single thing. I’d considered wearing my camera gear over, I’ve a CameraSlingers strapping system, but that would just look nuts, and make me a highly attractive mugging victim. There was nothing there that suited my needs. Nightmare… There was no way I was squeezing more out of the budget for hold luggage, just for an couple of nights worth clothing.

The solution was this: I would fly over wearing the suit I would be wearing on the big day. I would wrap my camera gear in two tops (one for the night arrived which I’d change into, one for the travel back) and one pair of jeans. I’d wear the same shoes for the whole weekend (sourced shoes that go with both the suit and a pair of jeans – (Gok Wan eat your heart out)), socks and undies packed and toiletries included all in a cabin sized flight bag, that I already owned. RESULT..!

The Groom (right) with his new best man (his brother) outside Carlton Mitre Hotel

The Groom (right) with his new best man (his brother)

Having arrived in London by plane, then getting on a few different buses, then a taxi to the Premier Inn I realised that a few miles on Google Maps can infact cost you a bloody fortune in transport. What I should have done was check to see if the Carlton Mitre Hotel had any rooms, pay the extra (which I recall was £60 per night more than I was paying)  as this would have been less hassle and cheaper than the solution I was going to be enduring over the next 3 days.

We’d arranged to have a meeting that afternoon (once I’d gotten myself sorted) to meet with the hotel’s conference manager, who gave us a run down of the room layout, the order of service and some nice spots for photography.

The room in which the whole thing was to happen was a  light and airy conservatory, which overlooked the Thames with a wooden patio area which took you to the waters edge. It didn’t look that impressive the night before if I’m honest, but we were promised we wouldn’t recognise the place come Saturday afternoon.

The local surroundings, restaurants and bars are amazing, you wouldn’t think you were in a bustling capital city, as after our meeting we headed off (the B&G and Best Man) for a quiet meal in a local Italian place (Pizza Express) following which we scouted some areas to get some ideas for the ‘location shots’ after the ceremony.

I’d decided that evening, that I was definitely going to be using the Bridge over the Thames, and Hampton Court Pier for the bridal party images. You could see even in the early evening light, that this place was a play ground for a photographer.

The Groom, best man (his brother) and I headed into town that evening, a sort of mini stag do if you will, as I hadn’t been able to fly over for the official stag do, though we agreed there was to be a firm ground rule, “No over doing it”. I had a wedding to shoot the following afternoon, and he too had a wedding to go to! I am after all, a professional. The evening was great, we didn’t over do it, though we did end up going in the opposite direction to where I was staying (more taxi money) and the taxi driver did take me to the other side of where I wanted to be because he wasn’t long in the job and put in the wrong hotel (£50 taxi rip off) in his GPS. How was I to know where the hell he was taking me?

The following morning (and another taxi ride) I arrived at the hotel where I set about with the the bridal preparations shots in the bridal suit, which had a beautiful four poster bed air conditioning, and a stunning view of the palace. I then  met the boys next door for a pre-wedding tipple (I had a soft drink by the way) before heading over to the hotel again in preparation for the wedding service.

The conference manager was right, the place looked spectacular! It was finished to perfection, the staff did an amazing job getting it ready, with a friendly and fun registrar who conducted the service, the wedding went without a hitch.

I did use the bridge for a couple of shots (The Bride loved the attention from passing motorists (who wouldn’t?)), the sun was shining brightly like it was a summer’s day, this was the end of October remember! We all couldn’t believe our luck in terms of the weather. I managed to sneak the couple into the grounds of the Palace to get a few pictures away from the main kiosk for paying, I needn’t have worried as the staff offered to let us in for some staged shots. It was a fantastic shoot.

