The Devonshire Arms Hotel
As a Yorkshire Wedding photographer I am lucky enough to be a regular visitor to this beautiful hotel, set in the tranquil Yorkshire Dales. Couples form all over the world choose to marry here; I am still in touch with couples whose weddings I have shot who came from as far a field as Savannah in Georgia, Australia, Dubai and Malaysia. It is in it’s own quiet and unassuming way, a truly international hotel.
A new wedding season is about to get underway, with quite a few wedding bookings at the Devonshire for me to photograph so I have picked out some images from a few recent weddings which show the green, rich countryside in which the hotel is set and illustrate how this can be a wonderful backdrop for your wedding photographs. I will be adding to it as the season progresses.
Here is the link to my website’s wedding gallery where you can see other images from the Devonshire Arms and other Yorkshire venues http://www.suzy-mitchell.com/weddings/featured-weddings/
Recently I enjoyed an illuminating conversation with an acquaintance, we share a mutual friend. It was at the mutual friend’s birthday dinner that we found ourselves sitting next to one another. Somewhere between desert and coffee she turned to me and said. “I love your work, would have booked you years ago to come and do a family portrait shoot but my husband always says he can do it just as well himself!” This is indicative of what portrait photographers are up against….Men with kit! Now I have never seen this gentleman’s work, he may well be pro standard and produce amazing photographs, but even if he is, he is missing the point.
As the years slip by, shouldn’t we be asking who are we photographing for? Surely for our children and future generations. Whilst I am sure that their grown up selves will enjoy the fine art style images of them as children, it will actually be those images which show their connection with siblings and parents which will resonate the most and be so precious; It is the love we have for one another as a family which needs recording.
Those images which show emotion and reflect the love that children have for each other, for their parents, sisters, brothers and Grandparents which are likely to be the most cherished. Below are some very different images and approaches, each worked well for the families in question.
In fairness, I am one of the worst offenders for not being in any family photographs. We have so many lovely photographs of our girls interacting with Andrew, laughing and hugging him. He is very adored! I am not in them because I am behind the camera, which is without doubt my own fault. Andrew’s photographic efforts in the children’s early years ensured that he wasn’t entrusted with the camera again! We usually ended up as tiny specks in one of the lower corners of the frame despite my setting up the shots!
Fortunately these Mums had me on the job for their family photo shoots!
So I have made a resolution! No more relegating parents to a few photos at the end of the family photo session…In the last 12 months I have been making a conscious effort to make them a more integral part of the shoot. Here is an image from a Family portrait shoot taken at the end of last year.
What I also love about this image is that I photographed the parents wedding, pre wedding shoot, and now a shoot with all 4 of them as a family unit! It represents so much more than just a family portrait. The images I have taken over the years are on display in their home.
Had I got the opportunity to chat to the husband, the subject of my conversation at dinner, I might have pointed out that however good his photos are, perhaps he needed to be in just a few of them! I might also have suggested that whilst good family portrait photography is expensive, a luxury and an investment, it is also an experience to be recorded as a family, capturing emotion between it’s members and beautifully recording the story of your family and presented as a piece of photographic art which is going to mean so much to your children and future generations. For that to happen, everyone needs to be in the photographs!
Ladies, start dropping hints… It will be your birthday, wedding anniversary, your husband’s birthday and failing all else, Mothers’Day, very soon!
To see more of my work including family portraiture have a look at the gallery on my web site
DOCUMENTARY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY
The other day, as photographers do in the dark Winter months, I was updating my web site’s wedding gallery and doing general non photographic “businessy” things; Looking at the images started me thinking about my “ ideal client” and decided that whilst there really isn’t such a thing as a “perfect” client any more than there is a “perfect” photographer, I came to the conclusion that the most successful relationships come when at least some, if not all, of the following are present.
Loving my style of photography is a pre requisite to booking. I want brides who love my documentary style, and it usually is a “she” but not exclusively. I have had some great chats about photography with prospective grooms too! Buying into my style and approach is so important. So much of what I do on a wedding day will be “documentary” in feel with a little time set aside for some slightly more composed photographs of a couple. Those who are looking to book just to tick off photography on their “wedmin” list are not the best fit for me! It’s those who want to see the most important day of their lives,through my eyes,in my documentary, observational style and handed back to them in the imagery I produce.
