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C-app-turing Emotion

April 7, 2014

Wedding trends come and go, and wedding photography is a susceptible to the vagaries of fashion as much as dresses and cakes, but there’s a timeless quality to honestly captured moments that I always try and strive to bring to my work.

It was my ambition to be a documentary photographer that led me into this field, so it was great to be asked to contribute to a recent e-magazine feature in on ‘capturing emotion’ that showcased wedding reportage images in favour of overly posed and post-processed wedding photography.

Rachel Spivey Photographer featured in My Wedding Mentor digital magazine

My Wedding Mentor is a great little app created by award-winning wedding planner, Dee McKeeking, who knows a thing or two about planning a big day. Rather than focusing solely on case studies and inspirational articles, these regular handy guides have more of a practical ‘how to’ approach to things and are well worth checking out.

Rachel Spivey Photographer featured in My Wedding Mentor digital magazine

Myself and a couple of other well-respected photographers were asked to contribute a few images and a fill in a short interview and I was delighted that my images were chosen, not only for the front cover, but also for the lead-in to the article.

Here’s how my pages turned out…

Rachel Spivey Photographer featured in My Wedding Mentor digital magazineRachel Spivey Photographer featured in My Wedding Mentor digital magazineRachel Spivey Photographer featured in My Wedding Mentor digital magazine

Rachel Spivey Photographer featured in My Wedding Mentor digital magazineRachel Spivey Photographer featured in My Wedding Mentor digital magazineObviously that is just a small sample of the content. You can download the whole issue here.

Big thanks to all the couples in the photos and of course to Dee for asking me to take part.

RS x

Welcome to Cheekington

January 31, 2014

It’s been a while since I have been out shooting at burlesque events, but over the few years I was involved with Garter Lounge and Missy’s Revue I amassed quite a back catalogue of imagery. And, other than my retrospective exhibition last summer, I have struggled to know what to do with it all.

Until my little brother announced he was setting up a new giftware business, Cheekington.

Cheekington log

Under the banner ‘The home of beautifully cheeky gifts’ he is testing the market with a limited range of homeware and gifts. featuring some choice pics from my archive.




Glass placemats and coasters featuring Emmanuelle Claire and Missy Malone

Right now it is only a toe in the water to see how gift buyers respond, and with placemats and coasters that show key moments from striptease routines, it’s a product portfolio we know won’t hold mass appeal to vast swathes of middle England. That said, everything always stay on the right side of cheeky and its cool to think that my photos could be adding a bit of sexy cool to dinner parties up and down the land.

As well as homeware the launch range includes a number of smaller accessories and gifts.


Burlesque_fabric_badges Burlesque_keyring_mirrors


Burly flavoured badges, fabric brooches, handbag mirrors and cufflinks

A select number of items were debuted at the Top Drawer show in London last month and you can see the entire range at the Spring Fair between 2-6 February at the NEC, but if you’re interested to know more please get in touch with John Cooper, Mayor of Cheekington at

All the feedback so far has been extremely positive and I’m sure they’ll raise lots of eyebrows and hopefully a few purchase orders too.

RS x

My Night with Sir Ranulph

December 30, 2013

’Tis the season that blogger types the world over get a bit reflective and do their reviews of the year, but that seems a bit daft when all you have to do is scroll down to see some of my highlights.

And while its been quite action packed recently, a late entry to my 2013 best-ofs  happened only just a couple of weeks ago.

Explorer and adventurer Ranulph Fiennes photographed by Rachel Spivey

Adventurer, raconteur and frostbite expert

As a photographer I get asked to do all kinds of stuff and go all kinds of places, so when I was asked to shoot Sir Ranulph Fiennes at the Savoy, I jumped at the chance of a bit of glamour and high-society.

Conference at the Savoy

Famous the world over, it was nice to top a year of great venues with The Savoy, London

Sir Ranulph was the guest speaker at conference organised by a serious global financial services company and the event was as top-notch as you’d expect.

Speaker at a conference at the Savoy in London by photographer Rachel Spivey

…it was this big

My job was to capture all the action – well, people stood in front of PowerPoint presentations and other people sat around tables listening to them – and generally record the two-day event for posterity.

