Last week I taught my first ever wedding photography workshop! It was exciting and terrifying and also terrifying.
It was 3 full days spent in the French Pyrenees with talks, shoots and lots of French wine. The venue was an old mill house called La Materette run by an English couple who are the nicest people ever and also the most incredible cooks – I want to go back there just for Nick’s samosas. (ps they hold weddings there, if I get married it’s where I’d go! I mean, heated pool, woodland hot tub, cute dog, chatty cat, insane food, French mountains, what more do you want, people?!)
There were 9 students along for the ride, plus me, Rachel and Steve (our real couple who modelled for us) and Claire the stylist, who I used to work with in publishing and who in an amazing wedding planner and stylist.
Rachel, Claire and I spent months chatting and plotting the styled shoot, which was a Midsummer Night’s Dream theme. We shared stress, euphoria and lots of gifs over Facebook messenger, and in the end to see our collective brains come together on the last night with the styled shoot was nothing short of magical – I peeked a look at the shoot setup while I was doing one to ones and it was tough not to cry it was so beautiful.
The weekend before the workshop, Rachel, Steve and I headed down to the venue to prep and scout locations for the photoshoots. I’d done the same back in March and had a good idea of where to do everything, but we came across some even more beautiful spots this time around, so everything changed!
Here are a few shots of the venue – an old mill house in the valley of the Pyrenees, with a pool, a weir, a river, many acres of woodland, plus a dog called Nina and a chatty cat called Lily:
Yep that’s right – a hot tub in the woods!
And on Monday afternoon, the students arrived! We had 6 girls and 3 boys, and everyone got on so well right from the start.
One of my students, Tash (below in the red checked blanket) is also a bride whose wedding I’m shooting next year!
We did a quick posing session with Emma and Rich, who were also students (plus Emma was making a video of the workshop, which I can’t wait to see!). Instead of a slideshow presentation, I made little notebooks for everyone with crib notes and photos to illustrate the points. They went down well!
Next we drove up into the French Pyrenees (our ears kept popping as the views got better!) for a mini photoshoot. The reason I chose the French Pyrenees as a location for the workshop was so that the students could get photos for their portfolio with a mountainous backdrop, so they could book destination weddings from it. Destination weddings are the holy grail for a lot of wedding photographers – we all love to travel and shoot in exciting new places, but often when we travel we don’t have a couple to shoot as well. So we brought Rachel and Steve, our real couple (whose powder paint wedding I shot two years ago) to model for us in the mountains!
Matt spotted a cow…
Matt and the cow in a twerking competition…
We jumped back in the cars and headed down the hill to Lac du Bethmale, a mirror lake surrounded by trees – they were turning autumnal, so the colours were insane. When I visited in March they were covered in snow!
I spotted this cool tree as we were walking around, so decided to set up an impromptu off-camera flash lesson. Rich has a vape so he produced some awesome smoke for us. What you can’t see here is Tash holding my flash and Rich puffing on the vape hiding behind the trees knee deep in used tissues. Yuck!
This little spot was incredible – the angle you’re looking at the lake completely transforms the colour of the water.
Meanwhile, stylist Claire foraged for flowers for our next shoot.
Back at the house, we had another shoot planned. The original idea had been to use Lac du Bethmale (the mirror lake above) as a “standing on water” shoot, but when we revisited, it was obvious the earth under the water was too sinky and also we noticed the lake was protected so that plan was out the window. Luckily the venue has its own river! Here are Nick and Fran the venue owners and Nina the adorable dog and workshop mascot:
The purpose of the shoot was to create a moody, low-light, glowing water shot – we did the shoot around 5pm so it wasn’t dark, but a bit of clever editing makes it look like it was.
Rachel made the crown herself and enjoyed it so much she has now set up an Etsy shop called Rebel Rebel Stitches
That evening we practised dance floor photos with Clare being our awesome dancing wedding guest.
We then hit the pool with our newfound flash skills to get that all-important bride and groom jumping in the pool shot. Students Charlie and Matt very bravely stepped up to be our bride and groom…
They jumped in several times before secretly deciding to dive bomb us and drench our cameras!
Damp but happy, we settled in with a few bottles of wine and a game of Cards Against Humanity. We finished at 2am, at which point I had to bake a cake for the shoot the next day!
The next day was one to one sessions and a big styled shoot – I’ll give you a sneak peek here, but as it’s being featured on Whimsical Wonderland Weddings (yippee!) I’m going to wait til it’s published before blogging it here. Watch this space…
And then it rained! All my students wanted to learn how I do rain photos, and we got the most perfect opportunity to shoot a real bride and groom all dressed up in the lovely rain 🙂
The shoot ended with a massive BBQ banquet using the styled shoot props as table decorations – the room was turned around in about 2 minutes by Claire while everyone changed into their fancy outfits, then we enjoyed a big fancy dinner as guests and not photographers, which was wonderful. I cut the shoot cake (wedding style) and we all tucked in – the cake itself is a little surprise for you to see on Whimsical in a few weeks! You will love it!
There will be another Kick Ass Workshop next year – register your interest here: