I’ve done a bit of an overhaul of the kit I use to shoot photos and video for my blog recently, and have been getting a fair few questions about it. So, I thought I’d write a little update!

T H E   B O D Y   –  Canon EOS 6D

I upgraded to the Canon 6D in September of last year, after having shot with Canon’s entry level 600d DSLR for a little over two years beforehand. I decided to make the change to upgrade to a full frame camera after reaching a point with my 600d where I knew I couldn’t possibly get any more from it. I’d begun to feel frustrated with its limitations whilst out shooting, like, for example, it was *really* difficult to shoot with into bright, hazy sunlight (these shots here were so tough to get!), and the crop factor meant that I’d have to practically tip backwards off my chair to get enough distance when shooting photos of my plate at restaurants.

Switching to a full frame camera meant that I could get a true 50mm perspective from my 50mm lens (as the test shots above show, a crop frame camera takes a far more ‘zoomed in’ than the same lens on a full frame camera), and the difference in clarity and depth of colour is huge too.


I deliberated long and hard between the 6D and 5D mk.iii, but in the end decided that since the main differences between the two cameras came down to usability, and not the quality of the photographs, I’d save the £1,000 difference in price and opt for the 6D! This article is really useful, if you’re deliberating between the two cameras. Thanks for Kristabel for pointing me in the direction of that one, back in the summer!

The investment has been an invaluable one for me, and it’s been exciting to get to grips with a camera that offers much more in-depth and detailed control than my last one. It was almost like learning how to shoot all over again!

100% worth the investment, if anyone’s looking to perhaps make the change…

T H E   L E N S E S  - #1: Canon 50mm 1.4 USM

This lens is what I’ve been shooting on since September, and is a mini-upgrade on the 50mm 1.8 I’d been using consistently for a couple of years prior. It’s actually a loan from Freya, who hasn’t got need for it right now after switching to the Canon 24-70 2.8!

In terms of a difference in quality from the much cheaper 1.8 option (which is approximately £75, vs. £230ish for the 1.4) is significant but not mindblowing. The autofocus is pretty quick and quiet, and it feels a LOT more sturdy and well-built than its cheaper counterpart.

I tend not to dip down to f1.4 all that often as it makes the point of focus so very narrow, but it’s useful to have as an option for shooting in low light.

On the whole, it’s a fantastic lens and well worth its status as being the lens to invest in, if you only own one!


#2: Sigma 35mm 1.4 DG HSM Art

This is the most recent addition to my camera kit (a much longed for birthday gift from Jason in December!), and I’m so excited to use it more over the coming months!

I’d been desperate to acquire a 35mm lens for a long time, to use in situations when my 50mm feels just that little bit too close up. The Sigma came really highly recommended to me from a few people (our wedding photographer Sam for one!), and though I’m still yet to give it a proper test run, I’m head over heels in love with it so far.

The quality of the video it shoots is incredible, and the photos tend to have a natural vignette in low light settings which gives them such a distinct style. It focuses well down to f1.4, and has beautiful clarity.

I’m so excited to be able to shoot better landscapes with it throughout this year, and am already anticipating being able to shoot during evening golden hour this summer!

~ ~ ~

I hope this little round up of my current camera kit was useful, to those of you who, like me, are closeted photography nerds ;) Do you have any lens recommendations for me? Next on my wishlist is that dreamy 24-70 2.8…


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Visiting food markets is high on my list of Life’s Greatest Joys. It’s up there with the feeling I get in my spine when relaxing back into bed after a tiring day, and biting into a really great chocolate chip cookie, and wearing Jason’s T shirts to sleep in, and the two week stretch of spring where it seems as though every tree in England is covered in blossom.

One of the few things higher on the list than visiting a beautiful food market? Being dropped off in the middle of a beautiful food market in a place I’ve never visited before, and let loose with a camera!

