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two little boys standing by the christmas tree laughing Photographing Children

Simple tips to take amazing pics on your smartphone…

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As a parting gift for this year, here’s some useful tips for taking pics on your smartphone over the Christmas period. All the pictures you’ll see here have been taken on a very dodgy old Google Pixel 3 phone (no amazing smartphone with lots of features). They have had no digital retouching or special in-phone effects added.

I am going to demonstrate some basic photography skills to show you how to compose the best pics to share with family and friends.

Briefer than my usual blogs as your time is precious more than ever in the run up to Christmas, hopefully you can scan and grab a few nuggets.

I have focused on kids as I have kids. But same rules apply for shooting husbands (not literally), guinea pigs, newborns, you get the idea…..

1/ Fill the frame

Boring backgrounds really distract from gorgeous people. Don’t be afraid to get up closer (there’s a social distance joke there, I can’t bear to make) and make your subject the prime focus. In the examples below I have got one of my sons to stand about 1.5 metres in front of the tree so you have a bit of a blurry background rather than everything in sharper focus. Again, you get more attention on the person your photographing and the backdrop looks a bit more pro 😉.

2/ Make your backgrounds look more professional

Bokeh is the beautiful blur that appears when you distance your subject from the background. Perfect at xmas when you have lots of fairy lights, it creates lots of circular blurry dots.

Here’s me taking a selfie right next to the tree. Not very atmospheric and quite flat:

Victoria Green looking unimpressed by the christmas tree demonstrating if you are too close, you don't get good bokeh
Directly in front of tree, there is little bokeh and everything in focus. Could do better! 😐

Alternatively, here’s a selfie below taken 2.5 metres away from the tree. Look at that dreamy tree! You can see the lights look stunning and there’s more bokeh. Have a play. If you get people to stand 1-3 metres away from the tree (space permitting!) you’ll see the different effect this has in your pictures and you can work out what works best for you:

Victoria Green standing in front of the christmas tree
2.5 metres from the tree. We have a lovely bokeh effect and as the subject, I’m in sharper focus 😁

3/ Get kids to go on their tummies!

Fidgety kids don’t look comfortable and like themselves – so get them on their tummies and close together, ideally with the tree in the background. If you’re hip and cool you’ll call this picture ‘so instagrammable!’ I am not. So I will say, that’s the hero shot to send the old fashioned way to everyone you know on email.

two little boys sitting on their tummies in front of the christmas tree

4/ Photograph the tree when it’s dark outside

So Christmas is all about the beautiful lights and reflections from shiny objects. If the picture you want to send to everyone is taken at midday, it might not have the same atmosphere and feeling of Christmassy-ness (is that a word!?) that you’d planned for (I sometimes turn my tree lights off during the day for the same reason – they don’t really sparkle or stand out). First thing in the morning while it’s still dark or from 4pm-ish when it’s closing in, your lights and decorations will come into their own. Or…because you need to do things when’s best for you and your kids…fake it and close the curtains a bit and help create ambience :0)

5/ Get real unposed moments

I have to get in my ‘I love natural storytelling’ bit as I love it so much and truly believe it produces the best photographs. Kids invariably look better natural. Mine certainly do (you can see the photograph above with them on their tummies, they look a little awkward as they don’t like their picture being taken!). Sure you do it anyway, but get all the natural pics of hugging, reactions to opening presents, laughing their bottoms off. They are often the gems! Mine look most natural and happy when they are running 🤣!!!

two little boys standing by the christmas tree laughing

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, feel free to let me know your feedback in the comments below.

Victoria Green is a featured professional wedding and family portrait photographer on Hitched, Bridebook and Wedding Planner.

Thank you for supporting me and my business. I hope this has been helpful.

Have fun snapping at Christmas 😁📷😍.

Victoria xx

Kent wedding photographer Victoria Green based in Tonbridge, Kent Wedding Photography Tips

8 Wedding Photography Details You Haven’t Thought About

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Incorporating these 8 wedding photography details into your planning will make your final pictures better. Some, a good professional photographer will have down to a tee (but it’s good to be aware of). And others you can decide for yourself and direct your photographer at your pre-meeting….

My name is Victoria Green and I am a featured wedding photographer with over 9 years experience shooting weddings across the South East.

1/ ** Interesting Fact **

The most awkward physical thing I observe shooting weddings:

People don’t know where to put their arms &

what to do with their hands.

