Joe & Izzy’s wedding at Wick Bottom Barn
Joe and Izzy’s wedding was something of a surprise for me because I didn’t know I was going to be photographing it until the day before they got married!
They’d booked one of my photographer friends to shoot their day and unfortunately, she was taken ill and couldn’t do it. I got a frantic phone call from her to see if I could help out and 12 hours later I was on the road to Marlborough.
Always have a back-up plan, kids!
So, a bit about their day … they got married at St. Mary’s church in Calne and held their reception at Wick Bottom Barn. I think I met all the locals trying to find the barn so I think you could call it a hidden gem! (So much so I can’t even find a website for it, so if you come across it please send me the link!)
It’s very nice though and perfect for that quintessentially English countryside wedding. It’s got a relaxed and rustic vibe, beautiful stone buildings, cosy candle-lit barns and views over the Marlborough Downs. However, it’s super dark inside with just two small windows (which illuminate absolutely nothing because they’re so high up!); so it’s not for the faint-hearted wedding photographer!
So onto some of my favourite photos from the day and a bit about what went into making them:
That time when your girls see you in your dress…
This is the reaction Izzy got from her girls when they saw her in her dress for the first time. Izzy asked her leading ladies to wait for the ‘reveal’ and they naturally gathered in this archway. Great choice!
I wanted to show both perspectives of this moment: the girls seeing Izzy and Izzy seeing her girls.
From experience, I knew that the immediate reaction of Izzy’s Mum and Bridesmaids would be the most telling so I decided to shoot that angle first. I love all the different expressions. I took a few shots and this one was the best.
Then it was a quick dash around the edge of the room, trying to keep out of the way, to get a picture of Izzy, looking FINE.
The Bride is the star of the show when she walks down the aisle
So I was pleased that the Vicar at Calne church was so accommodating and allowed me to work at the front of the church for part of the ceremony.
Straight down the aisle, seeing what the Groom sees, is usually the best angle for the procession.
I think a big moment needs a big picture so I shot this with a wide angle lens to allow the setting, the guests and importantly, the Groom and Best Man into the picture.
The focus is clearly on Izzy but I love that there’s so much else going on – the guests’ expressions, Joe crying and his Best Man reassuringly putting his arm around him. The Bride is the centre of attention but it’s a moment that involves everyone.
It was a lovely long aisle so I had to time to take a few shots; this is the one where everything came together.
There are big iconic moments at every wedding
…like the first kiss, for example.
It would be easy to shoot that, think it’s all over until the signing of the register and lower my camera; after all, it’s heavy and physically hard work to hold it up all the time.
But alongside the obvious moments, there are the less obvious but no less significant ones which happen around the bigger stuff and make your day (and photos) ‘yours’.
Like an extra kiss stolen by the Groom seconds after the ‘official’ first kiss.
These are the photos I get the most pleasure from and which I think say the most about a couple. The things that happen before and after the main bits. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a wedding photographer it’s to always be ready for anything!
I have this thing with old doors
Taking photos as the couple walk out of church is one of the most challenging parts of photographing a wedding.
Sometimes the aisle is so short you don’t get much time to catch a good expression. Sometimes the couple are so excited they practically run down that aisle and you’re lucky to get one shot! Guests stick their arms & tablets into the aisle to get a photo themselves and unwittingly obscure my shot. The Verger dashes to open the door and photo-bombs at just the wrong moment. I often feel like a Crystal Maze contestant!
But somehow you have to get that shot and then run for your life, trying not to fall over or look like a crazy stressed thing, to get outside before the couple, remembering to change your camera settings as you go.
But then I turn around, look back and see two of my favourite things in the world: a beautiful old door and a happy couple. Yassss!
There’s no need to intervene to get great pictures
The whole wedding day is a high but this point in the day is an almighty oversized high; a 16cm pair of Louboutin platforms type of high. It’s full of squishy hugs, pouty kisses, big smiles and much merriment.
So I think it’s a time that’s best enjoyed in the moment and photographed strictly hands-off.