The bridal party walk across Hampton Court Bridge

The whole bridal party walk across Hampton Court Bridge

What I’ve learned from this trip is this:

  1. You should always ensure your staying at the SAME location as your B&G if your planning on staying out of town
  2. Staying in a nearby location could be a false economy
  3. There are no bags that will let you carry weekend luggage AND camera gear (if you know of one, then please comment)
  4. Arriving the DAY (not night) before in a new location will always ensure your giving yourself time to scout out some great spots for bridal formal pictures
  5. I was a guest at this wedding, but I the professional first

To view more shots from this wedding, please click here: Carol & Cory’s Wedding, Carlton Mitre Hotel, London where you’ll see I even managed to get a local ice cream van involved in the day’s shoot..! (the sod even charged me for the ice creams – tight bugger).

If your interested in booking me for your wedding outside of Northern Ireland, please feel free to get in touch for a quote.

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Trying to do something different.

Sometimes you just want to have a go at something new, push the boundaries a little. See what you can do with not only your camera, but with the technology that surrounds it, and you. I was commissioned to produce some product imagery for a wood flooring company a few years ago, and I thought ‘great, I’d love to have a go at some of that 3D modelling that Photoshop can do’.

I was asked to come to the showroom and provide a proof of concept image, before they’d give me the green light, so I set about getting a basic shot ready. They’d already had a guy in a few weeks previous, having flown him in from London but he’d ran out of time to complete the job. Which to my mind was only half way through. Now I’m usually an advocate of the ‘buy local’ mentality, but lets be honest, sometimes skills have to be brought in from further a field if you can’t find the services you require closer to home. So I was excited at being given the chance to finish the job, having been referred on by a local business, who so far has been impressed with the turnaround of my work.

Cherry Wood Board up right on a green screen background

I set up the sample panel on a green background, messing around with the lighting to get the right highlights that I thought I might need, there had to be some level of shadowing for the image to work as a realistic piece for the website it would end up on. I knew I’d be able to remove the Chroma Key Green easily with Photoshop back at the studio.

Everything had to work in a production line style, as the shoot was going to take place where I was taking the sample image, as the warehouse guy knew these woods like the back of his hand, and he’d had to keep me right with what product was called what, and the corresponding product code had to match too, for the website database to match up.

Cherry Panel Board, White Background with Shadow

Once back in my studio, I set to work removing the greens, adjusting the image slightly to get the correct colour cast and just a general sharpening touch up here and there, but not much more than that. I did have to adjust the White Balance, as I was dealing with 3 different light sources on site, fluorescent tubes, halogen spots and my own portable studio lights. We’ll go into that later.

What I finally ended up with was a flipped image (as you can see from the sticker residue) with a slight shadowing for effect (more to smooth out the edges than anything else).

The next thing I wanted to do was to make the board much more interesting from an atheistic point of view, as these boards would be going on to an e-commerce website, and I thought jazzing them up a little might improve click through rates, and obviously increase sales for the client.

Cherry Panel at an Angle

Out came Photoshop’s  3D wizardry. It’s not easy first time round let me tell you, your hitting functions left, right and centre to see what does what, till you finally hit on something you like, which was this what you see on the left. It’s a little small, but you get the idea.

I loved it, and played around with it some more, put a bit of lens flare on, thinking  ‘yeah, this is what I’m after’. Twisted it a few more times, this way and that to come up with what I thought would do the job nicely. I’d been smart to recorded what I’d been doing using Actions, so knew all I had to do when I got back to the clients premises, was to set all the boards up the same way, with the only manual bit being removing the Green, and the computer would do the rest

Final Presentation Image

What I ended up with was a piece of wood that would appear to almost take your eye out, coming out from the monitor screen screaming “Buy Me..!”

They hated it…

The image had to be as close to the actual product as possible, displaying both the colour and texture to the satisfaction of the guy from the warehouse. As I said, he knew these woods like the back of his hands, and if it could be identifiable on the screen to him, then it was a pass. We finally went with the materials being placed on a table, with angled lighting and a low level shot, which we meticulously replicated with each individual panel to create harmony for the CMS on the website.

Turns out it was faster than messing about in Photoshop (I tell myself that anyway), however the customer was very happy with the result which is the main thing. To get the right White Balance (which was an issue with some of the woods, due to the slight variants, I purchased a Lastolight reflector, which has a white/black/grey reverse, perfect for Custom White Balancing on the camera and on Bridge (one less thing to worry about).

