Ask The Experts - Behind The Lens

Ten of the UK’s top wedding photographers share their favourite images and expert knowledge on how to create extraordinary wedding photography.

First Light Photography 

www.firstlightweddings.co.uk

Edinburgh based photographer Ditte Solgaard Dunn has spent 16 years building an impressive portfolio of wedding, portrait and corporate photography. Ditte has a background working in film production and photographed the crème de la crème of high society for the likes of Tattler and Harpers & Queen before moving into the wedding industry. When shooting weddings Ditte works together with the equally talented Chris Watt.

“We capture memories that are as beautiful as the day itself. Our friendly approach and natural rapport with people allows you to relax as we work together to capture every special moment.” 

The Photo

First Light Photography

“When photographing weddings, I always try to look for the moments/situations that will tell a bigger story. They aren’t necessarily the photos we pose, or the details the couples had planned and visualised. It can be a laugh, a tear, a hug, a particularly awesome dance move or in this case, five minutes alone with your new spouse.

Rona and Craig’s wedding was blessed with the most fantastic Scottish Summer weather - everyone spent almost all day and evening outside. After the first dance the evening light was so inviting that we decided to head outside for a few photographs in the “golden hour” light (the wonderful warm light you get in the hour before the sun sets).

As we finished our shoot and I was packing up, they walked back towards the venue, hand in hand, enjoying a private moment together before going in to join their guests on the dance floor. I lifted my camera and captured what became one of their favourite memories of their day.

This photo combines a lot of elements for me: I love its composition, with the couple in exactly the right place in the frame drawing your eye in over the shadows and colours and the way the lighthouse mirrors the bride’s dress. There’s something about the geometry of the land, sea and sky and the point of human contact – the gaze between the two – that adds up to a really special moment in time.”

Top Tip

“Once you manage to find a photographer who you feel you would enjoy having with you on your wedding day and whose work you like, make sure you discuss your ideas, plans and photography preferences before the day with them. If you know they are “on your side” then you will naturally relax into the photos (posed or unposed). This will show in the photos!”

Extra Tip

“If you are nervous about being in front of a lens, one of the best things you can do is face your fears before the day and book an engagement shoot! It will allow you to get a much better feel for what will happen on the day, and remove the unknown factor or any nerves you may have about it. Once the wedding day comes, you will feel far more relaxed and happy having your photo taken, which I guarantee will come across in the photos and the memories created.”

Alex Beckett

www.alexbeckett.co.uk                      

Since 2008, London based Alex has specialised in dramatic filmic wedding photography both in the UK and worldwide. He creates dramatic, epic photos – the kind that are worthy of being printed on huge wall canvases. Alex has won countless awards for his work including being named as one of the top 10 wedding photographers in the UK by Fearless Photographers.

The Photo

Alex Beckett

“This shot of the groom’s speech at the historic Royal Naval College, Greenwich, won me an ultra-prestigious Rangefinder Magazine award. The location is, of course, incredibly important, often said to be one of finest convergences of architecture and landscape in the UK. I used to walk the dog in the park beneath and always wanted to shoot a wedding there. Finally – happy day! - Vi and Alastair asked me to be their photographer.

However, the most important thing about shooting a wedding is always the human story and that is true whether you’re at a reception in a converted barn in the countryside or when surrounded by peerlessly executed grandeur.

The Royal Naval College is open to the public until 6.00 pm which meant that the ceremony could not begin until late in the day when light was fading, and that was just one of the innumerable logistical challenges thrown up by the location that we worked around together. It always helps when a couple trusts you and works with you and we rolled through all the problems together with solutions which actually enhanced the day. For example, taking the group shots before the ceremony worked incredibly well because afterwards, Vi and Alastair could just relax and greet their friends without the ‘standing in line’ formalities interrupting that.

The Painted Hall, where the reception was held, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and covered in splendid baroque paintings by Sir James Thornhill. It took him 19 years to finish the room. Nelson’s body lay in state there after it was shipped back from Trafalgar in a barrel of rum. So, of course, I wanted to highlight the magnificence of this setting. I ‘saw’ this shot right at the start of the day, ‘filed away’ the fact that I wanted to capture the best moment in the speeches in front of the fresco - the moment that gets a reaction from everyone in the room. I set everything up on remote because I also wanted to wander the room capturing all the reportage shots that tell the story of the day. But when the moment came, I was able to grab the shot – and for me it’s about the happiness of these people in the moment, against this solemn, ageless, yet almost kitsch background.”

