10 reasons why you should ignore list posts about your wedding.

Before I start I should make a bit of a disclaimer. Everybody is entitled to have the wedding they want. To invite who they want, to decorate how they want and to employ (or not) suppliers and entertainment whether they be aspiring, professional or total amateurs.

With that said, this morning I saw a link on Facebook to an article published on the Female First site entitled “10 reasons why people are swapping the wedding photographer for a family friend“. The article attributes these reasons to Sarah Heath, the manager at Heaton House Farm who has been busy vehemently denying any such a link in the blog post’s comment section.

Articles like this are commonplace on social media these days. Click bait posts promising easy to read lists of ways to win the wedding race are everywhere. I’m amazed it didn’t have a tag line that said “You won’t believe number 9!!!”

Let’s look at these 10 reasons and see just how good the advice on offer is…

1.) Instant Results They don’t have to juggle clients so they can set to work on editing your photos straight away, so your wedding album will be ready in no time. What’s more, you can enjoy an informal coffee whilst selecting your favourite shots.

Well I can’t argue with words 3 through 8 but the rest is rubbish. I’m assuming that most of these friends have jobs, possibly partners or children. Why on earth this writer assumes  that editing a set of photos in your spare time will produce results quicker than doing it for a living escapes me. When I shoot a wedding I know I’m going to be editing it after so I make sure I schedule time for this exact purpose following the event. Not only that but a pro photographer is going to be much faster at selecting, editing and finishing your images than a hobbyist and will have a high performance computer set up for exactly this purpose.

2.) Familiarity It’s likely that your friend or family member is already familiar with you and your loved ones, so won’t need to work at building that rapport. You may find that as a result they can easily achieve great shots which really capture individuals’ personalities.

Yes they might be familiar with your loved ones but that doesn’t mean they know how to frame or light a shot. Building rapport is a skill that photographers develop through experience.  It’s also worth considering that sometimes guests can be tricky or bored (or drunk) and can be difficult to wrangle. Having someone independent of the group who can focus solely on the task is a plus, not a drawback.

3.) Convenience If your friend or family member was already a wedding guest, then it’s no extra hassle to have them photographing the event. Just be sure they are happy to be pulled away from socialising in order to get the job done!

This could not be more misleading. Just because someone will be attending it does not mean that it’s no extra hassle for them to be a wedding photographer. They might find it a hassle to scout the venue and research shot locations, to organise pre wedding meetings and draw up a contract (unless you thought a contract wasn’t necessary for the most important photos of your life). It’s possible they won’t be expecting to prepare cameras, lenses, reflectors and lights, co-ordinate assistants and guests, plan the formal and key shots and then when the day is finished, edit hundreds of images before backing them up and delivering the storybook album you wanted.

4.) They Know How to Make You Smile Both literally and in terms of the shots you want. They’ll have the best idea of the kind of photos you’ll love, as a result of their knowledge of you and your partner.

Apart from the fact that I don’t know any other way to smile except literally, finding out about the kind of photos you love is why a professional will meet with the couple, show examples of previous work and make sure they are shooting in the style that you want. Capturing personality is important and a good photographer will be able to do that but technical knowledge is important too. Being friends is nice, but it does not a photographer make.

5.) Cost Using a friend or family member could save you money. However, make sure you’re confident with their previous work, and even get them to carry out some trial shots to make sure they’re up to the job – our research revealed that 1 in 5 couples married in the past three years who didn’t use a professional photographer were disappointed with the results.

There’s no arguing about this one. Paying less or not at all will cost you less…. or nothing, which may be exactly what you get in terms of photos. You’re friend may not have a second camera, or even a full frame camera that can shoot in low light. They may not have wide aperture lenses that create that nice blurry background you like. They probably also lack public liability or professional indemnity insurance so if something goes wrong you’re on your own and your wedding insurance certainly won’t cover it. Yes it’s true. Hiring a professional photographer can be expensive but it’s all relative. You’re paying for someone who will bring thousands of pounds worth of equipment and years of training to your day. Would you consider having a friend make your dress? If so that’s fine but that’s not the right analogy. Instead consider having it made by a friend and them presenting it on the day without seeing the results first because that’s how your photography works. You have to completely trust the person behind the camera.

