Our Photography Courses Blog

A nice letter

Sarah came to the wedding photography course at Portmeirion in North Wales on Friday to learn how to photograph her first wedding on Saturday. She also had to get to grips with her new Nikon D90 – brave girl!

I’ve deleted a couple of lines from her letter for the sake of privacy, but this is the bulk of what she sent us. Sarah is an academic, so knows about teaching and learning.

“Dear Rachel & Phil,

Sorry for not getting back to you sooner – I had a long journey back home on Friday night, then the wedding on Saturday. It’s just now I’ve been able to sit down at my computer properly – apart from to download my photos, of course!!

I want to thank you both for a truly wonderful day on Friday. I still can’t get over your generosity of spirit & warmth. It was so kind of you to run the course for me on my own, even though I know you have so many other calls on your time. That alone warrants a huge thank you. Thank you both!! I was in the throes of a 2-day pounding headache on Friday, so sorry if I wasn?t the most sparkling of company. It was still there on Saturday morning, but I swallowed Paracetamol, strong coffee & food & it disappeared in time for the wedding.

As for what I learned on the day, I couldn’t have asked for more. I thought you got the measure of my technical level almost intuitively & pitched all the discussion & practical exercises brilliantly. It was a fabulous distillation of your experience, delivered in a wonderfully positive, thoughtful, non-patronising way & the pacing of the day was great, with presentational material followed by practical work, followed by constructive criticism. The practical hints were solid gold – there were so many things I just wouldn’t have thought of. Your advice about kit & workflow were invaluable – I have already downloaded the Lightroom trial & ordered myself the legit copy! I’ve tinkered with it a little & I can see how it’ll change my way of working to save me at least 1/4 of time spent reviewing shots. Portmeirion was wonderful -we all want to go now!

In terms of how I applied what I learned on Friday to what I did on Saturday, I think I would have been a gibbering wreck if I hadn’t been on your course. I had been thinking of Saturday’s wedding as probably a one-off experience I’d be doing because some near-strangers liked my snapshots. You made me realise that of course there is an order, & a formula, & a series of things that happen for each wedding, but differently. I would have missed crucial things & as you said, however laid back the couple sound, they have a firm set of expectations, unstated or stated.

The venue was lovely from the outside ? this is at 17mm on tiptoe, over a hedge, with traffic roaring past at my back:

The clouds look menacing, but at all crucial moments, it was cloudy but bright, rather than cloudy & dark. There was no rain until later than night. Both Ford Green Hall & the pub were full of oak panelling, though it was worse in the pub because even the ceiling was covered with wood. It was so dark inside, but reflected light was incredibly orange, so I was really struggling even at 3200 ISO. Next time I?ll have a yoghurt pot!

As for the Registrar, I introduced myself immediately & she said that she didn?t mind what I did at all, so that was good ? but again, it wouldn?t have occurred to me to check. Without meeting you, I wouldn’t have thought about the groom’s reaction shot, for example, & I wouldn’t have been in the right place to capture this (not tinkered with, by the way, as is the case with all these photos, apart from maybe a Picasa auto levels thing):

I wouldn?t have particularly considered the elderly family members & I would have missed out on 3 extraordinary ladies over 90, none of whom made it beyond the ceremony. I wouldn?t have thought of getting the bride & groom away from it all for a couple of minutes, & although there was nowhere for them to sit outside, they really appreciated the chance of some fresh air & a breather:

I also managed to look out for a titter at the moment when they ask if anyone knows of any lawful reason, etc. They?d been poker-faced throughout, but the Registrar said, Oh, Geoff obviously paid you enough then:

I caught a solemn, intense Geoff during the vows:

and a swift move towards a kiss in the pub, charming although motion-blurred, & I tried the B&W rescue trick on it:

I was able to build up a really great rapport with Ali & Geoff:

All in all the wedding was a terrific success from the point of view of the happy couple, & a genuinely enjoyable experience for me, rather than a seat of my pants thing. I took over 600 photos, so filled both 4Gb cards, but of course lots of those shots are unnecessary & with more experience I?ll take more of the right ones & fewer of the dull ones!

I?m so appreciative, Rachel & Phil, of everything you showed me & told me on Friday & my head?s still buzzing with all the great ideas & good advice. I want to do more!!

Thanks again ? let?s keep in touch. Do let me know if you are ever round this way.

Warmest wishes to you both,


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