The lovely Becky, whose wedding I shot last Summer, dropped me a text the day afters received her album in which she summed this up perfectly
“ Suzy, The photos are absolutely stunning and will forever remind us of the most beautiful day. You have captured the whole day and told it back to us through the photographs. It is incredible, thank you. Becky xx”
There are many, many photographers out there…. some heavily photoshopping their images. It is a more theatrical approach but far more set up and posed that anything I would feel comfortable producing. That said it has a market, just not my market.
When I photograph a wedding I seek to anticipate the next moment, relying on my experience I can work out what is likely to happen next, get myself into position, frame a composition in my mind before I ever press the shutter. So, although my images look natural, even candid and above all documentary they are in reality purposefully crafted, considered and consistent.
I love this quiet image of a bride just before she entered church, she is gathering herself, stealing her nerves and is about to step forward to the next stage in her life. It says so much.
In 2015 The Guild of Photographers awarded me the “ Documentary Wedding Image of the year” Here is the link http://blog.suzy-mitchell.com/2015/02/10/documentary-wedding-photographer-of-the-year-2014-the-photographers-guild/
This is probably one of my all time favourite images….the rain was so heavy and all involved were so anxious but there really was no choice other than to make a dash for the church door!
On a less stressful note I love this image taken in December last year – again not staged but as I turned round all this banter was going on!
The lost cricket ball at this Marquee wedding last Summer caused some consternation!
The little girls below were unaware this was even being taken. Love their differing expressions.
The ideal client needs to be someone who can engage and wants to collaborate with me, working together towards those relaxed,documentary images which we both seek. To this end I hold a pre wedding consultation with each couple to better focus on what is really important to them. Pinterest, on line blogs and wedding magazines are fantastic resources and really help clients convey their vision to me.
I explain that for most of the day I will be working in the background, unobtrusively documenting all that happens, but that there may be moments when I see fantastic light or an amazing backdrop and I’ll gently move or reposition so as to capitalise on these. This leads me onto trust. Trusting me as your photographer to be doing the very best I can for you, utilizing the environment to the max and guiding you through the photography on the big day. Trust is a big one!
It was really helpful that I had Skyped with Ksenia and met her a few days before her wedding for a full consultation….it was quite a big ask to suggest they walked together through the day trippers by the river holding hands. But I am guessing that having spent some time with me they just decided to “go for it!” So glad they did! This is a great example of seeing an idea, a fantastic backdrop and then utilising it in the image.
3) TRUST -is only really built up when we get to know one another. For this reason I like to have a pre wedding shoot with clients. This is a low key, relaxed shoot, usually a few months before your wedding where we will try out a few ideas for the all important little session we will have on your wedding day when it is just you and me and my camera! . It’s helps me to see what you are comfortable with, how relaxed you are on the other side of the lens and for you to tell me any ideas you have or shots you have seen that we might like to emulate. I can use the pre wedding shoot to do this and then on your wedding day we can start from where we left off and work towards gentle, relaxed imagery, still with that very documentary feel which will sit well with the rest of the photographs I will be taking.
Here are a couple from Alex and Joe’s pre wed….
Here is the link to the pre wedding shoot gallery on my website
When you book me to be your wedding photographer we are in effect investing in each other. We will each be giving something of ourselves; I need to see a little of who you are, what makes you “you.” Relaxed documentary imagery doesn’t just happen; It takes a little time and some trust. Even if logistics mean we can’t meet before your wedding day at the very least a few Skype sessions can make a massive difference.
Documentary photography looks easy, it isn’t! So often I hear that a couple are asking a relative with a “good camera” to document their day. This raises a few questions. Does he or she have the skill set to know what to do if the promised blue sky and sun is in fact a force 10 gale and driving rain? Will they be able to produce a full set of perfectly edited images showing each part of your wedding day? How long will it take them to get the images to you after the wedding? Will they be unobtrusive on the day? In the end your photographs will be your reminder of the best day of your lives and the quality of the images in your album should be commensurate with their importance as family heirlooms and as an artistic document of your wedding day.
