Firehorse Wedding Photographer in France

We talked to Simon, the man behind the camera at Firehorse Photography and we learn why an old black and white photo continues to inspire this fabulous wedding photographer here in France.

Firehorse Photography in France

What made you become a photographer? And in particular why a wedding photographer?

Initially I spent 2 years at college and then 3 years at university studying for respectively; a B-Tec National Diploma plus a BA Hons Degree in arts based studies including photography & filmmaking. From there I kind of fell into weddings, photography initially. I say ‘fell’ because I always imagined I was going to work on projects for National Geographic magazine and travel the world (and not take staged snaps of a couple pretending to cut a cake…not that weddings have to have this!). So the work in weddings was only ever intended to be a means to an end, the same as someone working in a coffee shop before they hit it big as an actor.

The NG gig never came up and that was partly because I took my eye off that particular goal but mainly because I focussed on weddings instead. Why? I found there was a whole lot more creativity and craft in weddings than I previously thought possible.

On a wedding day, I shoot; landscapes, architecture, still life, candid people, posed people, fashion… I do documentary photography, food photography, band/music photography etc, – pretty much all types of photography at one single event. It’s 20 years and 700+ years later now and this is simply what I do.

Firehorse Photography in France

Where have you worked? Your website says 10+ countries – any notable commissions?

Country houses in England, hotels in Scotland, marquees in Wales, a twin city wedding in Ireland (Cork & Killarney), a hilltop village in Tuscany, The Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, on the beach on the island of Rhodes, Mexico and Western Australia, a 5* golf resort in China and a converted mill in New Zealand. Plus 100+ weddings all over France.

All the long haul jobs tend to stand out just because they are so different.

What has been your most stand out job?

I don’t think it exists. I’m more about consistency and delivering an exceptional level of service and results to all clients.

The best jobs and results however are the ones where the client engaged the most prior to their wedding. Conversely, the more I am not included prior to the day, the less I have to work with. It just works like that. I can go to the same venue on back to back weekends and one wedding may be stronger than the other simply because one couple engaged more.

Firehorse Destination Wedding Photographer in France

Are you influenced by a particular style of art or another photographer?

Not really. I tend to study films, filmmaking and specifically cinematography far more than photography and that is the biggest influence to both my filmmaking/video and photography, but no specific person as such.

If I had to name one, I’d say the work of Wes Anderson who directed The Grand Budapest Hotel. Not that it’s really possible to replicate it as a wedding as it would need a colossal budget, amount of time and weddings are real events not closed set situations! But there are always elements that can be used.

In regard to photography, I tend to like the work of film photographers from the 1950’s and 1960’s mainly.

Firehorse Destination Wedding Photographer in France

When did you introduce videography to your repertoire?

Well not to be disingenuous to videographers, but I found after the first 5 years of being purely a photographer, the two formats of coverage from two different companies, was not always compatible and mostly at the expense of the photography. 

So initially, I brought someone in to work alongside me in a non-competitive manner. I then year upon year, began to do bits myself at the same time as my photography and that plus technology allowed me to increasingly incorporate more until the two became a seamless whole and for the last 5 years, I have done both alone.

Firehorse Destination Wedding Photographer in France

Do you think your photos are better now because you also film the wedding? Does one skill influence the other?

Yes. My style of filmmaking/videography is more an extension of my photography though as mentioned already, I get more inspiration and ideas for my photography from films and Netflix productions etc. It might just be my way of thinking, but I found it easier to add video to photography than I think it would be for a videographer to add stills. But I can only speak for myself in this regard. 

I do know one thing however and it’s one of the lines from my website and brochure and that is that the sum of the two are greater than the sum of the parts individually. In short, video brings something ‘more’ to the record of an event than photography alone and photography brings something that video cannot. Add them together in a seamless integrated capture manner and you have something greater than trying to bring two possibly competing companies together.

Firehorse Destination Wedding Photographer in France

What do you love most about being a Wedding Photographer in France?