I’m hopping around a little in the order in which I’m sharing photos from our trip, but I figured that there’s nothing better for perking up a Wednesday than photos of food! We visited the market on our final morning in Brive, just a few short hours before heading back to the airport and flying back to a surprisingly chilly England. The market is a huge one- spreading across the entirety of the central town square, and into a giant covered exhibition space too. It didn’t feel at all like the produce was just on show for cameras and tourists like myself, like I sometimes feel it is at Borough Market- most of the people there were French, armed with roomy wicker baskets, and were stocking up on the likes of green beans and salad leaves and eggs. And, of course, I saw countless people with paper-wrapped baguettes tucked under their arms and poking out of baskets, which did my heart good!

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What struck me most, during the few days I was in France, was quite much passion and respect the people there have for food. Each meal, whether it be breakfast, lunch, or dinner, was a sit-down affair. Starters were always preceded by an amuse-bouche and bread, desserts always followed by coffee and petit fours. Our guide Karine told us that in some regions of France, it’s quite normal for offices to shut down entirely for an hour or so over lunch, to allow workers to head home or to a local restaurant for a meal. I can’t even imagine that happening in the UK!

The vast majority of restaurants we ate in didn’t play music and had such a calm and peaceful atmosphere, which in turn led to the focus being on the food and dining experience itself. The effect was fascinating- I found myself enjoying what I was eating *so* much, but also getting full so quickly because I was really concentrating on my food, instead of just eating mindlessly.

I felt the same respect and love for food at the market- the produce was so artfully arranged, vendors encouraged us to help ourselves from bowls of olives and plates of finely sliced saucisson, and Karine explained that many of the vegetables would’ve been grown by the stallholders themselves in their gardens. Children were encouraged by farmers to pet and engage with the chickens and ducks and rabbits they had on offer (I asked whether the rabbits were pets or for the table, and the reply was ‘Both’!), and sampled ripe cheeses and cloves of pickled garlic and shellfish with abandon. It was beautiful to see.

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I left with a happy heart, a memory card full of photos, and a jar of acacia honey destined to be drizzled over soft cheese and creamy porridge and never, ever eaten in a hurry.


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During the day and a half I spent in Cologne, we did a lot of walking. And I mean a LOT.

First day we were there, Lucy (of the beautiful blog Shiny Thoughts!) and I covered 15kilometres, and paced more than 21k steps! (And yes indeed, I am totally addicted to the ‘health’ iPhone app.) All that walking was the best was the very best way for us to experience to Cologne in such a short space of time.

I found it to be a city of contrasts. We learnt that much of Cologne had to be rebuilt after being razed during the war, and so as a result, it’s a real melting pot of architectural styles. And having looked back at my photographs of the city, I’ve realised quite how much my tastes lean towards the quaint and away from all things modern and structural! There’s barely a single photo on my memory card that isn’t of some pastel hued restaurant, bright cafe table, or picturesque bike leaning up against a shopfront!

Our hotel (the brand spanking new Courtyard Cologne) was right in the centre of the city, a stone’s throw from the train station and a short walk from the beautiful cathedral. It was the cathedral, really, that captured my heart. Photos don’t do it justice at all! In fact, I’ve vowed to myself that if I ever find myself near the city again in the future, I’ll head back to the cathedral for a proper tour.

Here’s Cologne, as told by my camera roll…

What I wore :: Knit jacket (past season Urban Outfitters, similarish at Zara) || Breton top || Black skinnies || Blake’s Red by L’Oreal

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My stay in the Courtyard Cologne, and trip to the city, was courtesy of Marriott, and I can’t thank them enough for their generous hospitality! I was truly impressed by the Courtyard hotel too- the rates are fantastic, rooms are bright and comfortable, and I think it makes the problem of wanting to prioritise spending a city break budget on exploration and dining out over accommodation, but still have somewhere lovely to return to each day, an easy one to solve. And nope, I wasn’t paid or asked or required to share my opinions on the hotel, I was just super impressed by it!


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As soon as Jason and I got engaged, I started thinking about our wedding photography. Well, of course! Taking photos is what I do most of the day, every single day! It’s been an addictive thing- up until a couple of years ago- I’d never so much as held a ‘proper’ camera, and wasn’t ‘into’ taking photos in a big way at all. Now though, I’d say that photography is up there in the top five greatest loves of my life!

