The photo above is probably my favourite posed wedding photo of the year, and close to being my favourite lit photo that I’ve taken.  I captured it last Saturday at Maryborough Hotel and Spa in Cork, towards the end of Martina and Eric’s lovely wedding. I had previsualized it long before I took it, and, unlikely and all as it seems, it turned out pretty much as I had hoped.  In my previsualization, having not yet met the bride or groom, I didn’t know how they would look in the photo, nor indeed if they would be willing to oblige me with one last posed shot before their first dance.  In fact I first previsualized this shot a few weeks after taking a similar photo in the same setting over two years ago. That photo was one I was happy with, and more importantly one the bride and groom that day were happy with, but I felt I could light it better.  On Saturday I got my chance with a willing couple, a dry evening and just the right amount of lights switched on in Maryborough House, and two years on I think it was worth the wait.  How I did it, briefly, is below.

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I photographed a really really lovely wedding last Saturday – I’ve known the groom Denis for years, and so knew a lot of guests at the wedding too. That’s always good. The setting was The Rectory, a boutique country house in beautiful Glandore, West Cork, with a gorgeous view of the bay and a garden which wraps around the front of the house to take full advantage of it. It was my first time there, but I hope not my last. The weather played a few games on us, but generally was quite cooperative – the games were it bluffing us with winds and clouds that made me worry that we wouldn’t get much garden time at all, but in the end most of the day for guests and bridal party alike was spent outside. Because I knew the couple and lots of the guests, I stayed through until the evening, and while the band were setting up (and after the sun had set) I noticed a beautiful pink sky to the east (in front of the venue) as the sun set to the west. I asked Denis and Lisa if they would like one last photo in the gardens and they were happy to give me a couple of minutes of their time so I quickly grabbed a flash, trigger and softbox and out we went. I just needed something to hold the softbox – or rather, someone.

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UPDATE: The course is now fully booked.

I’m pleased to be able to announce the next date for my one-day workshop on flash photography. I’ll be running in at the RUA RED South Dublin Arts Centre in Tallaght, Dublin on Saturday 27th April, 2013. RUA RED is a great location for lots of reasons, not least because of how accessible it is by public transport with a good bus service and the Luas (red line) stopping literally outside the door. There is free all-day parking available nearby too, and the venue has a cafe which means that I can include lunch for all participants on the day in the cost.

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Caoimhe, above, aged 18 months, will be walking up the aisle for her Mummy and Daddy’s wedding in May and when I called out to chat to them about their wedding at the weekend I brought along my camera, a softbox and a 4 foot roll of black paper to capture a few photos of her. It’s not necessarily easy to photograph children at this age, so I thought I’d post a little bit about the process of lighting and taking images such as these.

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And so, as we roll steadily through the early days of 2013, we come to T, much later than originally planned, but we’re here all the same. There were contenders for the topic that T would represent in this A to Z of Photography – timing, tonal range, telephoto lenses, tripods – but I think it’s most useful to give you an overview of one aspect of photography that is as misunderstood as it is used, that is as frustrating as it is useful, and that is as complicated as it simple. I’m talking about TTL flash. Or, to many of you, simply flash. So grab your camera, pop up (or pop on) your flash, and let’s work our way through this surprisingly complicated area of photography.

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The Dublin dates of the Taking Control of Flash Photography workshop in November have now sold out.

Thank you to those who’ve booked a place. It’s flattering to see so much interest in the workshops and I look forward to meeting all 30 of you in a few weeks time.

I don’t yet have any further courses arranged, but I hope to run another workshop in January or February. If you want to register your interest for that just drop me a mail and I’ll keep you posted when it’s organised.

I gave a 90 minute presentation to Dublin Camera Club on Tuesday night about Flash Photography, and the first third or so of the talk covered my own history with flash photography, from not too illustrious beginnings (on-camera direct flash, harsh light, unflattering images and inconsistent results) to where I am now (namely, I hope, a competent user of flash who can get good quality results in environments that require or benefit from its use). I wrote before about being seen as “the flash guy” in the camera club, and I think that reputation arises out of the fact that I am confident enough in my understanding of flash to show others how to use it – the one day workshops I run being a good example of this. But in preparation for my talk on Tuesday night I did a quick assessment of what percentage of the images I take are lit by flash, and the figure (roughly) is about 14% over the last couple of years.  That might be lower than some people who know me expected, but it’s actually higher than I expected. Still, it’s a minority of my photography. What’s key, though, is that for 80% of that 14% I can confidently say that my use of flash improved the image I would otherwise have got, and in many cases made an impossible image possible. It’s worth mentioning too that I can, literally, count on one hand the number of on-camera direct flash photographs I’ve taken in the last 5 years, since I started out on my journey to learn how to properly (and appropriately) use flash in my photography because the first place that journey took me was to get the flash off the camera. It all starts with a photograph I took in Feburary 2007.

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In December I travelled to Wicklow to photograph three generations of the Lawlor family in a beautiful house just outside Wicklow town.  The photoshoot was a present from siblings Susan, Alan and Conor to their parents to mark their 40th anniversary, and all we needed to proceed with it was a date when everyone would be able to be in the same room (me included).  That day arrived just before Christmas.

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Last summer I had two photographic projects which I wrote about but couldn’t really share photos from.  One was the Dublin Simon project which made it to print at the very end of the year.  The second was a series of staff portraits which I ended up shooting in two pretty short sessions in the company’s boardroom.  At the time I wrote a behind-the-scenes post about the taking of the images, sharing only a set-up shot showing the lighting.  I promised to refer you to the images when they went live.  Well, that time has come.

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Up to now, whenever I’ve done studio portraits – or, to be more correct, ‘portable studio’ portraits, I’ve tended to do high key images on a white background.  I really like that look, and it works especially well, I think, for child portraits, which I like shooting.  But it’s not without it’s disadvantages.  In fact, three issues with it come to mind immediately, best summarised as follows: it can be a big hard mess.  Last night I started playing with an alternative approach to portraits, and five minutes in I could feel myself being converted.  It’s quite possible that for my portraiture at least, black might be the new white.

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