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Thursday, 31 October 2013

10 Ways to Maximise Your Chances of Getting Sunset Wedding Photographs

Wedding Sunset Photography at The Langstone, Hayling Island, Hampshire
Wedding photographs taken at sunset are awesome and most couples are delighted if they can get them.

It's a sad fact that few couples have the opportunity to get them either because of the weather, or the timing or their choice of photographer.

This post give you things you can do to maximise your chances of getting sunset wedding photography.


1. Your choice of venue will of course partly determine your chances of getting a sunset on your wedding day. Work out where sun will set at your venue at the time of year you will be there (if you don't know how to do this, ask your photographer).

2. The lower the skyline is at that point, the greater chance there is of you getting a great sunset. For example, if there are tall trees close by in that direction, then the sun will set behind them and you may not get a very good sunset even if the weather is okay.

Wedding sunset photography at the Balmer Lawn Hotel, Brockenhurst, New Forest, Hampshire
3. If there are tall trees a long way away in the direction that the sun will set, then chances are you may still get a good sunset shot.

Sunset reflecting on the mudflats at The Langstone, Hayling Island, Hampshire
4. The perfect situation is that you can actually see the horizon in the direction of sunset. It will be even better if there is some water between you and the setting sun to give reflections too.

5. When selecting a wedding photographer you need to make it known that you'd like some sunset photographs if you were lucky enough to have one. Not all photographers are geared up for all styles of sunset photography.

Bride and groom silhouetted against the setting sun at The Langstone, Hayling Island, Hampshire
Whilst almost any photographer should be able to silhouette you against a sunset sky, if you want to be lit nicely in front of an awesome sky then "natural light" photographers (as they sometimes call themselves) will not be able to help. You need big bright lights and know how to use them artistically in order to shoot you against a dramatic evening sky.

6. Determine the sundown time for your wedding date. If sunset photography is important to you, then you need to schedule that you can spend the half hour prior to sundown with your photographer.

This can be impossible at some weddings e.g. a 4pm ceremony in December is not going to finish until after sundown.


7. An hour before sunset, you want somebody (ideally your photographer) to be keeping an eye on the western sky to see if a sunset might develop. If it does look likely then that person should alert you to the possibility and you should be ready to be shooting for the last half hour before sunset.

After an overcast day, a crack appeared on the western horizon at sunset in the grounds of New Place, Hampshire

8. If the sky is overcast at sundown then there is nothing you can do but even so, don't give up. Quite often, when the day has been totally overcast all day, it can sometimes break the clouds near the western horizon just enough to make it still worth shooting.

9. Sunsets are a long time coming then gone in a flash. Get your photographer to plan where they will shoot you at sunset to make best use of the 20 minutes or so you will get. Maybe you can shoot at a few locations before the sun disappears.

You can shoot from a hotel balcony.

Sunset through the trees at Steeple Court Manor, Botley, Hampshire
You can shoot through a hole in the tree line.

10. Once the sun has completely gone, don't give up - the sky can still be full of gorgeous photographic opportunities.

New Forest, Hampshire
A full moon can be a rare and romantic backdrop to a night sky that has only just lost the sun.

Balmer Lawn Hotel, Brockenhurst, Hampshire
The sky has a beautiful graduation moments after the sun has set. This is a wonderful addition to any wedding album. The moment the sun went down on the couple's wedding day.

No amount of planning can guarantee that you'll get great sunset photographs at your wedding but planning ahead and choosing the right photographer can definitely increase your chances. Good luck.

by Steve Dunster

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Top 10 Photography Tips for Wedding Guests

For any keen photographer, a wedding is a target rich environment, a seemingly endless supply of photo-opportunities of happy people in great clothes at lovely venues. In fact anybody with any imaging device understandably seems to get caught up into the magic of the day and sooner or later just has to take a picture.

As professional wedding photographers we bring a lot of cameras, lights and lenses because we have to get the shots, whatever the conditions. But when we are guests at weddings we bring a only a small compact camera each and no lights...we get some great shots and can still enjoy the wedding. We encourage you to do the same.

Here are some tips as to the most appropriate equipment to bring, how to get the best shots, how to work well with the other photographers at the wedding and also how to balance the sometimes conflicting demands of "getting the shot" and enjoying the day.

