Applewood Hall alternative Norfolk and suffolk wedding photographer ring shot

5 Ways To Master Manual Mode!

Master Manual Mode.

If you own a DSLR and have a passion for photography, you have landed in the right place. A lot of people are under the common misconception that buying a new DSLR camera will instantly improve their photography. They place an order, and a few days later, their new, shiny toy arrives on their doorstep. Then things usually get tricky. Once the camera is out of its packaging it becomes quickly apparent that working the damn thing is much harder than it looks. Therefore the dial is switched to Auto mode, and that is where it stays for the foreseeable. Here is a handy guide to help you master manual mode in no time.

ONE | Set your aperture

One of my absolute favourite styles of photography is where the subject is sharp, and the background is beautifully blurred. This effect is called ‘bokeh’ and happens when you set your aperture, or your f/stop to it’s lowest number. It is also known as shooting ‘wide open’. The lowest number (or f/stop) you can achieve is dependent on the type of lens you have.

For example, one of my favourite lenses is an 85mm prime, and it can shoot down to f/1.8. Imagine that the number equates to the area in focus on the image. The smaller the number, the smaller the area that is in focus (like a face) and the rest of the image is deliberately blurry. This look is impressive if you are shooting against a background of colour, like autumnal trees or in a meadow of flowers.

What kind of photography will you be shooting?

There are many reasons you would want to shoot wide open. My personal favourites are when I’m shooting portraits. I make sure both eyes are on the focal plane (explained below) so that they are both in focus and place them in front of a pretty background. That way, you can guarantee your facial features are all tack-sharp regardless of how low you have your f/stop. However, if you are a landscape photographer, you are going to need to increase you f/stop to a number large enough to bring everything into focus. Popular f/stops for this genre are f/8-11 depending on the scene, the lens and the camera.

WARNING

While shooting wide open can indeed be beautiful, it can also go wrong. The trouble with shooting so wide open is that there is such a small area in focus, if you miss your mark, it can mean that the most significant bits are soft or blurry. For this bit, you need to understand:

The Focal Plane

Okay, unless you are a super-brain, I would avoid Googling this term. It can kick up some crazy tech-lingo and may put you off. Rather than fumble through an explanation myself, these guys have done a fantastic job of making something rather complicated, straightforward to understand. They also do some pretty awesome presets if you’re interested.

https://mastinlabs.com/photoism/articles/understanding-focal-plane-in-photography

Another thing to understand is this:

A low f/stop (f/1.4) = more light let into the camera

Shooting “wide open” like this means that the diaphragm of the lens opens up and more light reaches the sensor. It also means that a smaller area will be in focus.

A high f/stop (f/16) = less light let into the camera.

“Stopping down” like this means the diaphragm in the lens closes, restricting the amount of light that reaches the sensor. It also means a larger area will be in focus.

Example of aperture in use

TWO | Set your shutter speed

The shutter speed is the amount of time that your shutter is open looks like this: 1/125. All this means is that the shutter is open for 1/125th of a second. It could also be 1/250, 1/500 or even 30 whole seconds or more (if you have a tripod and a trigger!). The type of camera you have will determine what it is capable of, but unless you are shooting specialist areas such as astrophotography, most basic settings will be more than you need.

Make sure you pick the right number!

When shooting moving things like children or animals, try to avoid setting the shutter speed slower than 1/125 as it will help to prevent your image from becoming blurry and out of focus. Even this setting can be too slow, but it depends on whether you want a little motion blur in your image to give the effect of movement. If you’re going to freeze your subject completely, increase your shutter speed.

Top tip!

You will find that if your shutter speed is too slow (let’s say 1/35), your image can be affected by camera shake (if you are holding your camera and it isn’t on a tripod). Another rule of thumb is always to shoot at a shutter speed value which is larger than the most extended length of your lens. For example, another of my favourite lenses is my 70-200mm, and I always shoot at 200mm. Therefore I will make sure that my shutter speed is at a MINIMUM of 1/200.

Here is the technical bit.

The lower your shutter speed, the longer your shutter is open. This means two things; one is that more light is reaching your sensor as the shutter takes longer to close. The other is that more movement is happening in your scene while the shutter is still closing. It is that which causes blurring.

Let’s look at it from the opposite angle

The higher your shutter speed, the least time your shutter is open, it’s snapping shut, which means that less light reaches your sensor as it has no time to get through. It also means that very little happens in your scene in the time it takes to close so you will end up with perfectly frozen shots. Again, choosing either of these settings will depend on what you want to achieve with your image. If you’re going to shoot a babbling brook and wish to have beautiful, silky, smooth tendrils of water, you will need a tripod, a trigger and a slower shutter speed. This means the scenery itself such as the rocks, the ground and the trees will be sharp and in focus, but the water will be blurred and soft as it moves through the scene.

It’s a popular technique in landscape photography. However, if you want to freeze your subject entirely, you choose a much higher shutter speed. A lot of sports photographers shoot at a minimum of 1/800 to freeze a shot say of a footballer booting the ball into the back of the net.