Top Tip

“Sometimes I get couples saying to me ‘I want to recreate that photo you took in a VW bug with sparklers!’ Or, ‘Let’s recreate your photo of guys with cigars playing snooker!’ But then you learn that they don’t drive a VW or there’s no snooker table at the venue. So what I always say is, if it’s not there, you can’t capture it. So you just have to look at the elements in place and then see what magic can happen. You have to find something else that is equally ‘you.’ And that’s what I am always looking for and what ensures I am never jaded.”

Barker Evans Photography

www.barkerevans.com      

Over the years, Susie and Harley have photographed the Queen and British Royalty, World and UK politicians including prime ministers Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and David Cameron. As advertising and commercial photographers, they have also worked for numerous global companies, design agencies and interior clients (they adore photographing people and architecture). Their work has taken them around the world for notable client Bloomberg TV, has seen them photographing on the catwalk at London fashion week and photographing major projects for British Aerospace. Recently their still images from the promo shoot for the new Kiefer Sutherland series ’24’ set in London were used for the world advertising campaign. Their images were seen on billboards globally from LA to New York, Paris and London. From Rockstars to palaces, private islands to the pub down the road they have been photographing weddings for over 20 years. Becoming wedding photographers was a very happy accident and there has been no looking back.

The Photo

Barker Evans

“Ronan and Storm Keating on their wedding day at Archerfield house. Having managed to manoeuvre her beautiful wedding dress around loads of potentially dirty obstacles during the day it was still in pristine condition going into dinner … the last thing Storm thought would happen was her curious pug Aussie would suddenly take  an interest it…. Maybe he thought this dress is a little too clean I need to mess it up a bit!!!  Seconds before this picture was taken Aussie had been grabbing it with his teeth and paws … which made Ronan laugh out loud …Both Ronan and Storm have a brilliant sense of humour and it is one of their favourite wedding pictures.”

Top Tip

“Weddings for us are all about storytelling and crafting unique personal art for couples and families. Every time we do a wedding we are looking to take something natural and unique that reflects and tells us something particular about the people we are photographing. When we are at a wedding taking photographs we try and make that decisive moment when we press the camera shutter a unique moment in time. That clip from real life when viewed decades later will then always trigger a beautiful priceless memory. It is true a picture says a thousand words, so top tip … look out for those unexpected off-beat moments to capture.”

Sacha Miller

www.sachamiller.co.uk

Cardiff based Sacha is a documentary wedding photographer. He specialises in capturing the day in its natural flow, avoiding intrusion but constantly looking out for the perfect shot.  His career began photojournalism and saw him being extensively published in national newspapers and magazines, including front page photographs on the Daily Telegraph and The Independent.  In 2004 he began photographing weddings, his work earning him several awards including Professional Photographer Magazine’s ‘Wedding Photographer of the Year’.

The Photo

Sacha Miller

“This image was taken during the couple’s first dance at a wedding reception here in Cardiff, South Wales. The venue was the Royal College of Music and Drama, which has a balcony that spans the width of the reception area. On this balcony the bride and groom had placed the word ‘LOVE’ written in lights, which were made by the bride’s father, which I thought was a nice touch. I had thought about how I wanted this image to look before the dancing began, so I had placed a flash to the left of the scene behind where I expected the couple to dance. The area was busy with tables and chairs and guests looking on, but I wanted this clean look to highlight just the couple and the LOVE lights, so I had to adjust camera settings and carefully process the image in post-production software to produce the atmosphere I had foreseen. So I like this image for two reasons, firstly it is a lovely moment as the couple take their first dance as husband and wife, illuminated by the word LOVE in the background, but also because it demonstrates the thought process and technical skill a photographer is capable of utilising to fullfil their creative vision.”

Top Tip

“I think some of most wonderful/memorable photographs are those that capture little delicate moments that happens between people that care for each other. Whilst these cannot be planned for, you can create an atmosphere where they will happen naturally. This will never occur with a stressed out bride and groom, so plan your day carefully in the run up, and then trust the professionals around you to make this happen, difficult as it can be but avoid micro managing and just enjoy the day. Spend as much time as possible with the friends and family that you have invited to share the day, whilst this might mean limiting the amount of formal photographs to just a handful this will create an informal and friendly feel to the day.”