1. PRIORITIES - Enjoy the wedding - it is more important than the photography

2. ETIQUETTE - Work nicely with the other photographers. Be aware of who has their camera up and where they're shooting towards. If somebody is shooting wide, don't jump in front of them. The golden rule is: always shoot from behind the professional photographers

3. EQUIPMENT - Our advice is always don't bring much and never bring a tripod and never bring lights. Regarding focal lengths, you're better off having a wide angle zoom than you are with a long lens. Wide angle lenses are short, light, less obtrusive, create some great drama and keep you close to the other guests. Wide angle lenses can let you capture some great reportage shots showing how groups of guests interact and you don't need to be far away from them. Long lenses can encourage you to stand off from the action which isn't so good if you're a guest.

Don't forget that this is a wedding and you are a guest. Your highest priority is to enjoy the day. You're not on an assignment. You don't have to take everything from every angle for the entire day. Chill and take some nice pictures when you feel the urge.

4. Phone-cameras - are amazing quality, easy to carry, light weight and unobtrusive.

5. Tablet-cameras  - on the other hand are a pain. They are big and look dreadful in other people's pictures, many times obscuring a subject in somebody else's sight line. The quality of the camera in a tablet is no better than that in a phone, so our strong recommendation is to leave the tablet at home and shoot with a phone.

6. Point-and-shoot cameras - are great. They are small, usually have good quality and are unobtrusive and usually come with a useful amount of zoom.

7. Bridge cameras - are a little bulkier and heavier but can be quite useful at a wedding with good image quality and usually quite a big zoom range.

8. Micro 4/3 or Mirrorless compacts - are very expensive but small, light, unobtrusive, excellent image quality and have all the sorts of controls easy to hand that most professional photographers come to rely on. It is these sorts of cameras that we would normally take to a wedding as guests.

9. DSLRs - They are big. They are heavy. They are noisy. They are valuable and they have many accessories. Guests with DSLRs are best if they bring a minimum of equipment. Some guests bring big accessory bags full of stuff which is heavy and bulky and doesn't look good in other people's pictures. Even if you just go lightweight, with no flash and a wide angle zoom, it is still a bulky camera with it's big camera strap that you have to find a safe place for during the meal.

10. WHAT TO SHOOT  - Don't necessarily try and shoot what the professional photographers are shooting. They will have gone to some bother to expose the shot in a particular way, often with careful consideration of balancing the various light sources and compositional elements. You'll never match that because you won't have the same equipment, you won't know the exposure and you won't have the same angle. Instead look for your own opportunities where the lighting is more favourable to the equipment that you may well then get a better quality image of something that the professionals didn't see because they were shooting something else.

For example, the professional may well shoot portraits into the sun. This gives soft lighting on the subject's faces and creates a great rim/separation light on their hair and shoulders. But they will probably have used manual settings and possibly lights in order to make sure the faces are not silhouetted. If you try and shoot the same thing with your bridge camera set to auto and no lights, the bride and groom may be nothing more than dark shadows.

Instead, turn through 180 degrees and shoot some reportage of guests waiting for their turn in the group shots. With the sun behind you, your camera set to auto will do much better and you will get some shots that the professional won't because they were pointing the other way.

SUMMARY - enjoy taking photographs but don't forget to enjoy the wedding, don't bring much photographic gear, always shoot from behind the professionals so you're not in their shot, shoot your own compositions rather than those of the professional and don't shoot with a tablet....and oh yeah...don't forget to charge your batteries.

These are the recommendations we make from the many wedding guests we've seen at many weddings and noticing what seems to work best for them. We think these tips may be of some help to you next time you are a guest at a wedding.

by Steve Dunster

Monday, 21 October 2013

Top 11 Live Music Wedding Tips

Having live music can really add some zing to your wedding in so many ways. It's great to have a live band to dance to in the evening but for those who don't want to dance they can watch the performance as though they're at a concert - something for everybody.

You can also have live performance in your ceremony. It really adds to the intimacy of the moment to know that the music you are experiencing is a one-off. What you are hearing is totally unique just like the moment you say "I will."

During drinks and canapés the mood can be really enhanced if you have a string quartet inside a medieval hall or maybe a small jazz ensemble if your guests are mingling on a lawn.

In this post we will try and give you some idea on what sort of music you could have and some practical advice on how to go about planning and organising it.

First of all it is useful to determine your music requirements for your wedding e.g. background, ceremonial, dance.