WARNING

It is worth bearing in mind that the slower the shutter speed, the MORE light gets to the sensor. The faster the shutter speed, the LESS light gets to the sensor. Want to freeze motion? Then you cannot compromise your shutter speed, but you CAN adjust your aperture to counteract. If you find the scene is now too dark because you’re shooting at 1/400, you can lower your f/stop to f/2.8 to allow more light in that way. If you cannot do that, you may find you are stuck. It’s at this point you need to consider your ISO.

THREE | Check your ISO

Your ISO setting can and will be the thing that saves your shot when you need your shutter speed and aperture to be where they are. ISO stands for International Organisation Standard (which is pretty meaningless) but measures the sensitivity of the sensor in your camera. By increasing the number, you are increasing the sensitivity of your sensor to light. Kind of like tricking it into thinking that more light is available than there is. It’s a pretty handy little trick when you’re stuck in a low light situation. However, as you’ve probably noticed with everything else I’ve written so far, there is a trade-off.

Your new camera is likely to be set at ISO100. 100 is the number for a lovely, sunny day outside in the garden. From here on most entry-level cameras you can move up to 250, then 400, 650, 800, 1200 and 1600. Beyond that, unless you have bought yourself a professional level DSLR, your camera will most likely not cope, and your images will become noisy (grainy).

As a general rule of thumb, the following settings are good starting points:

ISO100  Outdoors on a sunny day

ISO400  Outdoors in the shade

ISO800  Indoors on a bright day

ISO1200 Indoors on a cloudy day

You can adjust up or down from any of these starting points. Bear in mind that the setting you need will depend on what aperture and shutter speed you are using and what kind of camera and lens you are using too.

HANDY TIP

If you make sure that your exposure is always correct by using your exposure meter in the viewfinder, you are less likely to get such an issue with grain.

Use an ISO of 100 in bright sunlight.

Surfer girl catching her breath on the sandy beach in front of a row of colourful beach huts

FOUR | Exposure

If you look through your viewfinder, along the bottom, you will see a little exposure meter. It will look something like this:

Exposure meter

Now you have learned about setting your aperture, shutter speed and ISO. By adjusting these three things, you will be able to get the perfect exposure for your images. Just nudge each of them until you have the little arrow/”ticker” is in the centre on the zero. This is technically ‘perfect’ exposure, but a lot of photographers have preferences.

I always try and aim for the zero and then tweak my levels in post-processing to achieve the look I want. However, my post-processing technique will vary depending on what my image is, whether it’s backlit, the time of day, indoors, outdoors and many other factors. A lot of photographers like to shoot very slightly overexposed; some even shoot underexposed. Ultimately it is up to you; however, a good rule of thumb is to aim for the centre and work from there.

When shooting weddings I am always careful to expose the dress well. Being white means the highlights are easily blown, especially in hard sunlight.

Bride and groom walking away down a forest lane lined with evergreen trees.

FIVE | Choose the right white balance

Making sure the colour temperature is suitable is essential when taking your photograph. Correctly setting your white balance removes unrealistic colour casts from your image and means that you will get more natural colours. You will have the choice of the settings below:

White balance icons

AWB (Auto White Balance)

A good all-rounder and will work well for most scenarios.

Daylight

There’s no rocket science here. Use this one when shooting in daylight. Best used on a sunny day outdoors.

Cloudy

Again, easy peasy. Just set to this mode when you are outdoors and on a cloudy, overcast day. It will bring warmth back into the shot where the clouds would cool everything down in tone and colour. 

Shade

Use this setting in the shade and your colour temperature will be warmed to compensate for the cool tones in the shadows.

Tungsten

This one can be a lifesaver when you are shooting in public buildings. A lot of pubs, village halls, registry offices, and even a lot of churches have this awful lighting, and this setting cools down the orange tones of this offensive cast.

Fluorescent

This setting is another convenient one for public buildings. Village halls are the WORST for fluorescent lighting! You could use this setting to counteract the awful green tones here.

Flash

I use this setting a lot. While it is supposed to be used with flash, I sometimes use it without to add a lovely, earthy warmth to my pictures. I always use this setting when shooting using strobes in the studio, but that is for another time.

Custom

This setting is for when you want to set your white balance manually. You’ll have to refer to your camera’s manual on how to do this.

Using the right white balance helped to transform orange tungsten into light, bright whites.

laughing at the altar wedding ceremony Woodhall Manor

Is your brain going to explode yet?

This blog is a basic introduction to mastering manual mode, and you will find further tips and tricks in my other blogs so take a look at my blog pages to learn more or, if you’re interested, at some of the shoots I’ve been doing. I hope you have enjoyed this lesson and to help you with your journey into mastering manual mode; I have designed and prepared an epic guide for you to download for free.

DOWNLOAD YOUR PRINTABLE GUIDE HERE

Why not visit my Facebook page and post some of the images you have taken using the new skills you’ve learned here? I will be announcing the best images submitted at the end of every month.


Take Better Photos Of Your Kids

Take Better Photos Of Your Kids

If you are a parent with a passion for taking good photos of your kids, this guide will walk you through it and help to improve your skills. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below. Happy learning!

family happy mum dad son boy beach sea coast stormy skies suffolk and Norfolk photography photographer

Posed vs. Candid Shots

The first thing you might be asking is; “What do you mean by ‘candid and how is that going to help me take better photos of the kids’?”

