Portemierion pre-Wedding Film & Photography scouting

I’ve got two weddings at Portmeirion coming up – one where I’m a photographer and one where I’m filming – so I decided to take a visit.

In case you don’t already know, Portmeirion is an Italianate resort village in Gwynedd, on the coast of Snowdonia in North Wales (thank you Wikipedia!)

Sir Clough Williams-Ellis designed and constructed the village between 1925 and 1975. He incorporated fragments of demolished buildings, including works by a number of other architects. Portmeirion’s architectural bricolage and deliberately fanciful nostalgia have been noted as an influence on the development of postmodernism in architecture in the late 20th century.

Okay, time to stop copying and pasting from wikipedia…

Basically, Portmeirion is a beautiful little village with lots of interesting architecture and pastel colours. And it’s next to a beach/estuary.

Weddings at Portmeirion - Hercules Hall

Weddings at Portmeirion - Hercules Hall

I spoke to one of the Delyths  – the sales manager – and apparently they have about 100 weddings a year there. This is no surprise, Portmeirion is a kind of fairy tale place to get married and also about as good as it gets from a photographer’s point of view.

Hercules Hall, the Tudor Room and Mirror Room hold Civil Wedding licences for large and small ceremonies – I’ll be working in Hercules Hall.

The couple are facing the large window when they get married, which means they will be lit very nicely without using flash. This is a big help when it comes to filming/photographing.

The dark wood paneling means the light falls off very quickly, so the guests will be relatively dark in photographs. I think that’s fine, it helps highlight the bride and groom.

For filming the wood has less of an effect because my video camera has a higher dynamic range, i.e. more of what is being captured has a normalised exposure.

The ceiling is much lighter and has some incredible carvings on it. I think this could be incorporated into photos of the bride and groom by taking a low POV and looking upwards.

The floor is made of varnished floorboards, which will reflect the bride’s white dress and should look very nice. The reflection can be helped with a little flick of downwards flash.

Weddings at Portmeirion - backdrops for photography

Weddings at Portmeirion - backdrops for photography

I did notice a couple of large air-con units in Hercules Hall, which I was a bit wary of

because they could cause white noise on video footage.

However, I was told they’re turned off during the ceremony, so that’s ok.

As any wedding photographer knows, doorways are our bread and butter.

The light from the front and the darker background make them perfect for highlighting the bride and groom, so long as it’s not too bright and sunny.

Doorways also make great frames and can give photographs a symmetry that is aesthetically pleasing.

Not surprisingly, Portmeirion has so many that it’s hard to know where to start.

There is a doorway as you exit the building where Hercules Hall is, but this archway caught my eye.

I like the symmetry of the pillars, the pastel pink, and I think the bride would look gorgeous photographed here.




Wedding photography at Portmeirion, North Wales

Wedding photography at Portmeirion, North Wales

The best place for the groups shots is probably the lawn in the centre of Portmeirion village.

It’s on an incline, which makes it easier to get rows of people on different levels (so we can see everyone’s face).

That roman-esque looking building, with all the pillars, would make a good place for a groups shot of the men. The pillars can be used to frame them.

The tower in the background is the dominant piece of architecture at Portmeirion (in my opinion) and there are nice shots of the bride and groom to be had as you walk up the steps towards it.

The bride and groom I’ve been booked to photograph are very different heights, which can sometimes pose a challenge.

However, because there are so many different levels at Portmeirion it should be straightforward to position them to best effect.


Wedding photography at Portmeirion, North Wales

Wedding photography at Portmeirion






The wedding breakfast and speeches are held in the restaurant down near the beach.

The top table is in front of this wood paneling, which is ideal.

This photo might not look like much, but it’s actually a great backdrop for photographing/filming the speeches and the people on the top table.

The building also has a couple of stairways which make good locations for shots of the bride from above.

The evening entertainment and first dance are back at the top in Hecules Hall.

Why do I write up notes on these pre-wedding photos scouts?

The main reason is for me to know exactly what I’m doing on clients’ wedding days – I like to be uber-organised and prepared, it makes a massive difference on the wedding day.

Secondly, it gives my clients the opportunity to see exactly what I’ll be doing on their wedding day, which is always a good thing.

Hopefully these note may also be of use to other photographers who shoot at the same location.

