Two weddings in two weekends: Five thought

I had the great pleasure of shooting two weddings in June. I’m not a wedding photographer. I never envisioned myself as a wedding photographer. I came into both of these as someone who has centrally focused on landscape photography with a bit of dabbling in concert photography. Still, these two weddings went really well and I could definitely see myself doing it again. In fact, one of the bridesmaids and groomsmen (who were also engaged) from the second wedding asked if my wife and I would also do their wedding next year. I learned a whole lot and could go in with far more confidence than initially. My experience with event shooting is finally getting into something of substance now. Still, I would really love the opportunity of working under someone on an event. Lower pressure practice would only benefit.

The first one was a little more relaxing since I was a second shooter, focusing entirely on candid moments in a more photojournalism style.

Lead & Cade's Wedding-1

#1. Don’t jump into shooting a wedding on your own without some experience a second shooter first.

Honestly, I really wish that I could have been a second shooter at least a half a dozen times or more before ever doing an entire wedding on my own. There’s a lot more to do than you could imagine from simply watching from the outside. Simply put: come out the other side of the second wedding: I had no idea that I knew so little. There is no other kind of shooting that can sufficiently prepare you for a wedding. Maybe war/battlefield photojournalism?

#2. Lighting. Lighting. Lighting.

If you don’t understand how your flash works and don’t have access to good natural light, you’re going to have problems. My technically best formal shots were done with two 43′ shoot through umbrellas. And I wasn’t as prepared to use them consistently as I should have been. Even single collapsible umbrella ready in my bag would have been a good move. We went through four locations for the bridal party’s formal/fashion-oriented shots. The light changed dramatically from one place to the other. Don’t let your photos in the dark places be ruined by harsh shadows from a bare flash or by excessive noise from too high ISO or by too narrow DOF because you need an f/1.4 aperture in a group shot.

The hard shadow behind the bride and groom wouldn't have been there if I had just taken the time to take my umbrella out of the car and it would have improved the shot.

The hard shadow behind each of the people (the bride & groom and then the piano player) wouldn’t have been there if I had just taken the time to take my umbrella out of the car and it would have improved the shot. The image works, but it could have worked even better.

#3. Practice every genre you plan on doing ahead of time

If you’ve never shot formal portraiture, get some practice in. Get some friends together and have them dress up. Everyone likes dressing up every once in a while. Or if you’ve never shot anything in a photojournalism style (e.g. for the reception), go find a friend whose doing a concert and ask if you can shoot it. Find a birthday party and document it. Something.  Styles of shooting that you’ve never done before will surprise you and you will make unnecessary mistakes. This is a big day and not just as a significant event. It’s a big day where a lot happens and it happens fast. If you’re not ready for something because you’ve never done it before, it’s going to show in your images.

#4. Choose your lenses ahead of time and do it with clear intent

Lead & Cade's Wedding-3

Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 II

Yes, you have a dozen primes. You can’t use them all. Keep it down to two lenses per body, if you can. This is especially true for the ceremony and reception where changing lenses too often can mean missing important moments. If you need a more specialized lens for the formal stuff, that’s fine. But generally, the less you need to worry about having ‘the right lens’ the better. As for myself, I had a 35mm and 85mm for my A7 and a 25mm (=50mm-e) and 75mm (=150mm-e) for my E-M5.  Generally I tried to make sure that the other body had the opposite (e.g. A7 with 35mm and E-M5 with 75mm). That way I was ready to switch if necessary. And I did have a second back with other lenses in it, but that was back up in case something failed or broke.

#5. I couldn’t have done it without my wife working with me.

Seriously. She saved me so many times. Of the two of us, she’s the better one at directing large groups of people, for one. I’m great one-on-one, but the large group can be a challenge. So making sure the right people were in front the camera at the right time in the right place was thanks to her much of the time. She was also able to dong the bridal party getting ready for me, which unexpectedly ended up being impossible for me to do myself–and that’s probably okay. I’d say she created a more intimate environment for the women as they prepared. So maybe you have the personality to do it alone. I don’t think I do and I wouldn’t want to do this alone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Time ended up being short before the wedding. Had my wife not already been with the bridal party as they prepared, we wouldn’t have had any images of them bride and her bride’s maids before the ceremony. You cannot always rely on the ‘official schedule.’ Things will fall behind and you need to be prepared to adapt.

#6 Bonus thought: A tripod to maintain good framing for family shots isn’t a bad idea

I didn’t bring my tripod. I wish I had. I ended up doing a lot more cropping and straightening adjustments in post on family shots because of it. The people were doing all the moving. I shouldn’t have needed to. So that was a regret. I could have saved myself significant time in Photoshop if I had thought that through. I feel dumb about this, too, because I have an awesome compact, lightweight carbon tripod for backpacking that’s nice and sturdy. Having it ready wouldn’t have hindered me at all for those shots in the church.

Conclusion

I’m really pleased with how things went with both weddings all considering the various unexpected challenges. The images turned out excellent. You’ll note that this list is partially things I’m really glad I did and partially things that I wish I had done. But that’s how it should be. That’s what learning is. Next time I shoot a wedding, I’ll be a little more ready. And next time, there will likely be an entirely new list of things that I learned: things I’m glad I did and things I wish I could have done differently. That’s what it should be like after every shoot, no matter what kind. Always pushing forward. Always learning. Always improving my craft.

Wedding #1 (Second Shooter)

Wedding #2

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2 thoughts on “Two weddings in two weekends: Five thought

  1. Fantastic. Very happy for you. I used to do weddings until they got to be too stressful. I hope the income will be helpful.

    I actually don’t mind the shadows, because it looks like it was taken 50 years ago. Normally those would be taboo. Hae you used a flash bracket that keeps the flash over the camera whether horiz or vert? An umbrella is preferable for portraits but sometimes you don’t have time.

    Have fun in your new endeavor. I wish there was digital when I was doing it.
    Jeff

    1. Thanks, Jeff!

      I can definitely see where the stress element comes in. I don’t think I’ll ever do enough to make it a significant source of income, but it will certainly add to the discretionary funds…and making it possible to fund some gear that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford–I could really use a couple autofocus lenses–I had a number of missed shots because I did all the focusing manually.

      I like your comment about the older look. Now that the idea’s in my head, I like the image more and more. The flash was being held by Rachel. I had a couple of cheap radio triggers that will likely break within the next month, but for $10 got the job done for the weekend.

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