Good question.

A majority of us are more familiar with traditional style shots. These are where the photographer makes you sit in a particular way, facing the camera. More often than not they ask you to say “Cheese”, and you end up with a very unnatural looking grin. In this style of posed photograph, the subject is very aware that their photograph is being taken. The photographer is completely in control of most aspects of the shot and may direct the subject to get the shot they want. In a lot of cases, this way of taking photographs works perfectly well. Especially if it is for a styled shoot like glamour or fashion. A lot of people quite like this style of photography in weddings too, although a lot are now turning towards a more candid style of shooting.

What is candid photography?

With candid photography, the photographer has much less control over the shoot. They will have to move around a lot and the subject may not even be aware that they are being photographed.

The pay-off here is that you end up with much more natural moments and expressions. These are often moments that you would never capture if you were going down the traditional, posed route.

In the first photo I am trying to control all aspects of the shot I was taking, but my daughter wasn’t impressed. In the second photo I zoom in and take a natural shot of her as she watches the snowflakes fall. Which one do you prefer?

It’s all about stealth.

There is nothing rocket science about this. You don’t have to have a first in child psychology to understand that kids love to play. This is the whole reason for their existence in their own eyes. The best images I’ve seen of children have been of them immersed in play or captured in moments that are natural to them. This might look like mud kitchen chaos, Lego building, making dens, or having a quiet cuddle with Daddy before bedtime. Whichever it is, take the opportunity and get your camera or phone out without making a fuss. Resist the urge to order smiles from them or to make them face the camera as it will immediately turn them off to the idea. Instead you will get either prompt grumpy faces and hiding, or silly face pulling. You don’t want either of these. Not only will they then look unnatural, but it will almost certainly mean a lot of waiting until they forget your intentions to capture them without them knowing.

What equipment do I need?

Most phones have brilliant cameras built in to them but honestly, for this kind of thing you just can’t beat a DSLR and a longer lens. Using a long lens means that you can be much further from your subject and zoom right in. This means that they are less likely to realise you are taking their picture but it will still look like you are right on top of the action.

Using a DSLR and longer lens will obviously require a certain level of skill. If you are unsure what to do aside opt for the ‘Auto’ function, please click here to be directed to my Beginner’s Guide To Using A DSLR At Home.

Anticipation…

One of the biggest secret weapons in candid photography is the use of anticipation. Some of the best photographers I know use this skill so well, they can take a photo at the exact moment that something significant happens time and time again. I’m talking about the moment in a conversation where everyone bursts into laughter. Or the moment when the baby smiles for the first time. Some of the best photos I’ve managed to get have been when I’ve been watching my children or at a wedding, and there is a ‘moment’ unfolding. Having the skill to predict when these moments happen will serve you well as a candid photographer.

Capture the character!

On the opposite end of the scale I have complete divas and nutters in my family. I absolutely love encouraging my kids to be themselves as much as possible. So if you child is anything like mine, embrace the mentalness! It’s who they are! Don’t try and over-rule them by demanding they stop being silly! Ultimately you will be denying them their natural behaviour, and isn’t that exactly what we’re trying to capture? After all, nine times out of ten, once they’ve done something silly or crazy, there will be a couple of seconds afterwards where they are laughing and smiling for REAL. Those are the moments you need to anticipate or predict and is when you should press the shutter.

Step it up!

For those of you who are relatively comfortable with these ideas, there are a number of ways you can really up your game and start getting some really lovely, wall-worth pictures. The first one I would suggest is to think about your surroundings. If you are shooting in your house, why not step it up and into the garden on a nice day? Get the kids gardening or digging in the flowerbeds for worms. Maybe try the local playground or the beach or forest. We are surrounded with some of the most natural beauty in the country. Get out there and make the most of it!

A rollercoaster of emotions.

One of the things you will hear me banging on about is human connection. That social interaction between humans and those that they love. For many, that can look like people and their loved ones and for many others it can look like humans and their pets. All are so important and all are brilliant subjects for your photography. The emotional side of it is easy, don’t just photograph the smiles. After all, if we are documenting our lives we may want to see all the fun and happy parts, but life is not all happiness. There is also sadness, frustrations and anger along with everything in-between. Try to capture a broad range if you can but remember to be respectful. A brilliant way to take better photos of your kids is to capture them in all the emotions.

What are they looking at?

A really great way of capturing moments is to take photos of your kids or loved ones when they are all looking at the same thing. This is called a ‘shared focus’ and incorporates that thing into the scene, giving a wider view of what is happening. You could even go one step further by using the camera as a point of view in the child’s life. So you could shoot over your child’s shoulder as they are doing some painting, or zoom in on their fingers as they do up their shoelaces. All of these things help to tell the story of their childhood and will be memories very much cherished at a later date. To take better photos of your kids doesn’t just mean taking photos of their faces!

Don’t be lazy!

As I mentioned before, you will not have a lot of control over your environment or the lighting conditions when you are shooting candidly. The trick is to make sure you get moving! The way the light hits your scene or subject is going to have a big impact on the images you take. Make sure you take advantage of it by checking all the different vantage points available to you. Don’t be afraid to lay on the ground or shoot at different angles to create more interest. It’s the difference between an average photo and an epic one.

