Why qualifications now?
This might be a lengthy blog about qualifications, but there’s a bit of background to go through.
I don’t need pieces of paper or qualifications.
I’ve never been big on qualifications before. I dropped out at school around 14, when I found it was much easier to make people laugh than study. That may have had something to do with the education system in place at the time, but only partly. I loved going to school, but it was really all about socialising for me, the learning was definitely secondary. Consequently I left school with just one ‘O’ level, in English, and that was due to the respect I had for my teacher at the time. I made the effort, or as much as I thought was needed, and got a C. I was content with that, but my teacher wasn’t. She made it very clear that she thought I could and should have done better.
I didn’t stay on for the 6th Form. I’d had enough and wanted to get out working and earning some money. My initial job was with a superb carpenter, who taught me a lot, but it wasn’t the job for me. After a year I left and got a job as a clerk with a tyre fitting company. Employment there also lasted about a year before I got restless and wanted something more challenging. Step forward the Royal Air Force. They were looking to recruit, and after getting two jobs fairly easily without qualifications, surely I could get a third. On top of that, an old friend had bet me that I couldn’t do it, that it wasn’t my type of life. I love a challenge.
Perhaps some pieces of paper might have helped.
My first interview was at the Careers Information Office in Ipswich, Suffolk, close to my home town of Felixstowe. I went through all of the basic stuff, they checked I was still breathing which was a requirement, and then invited me back for another chat. They seemed keen to get me in, tough I found out later that manpower at the time was low. We started talking jobs, but was pointed very firmly towards supplier which they dressed up to make it sound like a fabulous area to work in. I was keen to join, so agreed. It was only when I got home and started reading about pay that I felt a twinge of disappointment. Technical trades got a much higher salary, and that was the first time that I got a feeling that some qualifications would have helped.
Now I want some pieces of paper.
Moving forward some 40 years since I joined up, my attitude has changed. As a self employed photographer one of my tasks is to sell myself to potential customers. That can be done by displaying my work, and hoping it’s of sufficient quality to get people to part with their money in return for some images which they love. Therein lies the problem. It’s an argument that has been flogged to death, but it’s still valid. Everyone has a camera on their phone, which of course makes them great photographers. Comments are left on their Facebook pages, like ‘stunning’ and fantastic photo’ and lots more besides. Are they really that good? I don’t think so a lot of the time.
This is where the piece of paper comes in. The Guild of Photographers offer a range of qualifications. When I say offer, I don’t mean that they give them away. It’s hard to gain them, all panels are judged by a number of the UK’s leading photographers, and they are critical. It’s my intention to go down that route. I’ve managed to gain Qualified status in the area of professional photography, but I don’t intend to stop there. As a wedding photographer, my next goal is to get qualified status in that specialisation, and then Craftsman in general and wedding photography. It’s going to be a long and hard road, but I want those pieces of paper. I’ve seen the light after all of those years.
I do enjoy weddings. There is nothing better as a photographer than to meet and photograph two people in love and totally committed to each other, enough to vow to each other to spend their lives together. It’s a privilege to be able to capture their special moments with each other, and with family and friends, on the day of their wedding.
I also enjoy weddings because of the variety of the occasions. Each one is completely different from another and I enjoy the challenges that are presented to me. This wedding was no different.
On this occasion I had three places to get to in Norfolk, a very rural county. I find a sat nav an essential piece of kit for my wedding work, and a visit to each location prior to the shoot is a good idea too. There was a lot of distance between each of the venues.
The first place to go to was where all of the bridal and bridesmaid preparation was taking place. It was a beautiful house, with lots of room to move around, giving me the opportunity to get some good angles. I always try to be as unobtrusive as possible. It was lovely that I was able to shoot around the whole bridal party, who weren’t concerned by my presence. That makes the final shots very natural, with no forced posing or awkward moments. I’ve included some of those shots in the gallery below, because they seldom get seen outside of the album.
The second location to get to was the church, a gorgeous building that shouted about being the central location of the village. It was set down a little lane which provided a nice spot to shoot the arrival of everyone, and it was next to the pub, always a good sign! Vicky arrived in an immaculate VW camper, as can be seen below, accompanied by a very proud dad.
I was allocated a spot behind the vicar for the duration of the ceremony, from which I was unable to move. Nevertheless I managed to get some lovely shots of Vicky and Luke, as well as their family and friends. Flashless photography was the order of the day in the church, but my equipment coped without any concerns.
From the church we moved to the third location, which was the garden of the groom’s dad. I say garden, but that doesn’t do it justice. It was massive, swallowing a marquee as if it wasn’t there, with masses of room for tables and seating on hay bales. There was even plenty of room for camping, which some of the guests did after the day was done.