What it ended up looking likeI’ve yet to find a proper use for the Photoshop 3D function within photography, but at least I now know what it can do, shame I never got a chance to take anyone’s eye out though…

“BUY ME..!”

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Monkey Photographers

The term ‘Cowboy Builder’ is something we’ve come to recognise as a term for someone who possibly isn’t the best qualified to carry out work on your home, or who might infact just take your money and run, but what term could we use for the photography industry charlatan?

I’ve a suggestion:  ‘Monkey Photographer’ 

Since we’re talking in terms, what about the one “You pay peanuts, you should expect monkeys”..? I think this fits in very well with the professional wedding photography industry. There are a lot of ‘bargain’ wedding photographers out there, knocking out cheap wedding books (I refuse to call them albums, due in part to the fact that they’re not anywhere close to being considered an album) passing themselves off as pro’s, this isn’t snobbery by the way, nor me being bitchy, this is defence of the profession that I’m passionate about. However I’m sick and tired of those wedding photographers who come down from the trees at the weekend, with their one body/lens and all the posing techniques of a Mafia execution squad (line ’em up and shoot) and who charge less than what it takes to actually run my business on a per wedding basis.

I’ve heard what’s been said by these Monkey’s:

“Sure they charge the earth some of these photographers”

“I can do it for a fraction of the cost”

“I don’t see why they think they can charge so much for a wedding”

I understand where they’re coming from, and it’s simple really. Ignorance.

Not having any overheads in their mind means that what they charge is pure profit (aside from the £24.99 photobook). I mean seriously, I’ve heard of monkeys charging £200 for wedding photography services! What galls me most is that these monkeys over time will one day think about going into this profession full time, and this is where it bites them in the arse. It’s only then do they realise that the cost of actually being a photographer is far more expensive than they might have first thought. I’d like to think that some of them take out insurance (a legal requirement), then there’s advertising, marketing (they’re different), hosting, new equipment, equipment upkeep, samples, printing, suppliers, designing, fuel, more insurances, more hosting, more new equipment, contracts, accountants, bookkeepers, accounting software, invoicing, direct debits, etc etc. The list goes on and on.

£200 a wedding isn’t even going to scratch the surface. I’ve nothing against people wanting to become wedding photographers, I really don’t. The more the merrier. What I don’t like is people with little or no experience seeing this industry as a fast and easy way to make a few extra pounds at the weekend. If you want to do that, go do a car boot sale or something else instead. Because if you come into this industry competing on price, then you’ll never ever be able to make a living from it. It’s simply not possible, and if your not doing that, then you can’t focus on your craft and become an inspirational photographer, who produces timeless classics, wedding after wedding.

I love being a wedding photographer, I love the pleasure it gives my customers from seeing my work, I love how on the most amazing day of their lives, I get to share every moment of it with them. Making sure I don’t miss a thing, so that they have a record of it for their rest of their family to see.

So, if your a Monkey reading this, do one of two things. Shadow a professional and learn from him/her. Work out what everything is going to cost you if you decide to go into this sector, charge appropriately and don’t ever compete on price. Or… Fill your boot, take a stall at the car boot sale next Sunday, and leave the photography to the photographers.

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Location Location Location

I’ve been getting a whiff of rumours that because of my relocation to the North West, I now don’t cover the South East from where I originally started the business. I would just like to clarify this for the record: I cover the WHOLE of the UK & Ireland.

Area of Coverage

Granted, there are some associated costs involved when covering areas outside of Northern Ireland, but even with that, I feel I’m a very competitively priced photographer. As far as covering Northern Ireland is concerned, I liken it to the Pizza Delivery theory. The only service that you need to worry about when it comes to location is take-away delivery food. Nobody wants to get a stone cold pizza that took 2 hours to deliver do they?

This is my point! I’m not delivering pizza…

I’m travelling to your wedding venue (or home if you want home coverage) and I’m never late. I’m probably one of the most punctual people I know. It drives my girlfriend bonkers, but when it comes to professionalism, it’s a must.