Another pointer here would be to take a test shot to check that your exposure is correct. This is especially important if you are shooting into back-lit conditions or if it is particularly dark or light. You can always retake the shot if you need to.

Clear the decks!

Some people like to leave everything as it is and go true documentary style however others like to have a little clean-up before. Whichever way you decide to go, it’s entirely up to you. I tend to make sure any unsightly items are out of view when taking the picture. I’ve seen so many photos ruined because poles are growing out of people’s heads! Keep an eye on the surroundings when you are framing up your shot and decide whether you are happy to keep everything in view. It’s up to your personal sense of style to gage whether this is how to take better photos of your kids!

Just take the shot!

A lot of the time you have a split-second to take the shot before the moment is lost. If this is the case, make sure you have your camera set up properly for the conditions you’re shooting in. For many it’s just a quick snap on their phone, but if you are doing this with a DSLR (which I highly recommend you do), make sure that you have the basics down. Ultimately, photography is all about light and the quality of that light. Make sure you have enough of it to take the shot. If you don’t, make sure you understand how to introduce artificial light or you know how to increase your ISO to allow more light to your sensor. This will allow you to increase your shutter speed so that you can capture things in motion and freeze them (if that is what you are trying to do). Just knowing a couple of these things will increase your photography massively.

Ultimately, the best way to learn is by doing. So just get out there and take the shot!

Give up and hire a pro.

Unfortunately, photography just isn’t for everyone. While I firmly believe that anything can be learned (click here for a guide on how to Master Manual Mode), you may not have the time or the inclination to do so. In situations like this, I fully recommend hiring a professional to do it for you. It is an expense you won’t regret and the images will be cherished for generations.

For information on our family packages, please click here. If you are here looking for a candid photographer for you wedding, please click here.


A boy and his Bengal cat in the garden in summer.

Why print when you can own the digitals? Here's why...

Here’s why print wins over digitals every time.

Really, it’s simple.

It’s all about our children.

In this digital age, we are in such a rush. Everything has to be instant. It has to happen NOW. It’s the reason we have cameras built into our phones, and it’s the reason we’re so addicted to social media. The addition of cameras to our mobiles means that these platforms can provide us with instant gratification. Within a few moments, you can snap something, post it and instantly start seeing likes roll in.

As a young woman, this was really important to me. Like many other young people, what I lacked in time, I made up for in self-doubt and confidence issues. Posting photos of myself out and about with friends and family meant that I could build an army of followers. Each of them liking and commenting on every image I posted. It made me feel loved, or popular at the very least. Apparently, that was something I needed back then.

I still can't quite believe I had confidence issues when I looked like this...

Girl dressed as Jasmine in a teal and purple genie outfit. Filipina drinking wine. Suffolk, UK.

Fast forward a decade (and a bit), and I am now a confident woman (mostly) with a world of experience under my belt. I was lucky enough to marry my best friend and have two incredible children with him. Our lives are chaotic and full of fun and love. However, the time issue is even worse now, and it seems to move even quicker.

Something I have found is that over the years, as my priorities have changed, my relationship with social media and photography have too. At this point, I can almost hear you saying “Yes, yes, but you ARE a photographer, so of COURSE, you’re going to say this.” I get it. But my decision to become a photographer came way after my love affair with social media and that “quick fix”. It came after I became a mother.

Using your phone is so much easier!

One thing that I am still guilty of now is taking quick pics on my phone and then forgetting about them. This is WHILE I am a professional photographer, so I really don’t have much of an excuse. But the truth is, it’s just so much more convenient and MUCH quicker for me to take photos on my phone. My phone is on me most of the time, I don’t have to think about lighting or settings. It’s instant.

But how is this affecting our children?

Imagery is one of the most potent forms of communication on the planet. It trumps language every time. You can literally go to any country in the world and show them a photo of somewhere or something and they will recognise all or part of that image. It goes deeper than colour or form or what the weather is like in that particular scene. Images can evoke emotion, feelings, darkness or light. If you tried to describe just a few of these things to them without showing them the picture, chances are, they won’t understand a word you’re saying.

Now imagine you have a world of pictures saved on your phone, and you want your child to find their favourite. What do you think they’ll choose? Do you think they’ll find one at all? Would they understand how? If they found something they loved, would they know why? Watch as these children try and access the photos their Mums have taken on their phones. Do you see why print wins over digitals here?

It’s so much more than being in the moment.

We’ve all seen the blog posts and articles that urge mums to stop taking the pictures and be IN the images. Your children think you’re beautiful and we owe it to them to make sure they have something to remember you by once you’re gone. Morbid? Maybe. But necessary? Definitely.
So once you have taken those pictures with your little ones, why on earth would you want to make them inaccessible to them? Your memories and experiences are your legacies to your children.

Make it a ‘thing’.

Have the photos on your wall or in an album, somewhere you can look at them whenever you want to. Make your kids pick a favourite or start a photo wall in their bedroom. My 9-year-old son loves collecting holiday snaps and photos of adventures he’s had with his grandparents. He has crudely stuck them to the wall with sticky tack, and the collection is growing. It’s his favourite thing, and we often sit and reminisce over them at bedtime.