Conference food at the Savoy

Exquisite food, beautifully presented

I’ve covered a number of conferences and events like this over the years, but never one where the puddings came adorned with a pansy!

Conference room at the Savoy

The Savoy offers a bit more than your average conference room

The conference included a series of speakers on the main stage and a number of small group meetings. A select number of  delegates even got to enjoy a private dinner with Sir Ranulph and it was cool to be in the room and witness him holding court with his anecdotes of daring do.

What an incredibly charismatic character!

Ranulph Fiennes after dinner speaker photographed by Rachel Spivey

Sir Ranulph telling of his exploits

When you do a job like this, it’s great to feel part of the crew and one of the best parts of the event for me was hanging out with the lighting and sound techs. That sense of camaraderie and teamwork is one of the things I miss working on my own.

After a lot of on-stage shots I was soon in my element working the room and capturing some candid moments, though it was very different vibe to the weddings I have been doing a lot of lately.

Candid photos of conference delegates by Rachel Spivey

Delegates mingling

Often at these things there’s some sort of entertainer working the room, usually a magician or some such. It’s good for me as it’s a distraction and makes people less conscious of the camera. In addition to a graphologist the organisers had hired a fantastic silhouette artist, Charles Burns. He just snipped away freehand and knocked out some incredible likenesses in just a few minutes. I was very impressed.

Silhouettes by Charles Burns

The intricate silhouette work of The Roaming Artist

I’d like to thank Alison Medwell who approached me to do the job. The last time I photographed Ali was her wedding in 2011 and it was lovely to see her in full swing and witness first-hand how well her new event company Medwell Creations is doing.

Event Silhouette artist Charles Burns

Charles gets to grips with Ali’s professional profile

So, along with all the Christmas wedding album orders and December weddings, it has been a mad month and a fitting end to a busy year.

Thankfully the rumours around the wedding industry that bookings would be in 2013 down due to superstitions about the date proved unfounded in the end. As always I have met some great couples and give thanks to the Wedding Photography Gods for continuing to send me the nice ones!

It was a tough decision to say bye to the studio in June, although to be honest I haven’t looked back. It’s been great to continue working with established clients like Ochre and Ocre, nice to be out and about shooting pubs again for Marston’s and fun to work with some like minded collaborators like the Vintage Hair Lounge and Carrie Southall and Katherine Doyle

No round-up would be complete without special mention to Dan who has proved invaluable time and time again.

And, of course, a huge thanks to my special ‘back room boy’ Mr Spivey for his patience and enduring support, especially when things get crazily busy.

Also to my Mum for stepping-in (often at short notice) and looking after my boys.

Blimey, it’s like an Oscar speech…

Here’s to a cracking 2014, whatever it may bring.

RS x

An Assistant’s Eye View

November 30, 2013

Hello. I’m Rachel’s assistant, Dan.

Normally I’m somewhere behind the scenes, but when Rachel asked me to take a few shots at a recent shoot and be her ‘guest blogger’ this month, I thought ‘why not?’

Let’s see how this goes…

Photographer's assistant lighting test

I’m very good at being a lighting test subject

I first met Rachel when she photographed my cousin’s wedding at Clearwell Castle in Gloucestershire in 2010. I liked her style of work and approach to photography and got in touch a year and a half later to see if I could gain some experience in the photography field. She agreed and what began as a placement during my final year at university studying graphic design (with a great interest in photography) turned into this part-time role once I had finished. 

Rachel Spivey Photographer at work shooting images for a catalogue

Rachel at work

I have worked with Rachel for two years now and I love how varied the work I get to do is.

Generally I assist on all of her commercial photo shoots and weddings and everyday is different. We can be travelling the country to far-flung locations one day and setting up a studio shoot in Leamington the next. My job can entail everything from transporting kit and setting up equipment to holding ladders and location security, though I do get to use my design skills when styling sets and hand assembling Rachel’s high-end, traditional wedding albums.

