A guide to shooting winter weddings in 49 pictures

Dec 20, 2010 | Wedding | 22 comments

I thought I’d share some of the techniques that Julie and I employ to make winter wedding shooting stress free and very profitable.

I’ve taken 49 of the pictures from this seasons shooting winter weddings workshops to discuss and share my thoughts on.

At times like these in December 2010 with canals frozen over and a pretty winter landscape at our disposal that I choose to show it off. I placed the bride and groom in the shade of a tree to avoid squinting in the winter sunlight and I used a Speedlight on camera pointing straight at them. Put the camera in program and you can't go wrong. I'd like to say it was more complicated than that but it wasn't. Keeping things simple is our wedding shooting style.

It is at times like these in December 2010 with canals frozen over and a pretty winter landscape at our disposal that I choose to show it off. I placed the bride and groom in the shade of a tree to avoid squinting in the winter sunlight and I used a Speedlight on camera pointing straight at them. I put the camera in program mode so I couldn't mess up. I'd like to say it was more complicated than that but it wasn't. Keeping things simple is our wedding shooting strategy.

In the picture above I’ve shot from low angle to place the bride and groom against the sky. This avoids a trees in the background growing out of the brides head. A large depth of field was used to record the church and the winter scene in focus. This was taken in a seminar environment and the couple are looking at another delegate. I would normally have them looking at the camera for this kind of chocolate box picture.

1.

1. When you need inspiration for ring shots like these take a look around at advertising images of jewellery. I chose to include the button hole out of focus in this way to add interest to the image. The further you can get your detail shots to those the couple could shoot themselves the higher the perceived value becomes.

2.

2. This picture was taken on the window sill at the moment the sun was going behind a cloud. The window sill was a bit messy so I placed a white piece of hotel letterhead on it. Conqueror has it's uses. The grooms speech would have been just as good a background.

3.

3. The glass top on the side table afforded me the opportunity to get a reflection shot. I show the delegates how to get right in this tight using supplementary lenses on their 24-70 lenses. It is way cheaper than using a dedicated macro lens and lighter to carry around too.

4.

4. I show how to tell the story of the wedding by introducing different elements like the logo on the cover of this room service menu. Of course only one ring shot will make it in the album so I suggest shooting just one and making it gorgeous. None of four okay ring shots will sell, a fabulous one will.

5.

5. By cropping in camera and pushing the exposure I have kept the richness of this flower and pushed the background to a near white.

6.

6. In this shot from a different workshop I have shot square on and wider to show the stone mullions and metal window details. It's a shame the window cleaner hasn't been around for a while.

8.

7. When I'm shooting in low light interiors and having to capture action I use flash. In this case I showed how to rig a Speedlight remotely in a room and trigger it reliably from anywhere in the room. I love to crop in tight on shots like this and on cuff link shots. It stops them becoming portraits.

8.

8. I've captured this portrait using the same lighting as above. You can see the shadow of my flash on the grooms shirt collar. You can also see the warm glow from the table light beside him. As can be seen in the shot below.

9.

9. Into the window with flash. These shots are a doddle to shoot when you have been shown how. You can see the shadow of the flash on the wall behind the grooms left cuff but it doesn't detract from the picture. His shirt looks like a white shirt and his skin looks healthy. Job done.

Julie and I have never second shot for another photographer, attended another wedding with a photographer or ever seen another wedding photographer at work. The systems, techniques and psychologies we use are home grown.  This doesn’t make them better but everything we do has been thought out and rehearsed many many times. We teach our delegates how we work not in the hope that they emulate us but in the hope they go on to use the systems to develop their own styles. It is not until you have your own style can you charge top prices for it.

10.

10. I show how to see picture opportunities. To change the viewpoint. I explain how to use angle of view to include elements that make up the story. Like these swags and tails for instance.

11.

11. Julie chose to use ISO 800, 1/25th second at f/4 to record this shot. Julie and I use monopods for a lot of our shooting. This lets us get down to 1/8th second at times. Although I have an f/1.2 lens I prefer not to use it wider than f/2.8 because the shallow depth of field looks like an effect and quite unnatural. Julie and I set on f/4 as our look way back in 1999 and have stuck to it ever since.