We now make a point of printing a few off each time we have an adventure together, and now his little sister wants to start one too.

In comparison to the video above, watch now as the same children receive a package of printed photos of themselves with their families. See the instant joy? Again, here is why print wins over digitals every time, at least for me.

More importantly, there is another reason we must make sure our pictures are on display and studied regularly. No-one lives forever.
It’s a subject people tend to shy away from. Still, it happens to us all. It is vital that you have recorded those memories and can access them quickly and readily for when we want to remember those we’ve lost.

Many photographers (myself included) offer digitals. Again, in this age of instant gratification, it is a popular option and makes sense if you are genuinely going to have them printed. While printing your own throws up a whole collection of other issues, I’ll leave that for another blog.

For now, let’s think about that USB of digitals that you probably paid decent money for. Where is it? Do you even know? Is it kicking around with some dead batteries and unidentified keys in a drawer somewhere? If the answer is a resounding and somewhat guilty “yes”, then go dig it out and find a decent lab to get them printed. You won’t regret it, and neither will your children.


Applewood Hall alternative Norfolk and suffolk wedding photographer bride and groom

Kirsty & Matt

An Awesome Autumnal Norfolk Wedding

Applewood Hall - Saturday 5th October 2019

Kirsty and Matt got married at Norfolk wedding venue Applewood Hall, next to Banham Zoo. When I first met Kirsty and Matt it was at a wedding fair and something strangely beautiful happened. They came over, we talked, we instantly clicked. I knew as soon as I met them that we were the perfect fit for each other! I wasn’t wrong.

It was meant to be…

Kirsty and Matt got married on a beautiful Autumnal day surrounded by friends and family. Everything about the day was personal to them. It was perfectly quirky and showed both personalities. From the Harry Potter table centrepieces to the tiny rubber ducks and handmade chocolate duck chocolates, it was all about Kirsty and Matt. This was made even more special by the fact that Kirsty and Matt (but mainly Kirsty) had handmade or decorated everything you could see.

It’s EVERYTHING to be different.

The place names were ducks from Matt’s own collection of rubber ducks (it’s a thing apparently). The table centrepieces were handmade lamps made with Harry Potter figures (Kirsty’s love). All three of the wedding cakes were made by the talented bride-to-be and even the table plan was hand-written.

The day was full of love and laughter as friends and family filled the venue and its manicured gardens. The ceremony was beautiful with Matt’s SEVEN best men all standing next to him in support. The speeches were on point, references to the stag-do became reality when Baby Max (a teeny tiny baby figurine named after their son) was dropped by Kirsty into Matt’s pint. It meant he had to down it in one (stag-do rules) and he didn’t let us down.

There was a donut wall, a kids’ corner, THE most beautiful afternoon tea (OMG the CAKES <3) – oh, and a human pyramid. It really was, the most awesome day.

Applewood Hall alternative Norfolk and suffolk wedding photographer bride and groom

For a no obligation chat or to find out which is my favourite Norfolk wedding venue, please click here. To read a little about my wedding packages and my style of shooting, click here.


boy by water summer evening children's photographer in suffolk and Norfolk

Qualified with The Guild of Professional Photographers TWICE! Weddings & Children

I'm Qualified with The Guild!

Yesterday I was informed that I am now a Qualified member  of  The Guild of Professional Photographers.

As a wedding and family photographer, there is no greater honour than to be recognised by my peers and I am so happy to receive this news!

There was no way that I could submit a panel of images to show my work for both weddings and children’s portraits at the same time. The two are SO different. So I was informed that I had to submit not one, but two separate panels for judging.

Scroll down to find out more…

What does it mean to have “Qualified Status”?

The Guild’s ‘Qualified’ status is aligned to standards of competence that reflect a level where the customer should be delighted with the quality they receive, when employing the services of a skilled photographer. In other words ‘Qualified’ indicates professional ‘competence’.  It’s a level where the Guild is willing to recognise the photographer as an ambassador of the association. Those who achieve this should be proud.

And I really am.

Submitting a panel (let alone two), is a nerve-wracking task and requires a certain dedication to improve. It also requires the willingness to hear sometimes difficult but necessary critique in order to improve your work.

What does it involve?

I had to submit a total of 21 images per panel (so 42 in total for me) taken in the past 2 years and relevant to the area(s) I wanted qualification in.

All the submitted images had to be what I had taken for customers and I also had to provide proof of my Public Liability and Professional Insurance Certificates.

The images had to be presented digitally and I had to write a short purposeful brief for each panel.

The judging process involves three judges assessing each panel.

What does being a Qualified member of The Guild mean for me and my clients?

In a nutshell, this means that I am continuously striving to be my best for my clients and also for myself. I’m a perfectionist at heart, so having a structured assessment process like this is perfect for me. It means I can focus on improving my skills which in turn means a better product for my clients.

Not only that, but being part of The Guild is like being part of an extended family for me. Everyone is so encouraging and supportive and it really does help to have this kind of support when you are trying to better yourself.

I’m already planning to apply for the Craftsman level which is the next level up!

Wish me luck!