Last Friday before we were out photographing the Spring Collection for one of Rachel’s regular and long-standing clients, an organic linen company, Ochre & Ocre.

Tess from Ochre & Ocre setting up a shot

Tess from Ochre & Ocre setting up a shot

Our location for the day was a big town house in Leamington Spa. The owner was very kind and welcoming and seemed cool with us taking over her home for the day. The kitchen/dining room we worked in was beautifully designed and great for the lifestyle shots we set up. It also helped having the space to create the scenes while I got on and prepared something else in a different area of the room.

Tess and Rachel

Tess and Rachel

Tess was very organised, and had planned all the shots in advance. I made sure that all the surfaces and reflective cupboards were spotless and helped to look out for any small details that could be corrected on the shoot rather than in post-production. Ensuring all the angles of furniture were straight and objects were precisely placed might not seem important, but it’s surprising how much is involved on shoots and how long it can sometimes take to set up scenes to get it right.

Tess and Rachel

Behind the scenes

The day itself had a really good vibe, with me, Rachel and Tess all working well together. With a good selection of music being played in the background, we got on with what we set out to do and we were pleased with what was being produced. Lunchtime of course, was three rounds of bangers and mash from Aubrey Allen, which went down a treat and gave us that energy kick for the rest of the afternoon.

The final shots look great, and despite all the attention to detail that went into them, still manage to have an informal, relaxed feel, which really suits Tess’s products.

Room set photography by Leamington photographer Rachel Spivey

A shot that displays a number of items in the range, as well as a close up detail.

There’ll be more to see when the new collection is launched early next year.

My own ambitions are to progress in the photography and design fields, working commercially and producing my own artworks for people as I also specialise in wildlife and artistic photography. I’m learning loads working with Rachel – not only the technical aspects of how to actually achieve a shot (and all the creativity that goes into it), but also how to work alongside lots of different people, whether they are a happy couple on their big day, other designers and creative directors or clients like Tess.

I’m looking forward to seeing all the shots in situ in the next Ochre & Ocre catalogue and really excited about our next job which will be to photograph one of my favourite bands!

I’ll let Rachel tell you all about that in her next post!

Thanks for reading

More shots at more bars

October 31, 2013

What started in Wales last Bank Holiday continued across Somerset, Berkshire, Worcestershire and Yorkshire this month, as my assistant Dan and I hit the road to continue our photographic pub crawl around the UK.


Gilty pleasures

We’ve covered thousands of miles, visited a wealth of hostelries and, while there’s never any drinking on the job, seen off a fair few pub lunches.

Commercial interiors photography by Leamington Spa photographer Rachel Spivey

Clear, uncluttered interiors were a big part of the brief

Commercial interiors photography by Leamington Spa photographer Rachel Spivey

Studying the specials board

If you’re in the hospitality business these days presenting yourself at your very best on sites such as and Trip Advisor is crucial. People want to make an informed choice – especially if they’re staying somewhere overnight – and quality professional photography plays a key role. The pub company who commissioned me recognised they need something better than a few snaps from a phone to give them a competitive edge, so it has been my job to create a visual showcase of the inns in their estate.

Commercial interiors photography by Leamington Spa photographer Rachel Spivey

All tucked inn

Commercial interiors photography by Leamington Spa photographer Rachel Spivey

Just noticed that this chap hasn’t got any shoe laces

The different pubs we photographed were as varied as they were far apart. Some are beautiful old properties in scenic locations, while what others lack in interesting surroundings they make up for in good value accommodation and service. Apart from a bit of expert towel folding courtesy of Mr Barnes, my brief has been very much to ‘photograph what’s there’, rather than over-style it, fill it full of models and light it within an inch of its life.

The Bear at Street

The Bear at Street with a great view of Glastonbury Tor from one of the windows

In some ways it has reminded me of one of my first editorial commissions for Waitrose Food Illustrated.

Back in the mid-nineties I was one of their regional photographers and would be sent to some of the finest restaurants in the country to photograph the venues along with the dishes.

Editorial photography by Leamington Photographer Rachel Spivey

Some of my old editorial work for Waitrose Food Illustrated

It was great having top chefs style their own creations for me, but I’m just as at home capturing good, honest pub grub.