A group of men altogether for a group shot, always put their hands in front of their crutch! I can only imagine it’s a natural psychological engrained thing in them to protect themselves. But it looks weird in pictures.

A good photographer will be used to this and encourage chaps to put their hands behind their back. The benefit of this is that it also bridges the gap between bodies so your group shots don’t have people with awkward spaces between them.

groom with ushers at Cuddington Church in Buckinghamshire

In another example, I encouraged these chaps to hold a lovely glass tankard, part of the vintage theme of the wedding. They instantly looked more relaxed having their picture taken as it didn’t feel so formal and stiff.

groom with best men at vintage wedding in Bromely, Kent

My gorgeous shy groom below, felt more comfortable in the couple portrait shots with a champagne glass in his hand as he had something to hold. And the pictures look more natural thanks to it. It’s a very subtle thing but it made a difference.

Lots of grooms benefit in group shots by holding the bride’s bouquet. It gets them closer to the bride which works well and again, it sorts the awkward stray limp arm!

Other times this rule goes out the window and it works for some chaps to have their arm by their side – it all depends how comfortable you feel with your picture being taken. This picture is a lovely candid shot – the father of the groom is happy holding his tankard and the chaps are all doing casual things which works because they are comfortable.

father of the bride with wedding guests at Smarden countryside village in Kent

2/ Take your phone out of your pocket.

Everyone puts their phone in their pockets these days. It creates a weird bump one side which can spoil the silhouette of your body in pictures. It’s even worse when chaps put their wallet on the other side. The clown big side trousers look doesn’t work for anyone!

Make a plan for the both of you on who is looking after anything essential you may need. It’s your wedding day – a nominated person should do all the carrying!

3/ Watch out for that Sainsbury’s bag!

Wedding guests purchase these gorgeous little dinky designer purses. They look amazing. They match outfits. But they quickly discover they hold diddly squat in them! And they end up having a spare bag for all sorts of other knick knacks they might need. 

Your photographer should be seriously on it and will spot funny stray carrier bags / any bags other than cute accessories that attempt to make their way cunningly into your group shots.

Guests with kids, of course are the worst offenders. I have been one. You have several contingency bags for things to keep them amused, spare clothes, etc and you end up lugging them around with you all day.

My two worst offending cases – I have spotted a Sainsbury’s Bag for Life right next to the couple during a ceremony (whoever put it there!?). And even worse, I had to delicately manage an Auntie who was holding her Waitrose carrier bag in a group shot!

a big cross over sainsburys bag of life appearing in your photos!
You would be amazed how many times the Bag for Life attempts to creep into group wedding shots! Your wedding pro will be on it! Choose someone who you can tell has an eye for detail.

4/ Everyone wears sunglasses on a hot day.

Does this bother you in your group photographs?

For my Summer weddings, I specifically ask this level of detail in our pre-meeting. I have friends that are quite upset all their group pics have everyone with sunglasses so they aren’t as recognisable.

Some couples don’t care. It’s a personal choice.

If you would prefer group shots without people wearing sunglasses – I personally do and usually recommend it – that can easily be managed by your photographer.  I never photograph group shots in harsh sun and I photograph with the sun in front of me so it’s my problem not people squinting looking weird. So no one to date has ever had an issue with my asking to remove their sunglasses.

Decide what your view is and tell your photographer.

5/ ** Top Tip Coming Up **

Manage your confetti shot so it is the last shot in your formal group shot list.

If you’re doing it at the church and then going to the reception for group shots this doesn’t matter as the confetti will have fallen off by then. But if you have your confetti shot and directly go to group shots….your guests could look like they have severe dandruff!

Of course a photographer can retouch lots of micro confetti particles. But they might not / might miss one / why not go for the easier option!?

6/ Chaps should have their buttons undone for formal photographs if they are wearing waistcoats. 

I am not saying this as I am an old you-know-wotsit and entrenched in tradition. I am saying it because it is so much more flattering when you have your arms behind your back to not have a gape where your waistcoat is being stretched. Even slim jims look better when there is less constriction on clothing. Trust me – there is nothing worse than a group of guys looking like their clothes don’t fit and they are about to burst! Not the cool suave look you were hoping for with your wedding photos….

7/ ** KEY INSIGHT **

People go nutty nuts with their mobile phones when the bride walks down the aisle.