I take bookings from across the globe, I’m currently in the process of delivering a wedding album to Australia for a lovely couple who were originally from the County of Armagh and who now live on the other side of the planet. I’ve covered weddings in London and Glasgow, I very nearly secured weddings in Spain & Greece, but sadly they didn’t come to fruition, which is a shame, because I’d got my sun factor zero and budgie smugglers sorted.

The point is, when choosing a wedding service provider your only focus should be the quality of the work, not where it’s coming from, and so far, the feedback I have received has been all positive. So if your thinking of booking a wedding photographer for your 2012/13/14 wedding, then look further afield with confidence, because I’ve a tank full of diesel and very loud alarm clock.

For further information on my wedding packages, please follow the link: Darron Mark Photography

Categories: Business, Photography, Wedding, Wedding Albums, Wedding Venues | Leave a comment

Back to Back – Weddings

Having just got through an amazing ‘Sunny’ weekend of photography, I just wanted to let you into a little secret at how easy it can be to keep on top of your image processing when doing back to back weddings.

My Saviour

I’ve been a massive fan of Adobe Bridge since I first ‘discovered’ it in Photoshop CS3, when I bought my first digital camera, and had to try and work out how to open CR2 files in Photoshop. The only way I could seem to preview the RAW files was working through this little add on program called Bridge. Okay, it took a little bit of searching and downloading some important scripting update guff, so that it would work with the latest release of my camera software, and to be honest, I really didn’t like the look of the Canon software that was bundled. I thought it too… Amateurish for my tastes.

So getting back to the origins of the post, speed of editing. Usually after the Best Man has made a hash of his speech, and sat down and took a big gulp of whatever is left in his glass following all the usual toasts and mentions, I’m away to the venue’s restaurant for a bite to eat myself. I usually have to seek out a power point to plug in to first, as this obviously an important element to the up and coming digital jiggery pokery that is about to ensue.

Taking all my closely guarded memory cards out of their concealed compartment, I lay them out next to the laptop, open up a file with today’s date in the following format: yyyy-mm-dd – This means that all my files run in sequential order and conform to my data back up procedure. Which is structured by the year, going back some amount of years I can tell you. Now if your like me, and run around with two cameras on the day, you should have synchronised your camera times to the nearest second. More about why this is important in a moment (bare this in mind when working with a second shooter too!).

So now I’ve created my first folder, I then create disk numbered folders for each of the disks I’m going to transfer my RAW files into. I go through this process first. It doesn’t matter if I’ve not numbered the disks in the right order at this stage (or at any stage for that matter) as I’m more concerned about the time they were took later. With all my files transferred over, with disk numbers up to 6/7 depending on how long a day I’ve been shooting (I only ever shoot with 2Gb & 4Gb cards by the way incase of failure). I then create a new folder with the Bride & Groom’s first name. So for instance Mary & John. So that’s all that done.

Now carefully putting back all my disks safely away upon my person (they’re still precious at this stage until I’m confident everything has been backed up properly back in the office), I open Disk1 using Bridge in Filmstrip mode. Because Bridge is only dealing with a couple of hundred images in each folder, it keeps the processor working at optimum speed, and not dying a death doing the whole cached preview thing for the whole day. I quickly scan through each of the images and STAR RATE them either 1*, 2** or 3*** using CTRL+1 (or 2/3). I’m only going through the ones I think at this early stage are the good ones from the day, or “Album Quality”. Now we all take numerous shots of each setup just incase a child or a Granny decides there’s something a little more interesting going on behind you off camera. So it’s handy to make sure you have at least the majority looking down the lens, and those that aren’t in the selected image can be corrected back at the studio with some eye transplantation using Photoshop, but at this stage, this is less important.