Also, have an understanding of where your live musicians would perform e.g. how much space there is, indoors or outdoors, how much echo there is and whether power is available.

Below is a list of Top 10 Live Wedding Music ideas together with useful things to think about if you're considering booking them. Combining live musicians with "canned" music (either from your iPod/iPhone into a sounds system...or having live musicians working alongside a DJ) can give you the best of both worlds. Often musicians will start the evening and hand over to a DJ for the last part of the evening.

1. ORGAN and CHOIR is the traditional music combination for church weddings. They are usually associated with the church you are getting married in and will be used to providing ceremonial music. All you will have to do is select your music/hymns. Nowadays fewer people are familiar with church music and it is often a good idea to book the organ and choir so there is a strong core to the music. It can be a bit uncomfortable if your guests mumble through the hymns with no organ/choir to back them up.

2. PIANO is fantastically flexible at a wedding. It sounds amazing as indoor background music but can also be used for ceremonial music. Some pianists can also do a comedy act and/or will sing as well. Many pianists will bring their own electronic piano. These sound fantastic, they're always in tune and take up very little space but do require mains power. It is worth finding out whether your venue has a quality piano that is kept properly maintained and regularly tuned.

3. HARP is wonderful as background music and is plenty loud enough to fill a good sized room but takes very little space and does not require mains power. It is not really suitable for outdoors and is not often used for ceremonial music. It works very well in a ceremony room whilst waiting for the bride and as background music during the wedding breakfast. It is a very calming sound.

4. ACOUSTIC GUITAR can provide a wonderful interlude during a ceremony but is also very good for background music in intimate indoor rooms. It takes up very little space and does not require mains power. Like the harp, it provides a very calming sound.

5. STRING QUARTET is great for background music both inside and out. They can also be used for ceremonial music at intimate ceremony venues e.g. a hotel room, stately home room, chapel or small church. They are great for background music during canapés and wedding breakfasts. They are not really suitable for large churches, cathedrals or weddings on large grass fields. Their repertoire is often wide ranging and can be great entertainment. If you want them to play particular pieces at your wedding you should mention it to them before hand so they can make sure they have brought the music with them.

6. SOLO SINGER can be great for background music during outside canapés and wedding breakfasts if the room is big enough. Solo singers usually bring their own sound systems that will require mains power. They can be very good for a First Dance and some will have sufficient repertoire that can sing throughout the entire evening disco. Such singers sometimes have lighting as well as sound systems. Some solo singers are actually tribute singers and have very elaborate remotely controlled lighting and backing tracks so they can get your guests really excited even before they get on set. Some singers have a very varied repertoire, some specialise in a particular genre so make sure you have this discussion them before you book.

7. JAZZ QUINTET can be a fantastic way of setting the mood for a vintage themed wedding. They are a little louder than a string quartet and can sound fantastic on the lawn of a stately home whilst guests play croquet with vintage cars on the drive. It can sound very Jeeves and Wooster. Jazz quintets can also be terrific for the party in the evening. They do not need mains power. We've had them used for ceremonial music too and it has worked very well.

8. ROCK/POP TRIBUTE BANDS can sound amazing at the party in the evening but they need quite a bit of space and can take a while to rig up. They will also need mains power. A good live band can be a fantastic ending to a perfect day and it can be like being at a concert. Some bands can be uncomfortably loud in a room that is too small for them but there are some very small bands who have very little equipment and sound fantastic. So have a look try and book a band that would best suit your venue as well as your tastes.

9. BRASS BAND/WIND BAND can be a fantastic way of adding authentic vintage sounds to a wedding in a large field or on the lawn of a stately home. Brass bands can sound very 1930s Agatha Christie/church fetes. The band does need some space and chairs but does not need mains power. Outside, especially on grass, a brass band is a lovely background sound. A brass band is also very good for ceremonial music in medium to large churches or cathedrals. They are a little too loud and strident to be good background music indoors. They are not usually very good for the traditional evening party because they don't normally have large amounts of dance music in their repertoire but they will often put on a good concert, particularly if you want to put on something of a Last Night Of The Proms type of evening rather than the more normal disco dance.

10. ORCHESTRA and CHOIR are amazing in a large church or cathedral. Nothing can make a bride feel more like a princess than walking up the aisle to the sound of trumpets, timpani, strings and a big four part choir. They won't need any mains power but they will need considerable space and enough light to read their music. They may also require some rehearsal time to be scheduled in because it is likely that it is an ensemble put together specially for your wedding.