6.) Get Everyone Involved You don’t need to leave the job down to just one friend or family member, why not create a unique hashtag for the event on social media and encourage anybody sharing photos to use it? You’ll benefit from tons of spontaneous shots which you may never have anticipated.

I’m in two minds about this. If you don’t mind everybody staring at their phones all day then yes. Absolutely collect their photos as an added extra to your day but don’t expect them to be high quality printable images. Don’t expect them to have accurate colour or be well composed and in focus. On a bright day outdoors, mobile photography can be great. As soon as you get into a candlelit church or on the dance floor the quality is going to drop dramatically.

7.) Different Perspectives There are so many ways to capture a special moment. Why not task your loved one to bring their GoPro along to capture some unusual scenes? Our research into the wedding trends of 2016 highlighted how 1 in 3 couples are planning to use a GoPro to film or photograph their special day

Again, this is a nice idea but should be presented as an addition, not an alternative to a photographer. GoPro images can be fun but they look like what they are. Action cameras just do not produce the kind of images that can replace a DSLR.

8.) Editing is Possible Be prepared that not every photo is guaranteed to turn out brilliantly, however the accessibility of nifty editing apps and tools mean that altering and fine-tuning finished shots is easier than ever.

Editing is possible and maybe it is less difficult now to throw a quick filter on your mobile images but that’s not how editing works. This statement implies that editing apps are a magic wand but they’re not. The images have to be properly shot to get the best results. A professional will shoot in RAW format. I won’t get into it here but it’s a format that most free or consumer level programs will not be able to process. It’s not uncommon for me to return from a wedding with 50-100GB of files so don’t expect to be able to use a ‘nifty’ app to get through them.

9.) Honoured Tasking a loved one to carry out such an important job is guaranteed to flatter them, which is great especially if they aren’t already playing a specific role throughout the day. But beware of how you approach them about the job though – you want them to know it’s because you value their talents and not because you’re looking for a freebie.

This is essentially the same as when people approach me to say “Do you want to shoot my wedding for free, it’ll be great for your portfolio?”. You’re guest may well be honoured but but do you really understand the pressure they’re going to be under? Why would you do that to a friend? Talk to any amateur who has shot a wedding for a favour and I’ll bet they’ll tell you “Never again.” It’s hard work and it’s so much more just the day spent shooting. As suggested you should beware of how you approach a friend to say you value their talents but not enough to actually pay them for it. Try it our before your wedding by asking one of your friends to come and do 1-2 weeks of work around your house without pay. See how it goes.

10.) Value Having the most special moments of your big day captured by someone you love brings a whole new level of value and sentimentality to your photographs. You’ll think of that person each time you look at them and remember them fondly for their help and hard work.

Let’s rewrite this the way it should be:

Having the most special moments of your big day ruined by someone you love brings a whole new level of animosity to your relationship. You’ll curse that person every time you look at your blurry, grainy photos and remember a time when you were still talking to them.


With all this said. Is it possible that a non professional friend can capture your wedding the way you want and produce high quality images in a timely fashion?


It’s possible but it’s not very likely. There’s just too much preparation and experience needed to expect someone to get everything right first time round. I haven’t always been a wedding photographer. When I started out I charged accordingly. I made mistakes, I learned from them and I got better. There are professional photographers available to fit almost any budget and it’s fair to say that you get what you pay for.

The DIY wedding movement is great. I love shooting weddings that are full of personal touches contributed by friends and loved ones but I implore you, I beg of you, don’t let your photography be one of them.