My STAR RATE is pretty simple:

  • 1* = Onsite Slide Show
  • 2* = Album Filler/Background or ‘too similar’ but not for the Slide Show
  • 3* = Needs attention before going for Album Selection (Photoshop)

Now having carried out this rapid rating system in Bridge, it means I’m not having to flick over using my 3″ screen and zooming back and forth and writing numbers down for the slide show. Everything is working smoothly, and Photoshop hasn’t even been opened yet. With all the rated images filtered, I then COPY them into the Mary & John folder. I then repeat this for each of the Disk# folders until I’m happy enough with the quantity I’m aiming for.

Now because I’ve been copying files into the central Mary & John folder, from disks that were used at various parts of the day, the only way they’re sorted is through the camera numbering. To put them into the story line correctly, I batch rename them all with HH:MM:SS-YYYY-MM-DD. Hours, Minutes and Seconds, so you can see why it’s important to sync your camera times right at the get go?

The next stage is the creative stage. Still using Bridge, I then get to work on the Mary & John folder. This time only selecting the 1* files (remaining focussed incase the guests get through their dinner faster than you anticipate) I start to do my colour corrections, exposure tweeks (sometimes even I can under/over expose a little), apply some desaturation on the colours to make a colour image Black & White, or do some tone sliding to make some classic sepias. I like to use vignetting on some of my more landscape shots, as I feel it keeps the focus on the couple. I basically have a play around with the tabs that are available on Bridge to make some minor or huge changes to the RAW file. However, the beauty of Bridge is, it doesn’t do anything to the actual RAW file, it creates a set of instructions in Bridge to present the image to me on the screen and stores those using XML files (you’ll see those in the folder). So if I decide I want to start again, I can just delete the XML file in the folder, and I’m back to square one again.

I’m now happy with all my changes on the 1* images. I quickly check with the venue manager that I’m not missing anything, look through the door, see that the guests are just getting to the end of their main course (yip, it’s that fast). I then nip back  to the restaurant and start to work on the 2** files (the fillers). I do the same again, doing all my editing in Bridge. Sometime a couple of these might get upgraded to 1*. Once all this is done, I then get set up ready for my show. I filter back to 1* images, make sure I’m back to the beginning of the day.

Bridge is open, the projector is about ready to be connected (either the hotel’s or my own), and I hit CTRL+L in Bridge and my picture show begins. I then just sit back and bask in the glory of my awesomeness 😉

All that remains now, is to cover the evening dancing (if I’m contracted to be there), carry out the same process when I get back home, batch rename them all again with just a sequence number and date (example: 001-20111201), write the file name to the Title (there’s a plug in for that) and then batch process the whole lot in HighRES JPEG’s and upload to my website (not forgetting to do the quick Photoshop touch up’s from the 3***, that sort of stuff and there’s only usually a few of those anyway.

I’m then ready for the next days wedding. The couple who are probably still dancing the night away will be able to wake up to their new wedding images already done… Now how is that for service?

Categories: Photography, Wedding, Wedding Venues | Leave a comment

QR Codes, what are they good for..?

I’ve seen them around, even seen one in the Daily Telegraph with something to do with Twitter, and I thought, how cool are those, but what the hell are they?

Photography Session

QR Code to a special offer I'm running

They’re QR Codes (or Quick Response), which is a 2 dimensional specific matrix barcode, which can only be scanned by specific (there’s that word again) barcode readers or smart phones (with the right app). I’m using Qrafter for the iPhone, which is a free application (it has some advertising that I never intend on clicking on), which is fast (as it should be) at opening links and reading even the most intense QR Code, even off a laptop screen.

They look really new, but they’re not. They’ve been around since 1994, when they were designed for use by Toyota (would you just know that they came from Japan?). They’re massive in South Korea and Japan, but the uptake has been slow here in the West.

I’ve used the one above to highlight a new photography session I’m running in my local area, but you can create these codes to provide clients with vCard data on your business card, produce codes, or even text right upto 4296 characters long or even just plain old website links. I’ll be using QR codes a whole lot more, though I don’t know what sort of response I’ll get, but you have to highlight the possibilities to create interest. I think only the nerds of us out there will really want to work out how to use them if they’ve never seen them before, as for me… Consider me nerded already.

Categories: Business, Photography | Leave a comment

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