And so because of this, finding a truly fantastic photographer for our wedding was, as you’d imagine, a pretty huge deal for me. I had a clear vision in mind of the style of photography I was after and thought it might be a challenge to find a photographer whose style fitted exactly with what I was looking for, but the moment Jason sent me over an email containing a link to Sam Docker’s portfolio, I knew he was The One! There was no messing, no deliberation- just one look and I knew we’d found the photographer of my dreams!

Sam’s work is truly beautiful. Both his bridal and commercial photography are superbly creative and unique, and he plays with light in a way that I find so incredibly inspiring. We’ve sent so many emails back and forth since booking him to become our wedding photographer, about everything from the wedding itself to the merits of different lenses, editing software, and so many other elements of photography. Sam’s been such a fascinating person to get to know, I figured it might be fun to do a little interview with him here on Cider with Rosie! He’s even answered the question I get most frequently via email- how to get started shooting in manual on a DSLR!

So here we have it! The inside scoop on what it’s like to work as a professional commercial and wedding photographer…

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R :: Will you tell us a little about how you came to work as a professional photographer? I know you’re completely self-taught, so was there a magic moment when you first picked up a camera and thought ‘this is it!’?

S :: ‘I never planned to be a photographer. The signs had always been there, but it wasn’t until I was 28 when I realized it was something that not only I loved doing, but could also make a career from. I’d previously studied creative product design, I also had a short stint in digital marketing, and I ran my own online fashion business for 6 years. I’d always worked with cameras in some form, but it wasn’t until I bought a 35mm Canon AE-1 that things started to change. There was something special about shooting film that really made me question what I was doing, I simply loved it. That was definitely the pivotal “moment” for me. From then on, it has been an absolute roller-coaster journey.’


R ::What excites you most about your work? And how would you define your style of photography?

S :: ‘The biggest excitement and buzz is seeing how much the client values the images you’ve created, whether that be for a new brochure of products, or a giant print of a couple on their wedding day. The images have meaning, some will last more than others, but knowing they provide a huge amount of satisfaction to my clients and couples is what I love more than anything about my job, if you can call it a job!! There’s no greater feeling than opening that email after the client has taken delivery of the final set of images, even if I am a little nervous before opening it!!

In terms of my style, it’s difficult to pigeonhole, but there are definitely elements of lifestyle and fashion in there, with a little documentary and some fine art thrown in for good measure. From a wedding point of view, my images hopefully tell a story of the couple’s day, the moments that happen, the people and the background details that go into such an event, all come together to help them re-live that day. Commercially, my work is much more focused towards lifestyle imagery, and providing brands or agencies with images that feel natural and creatively on trend.’
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R :: Have there been any particularly memorable shoots, or standout moments from your career so far? And, conversely, any particular challenges you’ve worked past?

S :: ‘Without doubt, travelling to the Philippines for a wedding has to be a highlight- to be able to take my family with me made this even more special than I could even imagine, a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ve also been involved in some great commercial shoots, but my latest for the Olive Tree – felt like I’d taken my work to the next level. Seeing my work feature on their site, and to know that it adds value to their brand is a real bonus for me.

In terms of challenges, I’ve been quite fortunate. I think if you manage expectations from the start and communicate your ideas throughout, the only challenges should be ones that you set yourself, such as trying new ways of shooting. The only challenge that has surprised me since I started working in this industry is monitoring image use. It’s amazing how many suppliers think they can just take your images without any credit towards the photographer, or enquiring about a fee to use them for their own promotion!’


R :: What’re your favourite pieces of photography equipment? Are there any bits of kit you’d never head to a shoot without?

