Photographing The Royal Wedding by Gavin Dickson of Lyric Weddings

Where were you on 29th April 2011? Most of us can remember where we were on the day that Prince William married Catherine Middleton. For Gavin Dickson of Lyric Weddings it was certainly a day to remember. A highly respected photographer, Gavin was one of a handful of accredited photographers chosen to capture the wedding from outside the doors of Westminster Abbey, waiting for the first glimpse and photo opportunity of the new Mr and Mrs Windsor! Here, Gavin shares with us his memories of the day as well as some of the amazing images he captured of the wedding of the century!

"Before launching Lyric Weddings, I was employed for fifteen years as chief photographer on the Express & Star, the country's biggest selling evening newspaper. During my time there I had the opportunity to cover many of the most talked about stories of our time, from photographing prime ministers and royal engagements to stars of stage and screen and a host of sporting events across the UK and around the world.

When I found out that I would be covering the royal wedding I couldn't have been more excited and on 28th April 2011 I arrived in London with two colleagues to collect my official pass and immerse myself in the build up to the wedding on the Friday.

My accreditation provided me with a fantastic position directly outside the doors of Westminster Abbey, in a specially created space for about fifteen photographers from around the world. A great viewpoint, yes, but no facilities of any kind meant limiting water and food intake on the evening before - there could be no emergencies! So, on the morning of 29th April, my alarm sounded at 4.30 am and by 5.00 am I was making my way towards the venue, carrying over 40 lbs of camera gear! Yes, it was a slow, slightly uncomfortable walk, but it was very peaceful at that time in the morning. I felt like I was experiencing a true calm before the storm moment. I understood my role and what was expected of me and my years of experience covering high profile news stories would hopefully stand me in good stead.

Arriving at the security point my pass and credentials were checked off and I trudged for the final few yards to my position. A wooden structure with two levels had been erected for us and was disguised as a wall. At 5.30 am I wasn't the first to arrive (two other photographers had beaten me to it!) however all the positions had been marked out in advance. I had a 2ft x 1ft space marked out with my name on it and this would be my home for the next seven hours!

Once all the other photographers had arrived, congestion wouldn't begin to describe the feeling. Think sardines in a can and you get the picture. With standing room only I had to juggle three cameras, four lenses, two monopods, a laptop and camera bag - definitely a challenge! At about 8am there was a security search and everyone had their camera bags searched with police sniffer dogs. This provided a few brief minutes to stretch legs and aching limbs before being shoehorned back into position after the police had done their thing.

As the morning progressed the excitement continued to build with the noise of the nearby crowd screaming and shouting just adding to the occasion. The wait was agonising with only the briefest moments of interest as the doors to the abbey opened and then closed as somebody would pop out to have a look and then disappear back inside. The first picture opportunity occurred when a man armed with a vacuum cleaned the red carpet from the drop off point directly in from of us which led into the Abbey!

There was a great deal of chatter between the photographers, all asking each other what lens and speed settings they would use. It was a case of everybody reassuring each other, safety in numbers perhaps. These were some of the most experienced news photographers in the world but everyone knew the importance of this assignment - there was no second chance! I tried at times to block out the chatter as I had carefully planned my choice of lens and settings during tests before setting off to London. It was difficult though and it just raised the tension that was already building inside me.

Eventually the high profile guests began to arrive with David and Samantha Cameron arriving shortly after 10.00 am, then the European royals arrived who were only happy to stand and wave at the assembled media.

All of a sudden at 10.22 am (according to the time settings on my camera) a cavalcade of police motorcycles arrived escorting Prince William and his brother Harry to the Abbey. Through my lens, which by now was focusing furiously, I could see Prince William looking nervously at the large crowds as he waved to the screaming well-wishers positioned across the road, many of whom had been waiting for over 24 hours. Aside from the worldwide interest and mass of well-wishers, he appeared like any other slightly nervous groom on his wedding day.

