Martin Beddall Photography
I am a documentary wedding photographer based in West Sussex, UK. My wife is a writer, we have three children and a dog. I started my career as a photographer at The Times newspaper in London, straight out of college. This photojournalistic approach to photography is how I shoot a wedding day – as if I was shooting for a classic magazine reportage spread.
What inspired you to start your photography business?
Photography really began for me by shooting for the student newspaper at University. Demonstrations, concerts, portraits of visiting politicians and sport, etc. I then did a course in photojournalism at The London College of Printing and found myself working for The Times just a few weeks after completing the course. In at the deep end. No transition from working for a local newspaper or a small photo agency. It meant learning fast, as I was competing with some very experienced, truly award-winning press photographers from other newspapers and wire agencies. This was back in the days of film. Wedding photography grew out of this work. Being asked by journalists to shoot their weddings, then readers of the newspaper, in a reportage style. By word of mouth, it grew.
Tell us about your photography business?
I have been a professional photographer for 30 years – shooting weddings (on and off) since the late 1990s. When I started it was one camera body loaded with colour film, the other with B&W film. I work alone, never used a second shooter or been one. This single approach is important to me, as I think it suits the reportage approach best – quietly documenting a day. Too many cameras/people are a distraction – it’s not about capturing every single moment, it’s about capturing significant moments, especially the quiet ones, that then combine to form an honest narrative of the day. I average about 27-30 weddings a year. Most weddings are in Sussex, Surrey or Kent.
Tell us about your studio or home office setup?
Messy, very messy. Principally a 27” iMac, Loupedeck+, Wacom tablet – Capture One Pro, PhotoMechanic, Lightroom and Photoshop. Plus an Xbox One nearby for when I am tired of culling images…
What does a typical non wedding workday for you look like?
Up at 5am, coffee, 40 minute workout with two kettlebells. Walk my dog in a local forest, (no school run anymore) another coffee – then a day doing what self-employed people do – paperwork, filing, website tweaking, hoovering, cutting the grass and too much time spent on the internet…
What is a typical wedding day for you?
Similar if at home, until the point I head off to the wedding. As soon as I get back from a wedding I start downloading from the SD cards, with a beer. (Often with some food too, rare to get fed at a wedding)
What is your favorite part of a wedding day?
Don’t really have one. Really it’s any part where there are pictures to be caught. Be that the frenzy after the ceremony or quiet moments during the drinks reception. The bit I don’t like – after the meal, as the ‘room is turned around’ and the band/DJ setup, that can drag.
Can you list the camera gear you bring to a wedding?
I currently use two Sony A9II cameras. I always then carry 4 lenses, two on the cameras, two in a Thinktank belt pouch.
Sony 24mm f1.4 Sony 35mm F1.4 GSony 50mm F1.2 GM Sony 135mm f1.8 GM.
(sometimes the Zeiss Batis 85mm but waiting on a good 100/105 from Sony, Nikon’s was so good, as I’m not a big fan of the 85mm focal length)
I’ll also have the Sony 20mm f1.8 and the Sony/Zeiss 55mm f1.8 lenses nearby.
Plus a couple of Profoto A1 flashes for the dancing if needed. Generally, if I have to, I set one light up to give some directional light across the dancefloor and then shoot around that.
What is your process for culling and editing your images?
Cull the images in PhotoMechanic, using an Xbox One controller. (least favourite part) Then process the RAW image selection in either Capture One Pro or Lightroom, using a Loupedeck and wacom tablet. I then convert all the images to B&W in Photoshop, using a preset I made in Silverefex. Next, using a crucial bit of software, called Autoloader, I go through each file, both Colour and B&W and tweak each file as necessary. Clients get each image in both colour and B&W. I don’t outsource the processing.
How do most of your couples find you? What marketing do you do for your business?
Mostly word of mouth and google. My marketing skills are pretty much zero. I’ve never managed to get my website to really rank with SEO, neither am I a well known ‘rockstar’ wedding photographer. So I’m pretty reliant on word of mouth. What is key is that many of my clients are creative people themselves, designers, filmmakers, artists, photographers, etc. I see this as the best reward for my work. I’m not after the richest clients or the grandest weddings. I’m after the clients who understand my approach and like what my eye sees and my camera captures. They tend to have the most relaxed weddings, which leads to better images I think. I’d rather shoot in a small village hall, than a 5-star hotel.
What has been your best business purchase in recent years?
Definitely the Sony A9 which I bought when it came out in 2017 and have used ever since, upgrading to the A9II version this year. Silent shooting, simple as. I had a client, not long after the A9 came out, who didn’t want the ceremony shot as she hated the shutter noise. She was a keen amateur photographer also. We had a brief meeting in the cathedral where the ceremony was due to take place when she mentioned this. I handed her the A9 to have a play with. When she handed it back and I told her she had taken 30 odd images, in complete silence, photographing the ceremony was back on. It was a game changer, especially for reportage. Canon and Nikon are now catching up.
Comparing your business from when you started to now, what has been the main thing that allowed you to succeed?
Thinking about the wedding photography, gaining the confidence to shoot how I want, rather than what is expected of me. By which I mean saying no to lots of the traditional setups, even minor ones. I get less and less requests for family group shots, even portraits – people just want me to capture the reality of the day. I emphasize that it’s the reality of the day I am looking to capture – not portraits of people being dragged across landscapes, reflecting in the bottom of the frame because the photographer has held their iphone in front of the lens. My pictures should not be about me, showing off with tricks or photoshop, but about the couple, their family and friends, their wedding day.
What do you consider the main differences between those people who have been successful in the industry and those who have failed?
To be honest, I have no idea. I see photographers who are very busy but their work is very gimmicky or even vanilla and I see really good photographers not as busy? No rhyme or reason I can see?
What’s the best piece of photography business advice you’ve ever been given?
Many years ago, a few months after I had started at The Times, I met the photographer Sally Soames in the Times darkroom. She was a regular at the Sunday Times, mainly doing the big interview portraits. She came over and complimented me on my work, which was a big thing when you are just started out, to have one of the top photographers in the UK acknowledge your work. Her advice to me was “Don’t let them change how you shoot”. By which she meant keep true to your eye, rather than what was expected of you. Not always easy when shooting for a newspaper but it’s something I always think about when looking to capture a scene, a moment.
You have had your wedding photography business for many years now. What have been the biggest challenges for you in keeping your business running profitably year after year?
It’s about spinning plates. I lose enquiries because they want 800+ images, which a photographer has promised them. But as one groom said to me, “It’s not about how many images you get, it’s whether they are good or not?” There is no shortage of wedding photographers – people chose them on price, how many images they offer, how long they stay at a wedding. I just have to find enough people each year who choose me for my images and my approach. The challenge I guess is getting yourself in front of them? They tend to be the ones who ask if you are free and then book within a few hours of my reply.
What are your top 3 wedding venues or destinations that you have photographed?
I have favourites like Cissbury Barns or Dewsall Court. But really I don’t want to be the sort of wedding photographer who goes to the same three wedding venues week after week. I like to see something different. So any venue with light, space and a relaxed vibe. As I said this could be a small village hall or a tent in a field. Wedding photography is foremost about the people.
Best places online to view more of your work?
My website: https://www.martinbeddallphotography.co.uk/