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The Belle, The Bell Ringer and The Bell Inn

October 29, 2012

This year has seen my busiest summer of weddings yet.

And there have been some corkers.

I’ve made a start on the daunting task of wading through thousands of images to select some of highlights for a long-overdue website update, but in the meantime, here are few from a particularly beautiful wedding I shot a few weeks ago…

Informal bride and groom in the countryside by Rachel Spivey Warwickshire wedding photographer

Cat Carver and Tom Darnell – resplendent in the Warwickshire countryside

I’m really lucky to have attracted some delightful couples since I started doing weddings and Tom and Cat have been among the nicest ever. Their wedding was a joy to photograph as it’s always great to work with a bride and groom who appreciate the kind of images I make and seek me out for that reason.

Bridal details photographed by Rachel Spivey

Getting ready shots can make a great intro spread in a wedding album

Of all the different sorts of photography I’m involved in, there’s something nice about capturing the ‘real life’ that goes on at a wedding. I first got into the profession wanting to be a photojournalist and events like these present me with opportunities to shoot a bit more from the hip.

Brides mother prepares veil for her daughter

Cat’s mother – Corinne – prepares the veil

Everyone who has ever booked me have all shared the same desire not to have their day turned into a full-scale photo shoot and are keen to commission someone who can capture their day without dominating it.

Bridesmaid and Bride reflected in the mirror

Little mirror moments always work a treat

There’s an element of trust that has to exist to achieve shots as unguarded and genuine as some of these. A couple have to feel at ease with me as a person and not be too daunted by the camera. It’s why an initial face-to-face meeting is always essential, joint recce visits to the venue help in establishing a rapport and an engagement shoot is often a good idea, especially for the more camera-shy couples.

Pretty bride photographed in mirror by Rachel Spivey

Adding the finishing touch

As it was, Cat was cool around the camera and it absolutely loved her too.

Bride comes down stairs

Here comes the bride – Cat makes her first entrance of the day

There’s no denying the pressure I feel on the day though. There are no reshoots with this kind of work, and being in the thick of the action while not getting in the way is quite an art. Capturing sweet moments, like these bridesmaids seeing Cat in her dress for the first time, make it all worth it.

Bridesmaids moved to tears at the appearance of the Bride

The bridesmaids get a bit overwhelmed

You’d think weddings would get a little formulaic after doing so many, and while they do all have the same ingredients, each one is distinctly different. Even with venues I have shot lots of times like Whethele Manor, The Lord Leycester, Walton Hall and Mallory Court, it’s the people I’m shooting who make all the difference.

Bride arrives in the wedding car

Shooting a bride in a moving car through reflective glass is never easy

Six bridesmaids line up outside the church with Ushers in Warwickshire

Bridesmaids line up with the ushers outside St James the Great, Snitterfield

One of the more unusual elements of this wedding were the team of six stunning bridesmaids, who just looked great together. Their dresses had an ancient greek handmaiden look to them and gave some of the photos the feel of a classic painting.

Bridesmaid posies

Bridesmaids strike a posie

Though the most unusual factor had to be Cat’s mum, who was a bell-ringer at the church. It was great to get up in the bell tower and take a few shots of her and her fellow ringers in action.

Mother of the bride is a bellringer at her daughter's wedding

The bellringers watch the ceremony | Corinne does her ring thing

Photography permissions during ceremonies vary from church to church or registrar to registrar and it’s crucial to know the restrictions beforehand. Sometimes I’m free to snap away, while other times I have to sit out the proceedings at the back of the room.

I always respect the wishes of whoever is conducting the ceremony though on this occasion I was allowed to take a few discreet shots during pauses in the service.

Snitterfield church wedding

The ceremony in the beautiful church interior

Groomsmen inside the church with the Bride

Cat with Tom and all his handsome groomsmen

I’m always very aware that the photos I take at weddings will echo down the ages. Of course the fashions of the day will forever lock them at a point in history, but I like to create images that are as timeless and as truthful as possible.

Reflection of Bride and Groom signing the register by Warwickshire Wedding Photographer Rachel Spivey

Signing the register

Obviously I will endeavour to give the clients what they want, but the shots you see of hipster newlyweds with their heads cropped off look cool and quirky now, but will age as well as the soft-focus-through-a-wineglass-shots that everyone went mad for in the 80s.

I don’t like to set things up too much, but rather just shoot what happens in front of me.

