The first wedding I ever shot was very intimate. I was the second-shooter to a well-known celebrity and fashion photographer, Ruth Allen. The ceremony and the reception were held in the very small yet stylish Crazy Bear hotel in Beaconsfield. Looking back, I believe it was the perfect setting for my first wedding because there were some tricky obstacles to overcome, and fortunately for me, preparation prevailed.
I knew I had to try wedding photography to see if it was something I could see myself doing in the future, and I’d emailed hundreds of wedding photographers in my local area to see if they needed any assistance. I was used to work experience from my years at school and university, but this time it was different. I wasn’t reaching out to people because it was a requirement; I wanted to have a taste of what it was like to shoot a wedding to see if it was the right photographic niche for me. Very few photographers bothered to reply, so I branched out and looked further afield, reaching out to some of the top photographers in London. Ruth was one of the rare few that did reply, and after I showed her my portfolio and told her about my experience and equipment, she offered me the chance to shoot alongside her at an intimate weekday wedding and sent the details over to me.
I excitedly researched the venue and spent hours looking through images from other photographers, which gave me a good idea on the lighting conditions and equipment I’d need on the day. There were some incredible photographs but I soon noticed they were all taken in very dim-lit rooms. This was the general theme of the eclectic hotel and something I had to work around on the day. I didn’t have a full backpack of camera gear at the time but I was pleased Ruth didn’t mind, I think she was relieved to hear I had a Canon 6D DSLR camera because of its full frame sensor, which allows for shooting at a high ISO without generating too much image noise.
After meeting Ruth an hour or so before the ‘getting ready’ period, my nerves began to settle and I fired away a few test shots to make sure my 6D and 50mm lens could handle the dark lavish interior. I was impressed with the results. It was the first time I was able to shoot at an ISO greater than 12800 without acquiring significant amounts of luminance noise. My camera had certainly passed the test and I was on my way, yet there were some tricky situations to overcome on the day.
The ceremony room was smaller than I ever imagined, but with Ruth at the front as the official photographer, my job was to capture more candid photographs from the back of the room. In a church, you’re able to move quietly and swiftly from one side to the other, shooting from various perspectives, and I had been hoping there would be enough wiggle room for me to edge to either side. There wasn’t. I only really had one corner to work from, but this wasn’t too much of a problem as Ruth was able to move around at the front, and I still managed to capture some nice reportage shots of guests as well as full room shots. The other problem we had to overcome was with regards to the formal family photographs. It was raining ever so slightly and the garden area wasn’t exactly small, but there was only a limited area for photography because the swimming pool used up most of the space. We spent creating a space with some of the potted plants and shrubs behind, providing an earthier backdrop, which worked perfectly. The pure white overcast sky refrained from pouring down, and provided some much-needed soft light, helping us breeze through the formal shots. As dinner approached, we had some time to kill and I used it to scan through the shots I’d taken, feeling rather relieved. I was still a long way off becoming a professional wedding photographer, but at that exact moment, I knew this would be an experience I’d always remember vividly.
With the ceremony come dining room now transformed into the disco area, I continued to shoot with a high ISO, rather than using flash – which can often produce unflattering results. At this point, the small room was a bit of a blessing because it meant everybody was close together chatting away enjoying themselves, and I was able to move in close with my 50mm lens and take some softly lit portraits without the guests noticing me at all.
As I reflect on those images now I know they of course don’t come close to my best work, but they’re probably some of the most important photographs I’ve captured. There was enough quality in them to give me the confidence I needed at that time to pursue wedding photography as a career, but I have to give a huge thanks to Ruth for giving me a chance to break through in this highly competitive industry.