This is one for you to consider and manage. I am seeing more and more couples ask guests to not take photos with their mobiles at the start of the ceremony. Why? Because the best photographer in the world at the end of the aisle, will not get a beautiful pic of the bride walking down the aisle if everyone on the end stretches out their arms holding a tablet / mobile phone. It can potentially ruin this key moment.

If you don’t mind and you want everyone to have that freedom – then that’s a choice.

If like a lot of couples you want this captured professionally then you can:

A/

Ask the celebrant, registrar or vicar to announce directly before the ceremony begins that the couple have asked you don’t take photos and there is a professional doing it.

Usually they will also say, “There will be a time after the photographer has taken pictures of the couple fake signing the register, that you can then go up and take a picture”.

B/

More couples are putting a notice in their order of service or posters in frames in front of the ceremony room asking guests to please refrain from mobile phone pics.

Unplugged wedding poster
Source: The Wedding Play Book

For inspiration and ideas on communicating to your guests an ‘unplugged wedding’, this blog from The Wedding Play Book is really helpful – click here.

Equally, if you go to Google images or pinterest and type ‘unplugged wedding signs’ there’s lots of different messages in different styles for inspiration. 

8/ Don’t plan in your itinerary any form of eating during the speeches.

Thankfully, all my couples that planned for dessert during the speeches have been convinced by my persuading them, that this is detrimental to their wedding photographs.

Speech photos are some of my favourite. You can’t beat taking pictures of people absolutely laughing their heads of. And then there’s sometimes tear jerking moments, big bear hugs – speeches cover all the emotions to guarantee beautiful candid, natural wedding photographs. But if Auntie Maud has her chops full of Eton mess or strawberry cheesecake, you’d wish she had not been laughing! Your pictures will never be good with fragments of food around people’s mouths or worse off, big puffy hamster cheeks. What a waste of such an incredible moment.

No matter what the venue says about timings, control and manage your itinerary so there is no eating during speeches. 

I’ve saved the best tip until last! I promise you’ll thank me for it.

Let’s leave this look to the hamsters!

I hope you’ve found these tips useful. Some might seem a bit minor but each of them really makes a difference to the quality of your wedding photographs. And you should have the best.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, feel free to let me know your feedback in the comments below.

Victoria is featured on Hitched, Wedding Planner & Bridebook.

Victoria xx

Click here free for The Ultimate Wedding Photography Guide for Camera Shy Couples

Kent wedding photographer Victoria Green based in Tonbridge, Kent Choosing a wedding photographer

6 Tips on how to choose the right photographer

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Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed with the amount of wedding photographers in your area to choose from? Kent, where I am based, is absolutely saturated with amazing, award winning photographers. And when you look at their portfolios or their pictures on wedding directories, you are spoilt for choice.

My name is Victoria Green and I am a featured wedding photographer with over 9 years experience shooting weddings across the South East.

Today I would like to share from my experience, 6 questions you can ask yourself / your prospective wedding photographer, to help you gauge whether they’re the right fit for you.

After you’ve whittled it down to around three photographers you like the look of…

1/ Personality acid test.

Ask yourself, “Do I like you?”

Okay, I am going to be frank with you – you are going to potentially be spending a lot of time with this person. Maybe your morning, when you’re getting dressed in front of them, they’re going to be privy to your private conversations maybe. They’ll be there at all the key emotional moments. It is crucial, that you LIKE THEM!!!

When you’re chatting on the phone / Zoom, ask yourself, can I cope / be okay with this person being around me all day? Do they seem a good fit with us?

2/ Go for someone local to where you live.

Unless you’re desperate for someone living hundreds of miles away, it makes good practical sense to seek a photographer that is local to yourself.

First it means you won’t be paying unnecessarily for mileage and travel time when there are probably alternative photographers in your area.

And second, it is also sensible to hire someone who isn’t travelling from too far away if the worst happens and they have car / travel troubles. I often travel 1-2 hours away and I can easily allow loads of contingency for my car breaking down / some plonker going into the back of me. But longer than 2 hours, there are more risks attached.

If your dead set on a specific photographer who lives further away, they might be prepared to stay overnight in a Premier Inn and you can offer that. I don’t mind being asked and your booking so far in advance, it can be as little as £30 for a room for the night.

3/ Put them on the spot and ask,

“What Happens if you can’t make it?”

All professional photographers should have an instant answer to this question. I, for example, have an Associate Photographer who will step in if something terrible happened and I got run over by a bus.

If they are slow to answer or seem waffly, they don’t have a back-up plan.