Contact me to discuss your wedding photography needs or to talk about booking a family session.


newlyweds bride and groom Norfolk wedding

Katie & Tristan

I knew the very first time I met this couple that their day would be totally chilled out and heaps of fun. The perfect Norfolk wedding…

The Wedding Venue

Katie & Tristan had a beautiful wedding ceremony at St. Mary & Margaret’s Church in Sprowston. Dean, the Vicar at this beautiful little church, was so laid back and accommodating, I felt at home as soon as I arrived. I totally see why they chose this place to tie the knot. I met Tristan and the boys outside the church where they were in great spirits, taking the mickey out of each other and mocking each others socks. This was especially funny because they were all wearing the same socks! Before long, a steady line of friends and family began to arrive and a beautiful buzz filled the air.

The Ceremony

Katie arrived at the church in a gorgeous vintage car along with her father Bob. Almost as if the heavens had waited, the rain began as they entered the church and stopped when they left. This was especially incredible as the sun broke out and made way for a beautiful afternoon.

The Reception Venue

Katie & Tristan chose Sprowston Manor to have their gathering and arrived in style in their vintage car. They had laid out some golf games for their guests and the atmosphere was vibrant and full of laughter.

I’m so honoured to have been made a part of this special day and thank Katie & Tristan for choosing me to immortalise it for them.

Here’s a little sneak peek of how the day went:

For details of our wedding packages, please click here. Fancy a chat? Click here.


signing the register Woodhall Manor Suffolk

Simon & Liz

Woodhall Manor, Woodbridge, Suffolk

Saturday 6 July 2019

The Venue…

Liz & Simon had their special day at Suffolk wedding venue Woodhall Manor, a beautiful, Elizabethan country house. The day was chilled and relaxed and full of love and laughter. Various members of the family milled about as we arrived and Grandma greeted me to show me the cake she had made. Uncle Richard proudly pointed out that the cake decorations were not real flowers but in fact intricate icing decorations. Even the peg people cake toppers why made by the couple’s friend at Gabe & Penny. The atmosphere was full of love and we instantly knew it would be a brilliant day.

The Details…

This wedding was planned so carefully and with so much love, that Liz & Simon were in everything you looked at. Liz handmade a lot of the decorations herself  so there was so much detail in everything. The table plan was a sparkling, silver picture of the UK. Each table was a location that meant something to them and the table numbers were collages of memories from that place. Liz’s wedding shoes were hand adorned with sparkles and gems by Liz herself, only the night before the wedding. Even the wedding favours were handmade jars of jam, made by Liz’s Uncle Richard. The dress was from Bridal Elegance in Eccles and the flowers were provided by Jade’s Flowers in Colchester.

The Ceremony…

The ceremony room was beautifully decorated and looked almost ethereal with the pastel flowers, the arch and all the twinkly lights. Liz was walked down the aisle by both her Dads. Simon’s nervous demeanour quickly gave way to joy when he saw his bride. It really was a beautiful ceremony.

The Speeches…

The dining hall was even more magical than the ceremony hall thanks to Liz and Simon’s attention to detail. The floral arrangements were beautiful and there were even more twinkly lights (my favourite)! Speeches were made by Liz’s Dad, Simon and Simons two best friends. Simon got away lucky with only a few references made to his near miss the week before. He had been hit by an F1 car while out working in Italy on the tracks. (This is TRUE – Simon is an F1 engineer and was out on the tracks in Italy when it happened. He’s one VERY lucky man)!

The speeches gave way to a special little treat organised for Simon by Liz. A singer/songwriter called Jamie who wrote a song just for them. It even featured their beloved cat and a last minute amendment to include the F1 incident.

The Reception…

The evening was so much fun! There was a magician, Jamie did a little starter set and the whole thing was rounded off by a DJ and a lot of incredible shape throwing.

All in all, the whole day was absolutely brilliant and I am so happy to have been made a part of it. Simon & Liz – you guys rock – how long can I string this out and get you back to see me?!!!

 

To find out more about our wedding packages, click here. To get in touch with us to talk through your special day, please click here!

first dance Woodhall Manor Suffolk


Lensbaby Composer Pro II Sweet 80 Optic Girl brown eyes orange dahlia blue dress beauty dish fine art children's portrait photography

Portraits With A Lensbaby

A Portrait Session

Using The Lensbaby Composer Pro with Sweet 80 Optic

I shot a full portrait session using a Lensbaby Composer Pro II with Sweet 80 Optic. Here’s how it went…

Helpful hearsay

For years I had only delivered work for clients, something which is imperative for paying the bills. But what I found was that years of shooting for someone else had really stunted my creativity.  Someone pointed out to me that I needed to shoot for me as well as my clients. They told me that it would help me stay at the top of my game and avoid losing my mojo. They weren’t wrong.

I’d heard from a fellow photographer that the Lensbaby system was brilliant for getting the creative juices flowing. Apparently they helped the photographer to see things that they would never have noticed before. The following video is a brilliant run down of some of the new products that Lensbaby are offering at the moment and really helped me decide which one to go for.

The One

The Composer Pro II with Sweet 80 Lens seemed to be the perfect choice for me.  As a wedding and portrait photographer, my 85mm prime lens is my current favourite and produces the least distortion. I wanted something similar which could provide me with more creative options in-camera. I found this option via Wex and paid £229 for the Composer Pro II housing and Sweet 80 Optic in total.

