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Ho Ho Hosiery

December 1, 2012

I don’t know about you but I quite like December.

Well some bits of it. Twinkling lights, mulled wine, fruit cake with a thick layer of marzipan, the smugness of having an Amazon Prime button… I like those bits. Hauling my ass out of bed on freezing, dark mornings? Not so much.

So to countdown to the big day and to heat things up on these cold December days, this year I have prepared a little treat…

24 pin-up girls in stockings

The entire Raquel Rouge archive has been painstakingly reviewed and 24 handpicked Advent Angels in stockings will be unveiled exclusively on Facebook every day up until Christmas.

There are some old favourites, some digitally remastered forgotten classics, behind the scenes shots and even a couple of images that have never been released anywhere before. And every one’s a cracker.

So get on it folks! What’s not to, um “Like”?

RS x

More Snaps in Less Clicks

November 27, 2012

It has been a long time coming, but it gives me more pleasure than you can possibly imagine to unveil my shiny new website:

And, while you’re all distracted by the pretty pictures, ask you for a bit of a favour.

As with all freshly launched online endeavours it’s hard to account for all the variables out there in the digital realm. I know we’ve got this thing working on the various bits of kit I use, but if you can have a quick look on whatever you are reading this on and report back any anomalies I’d be eternally grateful. – the online gallery for Leamington Spa photographer Rachel Spivey

Ooh look, I’m on an iPad. In your face old flash site.

It’s not long or sprawling or particularly fancy, just a few pages aimed at giving any commercial clients an overview of me and my work. I’ve pulled together some of the highlights of 14 years of photographing for direct clients, design companies, advertising agencies and publishers and the slide-y galleries mean you can whiz through easily without too much clicking around.

As such, it’s heavy on the images and light on the words.

If you could take the time to have a flick and let me know if you spot any technical glitches or odd bits of functionality or even just let me know what you think.

Much obliged to y’all.

RS x

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

Snap My Pitch Up

September 28, 2012

Ever been on company website and found yourself sniggering at some embarrassingly bad ‘meet the team’ photos?

Yeah, me too.

Come on you business types, it doesn’t have to be like that!

Just ask the lovely folks at Pitch, who I went over to photograph a couple of weeks ago…

Fresh, contemporary corporate photography by Rachel Spivey

A team you’d actually want to meet

For a recruitment company like Pitch, good quality photography is crucial. Not only are their clients from the visually literate creative and marketing industries, but what they do is all about people. Prospective candidates are going to want to see who will be holding the next stage of their career in their hands, and clients will want to be assured that the recruiters representing them create the right image.

Pitch in the Nomad Bar

A dynamic business staffed by dynamic individuals

OK, it really helped that the Pitch team are particularly good-looking and they work in cool offices, but most of all they were game for trying different stuff.

It was important that we got some slightly more formal ‘head and shoulders’ shots but we also spent a bit of time setting things up to look casual as well as taking some out-and-out candid shots of folks answering calls, checking their emails and sitting in meetings.

Recruitment agency

Candid shots of the Pitch directors Rob and Ollie

All to often I find that people equate ‘proper company photos’ with a bit of background roll, and while that’s useful to give a consistent look (especially if staff come and go) using real environments like in these more formal portraits give the shots some added vibrancy.

Relaxed corporate headshots

Formal doesn’t have to mean stuffy

In a relatively short space of time we covered off a lot of different shots. It really isn’t a big expense to invest in half a day’s shoot to supply you with a bank of images that can be used online, in presentations and press releases.

Professional contemporary company team photograph

Looking like experts on a new reality show

To give them a good selection of images for their website, part of the brief was to capture their immediate environment in the Custard Factory and getting up on the roof of their building gave the perfect vantage point for a view of Birmingham featuring two of its most iconic landmarks – the Rotunda and the Selfridges building.

Panorama of Digbeth, Birmingham

England’s secondcityscape

The Custard Factory complex is centred around the old Bird’s factory and over the last few years the area has worked hard to establish itself as the epicentre of media companies, artists and small creative enterprises in the Midlands.

Victorian food industrialist Alfred Bird, the father of egg-free custard, could well be spinning in his grave but I dare say he’d also be full of admiration for some of the big hipster moustaches that a few of the gentlemen were sporting about the place.

Custard factory Gibb Street

Signs of life

Stuck out on a limb as it is, I’ve often felt it was falling short of its ambition to be Birmingham’s Spitalfields. Admittedly it had been a while since I’d been, and I have to say was really impressed with how it’s looking. Apparently under new management, impressive urban artworks and a bit of redevelopment have really lifted the place and the improved buzz was noticeable.

Good on yer Brum.

The Old Library and graffiti on Gibb Street

Should have been a fixie really – some Custard Factory details

Photographing in such a quirky environment was a gift really and went a long way to transform this job from just another corporate shoot to something much more arresting and creative.