12.

12. Some of the best lighting decisions are not to add any extra light and to use existing light. This is fine when the available light is good light. Quantity is far less important than quality. No amount of high ISO fast lens shooting can make great pictures in bad light. Horrible shadows and unflattering lighting angles need sorting. The best way to learn about light is to come on one of my studio lighting workshops. In fact most of my delegates don't have a studio of their own. They want to learn the fundamentals of light.

You will often see a bride looking down and away from camera or down with her eyes closed in our pictures. This forces the view to think about the emotions and thoughts of the bride. In the picture above Julie has directed a warm fun expression towards the camera. This maximises the brides fabulous eyelashes and shows off her hairstyle/ tiara.

13.

13. A picture of the back of the dress is a must and when it can't be shot gliding away from camera across the lawn it needs to be shot inside. Symmetry broken by the placement of the flowers gives this shot a simplicity despite the busy furniture.

14.

14. ISO 800, 1/40th second at f/4 Taken using windowlight. Julie and I always switch on the wall lights and table lights when we enter a room. The light in the background gives the picture depth.

15.

15. Julie shoots in Aperture Priority most of the time and here she used exposure compensation of +2.7 stops. When I started shooting with a Canon 5 series camera I couldn't dial in more than + or - 2 stops so the Av mode was useless to me. It was at that time I started to shoot in Manual mode and I still do. The exposure here was ISO 1600 (Nikon D700) 1/15th second at f/4

16.

16. Mirrors can be used in so many ways but I love Julie's simple clean elegant shot here. Leaving just one of the four mirror corners in the shot tells the story. Leave it out and the bride could be in the next room.

17.

17. I set up a lot of my images on the wedding day. It is quick, I can get the best light and my clients love the attention I afford them. This is the kind of shot I might take of the groom reading through his speech. 21mm lens shot from below the eyeline.

18.

18. This shot from above also taken with my 21mm lens shows a different viewpoint that is interesting. The ushers and best man will not have thought to capture images like this and that rewards the client for choosing a professional.

19.

19. Monochrome is on it's way out in high end weddings. Or more accurately a mix of mono and colour images in the same album has been done to death. All colour albums are of the moment in the high end offerings. Our last 3 weddings were all lavish affairs and all shot in colour. Not antiqued or cross processed, just pure natural colour. The albums will still look fantastic in 40 years time when the grand children are looking at them. Gimmicks devalue a product so quickly.

20.

20. Once you understand how to find fabulous available light it is just as easy to shoot arty shots in colour as well as in monochrome.

21.

21. Into the light really does mean that. ISO 1250, 1/15th second at f/2.8

23.

22. This was shot using a bare faced Speedlight resting on a windowsill. It's not our usual wedding shooting style but I'm happy to show delegates how to control the mix of flash and ambient light using my simple to understand and easy to remember technique.

24.

23. This shot was flashed yet remains believable because of the high key background. Julie and I use a simple system to shoot off camera flash on the go. Obviously this would be the brides dad here at this point. The obvious and boring way to shoot this is from the back using daylight and getting the bride and her dad to turn around to look at the camera. Julie and I set out to shoot differently 12 years ago and this and the next couple of shots are still in my repertoire.

25.

24. All three shots have the couple looking at each other. This shot from above makes the bride look tall and favours her.

26.

25. This shot from below also makes the bride look tall but favours dad. All three shots look fabulous on a single page. Why sell one shot when you can sell three.

27.

26. This is a fabulous shot to take at any wedding. I show delegates exactly how to steady the monopod with the camera on the top. A 1 second exposure at f/5.6 is usually ideal. I vary the ISO depending upon the light level in the church.

28.

27. The coming down the isle shots are another favourite of mine. I hold the camera over my head whilst walking backwards. I regularly check behind me and I use the camera in manual focus. Easy when you are shown how.

29.

28. Some weddings have the reception in a marquee. This sounds glamorous but if it is raining there is often absolutely no opportunity to take great shots of just the bride and groom because the tent is full of guests and laid up tables. In those situations we get the bride and groom to go round the block and slip back into the church for a few pictures. We clear it with the verger first otherwise the doors will probably be locked. Here are a few shots Julie and I have set up in the church to show how we do it.