Victoria Green wedding photographer with her Associate Photographer, Cindy
Me with my Associate & Second Photographer, Cindy

4/ Listen to how many times your prospective photographer uses the word “I”.

Your wedding photography ultimately needs to be about what YOU want and what’s important to YOU. All photographers like to talk about / summarise their style (I have to control myself when you get me on ‘natural storytelling’ and why I love it). BUT….they need to reign it in and be interested in what you would like captured and what is important to you. Otherwise you’re not going to be happy with your photos. And that beyond sucks.

Choose someone who wants to listen to what you want.

Sadly, photography attracts certain sausages who like to play their own tune and get carried away with their artistic vision.

I always emphasis at my pre-meetings when my couples take me around their venue, “Show me what you love about this place”. Of course I’ll make recommendations or suggestions because that’s a valid part of my job too. But your photographer, needs to be wanting above all things to keep you happy and not put their artistic interpretation first.

5/ Ask your photographer:

“What happens if….?”

I sound like a meanie. But you’re paying for a service. So put them on the spot and give them a good grilling. Their responses will tell you if they have a reasonable position on being flexible when it comes to their time.

On my wedding day, I asked my make-up artist if she could stay an extra 10 minutes to help me fasten my tiara. She said it would cost £30!

You need to feel you can trust your suppliers and they will be as FLEXIBLE as they can be.

Couples often ask me as two of my price packages cover ‘up to and including the first dance’, “What happens if we run over and the first dance is later than scheduled?” This is a great question!!! And of course, I reply, “Don’t worry…these things often happen a little later than planned and you don’t need to worry about it”.

I have a friend whose photographer left thirty minutes before the first dance which they were supposed to cover as they got fed up waiting.

A good professional will wait with no caveats or price negotiations. It’s a small hit and we have to take it on the chin.

* Bonus tip * Check and directly ask that you have the RIGHT TO PRINT YOUR IMAGES. Most photographers these days will supply your images non-watermarked and you have the right to print them. However, there are still some photographers that supply their images watermarked and you have to pay extra per image to receive them non-watermarked.

6/ My last piece of advice is to visualise:

“Could this person be one of my friends?

It sounds cheesy. But it is the most important factor when choosing a photographer that you choose someone you feel super comfortable with.

Otherwise in your dream photographs, you won’t look like comfortable, relaxed, natural versions of yourself.

I hope this guide has given you some ideas on how to quiz your prospective photographers. Hopefully I won’t incur the wrath of my photography colleagues. But any good professional will happily answer your grilling.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, feel free to let me know your feedback in the comments below.

And of course, if you’d like to grill me on whether I’d be a good fit for you, then start by sending me a message and we can book a time that suits you for a chat.

Victoria is featured on Hitched, Wedding Planner & Bridebook.

Click here free for The Ultimate Wedding Photography Guide for Camera Shy Couples
two boys sitting on their tummies smiling in their garden in Tonbridge, Kent Photographing Children

Top tips for photographing your kids during lockdown

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Kids can be incredibly natural in front of the camera. They can be distracted by their love of fun and ignore me more than a lot of self-conscious adults. Their expressions and capacity to be animated, provide some of the best pictures.

But…and there’s a big but….some children can be a total nightmare to photograph. If your kids are anything like mine, they love to fidget and move constantly. One of my sons hates posing and will only let me take his photograph if I don’t interfere or provide any art direction whatsoever. My other son, loves posing but becomes a complete crazy loon with either tongue out or massive Wallace and Gromit style grin. Both sons equally challenging in different ways! And then you try to photograph them together…..ten times more difficult than taking them individually.

Add to all of this, I have specifically titled this blog, how to take photographs of your children DURING LOCKDOWN. So some children are maybe – again, if they’re anything like mine – less negotiable or easily incentivised to have their photographs taken. They are more frustrated, increasingly more bored and less patient with parental commands for photo calls. There are maybe less opportunities too for fun backdrops and new experiences to snap. But if you’re not able to see family or friends at the moment, you may want to capture some lovely shots so you can share with loved ones.

I have reflected on my experience over the last ten years of photographing children and put together this practical list I hope will be helpful to instantly improve and add a creative flourish to your pics.

1/ Sounds obvious but for starters – don’t try and get a lovely shot at ‘witching hour’, whenever that is for your little ones (if your kids don’t have one – consider yourself lucky, I am very jealous!). So I don’t even try photographing my cherubs when they might be hungry (and during lockdown, the snacking is relentless so give them a satisfying snack just before you even attempt to shoot).