Pre-wedding photography scouting at Plas Mawr, Conwy and Sychnant Pass house

Plas Mawr, Conwy

I’d not actually visited Plas Mawr, the Elizabethan house in Conwy which dates back to the 1500’s, before checking it out from a wedding photographer’s point of view.

It’s a very cool place to get married, and definitely something a bit different.

The room where the ceremony will be held is able to fit up to 40 people, and this gives it a very intimate feel.

It is light, with large windows on two sides. A wide angle lens will be required for shots of the bride, groom, and guests during the ceremony. The 24-70 lens will be better for shots of just the bride and groom, so I will use two cameras so as to avoid changing between lenses.

Flash is allowed at Plas Mawr, but the natural light is so good I think it will be best to avoid using it as much as possible.

One point where flash might be needed is  when the bride and groom sign the register. The table is lit by three large windows, behind and to the left and right, which will create good hair highlights when complemented by a little fill flash.

I was then shown the other rooms in the house – it is mostly done out to look as it would have done when it was originally lived in, which makes it a really exciting place to take photos.

There are stairs to the tower (which Plas Mawr is best known for) and to an attic room.

The stairs themselves make an excellent point to take a photograph of the bride from above, with small windows creating areas of light and dark that will really bring the photograph to life.

The attic is Rachel’s, the lady who showed me round, favourite room, but she did point out that it might be difficult to climb the steps up there in a wedding dress.

There are big wooden beams which I think  could be used to create a great frame for a sequence of photos of the bride and groom.

I also liked the room with a four-poster bed and the kitchen, where there is very good light from the windows. There are so many good backdrops and ways to frame the photos that I’ll almost be spoilt for choice.

The courtyard and garden area outside is large enough for group shots. Plas Mawr and its tower make a good backdrop and the doorways make good frames.

Sychnant Pass House

Sychant Pass House is a two minute drive from the town of Conwy and tucked away in the woods on the way up to the Sychnant Pass.

The room where the bride will be getting married has a king size bed with ornate wood carvings. There is a skylight and numerous light sources that will make an atmospheric image.

I liked the chess set (I’m a bit of a chess boffin) and the fact the rooms are named after TS Eliot’s cats. It gives the place a kind of bookish feel that appeals to me.

There is a large lawn and a courtyard, either of which would be suitable for larger group shots.

The drawing room could be used for group shots if some of the furniture is moved around.

There are daisies and bluebells on the lawn, which could be used as for foreground elements in portrait shots of bridesmaids/children.

I’d noticed photos of the swimming pool at Sychnant Pass House on its website and thought the reflections might make for some good photographs, but have ruled it out because the humidity might kill my camera (it’s happened to me twice before) and wouldn’t be great for the bride’s hair.

North Wales wedding photographer & film maker Tom Simone – a bit about me!

Hello  – Welcome to my wedding film and photography blog!

In this post I’m going to tell you a little bit about myself. The rest of the blog will be my take on wedding photography and film, with examples of my work and probably some miscellaneous ramblings.

So, here goes – I live in Bethesda, North Wales, with my wife Caroline and three boys, Jac, Raffi, and Leo.

Tom Simone & family

In 2009 I left my job in the media to embark on a career as a wedding photographer and film maker, which has been a really exciting move and I’ve been loving every minute of it.

I haven’t got any formal qualifications in photography, but then none of the best photographers do 😉 and I think my CV makes up for it.

I was introduced to the role of being a cameraman during work experience on BBC’s Saturday Morning Kitchen (I still remember the chef’s fishcakes – absolutely divine!), and got the photography bug when I started getting articles and photos published in national magazines a few years back.

I’ve worked for the two rival newspaper companies in North Wales, North Wales Newspapers and Trinity Mirror, and did reporting, web, photography and video work for both.

At the Daily Post I was in charge of video content across the North Wales sites and filmed/interviewed the likes of David Cameron, Pink Floyd and even Rolf Harris, amongst many others.

I’ve had two Arts Council of Wales funded exhibitions at the Ucheldre Centre in Holyhead, where I showed photographs and a film as part of the Heglu art project I coordinated with the sculptor Richard Houghton.

We worked with adults with learning difficulties at Tyddyn Mon on Anglesey, we got some amazing feedback from it all and I’ll be making another couple of art films later in the year.

