Category Archives: Portraits

Why have an engagement photoshoot?

As part of every booking, I offer my clients a complimentary engagement shoot.  But why have a photoshoot, only a few months before your wedding?

If you don’t normally like being photographed, an engagement photoshoot is a great way to discover that being the subject can be great fun! I also really appreciate getting to know you more before your wedding, and you also get an idea of how it will feel having me as your photographer on the day.

There are lots of ways you can use the photos too. Some clients make an album, or give prints to family and friends and many use their engagement shoot photos on their invitations or wedding stationary.

Here are some images from my most recent engagement photoshoots…

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Photographing Musicians – Part 2 (behind the scenes)

Yesterday I shared some of the images from my shoot with Leah and Celeste. Today is a look behind the scenes of the shoot.

Here’s photo number one. Yes, I am wearing gloves…it was freezing!

Below is the shot I was taking at the time. As you can see above, I’m crouching down for a lower perspective, so that the cobbles lead into the image. The light is blocked on either side by the buildings, making it directional enough for a good black and white conversion. Leah was going for a Vogue-ish look, with a vintage vibe. The use of black and white and shooting in a street with old buildings helped create that.

I used a wide aperture (f/2.5) so that only Leah was in focus and the buildings behind her added to the vibe, but weren’t distracting.

(Nikon D700 & Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar @ f/2.5, 1/250th)

Number two is a good example of using whatever space is available. I’ve posed Celeste just inside the covered walkway between a giftshop and some public toilets. (Who says being a photographer isn’t glamorous?) I picked that location because a covered walkway gives brilliant control of light.

Here’s the end result. Celeste was looking for edgy photos that contrasted sharply with normal perception of a soprano. The strong light and brickwork are a big contrast to the style of images I was shooting for Leah.

Using the walkway with the strong light behind me has given Celeste lovely ‘catchlights’ in her eyes.

(Nikon D700 & Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar @ f/2.2, 1/125th)

Here’s another image from the same location. This time I’ve moved Celeste away from the wall and allowed the end of the tunnel to add a bit of backlighting to the scene. I’ve also moved slightly closer to make the depth of field shallower.

The result of a shallower depth of field (Celeste’s hair is out of focus on one side) and the backlighting is to make the image much softer. The strong light and leather jacket are still harsh, but the result is (I hope) an image that presents a more delicate side.

Note that Celeste’s eyes are placed at the top third of the frame and the eye closest to the camera is on the right hand third of the frame.

(Nikon D700 & Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar @ f/2.5, 1/160th)

Number three is, I think, the most interesting. We’re back in the same street as number one and I’m crouching down again, but this time I’m breaking all the rules.

Celeste is front-on and above me, traditionally an angle you would NEVER photograph a woman at – apart from making them look square, by shooting from below you also make them look larger. Not recommended! However, there is a reason for my flagrant rule-breaking.

By shooting from below, I’m putting Celeste in a dominant position, but by turning her head away from the camera I help to define her features, which goes some way to negating the fact I’m shooting her straight on. Shooting straight on makes her shoulders square, which adds a strength and aggression to the pose.

The most interesting part? The image below is Celeste’s favourite from the shoot. Some people will tell you there are no rules to photography, and in some ways they are correct, however, you earn the right to break the rules if you know them.

Finally, I shot with my widest aperture of f/2.0 to remove some of the distractions from the background and then chose a panoramic crop of the image, because I felt it best matched the look we were aiming for.

(Nikon D700 & Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar @ f/2.0, 1/160th)

Do get in contact if you’re interested in a portrait shoot.

If you’ve got any photography questions, do ask away via my Formspring page and if you’re interested in my 1-1 photography training workshops, you can find more info here.

Photographing Musicians – Part 1

Musicians have a reputation for being a temperamental bunch, but the ones I get to work with are an absolute joy.

It rained and the temperature just hit three degrees above freezing, but I have endless respect for Leah and Celeste who managed to look effortlessly chic and biker-chick (respectively).

Leah runs the incredible Blue Flamingo Entertainments, who I can’t recommend highly enough for any function – yes, I’m biased, they played at my own wedding last year.

Celeste Cronje-Richardson is not only a Royal Academy of Music graduate and wonderful soprano, but also the only person I’ve ever seen manage to pull off a concert dress and leather jacket…

Part 2 will be a behind-the-scenes look at the shoot, with a few more photos of both Leah and Celeste, as well as some shots of me in action. I’ll also explain the thought process and planning behind some of the images.

Engagement shoot – Susie & Andy

Every wedding booking includes an engagement shoot. To see more of my work visit Charlwood

Black & White Wedding Photography

The decision to make a photo black & white depends on all sorts of factors. I’ve frequently been asked, whilst running workshops, how I decide between colour and black and white for an image. There’s no simple answer, because most of the time I ‘just know’, but there are few key factors that make an image more successful in black and white.

For years the still image was black and white and there is still a raw power and emotion about the medium. By removing colour our eyes are drawn stronger to light, form/composition and the moment. Those three are my criteria for a good black and white. Some shots I’ll know instantly as I take them will be black and white, the combination of light and contrast demands it…

Other images will work well in both. For portraits there is a third dynamic, and that is the subject. Strong features and dark colour make for a good black and white, so subjects with dark hair and/or strong features will convert into black and white more powerfully…

There is only one ‘rule’ that I would offer, and even that is not always to be adhered to. Very often a black white image will not work if the subject is back-lit. When looking at a black and white our eyes are naturally drawn to the highlights of the image, if the background is an entire highlight then you can draw the viewer’s eye away from the subject.

The final image is one from last week’s wedding, and one of my absolute favourite black and white portraits…

(Shot on a Nikon D700 with a Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar lens @ f.2.)

If you’re interested in seeing more of my black and white wedding work, you can visit the black and white gallery on

Get in contact if you’re interested in a group or 1-1 photography workshop. I’m based near London, but happy to travel.

Conducting a shoot

One of the joys of photographing weddings is that you get to make friends with new people. Rachel and David were one of my couples in 2010, and we’re still in touch. When Rachel contacted me about a photoshoot I gladly accepted, not just because she’s hilarious fun to be with, but because she’s also an incredibly talented conductor, and I really enjoy shooting head-shots for musicians.

In her words Rachel “wanted some photos that looked like her”, so when people read their programs and see the conductor’s photo they can actually recognise her afterwards. I was very happy to oblige.

(For any interested photographers the first image was taken on a Nikon D700, 50mm f/1.4 lens @ 320 ISO,  f/2.5 and 1/400th sec. The second image was shot on a Nikon F80 with an 85mm f/1.8 lens with Kodak Porta 400 ISO film.)


I love this shot. It’s one from a series of photoshoots I did for a local children’s nursery. The girl pictured is more often running around, totally excited, with a huge smile on her face. This quiet moment was so fleeting, yet so poignant…


I must thank my friend Brandon, who I lived with when I was in Africa, not only for the ‘squared’ portrait concept, but also for being one of the many who inspired me to get into photography. To see some of Brandon’s amazing squared portraits of children in Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo, check out his Flickr.

This blog is mostly about wedding photography, with the occasional venture into other fields and consideration of weddings in general. I’d love to broaden out the discussion, especially on the weddings front. If you’ve got any ideas, comments, or would like to guest post, do get in contact.

To view more of my work visit