The Inspiration behind the wedding photographer at Champagne Shutter

Your wedding day is all about you and your partner. That’s why I ask a lot of questions!  But to get the best possible photographs of your celebration, the most elegant ones, the ones that really look natural, you have to be comfortable with me.

Really comfortable – like with that friend you whisper with in front of the makeup mirror – the one you say things to there, that you would not want repeated to everyone elsewhere! 🥴 🤣

Of course, that’s what your best mate is for, and I don’t really mean I want or need you to divulge your soul.  But you do need to feel comfortable enough with me to share a feeling of insecurity, if there’s one there, because it’s from this trust and comfort that beautiful heirloom photographs come.  This authentic connection – where I’m invested in your day – means I can give a daft instruction to make you laugh and capture a spontaneous picture.  More importantly, it’s from this place of trust that I can phrase something – “…project your chin like a pterodactyl and drop it just a touch…” – and suddenly, you’re either laughing at my being stupid, or more importantly, I’ve used my expertise to create something flattering.  For example, the insecurity about the chin is smoothed, an issue erased.  This brings us back to comfort: we’ve discussed if there’s something you don’t like about yourself, and I’ve given an instruction that might not feel ‘natural’ at all but creates just the right flattering angle.  This is where wedding photographs that have that stunning 'something' emerge, rather than just being ordinary phone snaps. An adjustment that friends and family will call “natural.”   They will swear they can tell how you were feeling, when in fact you were having to just trust in me.  What didn’t feel natural but looked good.  They didn’t know that!

And this only comes from trust and comfort between us.

So, it’s only fair that with such a focus on you, you get to know more about me, the wedding photographer, and my “why?”


Family is important to me and I’m a romantic – novels, films, and weddings! I cry at every one I attend (and likely will at yours, just a bit, down the viewfinder). Oh, and I love champagne!

Ansel Adams overlooking the Half Dome in Yosemite - what a rig! What a dude!

I was a 1986 baby.  Two years earlier, the well-known American landscape photographer Ansel Adams had died; his autobiography was unfinished and was subsequently completed by his editor, first published in 1985.  When I look at the hardcover copy in my possession now, gifted to my father by my mother at Christmas 1986, a festive gift tag still falls out of it.  The ink of my mum’s handwriting is unmistakably from one of those primary school pens you learned to write with (my mum was a primary school teacher) – you know the ones, with a red barrel, by Berol, a “Handwriting” pen with a plastic nib.  The message inside the tag reads: “Here’s to our little grunter!”  This must presumably mean me.  I’ve never asked, but I’m told the first Christmas, when I was 1 month old, was spent with mother and father sitting me up through the night, with the tip of their respective little fingers in my mouth, to keep me breathing, as a strategy against my first snotty cold.

I grew up with a stay-at-home dad who was having a baby at the age of 52; a former teacher, and an amateur Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society, a man who had a small darkroom in the house, for developing film, under his home-made enlarger – images originally taken on his Mamiya and Hasselblad medium format cameras.  He had a long-standing love of Ansel Adams’ photography of Yosemite, in Northern California, and it feels fitting that Adams’ autobiography was gifted as a celebration of me, since I came to be instilled with a love of black and white photography and a life-long desire to visit this American National Park.  Dad, before me, and now I, love to pop a filter on the front of my lens and smooth out a waterfall or lake in a landscape, or capture the movement of clouds... This Barnsley wedding photographer keeps it fun with art too, in his spare time.

When I was a slightly older boy, my half-brother had returned one year from a trip to California and had taken a roll or two of black and white film of the valleys in Yosemite – I remember him tessellating them across the dining table.

My dad was born in 1934, a child who, at 5, was carried in a washing basket into air raid shelters during the Second World War and starting secondary school by the time the war ended.  He went on to do national service in what was then Malaya, circa 1952-’54, before becoming a teacher of geography, and at times horticulture and music.

I can distinctly remember taking this photograph of my dad on my first 'proper' 35mm film camera, my Olympus Mju II, somehwere near Chester, in the mid-'90s. Yes - here he is on holiday - in a tie!