 

Let’s do it!

I organised a full portrait session in my cabin studio which, in hindsight, was probably a little ambitious. I’d never used the lens before, in fact, it arrived only a few hours before my subject arrived at my studio!

I’d spent the morning at The Southwold Flower Co. flower fields, and picked some incredible blooms to add a pop of colour. I had a few moments before my subject arrived to have a practice run.

It was much harder than I thought.

A happy by-product of experimentation

I actually really love this first image as it has a vintage, almost ethereal feel about it. It reminds me of some of the early photographs from the 1900s. Not completely in focus but full of character and a sense of mystery. While experimenting with the tilt function, I moved the sweet spot around. This was another challenge as it meant that it could be difficult to see where the focus point was falling. Especially hard if you are shooting at f/2.8 (which I’d attempted with this image and the reason it isn’t sharp).

 

The not so ‘Sweet Spot’

The first thing I noticed was that getting that ‘Sweet Spot’ of focus right was tough. You select your aperture on the outer ring and then bend your lens to move the sweet spot around. The smaller the number (wider you shoot), the harder it is to see that sweet spot as it diminishes significantly. As you are focusing manually, there is no correlation between your focus point and the sweet spot. It takes some practice to get used to this as you have to really watch where your focal point is.

 

What you see is what you get

The larger aperture you go for (up to f/16), the less light is seen in the viewfinder. As a professional photographer you know that the wider you shoot the more light is let in. But modern cameras and lenses don’t show you this as it happens. You would normally adjust your ISO and everything is still clear in the viewfinder.

Not in this case.

When shooting wide with a Lensbaby, you have to make sure you don’t flood the scene with too much light. If you do, your image will be blown. If you are shooting at f/16, you’ll struggle to see your subject as the light is restricted in the lens. This means that you have to physically increase the light in the area or increase your ISO. This will then be reflected in your viewfinder.

 

Experiment with depths of field

This one was closer to the mark with the focus being on the little girl’s face. I had to stop down to about f/11 to make sure the sweet spot was on her eyes. Because of this, I then had to increase the ISO and up the power on the studio light.

Lensbaby Composer Pro II Sweet Optic 80 Ethereal vintage children's portrait photography sage green silk dress purple flowers butterflies fine art Lensbaby

Happy!

These three portraits came out really well and I’m super pleased with them. The first was at f/5.6 and I had to walk backwards to make sure the focus was on her eyes. I love how her quiff and the bottom of her hair and some of the butterfly go out of focus.

Hit & Miss

I’m really pleased with how these came out! The only thing is that her eyes are slightly out of focus on the portrait on the first and last images. I used f/4 and as this sweet spot is much smaller, thought I could step backwards and get it over her eyes. I’d failed to notice that the lens was slightly off-centre from a previous shot I’d taken where I’d taken using the tilt function. The portrait in the middle came out beautifully although I may crop in so the hand is lost out of the frame.

Playing it safe? Or getting it right?

I went with f/11, knowing it would make the sweet spot larger. This way I would have more chance of getting her face in focus. I also stepped as far back as my space would allow to maximise the chance of it being in focus.

If I’d had time to practice, I may have found a way to get to f/2.8 and the sweet spot in the right place. However I didn’t have that time and thought that I managed pretty well considering it was my first time! In any case, I’m really happy with how this turned out.

 

Lensbaby Composer Pro II Sweet 80 Optic girl brown eyes blue dress freckles orange dahlia fine art children's portrait photography

My absolute favourite

This one has my heart. I went with an aperture of f/8 and I WISH I had gone with f/11 or f/16 to get the orange dahlia completely in focus. It is still my favourite image of the afternoon though and I’m so pleased with the distortion from the flower and below. What it does to the sparkles on her collar and the texture of the velvet dress is lovely, all while keeping her eyes in pin-sharp focus.

Lensbaby Composer Pro II Sweet 80 Optic girl brown eyes blue dress freckles orange dahlia fine art children's portrait photography

The Wild One

This one was a real risk for me. I had asked my talented friend from Alfred Dubois Millinery to create the headdress and had used another incredible flower from The Southwold Flower Co. to set off the little birds we’d added at the last minute. I decided to go for it and shoot at f/4 and back up as far as I could go. You’ll notice that the sweet spot is over the eye closest to the camera and not quite over the other. To be honest, I’m not even worried about that because I am over the moon with the rest of it. When I asked for the headdress to be made, I hadn’t factored on this level of distortion so wasn’t prepared for it to be so out of focus. However, I really like how it’s turned out. The level of bokeh at the top and the bottom of the image really sets it off for me. How funny that it is nothing like the image I had in my head when we set it up!

Lensbaby Composer Pro II Sweet 80 Optic wild girl nature headdress giant yellow dahlia wild hair feral pretty fine art children's portrait photography

The verdict

So I may have been over-ambitious in my planning of a full portrait session. This much is true. But I think it worked!