Below is an excerpt from an on line article published by “Rock N Roll Bride” back in the Spring last year.
” There appears to be a complete lack of value placed on what a professional wedding photographer actually does. And believe me, its way more than having a fancy camera, lighting equipment and retouching software installed on their computer.
“When it comes to other aspects of the wedding where a couple might want to save money, they always also seem to understand that cutting corners involves some element of risk. I’ve spoken to countless brides who’ve ordered dresses online from China for example, but they always preface by saying “I knew it was a gamble, but I thought it was worth it to save so much money”, or “The quality wasn’t as good as ones on sale in bridal boutiques, but we didn’t have the budget to spend any more so I was fine with it”.
So why, when it comes to the photographs, which are one of the only things you’ll have left after the wedding, do so many couples spend way less than average but are completely blind to the risks of doing so?”
Pretty well sums it up!!
You are making a financial investment in me and I am so very conscious of this; When you book me to photograph your wedding you are paying for my expertise built up over many years, my documentary style, my investment in top of the range equipment and back up equipment, an assistant at most weddings, together with consistent, and above all, beautifully edited black and white and colour imagery. I love what I do, the challenge,the sharing of wonderful times with fantastic couples who I really “get” as I hope they” get” me.
This was a much anticipated wedding…I love a Winter wedding with it’s low light throwing shadows all over the place and this was just what we got for Becs and Chris’s Ellingham Hall Wedding up in Northumberland back in December. What a perfect way to round off a very busy wedding season.
I loved, loved, loved this wedding, it was such a joy to shoot and really lent itself to my documentary style. Becs and Chris were really relaxed and fun to be around with Ellingham Hall making the perfect backdrop to the relaxed, unposed photography which they wanted and which is always my aim to provide for my clients.
Those who know my wedding work will be surprised to see so many colour images in this post; All this “christmassy” imagery, with the beautiful warm ambient light and rich tones somehow needs rendering in colour- it seems to lose something in the black and white (and I rarely say that!)
It was my first time at Ellingham Hall which was built in the 17th Century and was used as a boys’ preparatory school from the 1950’s until the 1980’s. Always love a bit of history!
A huge thank you to all involved; The day was orchestrated by Ellingham’s brilliant in- house wedding co-ordinator Wendy who made sure everything ran to time.
Videography by Wayne from Green Biscuit. Can’t wait to see the film!
Bridal bouquet and all the other floral fabulousness by C and C floral design
Wedding Cake by local company The Master Cakesmith
These guys certainly know how to throw a party. Check out the speech and first dance photos towards the end of the blog. Live music provided by Faye Shearer at AMV Live Music
A completely awesome wedding at Ellingham Hall but at the end of the day the Images speak for themselves.
Loved being a part of your day guys!
With one more wedding to shoot before the end of the month it seems like the perfect time to write this post. 2016 has been my busiest wedding year to date with many stunning Yorkshire Weddings photographed, combined with a manic personal life with teens, frenetic household, busy husband has made for some interesting times,but I wouldn’t change things for the world; I feel I have risen to the challenges (and they have been tough) and somehow out of it all my imagery has got stronger and I’ve have thrived. Photography has been my escape, my passion and when I am in ” the zone” it is all consuming and that for me is it’s lure. With the help of my wonderfully supportive husband, I have managed to have probably the best year ever photographically …..I seem to have hit my stride, found my photographic niche and really motored when it comes to recording and yet simultaneously creating images under the stress of the wedding day environment and it is when those two elements combine the magic happens. I try never to direct my clients preferring the observational approach but as a wedding day unfolds I will be there creatively seeking the best angles, positions and approaches.
