by Mike McNamee Published 01/09/2003
Dawn's big box contains all a gal might need on her wedding day! Having received a report from the digital preview of a hot spot our bride, Jill, gets her nose tickled.
As part of the "style season" this issue we took ourselves off to the Parr Lane studios just to the north of Manchester. The team at Parr Lane Studios consists of Don Sinclair, the photographer; Dawn, his wife, who acts as stylist and co-ordinator at the weddings; Sarah, Dawn's PA on wedding days, and Simon who acts as technical back-up on the computing side of things.
The mission was two-fold, to introduce Don to digital imaging (he had never used a digital camera on a shoot) and to interview Dawn for our "style" issue of Professional Imagemaker. So that we had material to style and work we brought back our lovely model Jill. Dawn's pals from The Design Element, delivered a box of amazing floral creations for Don to cut his digital teeth on before the model arrived.
Although this was not quite what we did on the day, we will describe the sequence of events that Parr Lane Studios follows for a typical wedding. Although this is standard stuff for our experienced members please bear with us for the benefit of those who are poised to plunge into the wedding scene and need all the advice they can gather!
The Sinclairs meet the bride and groom many times before the actual day, preferably in an informal setting over a cup of tea or if appropriate, a glass of wine. Although the couple will be blissfully unaware of it Dawn is already collating information so that by the time the big day arrives she knows all the Christian names of the main characters plus all the brothers, sisters, parents, aunties, ex-wives, current wives etc etc. It is all part of a planning strategy to ensure that the day runs smoothly. The ground rules are established well ahead of the day, the church and vicar (Rabbi, Priest, synagogue, temple, mosque - delete as appropriate) are visited, as are the reception venue(s). Dawn prepares a schedule for the day and checks that the bride (who has usually never done this before) has allowed sufficient time for hair, nails, make-up and getting dressed. The bride's home (or place from which she is to leave) will also be visited and both there and the reception will have been checked out for the details that make things go smoothly. It is typical of the attention to detail that Dawn applies that she will have ordered-in props to "close off" the wedding party groups should they have to be photographed indoors in poor weather. Any distracting edges to a backdrop will be hidden behind pillars, pedestals and/or floral arrangements. Don in the meantime will have checked just where the power sockets are and the other male-oriented tasks! There are those who might think that some of these details are not the responsibility of the photographer but it is part of the Sinclair's befriending of the clients and everybody benefits. The clients get the benefit of advice and experience, the Sinclair's make and remain friends with them (and usually end up photographing the christenings, confirmations, Bar Mitzvah's down the line!).
"Hold it like this", Dawn demonstrates the pose she is chasing. Close observers will note we also changed the bouquet!
On the actual day, Dawn's preparatory work starts to pay dividends. By this time she and the bride are hopefully quite good friends and the bride has both a stylist and a confident in whom she trusts. Dawn tries to allow more time than most with her bride before she departs her home. She points out that the bride has probably never worn the whole bridal outfit for any period of time and has certainly never walked around holding a bouquet with a group of bridesmaids, pages etc in tow! By the time she comes to step out of her family home for the last time as a single girl she is likely to be brimful of self confidence, poised and radiant. All this makes Don's job much simpler!
Dawn's is a very special skill. She distains all the technical stuff (that's Don's job, although she does a mean retouch job with Photoshop!) but her people skills are outstandingly good. At one moment she can be a model of calm diplomacy with a stressed-out bride's mother and next she will be getting amongst a bunch of boisterous ushers. Her team talks with ushers are, like Alex Ferguson's, held in closed session - (Chatham Rules I understand is the military term - Dawn is the daughter of a Warrant Officer!). However, a little bird told us that they are quite colourful affairs. Ushers, Dawn believes, can make or break a wedding day so getting then on-side is essential. Once the rules have been explained and the threats of to the Royal Manchester Eunuch's Free Hospital have been delivered, Dawn softens them up with a chiller of cooled beers in the boot of the car. It is reported that the once boisterous bulldog ushers are now poodles, obeying her every instruction!
Having got all the man-management issues sorted Dawn is now free to style the main part of the photography. She has a build list of her groups (and the well-trained ushers are dispatched to collect any stragglers) and she has Sarah to keep the check lists updated and ticked off. Sarah also has the job of keeping the films on the move, from the bag to Don and back again.
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