This portrait session, shot with a Lensbaby Composer Pro II with the Sweet 80 Optic, went VERY well. The lens has so much creative versatility, I’m already planning to shoot on location with it. I WANT to put it on my camera and go on an adventure to see what it unearths. There is no question that I am going to have to use it a LOT to get to grips with how it works. But I am so excited to do just that. The whole reason I bought this lens in the first place is because I had lost my mojo. In a single session, it has reignited my passion for photography and made me want to get out there and shoot.

I would say that for that reason alone, it’s worth every penny.

 

Special thanks to Sarah & Mali Elbaz, The Southwold Flower Co., Alfred Dubois Millinery and Lensbaby. If you would like to book a portrait session, please click here. Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment or follow us on social media.


boy laughing in a field of wheat

Boyhood Unplugged

The Knights Family

I joined Sam, Chris & Ollie on the most beautiful family lifestyle session along the Suffolk coast. Their home is surrounded by an incredible palette of earthy tones, a different crop in every field and what seems to be their own private beach. For me, as a photographer, this is heaven on earth.

To add to the incredible luck of the Pinterest-worthy scenery, this family are my kind of people. Not only my namesake, their family values and belief system strongly match my own. While it has its place, technology is only part of their son’s lifestyle. With surroundings like this, Ollie is encouraged to go outside and play. To explore his world in the only way a six-year-old boy can. Watching these guys explore and play together was a real joy for me. It encouraged me to get my own children out and playing in the dirt and the grass.

Getting splinters and grazed knees should be a rite of passage for every child. It should be the norm, and not something that only happens when you’ve realised they’ve been on their iPads for too long. Unfortunately it is becoming a real issue where children form addictions to technology as toddlers. It then becomes so difficult to break this habit as they get older as they become so used to being baby-sat by these slabs of metal, they lose the ability to entertain themselves.

This is definitely not the case for Ollie. Sam & Chris have really made the most of the land around them and Ollie has benefited and will continue to benefit from this. Already full of beans and excited to get out there, Ollie reminds me of my own childhood – before tech took over.

Get your children outside. Find feathers, throw stones into the sea and have play-fights in the sand.

They are only this small once.

To find out more about our pricing for your own family lifestyle session, click here.


bride and groom leaning on luxury yacht wedding in Southwold river and harbour

Emma & Mike

Emma & Mike

Saturday 25th May 2019

bride and groom on a beautiful beach in the UK England, bride is laughing and has curly thick hair, groom is in blue suit

The Perfect Suffolk Wedding

This Suffolk wedding was so full of joy, laughter and emotion I could barely contain myself. I laughed and cried along with Emma & Mike through the ceremony and danced alongside them at the reception. From our first consultation, they told me they wanted a candid, relaxed wedding day and they requested their photography to match that.

wedding family piggyback racing

The details…

From the handpainted invitations featuring their very own fur baby to the miniature bottles of gin as favours, everything was so well thought out. The flowers were provided by the incredibly talented Lizzie Woolnough of The Southwold Wedding Co. and included Emma’s gorgeous floral crown. Emma also wore an incredible set from The Amber Shop in Southwold; an octopus necklace and ring. Both had an amber stone and were set in sterling silver. A beautiful gift from her future husband on the morning of their special day. The details were a true reflection of who Emma & Mike are because they wanted to be sure that the day was real. Nothing about this wedding was going to be traditional or anything that they didn’t want and I love them for that.

The venues…

The wedding ceremony was at The Swan Hotel in Southwold. Having recently been refurbished and updated, it’s new quirky take on decadence was the perfect place for Emma and Mike to get hitched. I still wonder whether their colour theme only matched with the decor by coincidence…

Afterwards, Emma and Mike had asked me to take a quick photo of them in The Nelson Pub before taking a couple on the beach. I don’t think I’ve ever turned down an invitation to the pub, so I was more than happy to oblige!

Once we’d had a little galavant by the sea, we took a trip down to the harbour where the happy couple had decked out the Southwold Sailing Club for the after party.

The food…

I feel like this needs its own section. The food was very simple. There were a few nibbles and bits out on a table in the club but most notably, they had a fish and chip trailer to cater for all their guests. Simple idea right? But OMG; it was the best idea EVER. Who doesn’t like fish and chips?! With a couple of vegetarian options too, this went down a storm among the guests.

beautiful wedding cake watercolour icing buttercream flowers blue pink and green

The cake…

I don’t feel like I can do this justice. Over the years I have photographed and tasted a LOT of wedding cakes but this one was really something. It was less a cake, and more a work of art. A watercolour, floral inspired piece of perfection not only incredible to look at, but also the most beautiful lemon sponge cake I have ever had the pleasure of scoffing. Made by the beautiful Beth Haxby Cakes.

The entertainment…

The entertainment was provided by some of the best local talent. Blues and skiffle band Owl & Wolves started the evening vibe with a perfectly unique, upbeat and stomping performance. Then Vix & The Kicks took over the proceedings and saw the evening into the night with their vibrant and energetic covers.

In a nutshell, this wedding really was one of the most unique, fun and genuinely beautiful days I’ve ever had the pleasure of shooting. It was such an honour to be part of it.

Here is a snippet of how that day went (music by Owl & Wolves). (Can we please do it all again?).

If you are planning your own amazing wedding, please click here for information on our packages, or contact me to find out more.