Where to start… I don’t miss stuffy British registrars with their petty made up ‘rules’ or certain members of the clergy who actively hate on all photographers (but turn a blind eye to guests taking snaps) so having mostly ‘non-legal’ much more relaxed ceremonies here is a breath of fresh air. 

Open air ceremonies and al fresco meals and speeches complete weddings here. The opportunities it opens up to the photographer/videographer are enormous and provide so much more atmosphere for everyone. 

Weddings here can to take place over 2-3 days so tend to be that much more relaxed and combine that wedding atmosphere with a holiday one. Some couples do still come to France and have their ‘British’ weddings with early afternoon ceremonies and terrible timings, but the majority plan in a more continental style and benefit from that!

Firehorse Destination Wedding Photographer in France

If you could would you ban smartphones from weddings?

No, absolutely not and for the simple reason that the even the best smart phones are still not as good as a proper camera and because more people have phones and less have cameras, less guests are ‘photographers’ at weddings these days. 

I just don’t get problems with guests with phones at weddings and unless someone is actively and competitively trying to capture most of, if not the entire wedding, it’s just not an issue. A single over-enthusiastic guest can cause havoc however, but I always advise and discuss in advance of every job this kind of thing and what the protocol is and who will deal with it should it prevent me from doing the job I am being paid to do.

Firehorse Destination Wedding Photographer in France

What’s the one piece of advice you’d offer couples getting married and choosing a photographer?

I couldn’t offer just one piece of advice but I have a couple :

A : Pretty much everything to do with your wedding is an expense for a single day, or a couple of days for a destination wedding in France. The capture, presentation and preservation of your wedding is for the rest of your life. On that basis, you could treat it as an expense or you could treat it as an investment.

B : Don’t shop for a photographer/videographer on price alone. There’s always someone who can sell something cheaper and then there will be someone cheaper still.

I’ve shot jobs where the total wedding budget was under 5000€ and I was the sole professional, to weddings with budgets of over 250,000€ and both couples more or less spent the same on their wedding photographer. It’s the same for larger vs smaller weddings. Some couples think that a smaller weddings means a smaller budget but the only real difference tends to be number of guests and as there are less mouths to feed!

Choose a photographer that you actually like and who you can work with because that relationship is an important key part of end results.

Firehorse Wedding Photographer in France

 If you could choose anything… anywhere… what would be your dream commission?

I couldn’t pick a single one so will offer up three! In no particular order…

A proper Winter wedding of snow and sunshine. Scandinavia would be great as would Canada or even our own Alps or Pyrenees.

Another would be a traditional style wedding in Japan exactly as you imagine Japan to be. I just love the imagery of Japan even though I have never visited, but hope one day. And if it was for a wedding, even better!

In France, on the coast with an actual coastal venue and everything outside. Or a circus or fairground style wedding. Or a masked ball style wedding. Or a….there’s quite a few so I will stop.

Firehorse Destination Wedding Photographer in France

Finally… two favourite photographs… one by you and one by anyone else

I don’t have one by me. I just don’t. I could never choose a single picture of my own. 

But by someone else… I don’t even need to think about that. It’s a picture taken in a railway station in January 1941 of my grandparents straight after their 12 guest WW2 wedding in Somerset. 

The photographer is unknown and in those times, photography booths existed at many railway stations for sweethearts waving their men off to war. The railway station is somewhere between Cheriton in Somerset and Bognor Regis on the South coast as they took any combination of trains to simply “get to the coast”. 

There are two slightly different pictures each in a leather display wallet. My grandfather, aged 104 (as I type) has one on his bedside table. The other was my grandmothers and I have that in my office. 

Firehorse Photography in France

The one thing I wish I could bottle and sell to all couples out there getting married is imagine that photographer, with a further 500 or so images from your wedding day.  And a film/video.  It has incalculable value that cannot be measured as a wedding day expense.