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Titus Andronicus teaser trailer – Gopro Hero4

If you don’t know William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, it’s a pretty difficult play. There’s rape and murders, dismemberment and  a slew of thoroughly unpleasant characters. The challenge of producing this theatrical juggernought had been taken on by Off The Ground Youth non profit organisation from North West England. The task of producing a short and not too gruesome teaser trailer for the web had fallen to me. 

After shooting some press pictures during a rehearsal we selected a few key moments from the show and ran them a number of times to offer a range of shots. I shot these sequences using the GoPro rig and once again it has proved a useful tool in capturing fast moving action without sacrificing stability.

A teaser trailer should be short, gripping and make you want to see more? Let me know how I did in the comments. 

Animating Lego – A Star Wars MicroFilm

Q: What do you do when you dig up a few old Lego Star Wars toys from the attic?

A: Immediately start story boarding a stop motion film, obviously.

For no other reason than to see if I could, I set myself the challenge of making a ‘Microfilm’ – A small but perfectly formed animation that was as filmic as I could manage. After a bit of testing and a few hours of shooting and editing this is the result.

If you’re wondering how this was made, here’s a shot to illustrate just how low tech the setup was. It’s all about cunning placement of cameras, macro lenses and very careful planning and measurements when it comes to tracking shots. IMG_2496

I used a Nikon D750 with a 35-70mm macro lens, a printed background of Liverpool docks and an assortment of paper clips and blu-tack to position the models. Whenever an object is thrown (or forced) in the film it has been shot with a paperclip support that is then painstakingly edited out of each frame. It’s a labour intensive task but I’m super happy with the results.


If you enjoyed this and want to see more then say hello! If you have any thoughts or suggestions leave a comment and follow jonhallphoto to see the next installment.


Filming a single shot fight scene – Stage to screen

Fact: Fighting is not cool.   Fact: Stage fighting is very, very cool. 

Recently I’ve had this recurring thought. A nagging idea about filming epic fight scenes that do all the things I want them to do in the movies. I used to choreograph fights for a touring theatre company in my distant past. Now I’m taking those skills and the pool of talented performers I know to make fight scenes like this one.


It all started with a promo video for Off The Ground’s – Musketeers. With no preparation I joined a rehearsal and watched a set of fights choreographed for stage before capturing the footage in the video below.


I’d recently bought a DJI phantom and the stabilized Gopro footage it provides proved way better than I could have hoped. After a little thought and some more equipment I’m now using a new rig (see below) light enough to get right into the action so after rounding up a couple of actor friends we set about choreographing the fight and camera at the same time.

Check out the equipment used to film this video

I knew I wanted everything to work as one shot so each hit must be positioned in terms of the camera and each move planned out. In reality, stage combat is much closer to dance than it is to fighting.

‘Fight Club #1’ is the result of about 3 hours of preparation, rehearsal and filming. The plan is to get together regularly, produce these mini scenes and with your feedback, improve and expand the project

Gopro stabilized footage – building a smooth fight scene rig

A while back I was called to film some fight scenes for a promo video. I love films like ‘Kingsman’ for the feeling of camera mobility during fight scenes and I wanted to recreate that feeling. Filming action with a DSLR is difficult because if you want to stabilize your footage it makes focus control very difficult. There are solutions available such as the DJI Ronin M but these add bulk and weight and are too expensive for a lot of amateur filmmakers. Instead I used the Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal attached to my Phantom drone to stabilize a Gopro solving two problems at once. Stable footage and no focus adjustment needed.

Using a drone is a great solution if you already own one but it has it’s disadvantages. It uses the precious battery power of the expensive DJI cells, offers no stabilization in the vertical plane and there’s nowhere to put a monitor if you want one.

Gopro Glidecam-1
Feiyu G4 on Gopro mounts

Instead I looked for a solution that would stabilize a Gopro like a drone gimbal does but mount easily to my Flycam 5000, a handled stabilizer for DSLR’s. After researching various possibilities involving ebay stabilizers and RC battery packs I bit the bullet and ordered the Feiyu G4 handheld electronic stabilizer for Gopro. The G4 does everything the drone did but is still susceptible to hand movement. It keeps the Gopro level but that’s it.