2/ If your darling Tom or Tamsin is a fidgety sausage, don’t try and make them stand still. They will look awkward and they won’t look like them. To reduce fidgeting – give them something to hold or play with that keeps them occupied. Not something ugly – have a think about an item that is small if possible (I like ‘classic’ toys)! If they are preoccupied, you’re challenge is then limited to getting eye contact / good eye direction and not flaying around and looking miserable.

A great position for fidgety kids is getting them to go on their tummy and look up at you (you get on your tummy as well). This is great if you’re trying to photograph siblings together as it is a good distraction and if you act quickly, you might get a total cracker!

three child sisters on their tummies at the summer fete in Tonbridge, Kent
little sisters laughing together at summer fete in Tonbridge, Kent

It can be extra tricky at times when you’re photographing siblings where one is not walking and the other is older. With little crawlers they are constantly wanting to explore and don’t stay still for very long. So my ‘tummy trick’ can give you precious seconds, especially if you get the older sibling on your side. So in this example below, the older boy was told to hold his baby brother nice and close to him so there was a greater chance of getting him to gaze at his mum (directly behind my massive bush of hair) and to stay still for just a second (and it really was just a second):

little boy with baby brother on their tummies in Tonbridge, Kent

3/ Consider photographing close-up so the focus is mostly them. It really brings out their beautiful eyes.

4/ Think like a pro, and check your backdrops. Make sure nothing is sticking out of people’s heads from behind. Make sure there isn’t an extension lead or sainsbury’s carrier bag. Usually, as your subject matter is your child / children, the background can just be a pleasant blurry backdrop. You don’t want it to distract from your subject.

5/ Consider the basic photographic rule of ‘three-thirds’. So don’t photograph your child in the centre of the frame as this is just dull. Imagine, your photograph is split into thirds. And plan to have your subject either in the first or third third. Not in the middle. Look at the picture below of my Seb. He is off centre. This can make a dramatic change to your photos.

little boy smiling with wet hair in garden in Tonbridge, Kent

6/ Try and have an assistant. When I photograph babies / tots, I get a parent to come up behind me and my camera but very very close to my head. It feels and sounds weird but then the subject’s eyes aren’t too far away looking at your assistant and you loose connection with the camera. Encourage your assistant to do whatever it takes to get a winning reaction. I love silly dads pulling very silly faces / making funny sounds that make babies chuckle. You get the idea.

7/ As a reportage photographer, I am a massive fan of taking natural pictures and I think children look incredible when they are just being kids and enjoying themselves and you successfully manage to capture it. When something exciting comes along (like a new paddling pool, building something for the first time), be there ready to take the photo and get their reactions. Don’t get them to pose or tell them what you are up to.

Consider framing your shot by getting them to sit / lean / stand in a tree (this is a great distraction – I often find children are happy to be photographed in trees. It gives them something to do with their hands and the balance keeps them amused). If I am doing a home portrait shoot in the garden, one of the locations I like to photograph is the child’s favourite location – whether its on a swing, in a treehouse.

8/ Lots of children don’t feel comfortable looking directly into the camera. I also think children looking to the side can look natural and interesting too. So I will often raise my hand to the left and wave and ask them to focus on that spot or for younger children, I get a parent to stand to my side and pull funny faces.

little brothers sitting on their tummies in their garden in Tonbridge, Kent
little girls laughing in Tonbridge, Kent

9/ Some children are more fidgety than others. Lots don’t like being stationary and besides, it is really fun to capture them when they are at their happiest which is invariably moving. Get them to hold hands if they have a sibling and get ready to capture them running / walking holding hands.

little girl running in her garden in Tonbridge, Kent
little girl running with her smiling parents in her garden in Tonbridge, Kent
little girls holding hands walking in their garden in West Malling, Kent

10/ I love siblings doing piggy backs as it keeps their faces close together and with the little one on top, it can keep them still for a second.

Whatever position is working best for you, I find it works really well when heads are close together. That sounds strange but give it a go. If you’re able to offer some art direction, encourage and make sure children are close to each other physically.

little girls sitting together in sparkly dresses in West Malling, Kent

For further inspiration, check out my children’s portrait gallery here.

I hope these tips help you take awesome pictures of your children during lockdown.

Good-luck! xx