This shot was taken seconds after Joe & Izzy came out of the church. I love that everyone is clearly so happy for them and I also love that it’s such a busy scene with several of their most important guests. It’s easily one of my all-time favourite photos.
The details matter
For me, a set of wedding photos wouldn’t be complete without photos of the little things, such as shoes, rings and flowers.
A lot of thought goes into the details but it can be difficult for the couple to take it all in and enjoy them on the day because there’s so much going on. So it’s nice to have a visual reminder of them.
And of course, there are detail shots of the details too! I like to be thorough!
Joe and Izzy had fresh flowers on their cake which I wanted to make a feature of. So after taking a photo of the entire cake, I took this close up one too.
Putting your cake somewhere that allows it to shine is always a good idea. A nice background and good light are essential to show your cake off at it’s best.
The cracked bare plaster and exposed brick at Wick Bottom Barn made a great background to Joe & Izzy’s cake; I loved the contrast of the pretty cake against the rustic wall. It was right opposite the entrance too, which meant I could open the door and get some good quality light on it.
There’s one thing I can be sure of on a sunny day…
… at least one person will question how and why I’m shooting group photos directly into the sun! Their wide-eyed look of horror says they clearly think I’m nuts!
To be fair, years ago, camera and film manufacturers recommended that you should always have the sun over your left shoulder because there’s a better chance of the picture coming out. Even today’s pro equipment can struggle with focusing, lens flare and auto-exposure in back-lit situations.
But my view is that it’s uncomfortable for your guests to be looking into the sun. Everyone will be squinting. It’s not flattering either; under-eye circles and wrinkles will be enhanced, and ladies in hats will have shadows cast over their faces by the brim.
The obvious solution would be to run for the shade (admittedly, I’ve been the first one there on scorching hot days to escape the heat!) but that isn’t always an option. Plus, I love including the weather in wedding photos if I can; it’s part of the story.
So the question is, how to do it?
Professional cameras and lenses help, of course, but shooting in manual mode is important to get the exposure right on people’s faces.
You can see it’s a beautiful day from the backlight that the sun has created on everyone’s hair and by placing the group with the trees behind them, there’s a striking contrast. That means losing a bit of detail in their hair where the sun is hitting the back of their heads but for me, that’s the joy in the photograph.
And most importantly, everyone looks radiant and relaxed.
Being photographed is quite an intimate thing
It’s a tall order for a wedding photographer to ask a couple to relax, be themselves and show how much they love each other with a camera pointing at them! Especially when they’ve only just met you!
But if you want emotion-rich photos then you’ve got to help them let go of any nerves or reservations they might have.
How on earth do you ask two strangers to relax and be romantic while you take their photo?!
Well, I don’t ask them to relax and be romantic!
Here, I’ve gently guided Joe and Izzy into a relaxed pose so that they look good. As we chatted they started to forget about being photographed. Before long, they were distracting each other and enjoying a lovely moment together. It’s a two-way thing: I created the atmosphere and they delivered the love.
The only solution is to find a photographer you feel comfortable with. And make sure the photographer you book, will recommend someone with a similar style and personality if they can’t make the day!
It’s relatively easy to take pictures of guests smiling
Sometimes I can stand in one place, rotate on the spot and fill my boots with smiles in every direction. Photos like that, of guests looking as though they’re enjoying themselves, are nice to have, for sure.
But I love to show the characters and relationships; those are the pictures that will make you laugh or remind you of something that happened.
In the shot above, I happened to glance over just as the waitress was offering the group a top-up of champagne. The guy in the blue suit looked down at his glass which was still quite full and I guessed from his body language that, nevertheless, he wanted more! He took a long swig before offering it for refilling! His friends laughed, the moment came together and I had my shot.
Shots like this take time because you have to watch and wait for those moments happening and be quick to catch them before the moment is gone.
So when you’re planning your timeline you’ve got to keep the formalities to a minimum if you want shots like this.
In this picture, I spotted an evening guest arriving so decided to watch, wait and follow him discreetly to see who he would greet first. He was clearly excited to see two of his friends!
