Karen and Tommy’s Wedding

This is my friend Karen and her new husband Tommy on their wedding day in Inveraray. Julie and I had the great pleasure of photographing the wedding early this September. This lovely picture of the happy couple in front of Inveraray Castle is of course the highlight of the story of their day, but I thought you would like to see one of the formal wedding pictures that we did straight up front. I love this picture and I’m sure the strong associations with Inveraray where they met and were later married will always have a resonance for them.


However earlier in the day Julie and I arrived at Karen’s Mum and Step-Dad’s house to find the rain-soaked garden full of celebratory and joyous touches like these:



Shortly after us, the wedding girlies arrived to begin their preparations.They were such a lovely group of girls and just a photographer’s dream; they let Julie and I simply get on with catching moments while making us both feel really welcome.


Of course Julie wasted no time getting down to photographing the beautiful dress and shoes which still awaited Karen. The details on this dress were amazing.


More detail from Karen’s dress here:


Julie was tickled-pink by these stunning shoes and as a result could only limit herself to 326 pictures of them; you can really see why…


But of course, wedding preparations are about people, and I managed to catch Karen and her mum helping each other with the finishing touches to some stunning make-up. This one in the bedroom wardrobe-mirror:


This one without the mirror; doesn’t Sheena look stunning!


Simultaneously the wedding girlies are turning into bridesmaids; check the gorgeous hair detail here:


However, nice as hair can be, and wonderful as dresses and veils are, what wedding girlies really get motivated by are….Shoes! Karen here with make-up applied, and hair just beautiful, indulging a little shoe-talk before the final dressing.


Eventually, this all leads to Karen donning her dress and becoming a fully prepared lovely bride. By this time in the day I had left Julie to be the attached-photographer with the girls, while I wandered into Inveraray to meet the groom’s family and friends for some photos. Julie took this one of Karen in the garden with Loch Fyne behind:


Julie caught this one of Karen’s mum and nephew Evan; what a wonderful moment after the full kilt outfit has been donned!


It contrasts particularly well with this earlier, more playful moment with Evan:


By now we have actual, beautiful bridesmaids. Loch Fyne again is the background:



And Karen by now ready to go looking just wonderful:


And with the now full complement of Bridesmaids, Karen only awaited the car:


Which duly arrived. Check the detail on this amazing vehicle:


Meanwhile I had arrived at the Argyll Hotel to find the Groom’s party getting in the mood and putting the final touches to their Highland Regalia. As Tommy’s family are Mancunians this was probably a very strange experience for them. Tommy as the sole non-Scot in this picture with David and Derek carries it off like a native I’m sure you’ll agree!


I’m not sure what I was shooting for in this one, but somehow “Reservoir Dogs” – Argyll is what I achieved.


This one of best man, Anthony,  is brilliant. Between his eyes catching the light, and my flash diffuser adding catchlights, his eyes look amazing. He was conversing with someone in a first floor window, leading one to spot a certain Romeo-beneath-the-balcony vibe!


I managed to snatch 5 minutes inside the hotel with Tommy on his own, and using natural window light nabbed this striking picture of him. I hope he likes it, I know I am delighted with the lighting. He looks great!


However, the lads were just killing time before the church service in the town. Karen’s brothers Derek and David headed off to supervise the guests’ arrival. Game on!


This lovely lady was playing the magnificent pipe organ before anyone arrived. Karen and Tommy had requested light and happy music for the wedding and so as I set up some lenses for the service, I was treated to “Mairi’s Wedding” and similar Scottish traditional classics. These were good choices, I couldn’t have been anymore up for a wedding as a result.


The church was beautifully prepared for the service. The Inveraray church is a wonderful building with two sides, one the English church and the other the Gaelic church. You can’t miss it as the main road through Inveraray actually flows around both sides of it. I didn’t photograph it however, as it was being renovated by Historic Scotland and was fully clad in scaffolding and tarpaulin. The inside was lovely and quite unaffected:



Inveraray’s best known and finest piper was setting the mood for the happy union before the first guests arrived.


By now the main street in Inveraray had started to fill up with locals and visitors alike anxious to see the Bridal Party arrive.


Bridesmaids first of course, led here by Kim.


Mum’s arrival being celebrated by her waiting sons!


Well, just when expected, Inveraray had itself a bridal party. Check that Beauford!


But more importantly, check the contents of the Beauford. One beautiful bride and one proud step-dad.


I love this arrival picture.  All of the watchers from the town, Karen looking lovely and look how happy John is as he prepares to walk her up the aisle!


Of course, within the church Tommy and Anthony await.


Finally folks, we have a wedding. John has walked Karen down the aisle and is ready to hand her to Tommy. What was so nice as a photographer was seeing how genuine and affectionate everything about this wedding was. What was more difficult was how low the light levels in the church were. This picture was at f2.8 and despite the motion, only just 1/60th of a second. Motion blur became a serious problem. Only some diffuse flash helped still these scenes.