Modernist walkways

To be honest you could shoot this from any angle and it’d look cool

I had a great time with the whole team at Pitch and I’m really pleased with how the job turned out.

As were they.

RS x

Home Sweet Home Insurance Campaign

August 27, 2012

Even after doing this job for all these years, it’s still a thrill to see my work in print.

And it was particularly nice to see one of my shots for a new home insurance campaign appear in the recent Olympic souvenir issues of the daily papers.

National press advertising campaign photography bey Rachel Spivey

It’s just one of a series of ads designed to illustrate customers’ quotes in support of a well-known financial services company’s impressive run of industry accreditations. In a market full of phones on wheels, nodding dogs, singing tenors and meerkats, these big, bold ads were a stylistic departure for them, and it was the photography’s job to bring in some warmth and gentle humour.

And, by saturation, it’s among the most high-profile things I’ve done.

The campaign has been running since the beginning of August with different ads appearing in daily papers and magazines such as The Radio Times and BBC Gardener’s World. Online banner ads, also featuring the photography, are running on key websites, while the radio counterparts are being aired on Classic FM.

My favourite of all the executions (and the one which is proving to be the public’s favourite too) is this…

Home insurance ad imagery created by Rachel Spivey

Now, if you have been really paying attention to my blogs, tweets and stuff over the last couple of years, that peg bag fabric by Ochre & Ocre might seem familiar. The range actually featured on my very first post back in 2009 and a young Wilf Spivey was featured rocking the look in January 2010.

Tess Heslop, the owner manager of Ochre & Ocre, has been one of my most regular clients of recent years and when this shoot required a location that captured ‘aspirational rural living’, Tess’s beautiful home and centre of operations nestled at the foot of the Malvern Hills sprung instantly to mind.

As we have used the location for press shots and catalogues before, I knew it had the right views and the right vibe – the fact that it came already packed with great props was a bonus. Shooting in a real home like that, rather than a studio, really adds to the realism of the images and we made full use of the space, shooting in the guest bedroom, the wonderful country kitchen and even Tess’s office space for an ad featuring ‘specialist insurance’.

Commercial ad campaign photography by Rachel Spivey

The shoot took place over two days. The first day we were blessed with glorious sunshine and had ample time to titivate inanimate objects like smiley clothes pegs, dressing tables and office space in the natural light. It was on day two that the challenges arrived in the shape of two lively child models, a dog that wouldn’t sleep, a collapsing cake that had been left too near the Aga and one of the worst downpours in a summer of epic downpours.

We pressed ahead and a scenario of two kids playing in the garden was duly moved indoors. It was a busy, frenetic set and we had to work fast before the novelty of  being a spaceman and an alien wore off, while Tess and stylist Emma did a sterling job repairing the cake with a blizzard of icing sugar and some strategically placed strawberries.

By way of contrast, the last shot of the day was of Clara, a beautiful labrador on loan from Guide Dogs For The Blind. Sitting quietly waiting for her to doze off was much less frantic state of affairs.

Rachel Spivey works with children and animals

The whole job, from planning to handing over the final images, was done against quite a tight deadline and reflects brilliantly on Vital, the creative agency behind the work. A special mention, however, goes to my fab assistant Dan Barnes for creating such charming ‘homemade’ alien and spaceman costumes after a manic afternoon trawling the charity shops of Leamington Spa.

Behind the scenes at a Rachel Spivey photo shoot

Some of the cast and crew – Dan, Clara, Emma, Me, Jack and Adam

I think the finished ads look great, and I’ve heard that, so far, they have done their job and got the phones ringing for the client.

They were great folks to deal with and I definitely know who I’m going to call when my insurance is up for renewal.

Though if you’re looking for a quote for high impact ad campaign photography, DON’T DELAY – CALL ME TODAY 01926 886357 

RS x

My Show Girls

July 2, 2012

I did warn you back in March that I’d be plugging the bejayzus out of my exhibition.

So, true to my word, along with all the tweeting and the facebooking here’s a little blog write-up to tempt you over to see the show…

Rachel Spivey at Warwickshire Open Studios

I’ve been aware of Warwickshire Open Studios (Or Warwickshire Arts Week as it was) for a few years now, and always thought it was a great idea. A celebration of all the independent creative people living and working in the county, it’s an opportunity for the public to visit artists and makers in their workplace, see them in action and buy their work without any gallery owner’s commission on top.

It’s something I wanted to get involved with back when I was working from home, and now I am well settled into my lovely studio in the middle of town, there was no excuse this year.

Putting on a retrospective of the best of thousands of burlesque images from the past five years was a daunting task, but one that was made a whole lot easier thanks to my celebrity curator – Miss Von Vamp. As a burlesque performer herself, she had her own take on my body of work and selected 20 images that summed up life as a burlesquer as she sees it from both sides of the curtain.