Commercial interiors photography by Leamington Spa photographer Rachel Spivey

Along with a big a checklist of ‘must do’  shots of the exterior, gardens, rooms, etc. I was also tasked with capturing a handful of shots of customers. Relying on whoever happened to walk through the doors that morning added an element of unpredictability to the proceedings, but as it turned out, I met a good number of ramblers, businessmen and regulars who were more than happy to be featured in the shots.

Commercial interiors photography by Leamington Spa photographer Rachel Spivey

Happy ramblers

Commercial interiors photography by Leamington Spa photographer Rachel Spivey

A deal going down

Commercial interiors photography by Leamington Spa photographer Rachel Spivey

Morning coffee

Group in pub

Lunch for four

The final part of each shoot was to head out and capture a bit of the local landscape or points of interest. Of all the places we visited I was really quite taken with Street, near Glastonbury. The pub there, The Bear, was just opposite the original Clarks factory which is now a shoe museum.

If I’d had more time I’d have liked to have had a nosey round.

I’m quite partial to shoes.


The Shoe Museum in Street

And around the corner we found this cool little art deco lido, Greenback Pool which was originally a gift to the women of the town by shoe heiress Alice Clark. As the menfolk of Street would swim naked in the nearby River Brue, Alice a keen supporter of women’s rights, left money in her will along with instructions that a pool be built so the women and girls would have somewhere to bathe.


Greenbank Pool in Street

Well, what’s a pub crawl without a bit of pub trivia?

We’re heading out to Berkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire over the next two weeks for the last leg of the tour

RS x

To the Manor Barn

September 30, 2013

Has it really been half a year since I blogged about that snowy wedding back in March?

Honestly, where’s the summer gone?

I know that I have spent a fair amount of mine photographing happy couples on superbly sunny days and racking up several hard drives’ worth of great images.

Some weddings have the best venues to shoot in, others are blessed with perfect light at the right moments, others absolutely nail the ‘guest to champagne ratio’ and everybody smiles, and sometimes… sometimes I get to shoot a wedding where everything comes together beautifully. A wedding like Nic and Adams.

by Warwckshire wedding photographer Rachel Spivey

Nic and Adam looking resplendent against the Northamptonshire countryside

I never take any wedding commission for granted and was thrilled when Nic and Adam booked me. They were very chilled about everything as they chatted through their plans for the day, and I admired their laid back approach.

And it turned out the camera simply loved them.

Bridal preparations by Warwckshire wedding photographer Rachel Spivey

All set – Nic gets ready to have and to hold

I do like it when I get chance to go over and take a few shots of the bride getting ready. It’s one of my favourite parts of the day and, if I haven’t done an engagement shoot with the couple, it always helps get folks used to me sticking a lens in their face.

Bridal preparations by Warwckshire wedding photographer Rachel Spivey

In front of one of the windows at Fawsley Hall

Nic and her bridesmaid set up their bridal prep HQ at Fawlsey Hall, jut down the road from where the ceremony was taking place at Dodford Manor. I have shot at Fawsley a couple of times before, it’s got a lovely feel to it and the big bay windows make for plenty of light in the rooms.

We spent about an hour as Nic busied herself with hair and make-up and then we were on our way to the ceremony.

Dodford manor wedding venue, Northamptonshire

Dodford Manor, Nothamptonshire – straight in to my top ten chart of wedding venues

I was really impressed with Dodford Manor‘s complex of 16th Century barns. They were sympathetically converted and the warm stone and contemporary fittings provided a classy, neutral backdrop to the celebrations.

Warwickshire wedding photographer Rachel Spivey

A small window that allowed a peep-hole into the main barn proved irresistible

I know that Nic and Adam had searched for a venue with a relaxed rural feel and think Dodford suited their day perfectly. Then, of course, there’s the added bonus that the registrars in Northamptonshire are not bound by the same photography restrictions that their counterparts in Warwickshire insist on.

Making the short hop over the county border always works for me.