My work that day had begun and, safe in the knowledge that the bride would not be arriving early (it's tradition after all), I set about sending the first live pictures back to the office. With my laptop balanced precariously on one knee and with no room to move I managed to wire a dozen or so images to the picture desk in Wolverhampton.

At 11.04 am the future Duchess of Cambridge arrived. Through the large windows of the wedding car she looked very calm sitting alongside her proud father. She exited the passenger side of the car and, although it was only a matter of seconds, it seemed like an eternity before the wedding car moved, providing me with a shot of the bride entering the Abbey with her sister Pippa following behind. So many people have reacted to the images of Pippa as she entered the Abbey. "I see you managed to get that shot" is a regular comment I receive. The reality is I was totally focused on Kate entering the abbey and readily admit that I didn't even notice Pippa!

A tense hour passed listening to the service on loud speakers as it played out across Westminster. Then, at 12.12 pm the doors opened and the new Mr & Mrs Windsor came into view. They positioned themselves on the top step at the doors of Westminster Abbey for a brief few seconds allowing myself and the other photographers to take the images that would be seen around the world. It is a moment I will never forget! I remember clearly thinking how stunning Catherine looked as she stood next to her new husband. She was radiant and looked totally at ease.

After pausing for a few seconds the happy couple walked towards their horse drawn carriage which had now been moved into position. It was the moment that William helped his new bride into the carriage that I took my favourite image of the day. It wasn't a great news photograph, but I think it's a lovely picture of a new bride that just happens to be the Duchess of Cambridge!

At 12.15 pm William and Catherine left the Abbey and made their way to Buckingham Palace. That was it, nearly seven hours standing in my tiny space for three minutes of near continuous photography. I managed to send the pictures to the office within minutes of them being taken and they were published and printed just 35 minutes after the ceremony. My images, along with those of my colleagues (who were positioned elsewhere) were the first to be published in the printed press in the UK following the wedding.

In the months following the wedding, as the happy couple began their life as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, it was slowly dawning on me that photographing weddings was where my future lay. So, at the beginning of 2012, I decided to dedicate my time and concentrate on photographing weddings, and that's when Lyric Weddings was born.

A wedding is such a fantastic story and lends itself to true storytelling. There are so many ingredients involved in making a wedding the most perfect day. Putting it simply, there is no better story to tell! My job as a news photographer was to tell the story with images and the wedding day really lends itself to this style of photography, from the bridal preparations to the ceremony, the speeches and the party afterwards.

Essentially, William and Catherine were no different than any other couple on their wedding day and, yes, this is perhaps unsurprisingly my most high profile wedding to date! That said, amazing weddings happen every day and there are amazing wedding venues in glorious locations across the country.

When I photograph weddings, I use all of the experience I gained during my time as a news photographer. Every day I had to be adaptable to my surroundings and had to get the best possible image from every given situation. It's the ability to not just see what is in front of you but what else is also happening around you that makes the difference. Being able to predict and react instinctively, capturing the moments that only occur once. I recently photographed a wedding in Shropshire of a high profile musician - it made some wonderful photographs as the groom's bandmates played jazz music as they walked along the village street from the church to the wedding venue. The atmosphere was terrific!

I tend to shoot predominantly in black & white as I believe it simplifies the composition and emotions, however of course some things deserve to be seen in colour. I recently photographed a lovely wedding in Yorkshire involving a red double decker bus - a red bus has to be red!

Others may describe my style as wedding photojournalism, reportage wedding photography or documentary wedding photography. However I would simply describe myself as a storyteller with a camera."

To find out more about Lyric Weddings and to see more of Gavin's stunning images, visit the Lyric Weddings profile on TheWeddingVine.com or go to www.lyricweddings.com.

  • 2 comments "Photographing The Royal Wedding by Gavin Dickson of Lyric Weddings"

    Add your comments

  • Amy Jones says

    25th April 2013 at 2:41 pm

    The black and white photo of Kate is just beautiful!

  • Emma Jones says

    30th April 2013 at 9:52 am

    A fascinating insight into a wonderful occasion.

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