As a family we have had some of the best times in 2016, an amazing trip to New York being a highlight, where I took time out to recharge and fill my visual soul with lots and lots ( far too many if you ask our girls) art galleries and exhibitions. My favourite photos were the snaps we took of us all skating together with our American friends at the Rockefeller ice rink, laughing and catching up and it is this interaction between families and loved ones which I want to capture for my clients…. I may occasionally dabble in a few posed couple shots with dramatic skies and lots of photoshop but for me the real essence of a great photo is the capturing of the emotion and joy between people…a wedding is an amazing place for a photographer! Looking through this year’s weddings the most successful images by far are the ones which tell a story, my first image shows a bride’s anticipation and apprehension in those last few seconds before she walks into church.
Once again I reached the final of the Guild of Photographers wedding image of the year, I didn’t win but getting on that shortlist was pretty exciting and attending the awards dinner was a blast. Achieving a GOLD bar for a non wedding image which formed part of my personal work was pretty much up there too.
Perhaps my work is best described as “a quiet and gentle observation of emotion.”
What a crazy crazy day! In the dark depths of Winter, when I need cheering up, I shall simply look at Vicky and Howard’s wedding photographs. A big smile spreads over my face when I relive Vicky’s morning getting ready with her 8 bridesmaids having the most fun- such energy and passion in the pursuit of having the very best of times. That little black and white montage as Vicky watched the video her bridesmaids had made to surprise her ( with Howard’s help) pretty much sums up the mood of the day! This was a high octane, high energy wedding, with changes of location, changes in weather and also changes of mood, especially during the heartfelt speeches.
I loved shooting this wedding; it was such a pleasure to spend the day with Vicky and Howard, their friends and families….this was one group of friends who certainly know how to party and their happiness and delight for the couple is evident in the images.The Priory church at Bolton Abbey is such a beautiful church in which to photograph, it’s grandeur evident, the alter a perfect back drop for images taken from the back of the church.
Many thanks to Vicky’s brothers, all the bridesmaids, best men and ushers for all their help …especially in light of the inclement weather which arrived just as we reached the Papakata tent….Check out those louring skies in some of the group shots. Some of the best documentary images come when the weather is a little unkind- billowing veils, dark skies, horizontal rain and umbrellas all add drama and atmosphere to the imagery…Viky and Howard took it all in their stride and the weather improved in the early evening allowing for some sparkler shots!
Thanks also to Sally of Priceless weddings for her meticulous planning and organisation.
Stunning bouquets and floral arrangements by the very talented Vanessa at Wildflowers Ilkley.
Marquee supplied by Papakata
So, how cute are these guys…I photographed the twins when they were first born (see the very first image) and now they are almost three. These are the images of children I aim to capture for parents,nothing posed but just their kids having lots of fun and being entirely natural. It’s such a pleasure having an on going relationship with various families in Ilkley and enjoying the privilege of watching their children grow and to record it for them in a consistent way over the years as they slip by.
From shooting their pre wed on a dark wet evening I knew I was going to enjoy shooting Becky and Lawrence’s wedding…they are naturals in front of the camera and happy to experiment with a few ideas, see later in the post for the photos of Becky with their dogs! This was an action packed day, gorgeous weather, lovely families and guests and The Devonshire Arms is after all one of my favourite venues! These guys work so well together, as an added bonus they made great photographic subjects and are sure to have a wonderfully happy married life!Thanks to John, Lawrence’s best man, for all his help on the day and also to my friend Tom Arber who assisted me in photographing the boys getting ready and throughout the day.
Becky’s gown by Caroline Castigliano
Flowers by Vanessa at Wildflowers
Sarah and Antony’s wedding took place on one of those perfect English days…the sun shone, the sky was blue and everyone let themselves go and had a great party! Marquee weddings are probably my favourite sort of wedding to photograph and particularly on such a glorious day. Cricket was a big theme at the wedding (see the marquee interior shots), Antony loves the game, a passion he is passing on to his and Sarah’s little boy. One of my favourite shots I took at the wedding was of the little boys playing cricket with their own miniature bats!
Sarah look stunning in her Suzanne Neville gown, her hair and make up had been expertly done by Tiempo , Ilkley and Annabel Bailey, make up artist. Her stunning bouquet and flowers were from the talented girls at Paperwhite in Spofforth.
This was such a super wedding, you can really see the joy at such a lovely couple tying the knot reflected in the faces of all their guests.