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This Is How: ‘Warehouse Dance Floor’ by Andrew Billington

In the eighteenth of our regular series of documentary wedding photography tips we’ve got the brilliant Andrew Billington telling us how he got this iconic and atmospheric shot; great tips on storytelling, setting the scene, lighting and more…

This photograph was taken at Teresa and Phil’s wedding in the Rum Warehouse at the Titanic Hotel in Liverpool. Anyone who is familiar with that space knows it enormous and could easily fit a wedding for 500 people in it. When it’s a smaller wedding (about 165 on this occasion) it’s not full of furniture and people so you get the opportunity to step back and give the day a wider context.

I always want to get an interesting scene setting photo for each part of the day as it puts the subsequent photography into a proper context of where everything is taking place. That’s what this photo is for me – a scene setter. Before I dive into the dance floor and get some close up action.

A few years ago I attended the launch of the Canon 5D Mk3 and a talk being given by an eminent American photojournalist. A thing that stuck in my brain from that day was his constant use of the phrase ‘Put the State House in the background’, he illustrated his point time and time again with each award winning photo he showed. What he meant was – if I’m telling a political story I’m going to frame the shot so that the State House (legislative centre) of every city is somewhere in the frame.

I think this is true of wedding photographs that gain a life after being shared with the couple – we need the bride (and groom) somewhere in the frame to make the picture immediately readable to people who weren’t there. The couple are our State House.

In this photograph I had to stand back and wait for the crowds to part in order to capture the bride and groom dancing amongst them. I needed that to make the photo. I also wanted the disco balls and the festoon lights – Phil and Teresa had spent time and effort thinking about how the room would look and I need to show that in the shot.

I’ve been asked a few times what my flash set up was for this photo. ‘None’ is my answer. Like everything I photograph (apart from harsh flashed, shutter dragging dance shots) it was taken in the light available. In this case, very little actual light. The photo was taken on a Fuji X-Pro2 at f2, 1/125th at 6400iso. I did very little on post production except burn into the couple a little bit and add a slight vignette around the outside of the image to push focus to the centre.

If you want to see more of this wedding it’s on my blog:

To see more of Andrew’s work you can visit his website, or view his profile here on This is Reportage. We’re proud to be sponsoring Andrew’s upcoming workshop dates, too, so if you’re interested in learning from the man in person – what we’re sure will be incredible days of learning – visit his workshop website over here to grab one of the last remaining places.

If you found this article interesting, we have lots of other ‘This Is How…’ posts by our TiR members over here.

Aga Tomaszek

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