If I’m asked what my dad was like, my prompt on how to imagine him is probably already far too out-dated a reference for most, but I make the comparison with actor John Thaw playing author Colin Dexter’s character Inspector Morse in the ITV series.  The character’s appearance, manner of dress, and tastes are all totally parallel.  Dad gardened in brogues and a tie!  He would have done an oil change in a tie; an open-necked shirt was a highly unusual informality.  He would have had a tie on when sanding and planing joinery in the garage, me propped in a baby-walker somewhere, covered in saw dust.  Inspector Morse’s tastes, from Tchaikovsky on vinyl, to whisky, mirror dad’s exactly.  And dad also approved of Morse’s burgundy Jaguar Mk II.  Even now, in my own dream 12-car garage, a ‘50s racing green Jag’ XK features (like the one Sebastian drives in Cruel Intentions, to bring the pop culture references forward to my generation).  Sadly, at 37, I’m no closer to this car collection!  Perhaps I’ll open a Patreon for contributions to my car, camper van and travel fund…oh, and camera gear!  Were dad here now, he might well halt the John Thaw comparison in preference of Ian McShane’s loveable rogue Lovejoy – a leather jacket wearing fictional antiques dealer - but I’d have to call Lol on kidding himself!  I’m acutely aware though, that for my audience of people of marriageable age, my references are hopelessly dated!

That was dad’s name, by the way – Lol – Lawrence, before LOL was a common textual abbreviation!

My dad gave me a love of art: silver birch trees in black and white photographs, 2B pencils and putty rubbers for drawing.  Fountain pens too – my signature is so like his was! 

A 2B pencil - not an HB, not a 4B, not a 2H…a 2B – the most versatile of pencils, because it’s just soft and dark enough. 

“Start with your basic shapes and decide on your light source.”  I vividly remember the shared activity of sketching techniques with dad – getting the shapes right confidently, and accounting for the light with the erasing.  I promise nearly all my art homework was mine!

Walks in the woods – dappled sunshine on a silver birch always makes me think of dad and see in monochrome – the perfect black and white photo – even better with an interesting bit of fungus; a good close up of a trunk; so much so, I now have to go on holiday on my own so as not to bore anyone else with two hours of taking pictures of the same tree!


Thunderstorms, or fog, equally exciting, cuddled up with dad in the caravan in Filey, on Yorkshire’s east coast, hearing driving rain on the roof, sounding to my ear just like Rice Crispies poured by God, and watching forked lightning come down, imagining what might emerge from the weather like in a story book.

Dad was the softest, most caring, and devoted dad anyone could have wished for – not many people get a baby for a retirement project. 

I still remember with a measure of mirth when his film developer chemicals ate through the plumbing under the bathtub, and me as a boy getting to grips with his Nikon SLR camera in the ‘90s, when dad’s eyesight meant that a more modern auto-focus 35mm was preferred over his older medium format gear.  I never got chance to get to grips with his older cameras and have still never used a darkroom or developed film – but one day, and not just for hipster cred'!

I intended to go to Filey and take a couple of self-portraits where, without wishing to be morbid, my mum and I scattered dad's ashes...but it was snowing! Perhaps another time...

At school I was the academic type and wanted to pick everything.  When I went to university in York, I studied English and French Literature.  I loved and devoured it – from classic Victorian Sensationalism like Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White to British Modernism like Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.  One of my favourite authors was and is Graham Greene – a former spy, journalist, and film critic, as well as novelist and screen writer, his stories strike a cross-section though Catholic guilt, and moral dilemmas where characters intervene through conflict in foreign lands.  Many of his works have been adapted to cinema and I went on to study for a Master’s in Film and Literature.

I love classic Hollywood, like Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Vertigo but it won’t surprise you to know a wedding photographer loves a good chick-flick or romance, like Under the Tuscan Sun or A Good Year. 

Listing them would take forever and bore you to death, but you’ve got this far, so I’ll pop a snap in of just a few of my faves...

What I love most though, is a novel that leaves me thinking: “I wish I’d written that!”  An unusual structure that shifts back and forth, circling back between time periods or characters that don’t seem at first to link.  Perhaps it stems back to my most watched childhood VHS: Back to the Future II!

I wasn't always a Barnsley, South Yorkshire wedding photographer. When I started my career I was a natural teacher.  In my case, English and Literature, from 11 years old, up to GCSE and A-Level.  I’m still confident that most kids in my classroom enjoyed it, whatever their strengths and needs.  Each individual was important to me, and I journeyed from bigger to smaller schools because of this agenda.  I loved creative writing with the younger ones, using my travel photos to inspire the start of descriptions or stories, with lots trying to tease me that the shots were not mine, or “photoshopped.”  They were the former and were not the latter!  🤣 There was a real contagious enthusiasm that I engineered in my classroom – I’ll never forget one boy saying that the film version disappointed him because it wasn’t in my voice!  And no, this was no teacher’s pet – I promise!  ☺️ I was great at modelling analysis, supporting kids who were struggling, and got brilliant results from 16 and 18-year-olds. 

