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Winter wedding photography – not for the faint hearted!

Wedding photography at the Place Hotel, Manchester

I thought I’d shot my last wedding of 2014 in early December (and I’ve still to blog the photos from that wonderful day, but the preview is here), but I was asked by my friend Karen Julia if I wanted to help her out at a wedding on the 29th.   I jumped at the chance.

Now, I’ve got to be honest, I love shooting winter weddings.  The reason?  Because they’re difficult.  I mean properly difficult.  Really, really hard.  Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise – they are hard work.  Mostly because of the light, which there’s never much of, and because it runs out very early on in the afternoon.  But also because of the temperature.  It’s cold.  Too cold to ask people to stand around outside for any length of time, if at all.  So everything also has to be done quickly.

But that also opens up possibilities.  The light that there is can be absolutely beautiful, if short lived.  And then, when it goes dark, a whole new world opens up.  Shooting indoors under artificial lights adds a weird mix to the colours.  Things become vivid or just plain strange.  I love it.  No other time of year gives you the chance to create images that look like this.

And if I’m being honest, there’s an ego aspect to it too.  It takes skill and patience to get a good result when shooting in winter.  Yes, the cameras that are around these days have made it much easier.  It’s possible to work in absurdly dark and murky conditions and get a result, but to get a good result requires more than the ability to press a button.  It requires craft.

Here are just a few photos from my last wedding of 2014 then, to illustrate what I mean.

First of all, low winter sun late in the afternoon, creating huge contrast.  But also great possibilities – see how the two women on the left hand side are sidelit by the sunshine.  Much nicer and more atmospheric than blasting them with flash.

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Holy Name Church on Manchester’s Oxford Road is truly stunning, but also lit by hideous fluorescent lights which, as it darkens outside, dominate.  But here, mid afternoon, I can balance the daylight and fluorescent to get a nice natural portrait of the groom, Caimh.

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Elaine’s arrival, with her dad.  During a ceremony you can’t use flash – it’s distracting and, frankly, discourteous.  But good kit (the lenses I use virtually suck light in), plus knowing how to set the camera means I can make it look light and bright.  In truth, it was just after 3pm and rapidly getting dark outside.

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The end of the ceremony, and it’s dark outside.  Look at the stained glass windows – you can see the deep blue of the sky as dusk settles.   I should point out that none of these shots have been made using a flashgun – as I said, it’s not really on to use them during a ceremony.  Better to use skill and knowledge to create images that produce a much more evocative atmosphere.

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By 4pm, when the ceremony ended, night was fast approaching.  But dusk means the most beautiful blue sky.  If you were one of the guests, you’d be struggling to see in the gloom but again, knowledge of how to set the camera means I can make it look brighter than it was.

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Many cameras, and a lot of photographers, would be screaming for mercy when confronted with this lighting scenario.  Harsh artificial lights on the top of the bus, deep, deep shadows, and a massive contrast between the two extremes.  However, if you know what you’re doing ….

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The Place Hotel, where the reception was held, is a wonderful venue in city centre Manchester.  This atrium has a glass roof, so hours earlier was flooded with light.  At this stage in the afternoon though, it’s dark to say the least.  You can tell because the lights on the pillars are so bright.  But my job is to make photos that are bright and vibrant.  No-one wants a shot of the bride arriving during what looks like an eclipse.

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You’ve got to love the palm trees.  I don’t know another venue like this.

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And the dining room.  In summer this room looks so different – because of the daylight coming in through the window at the back.  But as it’s winter, and dark outside, the scene is dominated by that riot of colourful lights – the downlighters on red walls, purple uplighters on the bricks, white and blue pin lights and chandeliers.  There’s even a bit of candle light thrown into the mix.  Fabulous.

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So, as I’ve tried to show, winter weddings are definitely not for the faint hearted.  However, they really do offer up wonderful possibilities for creativity that just don’t exist at other times of year.

If you’d like to discuss your own wedding day plans – winter, summer, autumn or spring – please get in touch.

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