30.

29. Simple pictures like this favouring the bride are always good sellers. Using a low camera viewpoint ensures the bride and groom look a similar height. The foreground background relationship is simple. The background mimics your action so as you go down the background goes down and as you go left the background does the same. Assuming that your foreground composition stays the same that is.

30.

30. An out of focus bright background sets the scene and gives depth to the shot.

31.

31.

I like changing the viewpoint and shooting into the light. This shot does both. Shots of the button hole flower in situ are often far better than still lives. You may well have to shoot both though as the florist will want some and you will need friends in your network for marketing purposes.

32. One of the things that Julie an I touch on during the workshop is how vital it is that your pictures can tell a story by themselves. Julie and I shoot passion, romance and love, not just bride and groom pictures. This is what gave us the edge and drove a constant demand for our work. In this picture the groom is strong, deep thinking and a safe pair of hands for our bride. Our bride is beautiful, content and feels safe in his arms.

32. One of the things that Julie an I touch on during the workshop is how vital it is that your pictures can tell a story by themselves. Julie and I shoot passion, romance and love, not just bride and groom pictures. This is what gave us the edge and drove a constant demand for our work. In this picture the groom is strong, deep thinking and a safe pair of hands for our bride. Our bride is beautiful, content and feels safe in his arms.

33. A similar story here shot from a different angle. The low viewpoint makes them look tall and statuesque.

33. A similar story here shot but from a different angle. The groom shows a softer warmer character in this shot. The low viewpoint makes them both look tall and statuesque.

34. Shooting into low winter sunlight give the image another look entirely. This time they both have their eyes closed and the intimacy is shared.

34. Shooting into low winter sunlight give the image another look entirely. This time they both have their eyes closed and the intimacy is shared. The bride is posed behind the groom in this shot and the angle of pose is set to make the most of the natural light. Finding natural light like this is easy when you know what you are looking for.

35. And here's that light in colour. The bride is saying 'Look, I've got my man'.

35. And here's that light in colour. The bride is saying 'Look, I've got my man'.

36. One space can deliver so many good saleable shots. Even if it is inside and lit with an Arri. A single lighting set up should be able to deliver a double page album spread of six or eight pictures.

36. One space can deliver so many good saleable shots. Even if it is inside and lit with an Arri. A single lighting set up should be able to deliver a double page album spread of six or eight pictures. This shot is not a great shot of either person it is a great shot of their relationship.

37. A simple elegant moment. Julie and I avoid taking pictures of full on kisses

37. A simple elegant moment. Julie and I avoid taking pictures of full on kisses.

38. The light on our brides face is coming from the grooms face and the rim light makes the shot. An identical lighting set up can easily be achieved with an Arri or a Lowel light.

38. The light on our brides face is coming from the grooms face and the rim light makes the shot. An identical lighting set up can easily be achieved with an Arri or a Lowel light.

39. Here is a couple shot that puts the bride in the driving seat.

39. Here is a couple shot that puts the bride in the driving seat.

40. A near kiss is all about the anticipation.

40. A near kiss is all about the anticipation and keeping eyes closed.

41. The frozen canal and the dull overcast sky made me shoot like this. I excluded the sky by using my 100mm lens and I concentrated on making pretty out of focus background

41. The frozen canal and the dull overcast sky made me shoot like this. I excluded the sky by using my 100mm lens and I concentrated on making a pretty out of focus background. Then I created the moment of fun and captured it. It's okay for a bride to wear a coat. It is a far better shot of the bride and groom with the bride warm than it would be with a cold bride without a coat. Do they look like they are having a good time being photographed? This is a good question to ask yourself when assessing your own work.

42. Another moment without my intervention. The energy is between themselves.

42. Another moment without my intervention. The energy is between themselves.

43. The next day when we shot another workshop the sun came out and we had a clear sky. How fabulous was that. If I had not taken the time to recce this location I'd have never found this vantage point. It's so easy to get too blinkered and not be adventurous enough to take the bride and groom the 300 metres needed to capture the shot. They will love it forever if you get it right. Shooting weddings well demands trust in you from your couple. If you say lets go for a walk the shots will be worth it they need to be totally on board.