Wedding couple emerge from church vestry

Leaving the vestry framed by the archway

Magic confetti shot by Rachel Spivey

A good confetti shots is all about timing

Extreme emotions of a wedding day

Extremes of emotion

Directly after the ceremony, Cat and Tom had laid on a little spread for the guests who couldn’t make it back to the full reception. It was a nice touch and gave me an opportunity to snap some of the lovely details in the gorgeous late summer sunshine.

Wedding reception cupcakes

Cupcakes at the mini reception in the church hall

Happy Bride stood under coloured bunting

A lucky bit of lighting

Then we were on to the main reception. There are very few wedding celebrations I attend where all the little touches haven’t been carefully planned and exquisitely realised. This one at The Bell in Alderminster was no exception with some great styling by Passion For Flowers in Balsall Common.

Little wedding day details captured by Rachel Spivey

So much effort goes in to the fine detail, I try to capture as much as I can

Formal groups photos are invariably an important part of the day, and that job is always made easier by enlisting the groomsmen to hunt down the necessary errant family members. No one likes to linger for those bits, and the sooner they are done, the sooner I can get on and snap candid shots of the guests enjoying themselves.

Guest takes a photo while lady in a big hat looks on

A candid camera moment

Informal shots of mingling wedding guests

Guests dressed to impress

Photography of guests at a wedding

Time to chat and get to the bar

Lively granny enjoys herself at wedding

Cat’s cheeky granny

On average I take between 750-1000 shots at a wedding which first need to be edited down and digitally processed. It’s a time-consuming process as I evaluate the quality of each shot and manipulate the exposure of every chosen frame.

Once I have weeded out the closed eyes, unflattering angles and extraneous shots of the same thing, the resulting collection of images are subjected to another round of fine tuning. As my reportage style keeps me focused on capturing the action, there are few images that can’t be improved further by the straightening of a door frame or the cropping out of a stay elbow.

Compare these two versions of the same shot…

The original frame had too much white sky and a distracting lady on her phone

Candid shot of Bride crossing lawn with Bridesmaids in background

The cropped shot is much tighter and focuses attention on Cat and her bridesmaids 

The quality of these images is also due in no small part to my kit. To the detriment of elaborate family holidays and the Landrover Defender I have always wanted, I plough substantial chunks of any profit I make back into my equipment.

Especially lenses.

While that does make for increasingly heavy bag for my lovely assistant Dan to help drag around, it does also means I can do shots like this justice.

Glasses all set for Pimms

Mouthwatering glasses all set for Pimms o’clock

While I tend to steer clear of those gimmicky Instagram style Photoshop filters in post production, I’m certainly not averse to converting certain shots into punchy black and white images. It can add some drama and touch of unpretentious depth to the right kind of image, but that’s as much fiddling as I will do. That nasty business of leaving one element in colour is, at best, gilding the lily and, at worst, trying to make something out of nothing.

Bridesmaids review messages left by guests

The bridesmaids read the messages left for the newlyweds

Cat and Tom’s wedding was one of those days that just came together – lovely people, attractive venues, beautiful styling and a nice bit of sunshine to shoot it all in.

Guests look on during the wedding speeches

Assembled guests engrossed in the speeches

It’s hard not to get caught up in all the emotions of the wedding either, so it’s no wonder a busy eight-hour day can leave me in heap when I get home.

Once a job is all done, uploaded and a link sent to a couple I can never rest until I hear back from them – Hey! I’m a creative person, that sort of insecurity is hardwired in us all!

Bride and Groom with their dog at the wedding

Tom, Cat & Dog – Cocker-poo Poppy made an appearance at the reception as well as on top of the cake

Big thanks to Tom and Cat for letting me showcase their big day on my little blog.

I’m relieved to report that they were very chuffed with pics, in fact I was thrilled to get an email that started, “I cracked! They are absolutely beautiful, I have cried all the way through eight views! you’ve captured the day amazingly… “

There’s a testimonial that’s going on the website.

When I get round to it.

RS x

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2012 12:14 pm

    Well captured – a simply gorgeous day. Cat and Tom were a delight to work with we loved creating the florals and styling their day. Karen and Gemma xx
    PS just love the photos of the cockapoo , we have a puppy Jessie 13 weeks old.

  2. October 31, 2012 12:24 pm

    Thanks Karen and Gemma 🙂
    Dogs are great aren’t they? I’ve got a little poodle called Cecil who keeps me company at the studio!


  1. Blush Pink & White Wedding Flowers ~ Late Summer Wedding The Bell, Alderminster

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