Jack Davolio

www.jackdavolio.com

Italian born Jack could be described as a creative nomad having lived and worked in Edinburgh, London, Barcelona & Melbourne. His beautiful reportage style photographs capture perfectly the myriad of emotions experienced by most couples on their wedding day. 

“I never command & control but let the day unfold and capture great moments as they happen. Always happy to stay for a party and don't limit my hours of coverage - if you are going to throw your groom in a pool at 2am you can be sure I'll be there to capture it and not leave after the first dance as many photographers do.”

The Photo

Jack Davolio

“This image was taken at a wedding in Blair Atholl. I love the look on Elaine's face and I feel it captures well her cheeky & fun character - which may not show as much in the normal "posed" portraits.  It was a candid photo, shot in the blink of an eye, without premeditating it. To create such a photo, apart from a skilled reportage photographer, one needs a bit of luck and many opportunities for such moments to arise. For this I encourage my clients to not fully schedule the whole day - but leave some time "free" for people to do anything they like and relax a bit.”

Top Tip

“It is important to take it easy and think of the wedding day as an occasion to have fun. Even if you end up with fantastic photos, you are going to remember how you felt in the specific moment - and you don't want to look at your portraits thinking "oh god I really had to pee" or just remembering how you could not wait to get back to the guests.  So choose a photographer whom you feel at ease with, and make sure you are shooting portraits when you feel at your best and up for a little break – I usually recommend this is done in the evening also because of better light.” 

Craig & Eva Sanders

www.craigsandersphotography.co.uk

Edinburgh based husband and wife team Craig & Eva have been together both personally and professionally for 10 years. They have steadily gained a huge following for their romantic fine art photography.  Craig and Eva’s work is regularly featured in some of the UK’s top wedding blogs including Style Me Pretty, Love My Dress and Rock My Wedding. 

“Our approach is simple, we want to capture and tell the story of a wedding in the most natural, light and classically stylish way possible.

The Photo

Craig -&-Eva -Sanders

“It’s almost impossible to choose a single image from hundreds and hundreds of weddings, but this one from Vivianna & Santino’s wedding always springs to mind. It’s an image that just seems to encapsulate everything that we’re about as wedding photographers. It’s natural, light, fun, timeless and classically stylish. Vivianna and Santino’s wedding was running late due to car trouble so we didn’t get a chance to shoot any set up shots of the two of them before their meal started. I popped out to the car to get some equipment and on my way back saw the sun setting and knew we had one chance to get something special. Luckily Vivianna & Santino were up for it and between courses popped up onto the roof of the hotel to help us get some of our favourite images ever!”

Top Tip

"This image shows that you don’t always need a waterfall or sprawling vista in the background to make get a wonderful shot. As photographers we can sometimes get lost in what it is we are trying to capture on a wedding day. Weddings are about the relationship between two people, their families and friends and the joy of the occasion, if you can capture that connection, honestly and naturally, with your own style then surely you’ve succeeded."

Mike Garrard

www.mikegarrard.co.uk

London based Mike started shooting weddings in 2006. In addition to working all over the UK he has carved out a niche as a destination photographer shooting weddings in Canada, Morocco, Greece, France, Ibiza and several weddings in the USA. He has won many prestigious awards for his work and is most notably the top awarded photographer in the UK on the Fearless website. He also teaches a lot of workshops, most recently one in Ravello, Italy and another scheduled for Ibiza in September this year. 

The Photo

Mike Garrard

“This photo took about 30 minutes to create. Not with the couple, they only need 5 minutes away from the wedding, but my assistant and I spent a long time setting up lighting, testing with each other and waiting for the glass shards in this chandelier to stop moving and be still at just the right angle for everything to come together and make this reflection shot.

I’d known I liked this lighting fitting for a long time having got married at the same venue myself, but I was struggling to get anything different. So I decided the only way to avoid it being in behind them as a background was to reflect them into the glass.”

Top Tip

“My tip for making a great shot is dedication. Whether it’s committing to a certain composition and waiting for all the elements to come together, or constantly seeking how to improve on the obvious shot, the difference between good and great is always dedication”.