What I particularly like about garden events is the scope they provide to get some sunset shots of the bride and groom, along with members of their families and friends. I was lucky, the sunset was a deep blue this time, with some nice clouds moving across the tree line.
All in all, it was a fantastic day. Vicky and Luke are perfect as a couple, and I wish them a long and happy life together.
To say that Hannah and Grant planned their garden wedding to the minutest detail wouldn’t be an understatement. I was booked some 18 months before their big day, which contrasted completely to my previous wedding. On that occasion I had only three days notice.
This was a wedding of firsts for me. It was not only my first garden wedding, but also my first non-church or registry office ceremony. Hannah and Grant were having the ceremony conducted by a celebrant, similar to the format of a registry office wedding. A nice touch was that the ceremony was being held in a place of their choosing which was in the garden of Hannah’s mum.
I always do a pre-wedding shoot so that I can meet the bride and groom before the big day. It helps to break the ice, they get used to me pointing a camera at them, and lights too if they’re needed, and we get to have a chat about the way they want the day to go. At our initial meeting Hannah and Grant told me how much work they were putting into their wedding. They were very hands on and making lots of decorations and even the garden entertainment themselves. I was told about the games they planned to have on the very large lawn, and I listened in amazement about the large marquee that was going to be used for the reception. I tried to visualise that as we walked around the garden, and thought I had it pictured in my mind.
The view that I had changed totally on the day when I arrived to take my preparation shots. The marquee was huge and it had three distinct areas. An entrance and bar area led into the area where the wedding breakfast was to be held. Doorways led to a dance floor and disco area. I was stunned by the size of it all.
It took me a long time to get all of the preparation shots done. Table details included handmade plaques showing key dates in Hannah and Grant’s relationship, like the one you can see below. After shooting inside the marquee I moved outside to cover all of the games and the area where the ceremony was to take place. The straw bale seating was amazing and worked perfectly with the setting.
The weather behaved, the day went very well indeed, and it ended with a beautiful golden sunset over the end of the garden. That was an opportunity that I just couldn’t miss, but I had only a short window in which to get all of the images taken. Sunsets never last long enough, but we got there.
Once again I was lucky to be chosen to record the events of a lovely wedding. Hannah & Grant are perfect for each other, that was evident from the time that I spent with them both before and on their special day. I wish them a long and happy life together.
Studio Portrait Shoots
I met Chelsey at a recent wedding where I was photographing the big day and she was one of the guests. I didn’t notice her at the church, but saw her at the reception and wondered if she would be interested in doing a studio based portrait shoot. After a brief chat I left her my card and thought no more of the meeting until she called me the next day.
We arranged a shoot at a studio in Peterborough for the Thursday after the wedding. I made my way there and Chelsey arrived very shortly after me with a car full of clothing. I don’t think I have seen quite so many dresses, skirts, tops and jeans crammed into a vehicle before.
The idea was to start off nice and easy as this was Chelsey’s first time in a studio. I ran through a few posing basics and explained the sort of shots I was looking for. I also took a few magazines to the studio to show her, so we could visualise some looks and styles.
Chelsey took to it like a duck to water, needing only a tiny bit of guidance here and there.
As well as bringing a massive amount of clothing with her, Chelsey brought lots of accessories, not least a selection of hats. We shot with two of them, both trilbies, one black and the other black snd white checks. The shot on the left shows that hat, beautifully modelled.
The Orange Top
I had expected Chelsey to be very nervous, but the three hours we booked in the studio flew by. There were so many changes of wardrobe that I wanted to get through, but we didn’t get the opportunity. We did get to the orange top though, one of my favourite items that Chelsey brought with her. Shooting against a grey background allowed me to change the colour in post production, so I changed it to a contrasting blue. That combination of colours, together with Chelsey’s blonde hair makes this shot one my favourites of the day.
White Shirt and Jeans
The final shot I’ve chosen is a classic white shirt and jeans shot with a chair. It’s another one of my favourite shots of the day, because it’s so relaxed.
I do try to keep my studio portraits as simple and clean as possible. I’m not a fan of clutter, I believe that one prop is enough as I don’t want anything to take attention away from the subject. Sometimes it’s not possible to do that, if a studio has a fixed set the contol is taken away and you have to go with it. On this occasion, the chair was there and it was all that I needed.
All in all, I had a thoroughly enjoyable session with Chelsey, so much so that we arranged a follow up shoot for some fashion and portrait shots on location. More of that later!
A short notice shoot!
There’s nothing like a short notice shoot to sharpen your senses. One of my previous recommendations was read by Sam and I was asked if I could shoot his upcoming wedding to Marian. The wedding was around 10 days away from his enquiry so I had little time in which to get everything sorted out ready for the day.