I knew I wanted to set up a wedding photography business when I left the Daily Post because weddings are  the most exciting and fun things I can possibly think of to photograph.What’s more, there probably isn’t any other area of photography where the photographs are more greatly appreciated  – having such a high value placed on my work is an amazing feeling.

I’ve used my experience in the media and the arts to the full when it comes to weddings, and I think it shows in my work.

I now photographed and filmed a whole bunch of weddings and some of the feedback I’ve had has blown me away, before getting into this business I had not fully appreciated the impact my photographs and films would have on the couples I work for, and I now wouldn’t swap this job for anything else in the world.

In addition to wedding film and photography I do commercial work, and I’m in the process of setting up Golau Media, a company which will offer a broader suite of things like photography, promotional videos, websites and PR.

So far I’ve worked for Manchester University, Imperial War Museum, Menter Mon, Ergonomic Cafe, Trefriw Woollen Mill, Tyddyn Mon, kitchen photography for national style mag, Sam Dyer Ecology, and probably some more I can’t think of because it’s getting late.

If you want to know anything else about me, see some of my photos/films or whatever else then please get in touch.

I don’t really go in for the hard sell, but I’m always up for talking about everything weddings, especially if there’s tea and biscuits involved 🙂

Wedding photo scouting at Seiont Manor and church in Bethesda

It is a matter of days before Debra and Andrew tie the knot at Eglwys Iesu Grist (Christ’s Church) in Bethesda.

And, to be fair, they seem pretty relaxed and organised.

I’m going to Debra’s parents’ house for 10.30am on Saturday. It’s just up the road from the church and is where Debra will be getting ready.

Imagine the bride here instead of the armchair

Imagine the bride here instead of the armchair

The light from the living room window is nice and flat (well, at least it was today) and I’ll use the curtains to create a barn-door effect.

Perfect backdrop, if we move some stuff out the way

Perfect backdrop, if we move some stuff out the way

There are blinds in the conservatory and I’ll use these to create a white background  for a photo of Debra in her wedding dress.

This shot is  little more technical because I will need to balance the fill-light (from my flash) with the light from the window, but it should look really nice.


I went down to the church (it’s the one near Spar on the highstreet) after visiting Debra and Andrew.

It’s beautiful inside, with great big stain glass windows.

Finding the best place the video camera was a bit tricky – I’m hoping the vicar will let Caroline stand in the pulpit, because this has got by far the best views.


The overhead heaters pose an issue with regards lighting because they make everything look a bit red.

Thankfully there’s a reasonable amount of natural light (for a church anyway) and they can be turned off for group shots at the end.

And Photoshop color correction and Final Cut filters will take care of the rest. (edit – black and white might be the way forward).


There’s room for the group shots outside if it’s nice, and inside if it’s raining, which is handy.

The church door is an obvious place to take shots of the bride and groom, as well smaller group shots.


There’s also a big rock outside which I think might make a good prop for the groom and his friends and there’s some overhanging trees which will be good for diffuse lighting and my zoom lens.

I was thinking of whisking Debra and Andrew off for a bit to shoot on location near Llanberis, but I’ve figured there isn’t really enough time to fit this in because of it getting dark so early.

Besides, Seiont Manor in Llanrug, where they are having the wedding reception, has some great places for shooting outside.

The light in the reception room is bright enough for me not to use flash,  so long as my shutter speed goes no higher than 1/80, aperture 4 and iso about 2000.

However, there’s a low white ceiling, so using a flash will be straightforward too. I think I’ll mix it up and see what comes out best.

My video camera (a Canon XHA1) is amazing in low light and doesn’t struggle at all.


In the restaurant area there’s a conservatory which is all glass and the light is very low.

On camera flash doesn’t work because there’s nothing to bounce it off and it causes nasty reflections. I could use off camera flash, but I think this would get in the way and be too much of a faff.

However, if I push my 7d to its iso limit (no higher than 3200 in my opinion) the shots come out pretty nice – my canon 30d would never have been able to do that!

There’s some comfy chairs and sofas in the bar/restaurant area of Seiont Manor, as well as lots of lamps and a fire.

It’s a perfect setting for some classy shots (much better than the reception room) of the men looking distinguished and the ladies looking elegant.

Now it’s just a case of waiting for the big day!


I will be starting the day off at Debra’s parents’ house, which is just up the road from the church and where she is getting ready.