Wedding guests arrive in a vintage Midland Red bus by Warwckshire wedding photographer Rachel Spivey

This superb vintage bus was laid on to ferry guests to and from Leamington

Bridal swigs champagne in a candid photo by Warwckshire wedding photographer Rachel Spivey

Calming those last-minute pre-wedding jitters

Brid peeks at guests through small barn window by Warwckshire wedding photographer Rachel Spivey

Another peek at the guests proves too tempting

Groom and Groomsmen get ready by Warwckshire wedding photographer Rachel Spivey

The boys make final adjustments

Waiting for the bride at Dodford Manor by Warwckshire wedding photographer Rachel Spivey

One more time – The Father of the Bride checks his watch again

By the time the ceremony began, the low late summer sun was streaming through the large barn windows, bathing the venue in light and resulting in some contrasty shots that suited some timeless black and white conversions.

You’d think I’d be complacent about this stuff now, but the moment the bride and groom see each other for the first time on the day always gets me. I had to work fast to capture both these expressions.

Look at them, weren’t they just made for each other?

Bride arrives for her wedding

Adam and Nic see each other for the first time (well, not counting Nic’s peep through the window!)

Bride and Groom sign the register by Warwckshire wedding photographer Rachel Spivey

Posing with the register

After the ceremony we headed up into the grounds for some formal portraits before ticking all the group shots off the list and getting back to the barns to catch the guests mingling in the sunshine.

Contemporary bridal portraits by Warwckshire wedding photographer Rachel Spivey

Nic with her bouquet by Sarah Horne

Groom and Best Man by wedding photographer Rachel Spivey

Preparing for the group photos in front of the old church

Converted barn wedding venue in Northamptonshire

Guests congregating in the Manor courtyard

View from wedding reception window

This photo came pre-captioned

Candid photography of wedding guests

Shiny happy people

The reception itself took place in another of the barns decked out with exposed oak beams and styled with some suitably rustic arrangements by the areas go-to wedding florist Sarah Horne.

Sarah Horne flowers photographed by Leamington photographer Rachel Spivey

Flowers by Leamington’s Chelsea Flower Show Gold award-winning florist – Sarah Horne

Kissing in the bar

An unposed moment before making their entrance

It all made for a relaxed affair with witty and amusing speeches and some nice touches, such as that day’s pools coupon as a wedding favour for everyone.

Wedding speeches

The Father of the Bride makes his speech

Wedding guests listen to speeches

Adam’s sister amused at an anecdote

Wedding guests check pools coupons

For Richer, for poorer – a pools win for one of the guests?

Best Man toasts the bride and grrom

The Best Man toasts the happy couple

Adam and Nic even arranged extra meals for Dan and I, so I can also vouch for the food, which was delicious. The staff at Dodford were great too. They really looked after us and made sure we were OK for soft drinks throughout the day. You wouldn’t believe how much a small thing like that makes such a difference a wedding photographer. It was a full, but enjoyable day and I hope this small selection of shots give you a flavour.

The first dance

The first dance

Wedding guests dance the night away

The very last shot on the roll

The wedding bookings slow down after September, but they certainly don’t stop for me. There’s plenty in the diary between now and Christmas, and I’m sure I’ll be showing off the results either here or on my main weddings site at some point in the future.

Many thanks to Adam and Nic for letting me share their day on here.

Here’s to them!

RS x

Bank Holiday Terrific

August 31, 2013

I’ve recently been given a fantastic brief to photograph a whole load of pubs around the UK and, with the summer about to draw to a close, I took advantage of last weekend’s beautiful weather and headed out to Wales to tick a few off the list.

Oh, and as it was the Bank Holiday weekend, the family tagged along too.

Aberystwyth sea front and beach

Aberystwyth sea front

With work, moving studios and house renovations, it’s been a busy old summer – besides, it’s almost impossible to plan family holidays at the height of the wedding season. It all seems to have flown by this year, so, when it was suggested I combine a shoot with a long weekend’s tour of one of the prettiest parts of the UK, I didn’t take much persuading.