Bridesmaids all in place and waiting. Don’t they look gorgeous with their bouquets?


Finally Tommy’s wait is over. Here are both of them beginning their wedding:



And their Minister Louis beginning the ceremony…




And then a close up of their hands during the exchange of rings.


Leading to this wonderful moment…


Leading of course to the official signing. Shortly after this moment, I announced to the congregation that I would step out of the picture and let them all grab this moment on their camera-phones and compacts. This is normally a cool and gracious thing for the photographer to do, but it’s not so cool when he knocks over a large bouquet of flowers and its vase as he walks backwards… no really, I did…


So those outside the church get their first look at the newly married Karen and Tommy.


Karen briefly gets to mingle outside with friends. Looking seriously beautiful!


Here are Karen and Tommy back in the car and ready to be whisked off to Inveraray Castle for the formal shots. Getting Karen’s dress back inside that tiny car was an impressive challenge for the bridesmaids.


This was an interesting challenge photographically. We only had half an hour before the car was due to leave to do the formal pictures including the romantic ones with Tommy and Karen. We pushed our luck to 40 minutes I believe. That of course is what makes wedding photography such a high wire act. Here are the formal family and friend groups:



















Which left us now about 10 minutes with the couple. If I could plan a wedding day in advance I would choose about 30 minutes with the couple. In this case as so often, we only had a short time to choose the best backgrounds and make the best of the light available using simple fill flash. A little post processing to bring out the drama in the sky and this is where we came in to this blog post…


Simply turning around and moving slightly we were able to select another background. Fill flash again of course.


And now a little closer. Beautiful dramatic couple pictures.


As I said, we had a deadline with a car. A final few minutes allowed us to capture Karen and Tommy heading back to the Argyll Hotel for their meal and reception.




Back at the hotel, the guests were having a lovely time:











What a wee cutie!


Julie captured this gorgeous pairing.


Also this wedding girliefest!


However, a cake was waiting to be cut before dinner!




Then of course, there had to be dancing. Tommy claimed not to be much of a dancer, but it was clear that he rose to the occasion magnificently!




Of course all the guests were rising to the occasion just as magnificently. This was a great party.


With of course a great band:


John and Sheena were leading lights of course at the dancing!








No bride can dance all night of course. Karen eventually needed to take a break and take of those beautiful shoes.


With the night soon to be over, Sheena and John can be well pleased with the way the day has gone. It was a great wedding and a delight to photograph.


Congratulations Karen and Tommy!

Photographic thoughts:

First of all, photographing a wedding is always done best with an assistant. In the ideal world, that assistant can switch from being a holder-of-gear such as remote flashguns, to a fully independent second-shooter. Julie was exactly that and has shown that over a few years of photography she has developed a great eye and really strong technical skills in post-processing the raw files. Julie took some brilliant pictures, lots of which are included here. Above all however, Julie has the people skills to get the best from her subjects and to put them at their ease while still thinking about the technicalities of the light. I believe this wedding like her previous ones saw her act like a 7th bridesmaid on occasion helping carry bridal trains and sorting little details on the dress. In short she was brilliant. (Actually I helped carry the train as well after our brief formal shoot, does that make me a sort of 8th bridesmaid)?

Technically, the church was a real low light challenge! It was a challenge with fast lenses, f2.8 constant on my zooms, and f1.8/1.4 on my primes to get better than 1/100th of a second even at ISO 3200. Even with my long 70-200 at f2.8 for the close ups of the couple, I had to shift to ISO 6400. The low light made good noise reduction software a must as well as simply having good low light cameras. My 5d mk2 is decent in this regard, but if anyone feels like upgrading me to a mk3 for real low light challenges like this, then I’ll not say no:-) The noise reduction in Lightroom is very good indeed now, but you still feel you are smearing detail to some extent. It’s interesting seeing some guests photographs on Facebook, and although they have got some lovely photographs inside the church, the noise levels in them are astronomical! The church had some low hanging lights which I had switched off. Although they may have helped the background levels, they hung just at head height and would have been massively bright and distracting in the pictures and would have been all-but-impossible to clone out later.

The reception was lit entirely in purple light with swirling projections and was such a challenge that we had to play the numbers game of taking lots of pictures hoping to get a few sharp ones. Light levels were so low you couldn’t achieve focus-lock at all and so for a few I used manual focus. Those pictures that we did nail, had the swirling projections on people’s faces, so all in all, moody dark lighting for a reception looks great for the guests experiencing it, it makes photography somewhat wing-and-a-prayer.

Overall we were made so welcome at this wedding and had so much fun doing it. Technical challenges aside, it was a great day for us and hopefully we have helped capture as many great memories as possible for Karen and Tommy.


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