One of the things I like to do before shooting the day is to meet the bride and groom, and anyone else involved with the wedding, so we can make sure that the day is covered properly and I’m in the right place at the right time. As part of the meeting I offer a mini-shoot so the couple can get used to me and the camera. That helps ensure that there are no nasty surprises for the bride and groom on the day, when their heads are filled with all of the stress and strain that forms part of their special day.
The date we agreed on for the meeting was only three days before the day of the wedding, so it was easily the the shortest period of time between the pre-wedding and wedding shoots that I had ever done. We decided to meet at Burghley House, famed for its horse trials held in the grounds. Indeed, when we arrived to meet and shoot, tents, stalls and fences were still in place as this year’s trials held been held only the week before.
It was easy to see at the meeting that Marian and Sam were made for each other. They were so easy to get on with, and we discussed the day as we moved around the grounds of Burghley House looking for locations.We managed to find a nice spot with a view of the house in the background. Sadly the day day was very cloudy with lots of imposing grey clouds but thankfully no rain. It was windy too, but that didn’t spoil the shoot.
With them both was their dog Missy, who was quite keen to be part of the shoot. She was very well behaved and was happy to wander around, though posing wasn’t her strong point. She did slip her harness at one point but didn’t wander away, she just wanted to have a look at what was going on.
We took a walk along the side of the large water feature in the grounds and took a few shots on the bridge over the inlet to the lake. Missy decided that she wanted to be in this shot, the only one I got where she was facing the camera. I had wanted to get to go back another 10 yards or so to get this shot so I could get some nice lead-in lines but was unable to do so because there were some locked wrought-iron gates blocking my way.
The final shot of the day was taken from the bank of the lake inlet. Marian & Sam kindly agreed to walk through a wet area to themselves to the centre of the stream. They stood on a thin strip of compacted mud and gravel with water either side of them. I get slightly worried when we do shots like this as there is always the danger that clothes will get dirty, or even worse, torn or damaged in some other way. They weren’t at all phased by the idea, and when they moved together for the hug and kissed I knew I had the shot I wanted for the day.
We finished the shoot after that picture, and moved back to cafe at the house to discuss the wedding day, which will be blogged later. It was around that time that I found I had dropped all of my keys somewhere in the extensive grounds. Luckily for me, they had been found by the porter and were returned to me very quickly. Thank God for honest people!
Emma’s 30th Birthday Party
A party with a Barbie and Ken theme
A little while ago I was asked if I would like to photograph a themed birthday party. Needless to say I jumped at the chance as themed parties can be so much fun. Emma had just turned 30 so that special occasion had to be marked with a big event.
Emma has always had a bit of a Barbie thing, so I knew that there was going to be an awful lot of pink clothing involved. I wasn’t to be disappointed as nearly everyone entered into the spirit of the evening.
The evening started with Emma’s arrival in a white Range Rover, and she was dressed in a pink ballgown. Guests arrived rapidly, and I manged to get some formal shots of them in the foyer. After that they moved to the function room for music, dancing, food and drink. I was able to move around freely after everyone had arrived so candid shots were the order of the day.
Emma had invited a lot of family and friends, so it was always going to be a very social night. Things became a little less formal as the night wore on as can be seen from the selection of pictures below. The bar was doing a roaring trade and that made my job a little bit easier as inhibitions fell away. It’s always good to be surrounded by people who want to have their picture taken!
The nature of the shoot means that I can’t provide links to the gallery for this shoot, but I am able to add a selection of shots from the night on this blog. Emma was very kind in giving me permission to do so.
I am always available for family shoots, as well as portraits and weddings. Contact me by clicking here if you would like to discuss an upcoming event.
Here I am, sitting in my hotel room in Hounslow on the outskirts of London, the night before my first wedding shoot of 2016 and I’m feeling kind of happy. It has nothing to do with the rather nice pint of Boddington’s draught I hasten to add.
It’s nothing to do either with the fact that I got here safely, despite my satnav’s mean and nasty trick of getting me to the hotel via the North Circular road. I knew it was up to something when it told me not to take the A421 to Bedford, and I was more than a little surprised when it totally ignored the M25 junction. I decided to play its little game and see where it took me, as it has loads of smart technology to guide me around roadworks, earhquakes and plagues of locusts. Little did I know that it was going to take me on the A406. The last 18 miles included passing the RAF Museum at Hendon and the mecca of football, Wembley Stadium. Each mile passed was a target, as were a load of other cars on the road, but I missed them all.
So, why happy then? Well, I get to have a relaxed evening in my hotel room before the wedding shoot starts at 13:00. I can have breakfast, walk around the venue, take some test shots and get to meet and chat to the very helpful hotel staff before I get a suit on and start doing the business stuff. That makes my first shoot of the year so much easier.