My borrowed van was packed, the kids were briefed to be on their best behaviour and we were on our way the west coast seaside town of Aberystwyth.

Arriving on the Saturday evening, the first job was to get to the pub and bag some nice shots as the sun started to go down.


A pub – Aberystwyth

It would have been rude not to stay for our tea, so we did.

After a night in a perfectly serviceable holiday cottage, the kids and husband were packed off to explore the town and I was back the next day to take more shots ahead of their busy lunchtime period. It is always tricky shooting in working environments that are open to the public and there’s an art to being in the thick of things while not getting in the way.

It means you have to work fast, get all the shots that are needed and get gone. Though all the staff here were very accommodating and helpful which makes a huge difference.

Bar staff and a snapped dragon

Bar staff and a snapped dragon


Diners dining

As well as the pub exteriors, interiors, staff and customers, I had also been briefed to capture a few local vistas , so I got to explore a bit with my cameras. Beach, marina, castle, pier… all the essential seaside town ingredients are present and correct in Aberystwyth.

I was quite taken with it.


Aberystwyth marina and castle


The Hut

The business of the day done, I headed back to town to find the rest of Spiveys, who, having spent up in the arcades were sitting on the sea front, all damp from a paddle in the Irish Sea.


Having spent all their money on slot machines, the Spivey boys improvise donkey rides


The seafront had a distinctly Cymru and western vibe

There was just time for fish and chips and a round of ice-creams before we had to leave the delights of Aber behind and head overland in the direction of Llandovery and the Cwm Mynys Yurt.


Everybody yurts, sometimes

It was tricky finding accommodation for a family of five last-minute on a Bank Holiday, but one of a very limited number of options was this incredible spot.

In a place where sat nav has no meaning, along a van-unfriendly windy track, you can live like a woodland elf. Owned by a delightfully carefree couple, we had the full run of a remote edge of their small holding, containing one Mongolian yurt, an eco caravan, a sweat lodge by a babbling brook and a hole to poo in.

It was ace.


Stove on. Wine open.

Not being a big camper, I was intrigued by the idea of sleeping in a yurt. With its wood burning stove and ample room I’d recommend it, and this place in particular, to anyone.

Waking up surrounded by sheepskins and ethnic throws I felt like the true Kahlessi, with my little dragons snoring next to me.


The interi-yurt

The woods were really quite magical and it didn’t take the twins long to find an old moss-covered swing that flew out over the stream. I was really glad to have my proper camera with me.


Nature boys


King of the swingers



It was such a shame we had to leave and get back on the road, but another hostelry was waiting for us in Carmarthen.


A pub – Carmarthen


Pull up a chair | Pulling pints

Another pub done, and another pub lunch eaten and we were on our way to Saundersfoot, arriving in time for our little ones to hit the beach and our oldest one to sulk in the hotel room and watch anime on the iPad.



Up and out early on Tuesday morning we headed of to our final location in Chepstow, but not without a slight detour at the request of all the sc-fi geeks in the party.

Southerndown beach has been used in a number of Doctor Who episodes, most famously I am informed as ‘Bad Wolf Bay’. A dramatic and dynamic location. I felt for the BBC camera crew as I too clambered over the rocks with a few grands worth of camera equipment!


Bad Wolf Bay

Photos posed for and souvenir pebbles taken, I packed four happy nerds back into the van and we were off on the last leg of the journey to Chepstow.


A Pub – Chepstow


Room at the Inn

While it was a very fleeting visit, we packed a lot in and got to see a few different sides of Wales. Everyone I encountered was lovely, especially the staff in the pubs and I’m certainly hoping I can go back and hang out in the yurt some more.

It’s not often that I attempt to combine business with pleasure. For the most part, the kids understood when mum was working ‘though I’d be lying if I said that having them around didn’t get stressful at times. As a nation of working mums breathe a collective sigh of relief as the schools re-open, I know I am not alone in trying to maintain that balance through the summer holidays.


All being well, there’ll be more pubs to photograph over the next few weeks and we’ll see where that takes me.

Massive thanks to Jeremy and Alice at Vital for helping make our little Wales trip happen.

RS x