43. The next day when we shot another workshop the sun came out and we had a clear sky. How fabulous was that. If I had not taken the time to recce this location I'd have never found this vantage point. It's so easy to get too blinkered and not be adventurous enough to take the bride and groom the 300 metres needed to capture the shot. They will love it forever if you get it right. Shooting weddings well demands that your couple totally trust in you. If you say lets go for a walk the shots will be fabulous they need to be totally on board. If they are investing a lot of money on your services this helps too. The more you charge, the better the venues you get to work at and the more committed your customers are (usually).

44.

44. The christmas tree shot does have to happen at some point. Lit with an Arri 300w Fresnel light. ISO 800, 1/60th second at f/4

45. I used a Lupo to creat the slash of light on this shot. I use the end of the day to demonstrate the lighting tools available from big flash, Speedlights, Lupos Fresnel spots, the Arri tungsten fresnel spotlights and the amazing Lowel battery light.

45. I used a Lupo 800 to create the slash of light on this shot. I use the end part of the day on my workshops to demonstrate the lighting tools available. I show big flash, Speedlights, Lupo daylight balanced Fresnel spots, the Arri tungsten Fresnel spotlights and the amazing 100w Lowel battery light.

46. The Lupo was used here too. A potted plant became a prop for creating shadows. A bit of dingle.

46. The Lupo was used here too. A potted plant became a prop for creating shadows. A bit of dingle.

47. And here it is in colour. Even a bland pavilion can strike up some interesting photographs with the right imagination.

47. And here it is in colour. Even a bland pavilion can strike up some interesting photographs with the right imagination.

48. Using the Arri 300 as a keylight and the Lowel battery light through the plant in the background.

48. Taken using the Arri 300 as a keylight and the Lowel battery light through the plant in the background.

49. The last shot of the day is often this exterior shot taken with an off camera Speedlight on a stand.

49. The last shot of the day is often this exterior shot taken with an off camera Speedlight on a stand. I set it up and each delegate gets the chance to lye on the wet grass and shoot it :) I can see the dedication or not at that point. Haha

Well there you are. A short journey through a few of the shots taken on a lighting winter weddings workshop. This workshop has been hugely popular and we have our next event details here. For more posing of couple advice join me on a dedicated shooting couples workshop. Details of that event are here. Shots from my last couples workshop are here. Perfect for pre wedding shoots too.

Please feel free to comment below.

22 Comments

  1. Antony Pratap

    I’m truly inspired! I just can’t close this page or navigate from. Loved every shot and I’m gonna try too =)

    Reply
    • damien

      Thanks Anthony. Stay inspired, Damien.

      Reply
  2. Fiona Campbell

    Hi Jed

    I have found that the Toast (admittedly for women but I’m sure there’s a male version somewhere!) long sleeved fingerless gloves made of merino wool are superb. The merino wool is just so warm and the gloves can be pulled over my hands when I’m not shooting. They are like normal gloves with just the fingers from about the second joint up cut off, and they go up to the elbow. They were in fashion last year!I couldn’t live without them. I guess you could create a male version by just buying a pair of merino wool gloves, chopping the fingers off and sewing them up.

    good luck!

    Fiona

    Reply
  3. Jed Eltom

    When you are shooting in sub-zero temperatures, have you found any gloves that can help keep you warm while still allowing you to use your camera without problems. My hands are always freezing, and I can’t wear gloves because they don’t allow me to manipulate all the buttons and dials on my camera properly.

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Jed,

      I dont use gloves, my hands are always warm. Some say that it means I have a cold heart. I don’t know about that.

      Cheers, Damien.

      PS: Underwater housings are designed to allow use of all the camera controls while wearing gloves – just a thought.

      Reply
  4. Chris Alford

    Hello Damien I have a question about the continuous lighting used in this wedding blog. I’ve watched the short video about the ‘Arri’ light and you explained modifiying
    the light in an excellent way.