Rachel Spivey exhibition private view images

A few snaps from the private view

With lots of help from my other half, everything was hung and looking lovely for my private view on Thursday and I’m incredibly touched so many people turned out to wish me well and see the work. The feedback was fabulous and I was particularly excited by one opportunity to exhibit on a wider stage that I won’t jinx by going into detail here.

Miss V has picked such a great range of shots and has done an incredible job of balancing images of some of the great and the good of the burlesque world – Anna Fur Laxis, Vicky Butterfly, Chrys Columbine, et al – with some of the lesser-known performers.

Two of my favourites, which work particularly well as a pair, are these of Lily Del La Mer who was one of the first burly girls I ever photographed.

Lily De La Mer and Jeni Aldridge backstage at Darkteaser's Garter Lounge photographed by boudoir photographer Rachel Spivey for Raquel RougeLily De La Mer and Jeni Aldridge backstage at Darkteaser's Garter Lounge

Jeni Aldridge helps Lily De La Mer prepare for her performance at Darkteaser’s Garter Lounge in 2009

Lily De La Mer onstage at Darkteaser's Garter Lounge

…and onstage at the same show

I have had the main collection produced as stunning 16×24″ archive quality giclées on 100% rag stock which I am selling for a reasonably priced £145 each and I am having a bit of a sample sale of a number of one-off framed prints with prices starting at £50, so if you fancy something unique for you own boudoir wall, get down and grab a bargain.

If you can’t make it and are interesting in buying any of the work, please drop me a line at and I can send you samples of the images in the collection.

I’ll be in the studio manning the show on and off until Sunday 15th July and all the details and opening times are here, and if you are coming out I also recommend you check out some of the artists who are exhibiting, especially the ones on my doorstep.

Hope you can find the time to come up and say hello.

RS x

Benn There, Done That.

June 11, 2012

I do like living in Leamington. It’s a quirky little place that wears its origins as a Spa town on its frilly white sleeve,  so I was more than happy to get involved with Leamington Looks Back – the town’s very first festival of heritage and culture.

The two weeks of walks, talks, performances and displays were entirely organised by a small group of volunteers – including Mr Spivey, who helped with the branding and promotions – and aimed to make local history accessible to a broad audience. Although a lot of the publicity material used photos and postcards of old Leamington, I donated a couple of images from my own historical archives for use in the festival programme.

Leamington Looks Back featuring photography by Rachel Spivey

The Leamington Looks Back programme

The above shot of the Linden Arches by the Pump Room Gardens comes for a series of photos I did of the town in the early 2000s when I sold scenic views of Leamington under the ‘Prints Regent’ banner. And the pin-up on the cover is from one of the very first Raquel Rouge sessions that took place my converted garage back in 2009.

However, the highlight for me was getting to meet and photograph one of my heroes, Tony Benn.

Roy Bailey and Tony Benn photographed in Leamington Spa by Rachel Spivey Photographer

Roy Bailey and Tony Benn at the Royal Spa Centre

Tony and his folk singing mate, Roy Bailey, appeared as part of Leamington Looks Back at the Royal Spa Centre and I was there early to say hello and get a couple of shots before they went on stage.

Roy Bailey and Tony Benn photographed in Leamington Spa by Rachel Spivey Photographer

Setting up the show

At 87 Tony is getting on a bit, but he’s still the twinkly, charismatic thorn in the establishment’s side that I first admired in my politicised early teens. Their show covered 1,000 years of radicalism and just went to show how little things change through the years.

Tony would read a bit, then Roy would sing a bit, which all made for a thought-provoking and enjoyable evening in the company of two of the Left’s elder statesmen.

Roy Bailey and Tony Benn photographed in Leamington Spa by Rachel Spivey Photographer

Roy Bailey – right about now, the folk soul brother

And while the show wasn’t strictly about Leamington Spa, it did provide a nice counterpoint to all the flag waving of the Jubilee Weekend.

Tony Benn photographed in Leamington Spa by Rachel Spivey Photographer 2012

Tony Benn – rousing rabbles since 1925

After the show Tony and Roy were presented with framed art prints of the event posters, which they seemed really pleased with. Better than a box of Leamington fudge anyway.

Roy Bailey and Tony Benn photographed in Leamington Spa by Rachel Spivey Photographer

Writing on the Wall posters for the wall

They were a pair of thoroughly charming gentlemen and it was a pleasure to spend a brief amount of time with them.

I’d have liked to have attended more of the events, but falling as it did in the middle of my busiest wedding season I only managed to get out on the history walk around my own little corner of Leam. Getting to know a bit more about where I live was really interesting stuff.

Despite the miserable weather that has dogged the summer so far, the festival appears to have been a big success and is due to come back next year. My heartiest congrats to Fiona and Jenny and the rest of the volunteers.

Here’s looking at you folks.

RS x