A Black and White Wedding in Chester

One of the benefits of digital cameras for wedding photographers is the range of post-production options. What does that mean? Well, making photographs involves several processes. One of them is involves working with clients to make them and their guests feel comfortable and confident. That requires personal and social skills that help bring about great photographs.

Another aspect of our role is, as you might expect, being able to see photographic opportunities then place our clients unobtrusively in the best places. From this we must use the required creative and technical skills to get the shots. We capture the moments, the glimpses of emotion of humour and excitement with accuracy, opportunism and technical know-how. This preparation produces the best photographs that are then taken into post-production.

Black and white photograph of Grosvenor Hotel, Chester

At this stage different opportunities present themselves. Emmajane and Grant’s wedding at the Chester Grosvenor Hotel was a classic example of a beautiful bride and her groom, in a classy and classic location with discreet and low levels of light (see Carolyn’s earlier blog on this venue, with it’s historical notes). A lot of the public spaces at the Grosvenor have relatively few windows, light being provide by the ambient tungsten wall lights, chandeliers and some downlighting. These light sources have an innate yellow colour, which is warm and intimate, perfect for conversation and socialising, but sometimes difficult to work with. Great photographs come from good light; not bright light, but clean, directional light which reveals the lovely details of faces, clothing and all that goes with the big day.

Black and white photograph of bride and groom during wedding service

The task in post-production then is to retain the essence of a beautiful venue, with its nooks and crannies, staircases and wall coverings and still capture the life and light in the eyes of our happy couple. How to do that?

  • We could boost the photographs with flash, which can be a very successful strategy, but it can also be obtrusive, slows things down and can override the existing, atmospheric light in a venue.
  • We could boost the ISO (light sensitivity) of our cameras.
  • We could combine this with a reliance on the ambient lighting in the venue.
  • We could just take the couple and guests outside for most of the photographs. This would avoid all the detail and intimacy of the Grosvenor interior.

We opted to boost ISO, and relied on our fast (f1.4) Leica lenses to make the most of the available light. For some shots we used flash, bounced of the walls to create better, softer light in the beautiful dining room, some shots were taken outside, at the front door of the hotel and some shots were taken in a boardroom with large windows. Mostly we worked with available ambient light. It was inevitable that we used ambient lighting, since thats all there was in the main public spaces.

The following three photographs, taken in natural light, outside the hotel , capture something of the business and bustle of the bride and groom’s official arrival in one of Chester’s busiest streets.

Black and white photograph of bride and groom outside Grosvenor Hotel, Chesterchester-grosvenor-hotel-black-and-white-wedding72Black and white photograph of bride and groom in hotel doorway

From all of these photographs we were able in Lightroom,  our post-production software, to balance the colours in the whole spread of photographs taken during the day. This is necessary because light has colour. The shots from outside were in cool, clean daylight; those shots from the boardroom were also lit by incoming daylight. Everything else was shot under tungsten lighting which is yellow in colour. The colour balancing is not an easy task because of these differences and our job was to make sure that Emmajane’s skin and dress was maintained throughout the day at the correct colours for the environment she was in. The interior has a range of yellow colouring which we subtly manipulated to render her dress to the correct tone of white, and her skin to its natural colour. It’s a fascinating process, especially when everyone in the setting had different skin colouring as well (they always do!). It’s surprising how much difference there can be between between people, and between women and men. Lighting intensity varies too, affecting colour rendition. Since most of the shots were taken inside, we retained a hint of the ambient colour to set the subjects in place, but we pulled our colour photographs towards a clearer light setting in Lightroom. Below are a couple of examples of coloured and black and white versions of the same subject after post-production.

coloured and black and white photographs of bride

coloured and black and white photographs of bride in ambient light

It’s tricky work, and sometimes provides opportunities to extend post-production creativity. Black and white, or monochrome photographs can be produced from colour originals and they offer quite different qualities. Image clarity, bolder or subtler tonal treatments and drama are features of black and white treatments, as you can see from this selection. Gradations in tone look different in black and white; its often easier to appreciate the sculptural properties of the subject, and also the abstract qualities in a two-dimensional composition. In many shots, the rich, dark pools of shadows have mystery and strength, and the lighter tones seem to float. The contrast between light and dark tones creates strong design element within the photographic frame.

Brise and groom celebrating with bagpipes at the Chester Grosvenor Hotel Black and white photograph of bride and groom before wedding service in ambient lightThe leading line of the half-screen on the left, in the photograph above, contributes nicely to this pre-service shot of Emmajane and Grant
Wedding service about to begin as bride and groom arriveHappy moment as bride and groom pledge vows at Chester Grosvenor HotelCelebratory drinks at Chester Grosvenor Hotel in black and white chester-grosvenor-hotel-black-and-white-wedding60Happy bride and groom after the serviceThe intimate, compact spaces we worked in were perfectly suited to our Leica cameras, which are relatively compact in size, much smaller than pro DSLR cameras. We were able to move around in between the guests without bulky lenses and camera bodies getting in the way.
Black and white photograph of champagne corksBride at Chester Grosvenor Hotel in black and white with window light
The brideWindow light in the board room as the girls celebrateBlack and white shots of elegant dining room at Chester Grosvenor Hotel

We have included a few colour shots and their B&W counterpoints as interesting reference points, so please enjoy this series of photographs from a splendid day

Colour photograph of beautiful guest at Chester Grosvenor reception, natural lightBlack and white photograph of beautiful guest at Chester Grosvenor reception

Bride and girls in backlit windowBlack and white photograph of bride and girls in natural window light