    However, are there portable ‘battery packs’ for the ‘Arri’ lights or can they only be ‘mains’ used?
    Please reply. Much appericated.
    Thank you. Chris.

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your compliments, I use my Arri 300 with an inverter battery pack when absolutely necessary. It lasts just 20 minutes with my 12Ah battery but if it means I get the shot then I’m happy.

      I hope this helps,

      Damien.

      Reply
  5. Fiona Campbell

    Damien,

    Great shots as always. One question; do you take on winter weddings where the ceremony is after dark, and if so what do you do about lighting group shots?

    thank you

    Fiona

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Fiona,

      Thank you for your questions. Yes ceremonies after dark are commonplace in the UK winter. All churches are lit to about ISO 1600 1/125th second at f/2.8. The values you choose will be determined by the kit you own. For group shots inside I recommend a single studio flash head of about 500Ws into a shoot through umbrella or a Gemini with a pair of Speedlights and Pocket Wizards. The Speedlight option is about £1200 from scratch and the Studio flash option is about £500.

      I hope this helps.

      Damien.

      Reply
  6. John

    Hi
    Great shots, picture 15.
    Quote: “Julie shoots in Aperture Priority most of the time and here she used exposure compensation of +2.7 stops. When I started shooting with a Canon 5 series camera I couldn’t dial in more than + or – 2 stops so the Av mode was useless to me. It was at that time I started to shoot in Manual mode and I still do. The exposure here was ISO 1600 (Nikon D700) 1/15th second at f/4” End quote

    Is that hand held, monopod or tripod, once again great pictures.
    John

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi John,

      Thank you for your compliments. Julie and I always use monopods for wedding work. Tripods are too slow for us.

      Kindest regards,

      Damien.

      Reply
    • damien

      Thank you Simon :)

      Reply
  7. Sarah Ferrara

    Hi Damien, just a quick belated note to say thanks for this great day. I wasn’t able to apply for Evolve as I live in Italy but Blaise says you may be coming over here soon!!! Really hope so.
    Thanks again

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Sarah,

      Yes I’m due to shoot workshops at a fabulous hotel on the shores of Lake Garda at the end of October. I do hope you can join us. Perhaps I can spend a day with you working on your business too. Please contact Blaise for all the details or to set up a complimentary phone chat with me. Kindest regards, Damien.

      Reply
  8. Gwyn Cole

    I was fortunate to be one of the delegates on the 3 day wedding workshop in early December. The first day involved cameras and shooting with Damien and Julie. The depth and breadth of their techniques and general advice shooting at weddings will be valuable to me forever. The second day was all about business… This session totally rocked, it was awesome, fantastic and has already changed the way I think. The last day with Marko covered post-production specifically for weddings. Marko answered many of my burning questions and at the end of the 3 days, the Lovegrove team covered everything I needed to know and I now feel I have the tools needed to move forward.

    Thank you Damien for all your help and advice throughout this year. It’s been an awesome year and I could not have done it without you! Rock on 2011…

    Reply
  9. Jaz Ampaw-Farr

    OK I actually get it! Not the lighting names but the emotion and story in your images. It is a bit like finding out Father Christmas isn’t real seeing how you work your magic but it’s going to make me a better photographer!

    Reply
  10. Richie Carter

    I’m an avid reader of your blogs and I must say that I don’t know how you keep creating these WONDERFUL write-ups!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Richie

    Reply
  11. Bridie Murphy

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful work and techniques.

    Reply
  12. OttossonPhoto

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and techniques again Damien! Generous of you. Greetings to Julie too.

    Regards, Benny

    Reply
  13. Mike

    Excellent write up, not the usual “what lens, what lighting” crap but an insightful essay into your profession. Have to say wedding photography isn’t for me, mainly because I don’t think I’d have the energy and enthusiasm for it that you need and is so obvious in your work.

    There’s still a lot of info that any tog can find useful in this article and I’ve noted quite a few.

    Many thanks

    Mike

    Reply
  14. Phil Stanlley

    Great shots Damien
    Number 43 is my fave, great depth using the two lights, guess I need a Lowel to compliment my Arri……….

    Number 49 also really works for me, great mood

    Reply

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