S :: ‘My favourite question!! Like most photographers, I’m a tech-nerd at heart, and love new kit. In terms of my “couldn’t live without” items, it would have to be the Canon 50L and 135L lenses, both are complete magic and have produced most of my favourite images. In terms of my staple items that make every shoot, I work with 2 Canon 5D MKIII’s, and have a variety of prime lenses. Commercially, the 50mm Macro 2.8 is one of the most under-rated lenses in my bag. I also love and shoot a lot of my documentary wedding work on the Sigma 35mm Art lens and the Canon 24L, both incredible for when I’m in the mix of a wedding.’


R :: How does working as a commercial photographer compare to your bridal work? Would you be able to share a little insight into how you’d approach each different style of shoot?

S :: ‘There are lots of elements of weddings and commercial work that cross-over, such as the natural, documentary and creative style that I try to achieve in my work, but the biggest and most notable difference between the 2 is the pace and pressure of a wedding. There are no 2nd chances with weddings, you miss that first kiss, or the confetti shots are out of focus, you’re in trouble! There are different pressures with commercial work, but it’s at a different pace, and you generally have a little more time to produce the image.

My commercial work starts with finding out the brief, whether thats from an agency or the client directly. It’s important that I understand the type of imagery they want to achieve, but more importantly, that I can achieve it. For example, if someone approached me to shoot a new car advert and it was heavily studio based, I’d have to turn the project away as that isn’t my field of expertise, and the client would only be left disappointed.

Weddings are much more about engaging with my couples, I want to know them and what makes them tick. I want them to feel comfortable around me, I am after all being invited into their family circle for the biggest day of their lives, and I never take that for granted. For the wedding day itself, I can’t stress enough how much I want my couples to just enjoy themselves, as a recently married man, I know exactly how they’ll be feeling and just how quickly that day will fly! If they enjoy the day, and their guests enjoy it, the images almost take care of themselves!’

R :: It’s impossible to play favourites, but do you have any photos that stick out as your personal ‘bests’? :)

S :: ‘I always get told by couples “we don’t like having our picture taken”, and I do get that, but when it comes to the portrait element of the day, I always want my couples to see those 10-15 minutes as alone time with their new husband or wife, and this image of Jane and Sue [below] completely sums up that zone I want them to find. A quiet and peaceful moment, just the 2 of them, on a day of complete chaos!’


‘This is Emily’s dad delivering his speech. As a dad to a little 3 year old girl, I always find myself relating to everything they have to say, and this image moves me every time I see it. I’m sure it will only seem like 10 minutes before I’m in his boots.’


‘And the very first image in this post has to be included as a favourite, as it was the beginning of my commercial work. It was the first image I took where I truly realized I could do more of this, and that I was able to make strong imagery for brands and agencies.’

R :: What advice would you give anyone looking to start using their DSLR on manual, and wanting to understand the basics of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings?

S :: ‘We live in an amazing age right now, one where photography, and especially high-level photography are more accessible than ever. That said, if you’re thinking of starting down this path, you should really have a strong understanding of the basics. Cambridge in Colour is an amazing resource for reading up about shutter speeds, ISO and aperture, and the relationship they all share. The best advice I can give on shooting manual is to just go out and experiment, a simple walk round the park to try different settings and see what happens is a great start.

My basic approach and setup is to start by setting the ISO, bright sun is 100, cloudy is 400-800, low light is 1600+, then depending on the depth of field I want to achieve, I’ll set my aperture, usually anything between f1.2 and f2.5 for natural documentary work. The final setting is my shutter, and this is controlled by my previous 2 settings, in bright daylight, it will be fast, 1/4000-1/8000, for cloudy it will be 1/800-1/1600 and for low light, 1/200+. I try not to drop below 1/200th for the shutter, this way I reduce my chances of motion blur as anything below that speed will need one steady hand or a tripod.’

*Huge* thank you to Sam- picking the brains of a real-life pro photographer was a pretty great way to spend one afternoon last week! And aren’t his images just incredible? :) All Sam’s links are listed below, so please do go and check out the rest of his commercial and wedding portfolios- I had to a hard job selecting which photos to include in this post, there were so many beautiful images to choose from!

And Sam? We’ll see you on the 17th of July!

Sam Docker :: Commercial portfolio || Wedding portfolio || Twitter || Facebook

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