Words and Pictures by Toast of Leeds
First of all, I have this reputation that I love dark places. I have no idea why this came about. But my work does lend itself to darkness. I'm a massive fan of Stanley Kubrick's work and the films of Tim Burton. Kubrick was a master of the light and I realised pretty early on that you can make even the worst hotel look amazing if you just take away some of the light. Shooting a bridal portrait in a terrible room can be transformed if you know how to work the light in the right way. I love the composition and shadows in old master paintings and they certainly have an influence on the way I shoot - they are very evocative and leave a lot to the imagination.. sometimes with photography, I think we show too much.
Shooting at Claridges is, like any of the big iconic London hotels, tricky. It may be beautiful, but there is very little natural light - man alive it's dark in there, unless you count the million candles and downlighters. If you do find a window, it's usually covered in heavy nets so out goes your use of natural light. Then you're only allowed to shoot in certain bits of the hotel and you're not allowed to set up lights anywhere, so finding pockets of artificial light is important.
For me, bridal prep isn't about shooting everything that goes on. It's about last minute touches and again, finding the right light. I don't just want an image of the bride getting her make up done, I want an image that has a certain artistic bent to it. If I have to move the bride to get the right light, I will. I begged and pleaded with the make up artist at this wedding to move into the window - sometimes you'll piss people off, but sometimes you have to be stern in order to get the right light.
Claridges has one of those huge imposing staircases and of course, what bride in their right mind wouldn't want a picture of herself sweeping down it on the way to the wedding right? Except the light is shocking. And yeah, we could bang up the iso... but instead as we reached the top of the stairs, I pointed out a pocket of light and told the bride to walk right through it on her way down. I'd love to tell you it happened naturally, but it enhances the drama of the moment even if it was directed.
The back of the church (Grosvenor Chapel) was pretty dark too so again, I hunted out the odd spot where there was a pocket of light. I love images that have a little bit of movement and aren't perfect - learning where not to focus was one of my eureka moments early on and I use it in a measured degree during a wedding but those imperfect images tend to be my favourites. It's also terribly invigorating if you're using a great second shooter. The confetti shot in this wedding isn't the obvious one but allowing yourself the freedom to not capture the 'important' moments, is very freeing and can lead you to shoot things you wouldn't normally shoot as you're too busy capturing the 'key' shot.
A lot of the portraits at Charlotte and Joe's wedding were shot using a video light - this meant that my assistant wasn't getting in the way of the guests, we didn't have to set up lights on stands and we could be fast and get out of the way as quickly as possible. Generally, I always light the speeches with a couple of gelled flashes on stands to give it a bit more drama and the same with the dance floor. I generally use Neewar flashes on manual with some Phottix Strata triggers. If I can't find a video light somewhere, I've been known to borrow a lamp and get a guest to hold it in the right place - knowing how to work the light to your advantage even in the darkest of places, can save your bacon.
Flowers by Flowers McQueens and gown by Marchesa