A photo of the three of them chatting later on in the evening would have been nice but for me, the initial greeting is a much more exciting expression. It makes me wonder how they know each other, how long it’s been since they last saw each other, how they know Joe & Izzy…
In this one, the Groomsmen were enjoying cigars after dinner.
The plumes of smoke were essential to make it obvious what was happening so I waited until this Usher took a drag then raised my camera and rattled off a few shots.
I wasn’t entirely happy with what I’d caught though.
What’s happening in the background is just as important as the main subject and here it needed the two guys in the background to do something to make the photo more dynamic.
I think by this point the Usher had spotted me but he seemed happy to oblige by making dramatic wafts of smoke! I waited until the guys in the background smiled, took my shot and then left them all to it.
Being able to read people and knowing when you can carry on and when you need to back off is massively important. Making the guests feel comfortable is as important as making the couple feel comfortable IMHO.
Sometimes you’ve just got to get the shot!
This was a very simple capture: I turned around, saw Izzy walking towards me with a friend, lifted my camera and grabbed the shot.
I had to take it fast without too much thought because they were walking quickly and would quickly be out of shot. I took a few frames and this one where they’re laughing together was my winner.
It’s a simple shot but I love the feeling of it. A moment for just the two of them and everyone around completely oblivious.
Firepits were lit outside the barn as dusk fell
Nothing much was happening around them at that point so I made a mental note to revisit them later in the evening. By nightfall s’mores were a go-go!
You have two choices when it’s dark: use a flash or push your camera settings ridiculously high. The biggest downside of using flash is that it lets people know you’re there.
I didn’t want to distract the boys for this photo because the moment looked great as it was, so I decided to crank up my camera settings and use the flame as my light instead. That gives a grainy finish but in this instance, I think that adds to the feel of the photo.
As always, I took a few shots and this was my winner by a long way. The boys are naturally creating a triangle with their bodies, which leads your eye around the photo. I see the guy standing up first then follow the direction of his eyes down to the marshmallow, his hand then takes me to the guy to the left, my eyes follow his arm down to the firepit and gradually back up the other side. It’s easy on the eye (no, not in that way! Although it is.)
I love how the flame is lighting up their faces. I love their natural expressions. I love that they’re holding drinks and I love that their ties are lit nicely too; you can tell they’re celebrating at a smart event. Most of all, I love the juxtaposition between their smart suits and the roughness of cooking on the fire.
Now, let’s talk about that
cave dark barn!
You’ll hear photographers talk about light ALL. THE. TIME. Heck, we’re obsessed!
Great light is a massively important part of photography. And as a documentary wedding photographer, I prefer natural light because it allows me to be discreet.
So imagine my horror when a big storm sets in during dinner and the venue battens down the hatches!
The only useful source of natural light was from a big barn door and when that was shut, beautiful as it was, it was a total black-out except for candles!
The human eye is insanely good at seeing in the dark but my goodness, I could barely see my shoes!
The atmosphere in the barn being lit just by candle-light was magical. There’s no denying that. It felt slightly Hogwarts, actually, especially with the long banqueting tables. Using a flash would have killed that atmosphere in the photos.
So what to do?
Shooting in those conditions is tough, even for an experienced pro.
You’ve got to get the exposure right because it’s worse than unforgiving if you have to adjust it in post-production!
And I still had to push my camera to its limits. Candles really aren’t very bright!
You also have to be very critical about what’s going to work and what isn’t. I concentrated solely on the guests that were well lit by candles. Most guests were too far away from the candles for the light to reach them so the pictures during dinner were a select few.
But quality over quantity.
(For the tech nerds out there: the image above is shot at 12,800 ISO, f2.8, 100th sec. The colour version is totally useable; I just prefer it in B&W. I’m so thankful for amazing equipment!)
Are you getting married at Calne Church or Wick Bottom Barn?
We’d love to hear from you if you are! They’re both great locations so I have my fingers crossed we can work there again soon!
In the meantime, you can see more of Joe & Isabella’s wedding photos below.