Whenever I get chatting to guests at weddings there’s a bunch of questions I’m always asked. How long have I been a photographer? Is this the only photography work I do? How did I get started? This biography page is in response to the interest my work generates and gives a potted history of my professional journey. The experiences and opportunities which led me to being a full-time wedding photographer.
In common with a lot of fellow professionals, my interest in photography began as a child. It’s something of a cliche, but I really did begin with an old Kodak Instamatic camera gifted from my grandmother. Cue lots of wonky family photos in the park. You know the sort of thing, trees going out of peoples heads or even heads missed entirely. What can I say, I was only 9!
My first ‘proper’ camera was a Christmas present a couple of years later. Pretty basic and from Dixons but it opened a door into a new world. My first published photos were taken with this camera (of a family outing to nearby Hever Castle, aged 13). A couple of years further on and more birthday and Christmas gifts meant more kit which brought more possibilities.
The Metro Years
After leaving school, I managed to get what would these days be called an internship (back then it was just ‘hanging out’), in the photographic department of a national magazine publisher. Here I learnt how to develop film, make black & white prints and would regularly assist the staff photographers on shoots. The next step was to London and a job with Metro Imaging, the biggest and swankiest professional photo lab in town. Originally in the Clerkenwell lab, I later became manager of their Kings Road, Chelsea lab where I was permanently based. Back in the day, Metro handled film for the best in the business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Clients included Nick Knight, Terry O’Neil, Barry Lategan, Rankin, Jonathan Knowles and Clive Arrowsmith.
Sadly the heady days of film labs were numbered. Evolving digital technology saw a rapid decrease in photographers shooting on film. Almost overnight a whole service industry disappeared as affordable digital cameras ushered in a new era.
However, while at Metro I continued to work on my own projects and commissions, becoming, of all things, a jobbing horticultural photographer. My parents business was in both garden design and writing about gardens. The family year centred around the Chelsea Flower Show where they exhibited for more than 25 years and it was an obvious move to begin photographing their gardens. Throughout the 1990’s my photos regularly appeared in the popular gardening magazines along with a couple of BBC books.
Time For Change
The early 2000’s saw a temporary change of direction while I explored other interests before returning to photography in 2008. In the intervening years, the industry had shifted immeasurably, with digital changing the way commissioning and shooting worked. Previous opportunities for commissions no longer existed. It took a while to find my feet and focus (forgive the pun), on how to make a career out of the changing world. When there are bills to pay, you take on whatever paying work there is which led me to photographing a mother and daughters joint birthday party. A serious affair, with a couple of hundred guests, massive marquee, swing band and riotous party. It was something I really enjoyed and prompted one of those marvellous light-bulb moments which shapes your life for years to come.
At the time, family party to wedding photographer seemed a small step. However it’s a massive leap in terms of experience and approach. After investing in some training with The Trained Eye things soon took off. 8 weddings my first year, 18 the next and up to more than 40 in less than three years! Whilst shooting 40 something weddings is great fun, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for day-to-day life. These days I aim for 25-30 per year.
The wedding photography learning curve is initially very steep. However, whilst getting the hang of how a wedding day is structured comes quickly, the experience needed to feel completely present and focused takes time. Shooting my 100th wedding felt like a massive milestone, as though I’d then encountered pretty much all eventualities. I’ve now shot more than 350 (and counting), weddings in all weathers and settings and still enjoy them just as much as the first, more than a decade ago.
According to the writer Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours practice to become an expert in any given skill or occupation. Each wedding I shoot accounts for around 40 hours work. That’s not just the time spent at the wedding but also the associated admin, preparation, planning, editing, retouching and design work. By this measure I’ve spent 14,000 hours engrossed in weddings. Expert box ticked!
In 2012 I met my partner Claire – we were both exhibiting at a wedding fair on a rainy spring day (Claire owns a rather brilliant bridal boutique, Lavender & Jude). At the time I was based in Kent but within a few months made a new home with her in the Suffolk countryside. Moving my business was a challenge and took a lot of work to make happen. After a year or two spent getting to know new venues, build relationships and gain a local presence, 2014 saw me become a fixture in the Suffolk weddings scene. I’ve not looked back since!
Photography Away From Weddings
The last few years have seen commissions come in from publications and local businesses for editorial and commercial work. Work has appeared nationally in The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail. Locally, I’ve shot for Snape Matings, Stokes Sauces, TA Hotels, About Fram magazine and numerous other companies. While weddings continue to be my priority, these other shoots encourage differing styles and approaches which I thoroughly enjoy and find a way into my work overall.
Over the last few years I’ve been really lucky and honoured to have gained recognition for my work and been accepted into several membership groups. The Wedding Photojournalists Association accepted me in 2019 and went on to win 2 international awards in my first few months with them. For the last 4 years I’ve also been a judge for The Wedding Industry Awards (TWIA), who champion and promote the best UK wedding businesses. I’m also member of several invitation only groups of photographers.
I’ve also built strong, ongoing relationships with some of my favourite local Suffolk wedding venues. So much so, I’m really proud to be recommended by many of them. Also, since moving to Suffolk, there’s been a noticeable shift in the way my couples find me. Before moving to the area, reaching my couples meant spending heavily on wedding fairs, advertising and marketing. These days I’m very lucky to have 90% of couples book me through recommendation. Coming from either friends, their venue or other suppliers.
Onwards and upwards! Just say no to resting on laurels or being satisfied with the status quo! I’m continually looking for ways to improve my work, offer new services and continue on this journey. Plans are currently in hand for a couple of new announcements coming in 2020 – watch this space!