Fortunately, mounting it to a Flycam 5000 transforms the Gopro into a silky smooth cinema camera. The addition of the Boscam G20 transmitter allows a live feed for monitoring on the move and the remote control unit lets me control the pitch and follow mode on the G4. This really is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of it’s parts.

See the super stable results from this setup in the new fight video and Bikes and Boards promo:

The extra advantage of the Flycam kit is it’s ability to keep the camera level with minimal ground clearance. Lowering the head of the stabilizer allows you to film right from the floor up to about a foot higher than your reach, which is excellent.

A complete parts list for the kit is below:

  • Gopro Hero4
  • Boscam G20 Transmitter
  • Black Pearl diversity Monitor
  • Feiyu G4 3-axis stabilizer
  • Feiyu G4 remote and cable
  • Gopro flat surface mount
  • Gopro Handlebar mount

If you’re building this kit or maybe have a better one I want to hear about it. Leave a comment or follow JonHallPHoto to stay updated.

My 2015 in pictures. What I love shooting and why.

Last year I took 55,503 photos.

That’s an average of 152 photos per day or just over 7 photos per hour, which makes me only slightly less trigger happy than the average teenage girl. Considering that much of a photographer’s time is spent prepping, editing and delivering images I can say in all honesty, it’s been a busy year.

As I look back through my 2015 catalog there are some images that jump out at me immediately. Some for their pure form and impact, others because of how they take me right back to the moment they were captured.

This year JonHallPhoto has taken a distinct change in direction and I’ve moved away from weddings and more towards commercial images and video production. It’s a move I’m enjoying and leaves me looking forward to the year ahead.

So in no particular order here are a few of my favourite images and memories from the last year.


JonHallPHoto 2015-7
Andy and Annika – Liverpool Skyline

I love this shot of Andy and Annika at the end of the night. It’s just such a genuine moment. Shot from afar to give them as much privacy as possible, they didn’t disappoint.



JonHallPHoto 2015-18The first of two favourites from the incredible Sophia Carmen. A dancer from the Hammond School. As an ex dancer myself I’m amazed by the strength on show here.

JonHallPHoto 2015-13

A more personal shot here as this is my little nephew Sam. This wasn’t a photo shoot but a family get together and those piercing eyes just found the lens.

JonHallPHoto 2015-12This is the moment a party of Groomsmen decided to attempt their version of The Beatles ‘Abbey Road’album cover. Unfortunately one groomsman just couldn’t march in time. As it turns out that one groomsmen just happens to be the only soldier in the group.

JonHallPHoto 2015-8Here’s a wedding party that knows how to have fun. I became tired with seeing guests queuing up for cramped, automated photo booths to be rewarded with low quality snaps they could have taken themselves. This is how a photo booth should be done. This was a fun night.

JonHallPHoto 2015-16The Little Black Dress shoot – iConquered. The brief was to show the clients of a personal trainer getting ‘Little Black Dress’ ready and these were empowered women at work, in one image. I think we nailed it.

JonHallPHoto 2015-11Another gorgeous image from Sophia, this time with partner Liam. The pure dance shapes they were producing were amazing but lacked an emotional element. After a little direction they pulled out this gem. I think it’s just wonderful.

JonHallPHoto 2015-15Ok so the image may not be all that special but it represents my move into commercial product photography. These ‘ghost’ images look simple but the difference it can make to a professional website is profound. And these are just the still versions…

JonHallPHoto 2015-10This family beach shoot produced a whole series of great images but I love this shot as the boy leads his little sister through the sand.

JonHallPHoto 2015-5I love this shot for the magic of lighting. This was a pretty dull day, windy and a little cold but with a little thought and strategic speedlight placement this sunny summer day was born. Nice.