11. STEEL BANDS - We will admit that we flinched at the thought of a steel band at a wedding but it was amazing. There was a small steel band ensemble in the church which was used for the ceremony and it was very mellow and calming and beautiful. Then later a larger ensemble was used in a huge barn. They were amazing. They played great rock/pop dance numbers and brought the house down. This particular steel band not only had the steel drums but also an drum kit and an electric bass guitar so some steel bands may need power and quite a lot of space. 

Hopefully this has given you an insight to some of the possibilities regarding live music at your wedding. Get it right and it can sound fantastic...and with a little planning it is very easy to get it right. Enjoy.

by Jacqui and Steve
Hampshire Wedding Photographers

Sunday, 20 October 2013

When Love Is At The Heart Of A Wedding

Hampshire Wedding Photography in Warsash Church, Hampshire

Most weddings have had months of detailed planning and there are usually so many gorgeous clothes and details and buildings and decorations...that it can keep two experienced wedding photographers very busy.

Amy and Richard's wedding was no exception.

Hampshire Wedding Photography, Bridal Prep

Amy looked stunning in her amazing wedding dress, the venues were lovely and the details were gorgeous.

Hampshire Wedding Photography - Veil Portrait

Most couples, of course, have a deep love for each other but it is not infrequent that this is privately held between them and on not on display except for the most fleeting of moments during their wedding day.

Occasionally though, we get a couple like Amy and Richard...who are so happy together that throughout the whole day, whenever they were together, they were so happy that it was as though nobody else existed.

When they looked into each other's eyes, nothing else in the room seemed to matter.

Hampshire Wedding Photography, Bridal Portrait

So despite the amazing arrangements they had made for their lovely wedding...their greatest part of their wedding...the brightest memory we were left with...

...was not their stretched limo, not her amazing wedding dress, not even the speeches that tugged at the heart-strings...

Hampshire Wedding Photography, Wedding Kiss

...but how obvious it was to us to just how much they loved being together. 

by Steve Dunster

Saturday, 5 October 2013

The Wedding that Brought the Sun Back Out

The sun is welcome at any wedding but at Steve and Lucy's wedding it was particularly welcome.

Steve and Lucy were married on 6 April 2013 in the New Forest Wedding at the Balmer Lawn Hotel. 

The previous week we met them at the Balmer Lawn for a location visit. The weather was grey and starting to rain. This was no surprise to any of us. It was the end of a very long and grey Winter which came after the worst Summer we could remember and the onset of Spring was so late it was looking as though we might have a second dismal Summer.

One week later and the weather couldn't have been more different. It was warm and sunny with pretty white clouds. There were no leaves on the trees but other than that it could have been Summer.

We didn't know it then but their fabulous wedding was to herald the start of one of the best Summer's we've had for years.

Lucy had her Bridal Prep in the Bridal Suite of the Balmer Lawn Hotel.

The room had an awesome four poster bed.

It was the perfect place to get ready for her wedding. It had plenty of space, great atmosphere and lovely view across the lawn and cricket pitch.

It was so nice to be shooting in the sun again, we'd almost forgotten what it was like.

The week before on our location visit with Steve and Lucy we had walked down to the little stream across the road from the hotel. At the time we thought it unlikely that we'd bother to walk there on the day because it was muddy, the trees were brown, the sky was likely to be grey and the route was covered in donkey poo. We referred to it as "Donkey Poo Walk" and we wrote a blog post about it: Donkey Poo Walk and the Return of the Shetty

On the day though it was perfect. The sun was out, the sky was blue, the clouds were white and the water twinkled its blue reflection of the sky. It was just like Summer, apart of course for the lack of leaves in the trees...but also in the Summer, this particular stream in the New Forest would have been full of kids in bathing suites and inflatable boats. These sorts of portraits would have been very difficult in the Summer.

The sun coming out made the guests as well as the bride and groom even happier than they would have been.

It was a photographer's dream come true, the sun even lit up the venue.

Come the end of the day, the sun still wasn't done casting its magic.

It was as though the sun had been locked up for so long and that on the day it had at last been allowed out to play, it was going to make the most of every last second.

We had the most wonderful sunset shoot with Steve and Lucy.

The sun was magical, right to the very last moment. A wonderful blessing for a wonderful couple.