As a teacher, still unable to afford my own D-SLR camera, I borrowed my dad’s for my first trip to the States: New York.  I created an album for his 80th.  The following year, in 2015, I finally booked flights to visit California and make my own trip to Yosemite, following dad’s life-long love of Ansel Adams, but I did not get to create an album for an 81st.  After several years of ill health, dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given a very short prognosis of 2 weeks.  At the time, I was living in Hampshire during my second teaching post.

Travelling to Yosemite a few months after his death, I was struck again and again by serendipity.  I had pictured in my mind the exact shade of red Mustang I wanted to drive, and by sheer cosmic force, got exactly that.  Not only burgundy, but some inexplicable, unspoken free upgrade to the 5.0 V8 GT!

Travelling to Napa, I went to a wine tasting and found, by apparent serendipity again, a short-term Ansel Adams exhibit to raise a glass to dad.

Did I mention I like wine?  🍷 And cheese? 🧀 AND country music!

I was not the photographer 10 years ago that I am now, but knew even then that I had mucked up, shooting only in jpeg to save file size (something I would NEVER do now) – as a result, I came to render this questionable edit of Yosemite, please forgive the ‘crunchy’ clouds. But at least I was able to toast dad and Ansel together.

Olmsted Point, Yosemite, 2015

I’d long wanted to get back to Yorkshire but managed it after dad’s death.  What I loved most in my teaching was A-Level English Literature and Film Studies, and it was the latter that had me hankering for greater creativity again. 

Teaching often left me feeling paternal, but after over a decade of marking books every Sunday, and asking the right questions to help kids progress, it took its toll, and I had long felt that my work/life imbalance of sixty-hour weeks would never allow me the space to meet a partner or have my own children.

And so, when I was asked to take on my 13th change to a new exam specification in the space of 10 years, I took the plunge, for my own health, to make a creative career change.  Typical me – I’ve always had expensive, err, I mean, good, taste!  My current professional camera, body alone, no lens, was £3000!  The next camera on my list is over £5k!  Several cameras are vital – swapping between them for speed and efficiency on your day, and as a fail-safe back up too.  And each lens, of which I need many, is £2k+!  After many many lenses, there’s flashes, memory cards, laptops, tripods…

I haven’t got a partner or any children yet, and maybe I won’t.  But I will enjoy the human principles in my favourite writing and films for now, along with a glass of wine and some good cooking.  I’m a good cook, even if I do say so myself! And hopefully, gamble that a career change is, as I establish my business and gain greater balance, there'll be more time for travels... 

If you can see here how important family, legacy and reputation are to me, know that my artistic craft means that every wedding is individually important to me.

I love planning and have the style to be a dab-hand with buttonholes and flowers in lapels!  And I’m always thrilled when someone likes my photography enough to pick me for a day that can’t be faffed around with.  It’s got to be organised and professional!

My advice is to choose a personality that feels right, but also remember that you get what you pay for!  Your photographer is likely to be 10-15% of your overall budget.  Equipment, expertise, technique, artistic vision, preparation, and not just the photographer on the day, but all the days of editing beyond, and the heirloom album that is the only tangible memory thereafter…

Please get in touch for a friendly chat and get a feel for me – that way we can begin to enjoy planning your elegant, heirloom portraits that really make a connection with you. See my packages information here

Making a Connection

You can find my approach to your wedding photographs, prioritising your comfort and beautiful outcomes, at

Champagne Shutter Photography

Tom Roberts, of Champagne Shutter Photography, is a wedding photographer and educator based between South, West, East and North Yorkshire. Champagne Shutter Photography offers comprehensive wedding day photography packages (and videography) from bridal and groom preparation through to evening reception, from elegant portraiture to an unobtrusive capturing of timeless photographs that feel natural and unorchestrated, leading to beautiful heirloom albums.

Wedding Photographer Tom Roberts, of Champagne Shutter Photography, Barnsley, South Yorkshire

Tom Roberts