All of that is down to the bride and groom. I’m not going to mention their names to save their embarrassment, but for the first time ever I was told that they were getting me a room at the wedding venue to make it easy for me, so I’ve not had to arrange anything. Kind and thoughtful brides and grooms, you’ve got to love them.
There’s just not enough hours in a day or days in a week. Being busy is wonderful, far preferable to sitting around and doing nothing. Sometimes though you can’t be busy doing what you want to do, you have to be busy doing something else, hence the long break since my last post. I’m trying to rectify that as I have done a tremendous amount of shooting, I just haven’t been able to get it all out there.
An early burst of summer back in May found me working with the rather lovely Ayla Rose. I’m going to be posting a lot more images of her in a few different styles, but in this post I’m looking at some of the portrait shots we got.
We made our way to the Nacton side of the bank of the River Orwell, just outside Ipswich in Suffolk. The day was nice, we had been blessed with a but of sunshine and some warmth, and it was dry. We wanted to shoot some portraits first, before we changed to another style.
After a short walk we stumbled across a number of sites that offered something to add to our shots, not least this rather large lump of weathered tree trunk. Ayla needed no encouragement to use it!
The tide had only recently receded at the time we shot, so the foreshore was muddy and it was very, very soft. I hadn’t realised that when I asked Ayla to sit on an old protruding stump. She wasn’t put off in the least and got on with it, though we did have some problems with the mud that clung to her feet and ankles. In true model style, wet wipes were produced from a cavernous bag and the mud disappeared from our later shots. Wonderful!
All my life I’ve tried not to grow up, because that’s the first stage of growing old, and that’s dangerous. I’ve tried to maintain a mental age, sense of humour and general demeanour of my 18 year old self, but every now and then reality kicks in.
Over the last month or so I’ve taken a hard look at what I’ve done so far in my photographic life and realised that things are going to have to change. I’ve invested a lot of time and money in kit, training and software, learning how to take a decent photograph and how to edit to give my shots that final polish. It’s not been easy, I’ve spent far too much time sat behind my PC churning out loads of images for absolutely no return.
I took a reality check to see if the stuff I do is reasonable. I joined a professional body (more expenditure) and submitted various pictures to get assessed by industry professionals. Out of 12 submitted to them so far I’ve been told that all bar one are of a good professional standard and the one missed that level only fell short by half a mark. Eight of them got a bronze award, one a silver. I’m pleased with that although I always want to do better. To that end, I’m going to get mentored to help me progress my photography, but that, of course, means more expenditure. Do you see a theme developing here?
My brain is telling me that I need to start to recoup some of my outlay and I have to accept that as I don’t have bottomless pockets. As from the 1st December I will be charging for my shoots, excepting those that I have already arranged. My prices are very low in comparison to other photographers shooting locally, but that will change in April of next year. I’ve updated my website at www.melpettitwedding.photography today to reflect the change. If you want to take a look at the site please do and you can spread the word if you wish. Taking the decision to charge wasn’t easy, and I’ve no doubt I may well lose a few friends and face criticism over my photography, but that’s the way it is. I think I might actually have grown up just a little bit.
I may have said this before, but I absolutely adore doing people photography. There are so many things you can do with the human form but I love a good, honest and simple portrait. I find a head and shoulders shot drags you into the eyes of your subject, capturing a look that can never be recreated in exactly the same way again. In one 160th of a second you are taken right into the soul of the person you are photographing.
I love this photograph of Rachel. I was lucky enough to work with her for about a year, and even luckier that she wanted to do a session in the studio with me. Rachel is not a model, so the whole studio thing was a bit scary for her, but within 10 minutes she was relaxed and we were producing a series of shots.
Soon after we started the black dress went on and with red lipstick complimenting her gorgeous red hair I knew we were ready for some close-up head and shoulders portraits.
The idea was to get some shots with a fairly shallow depth of field, giving a bit of a dreamy look to the shot. Although taken in the studio we turned the flash off and moved the light in closely, using only the continuous modelling light. Rachel’s position was crucial as I wanted the shadows in just the right place around her nose and I think we achieved that.
The second shot is of Annie Moya. This was the first time I had worked with Annie, and the only model I have so far booked for a whole day.
I met Annie at the train station in Peterborough and then we set off for the studio. We got through a number of styles in there, including this portrait, before going to one of the numerous local nature reserves to do some work outside using the ever changing backdrops that are crying out to be used in people shots.
You’ve got to hope that you get on when you’re working with someone for eight hours and you’ve never met them before, but thankfully we were good together and soon settled in to producing a wide variety of images.
In this shot Annie also went for a gorgeous black dress against a grassy background although that can’t be seen in this shot.
Portraits and redheads – what a great combination!