Neil Thomas Douglas

www.neilthomasdouglas.com

Glasgow based Neil has gained a huge following for his reportage style photography.  His composition and use of light have created some stunning landscape photography which is as well suited to an art gallery as well as a wedding album.

Neil has shot weddings all over the world and is regularly featured on the UK’s top wedding blogs including Love my Dress and Rock N Roll Bride.

“I truly believe that great photography equals great art. It’s emotive, immediate and perhaps most importantly, accessible.”

The Photo

Neil Douglas Thomas

"This photo is an older one but I always look back on it as it reminds me that wedding photography doesn’t have to be cheesy awkward nonsense and that can indeed be beautiful art." 

Top Tip

“Trust your wedding photographer.  If they ask you for 5 minutes out with the couple shoot time then it will be for a good reason such as amazing light, rainbow, sunset and such like. Do it, you won’t regret it.”

Steve Gerrard

www.stevegerrard.com

Working together with wife Evelyne, Steve has been capturing weddings for the past 10 years.  The couple have a background in music photography and are accredited photographers for the likes of U2, Beyonce, The Black Keys, Kiss, Oasis, Metallica and Justin Bieber! As well as being were named in the June Bug World’s Best Wedding Photographers for 2015 and have been featured on many of the UK’s top wedding blogs and several high end magazine publications.

“I believe my job as a wedding photographer is less about capturing how everything looked and more to help people remember how they felt on the day. I want my couples to look through their wedding photos for the first time and be transported back into the moment when they celebrated finding each other surrounded by their favourite people. It’s a big deal!

I also want them to be surprised when they see their wedding through my eyes. Their own memories of the day will fade with time but the photos I pass onto them will only get more and more important.”

The Photo

Steve Gerrard

“This photo is from Amie and Tom’s wedding. Amie is a keen horse rider, with stables at their home. As she was applying make-up in the morning I saw a shot which is a reflection in a framed picture on the wall. It tells more than one story in a single photo and, to me, feels in a calm moment before the rush of the wedding day.”

Top Tip

“Be ready for the unexpected, it is one of the best skills a wedding photographer can have!”

James Rouse

www.jamesrouse.com

James is based in Norwich and has been capturing weddings on a full time basis since 2010. His natural reportage style photos are absolutely brimming with energy and emotion.

“I love photographing people.  I'm always smiling with an infectious energy and that transfers into my work.  I’m passionate about documenting emotional connections by blending a combination of reportage storytelling and naturally posed portraits.  I only seek plaudits from the couples I'm shooting and don't get obsessed with chasing awards and entering competitions.  For some clients these things matters, for mine it does not.  I regularly train and mentor other photographers whilst enjoying balancing family life with two young girls and a full diary that takes me all over the UK.”

The Photo

James -Rouse

“It was the morning after the wedding...I was woken at 5:44am by the cat wanting an early breakfast and at 5:46am I received a message from Gemma (the previous day’s bride). Her Dad had unexpectedly passed away in the early hours of the morning and she'd asked if when I had a chance whether I could dig a photo out of the two of them together.

There was no trouble finding a lovely photo - both with huge beaming smiles - the kind of smiles you just know have loads of love packed behind.  By 6am I'd quickly edited and sent the pictures across whilst being reminded what a privilege it is to be invited to help document a huge day in the cruellest of ways.

It was later in the morning I looked again for something not as obvious.  This picture touched me greatly. Gemma's Mum had just that second walked through the front door from the hairdressers & come through to see how Gemma was getting on. Dad thought he was out of the frame. He just stood there watching. He didn't know I'd spotted him out of the corner of my eye and I side stepped to make sure he was part of the frame. I could feel that love. He was massively proud in that quiet unassuming way - the way that all the best Dads are.  

It wasn't taken in a stately home devoid of clutter, it wasn't in perfectly clean light, and it’s not even perfectly in focus!!  What it is though is a moment in time captured that I know means the world to my clients which in turn makes it mean the world to me.”

Top Tip

“Take photos with your ears and eyes.  You can learn to take beautiful wall hanging portraits through technical appreciation of light and how a camera works.  Finding real moments though means looking for them.  The more you look, the easier they are to find.  It might sound obvious but keep your ears and eyes open whilst moving those two feet at the end of your legs”.