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01/14/2010 02:28:38 PM · #1
I've been asked to shoot a wedding for a friend. Low key, easy-going people, who are well aware of what skills I have (and don't have) as a photographer. They already know that I am not a real professional - and that I lack experience. But for some odd reason, they have faith in me.

So, I am completely honoured, and I'm very glad that I've got several months to work on my skills.

What I'm curious about is what some of our more experienced wedding photographers would suggest to someone very new.

I don't have much money to invest in new equipment (I WILL be getting a second battery though !).

Right now I have :
Nikon D60
Flash : SB400
Lenses : 50mm/1.4; 18-55mm; 55-200mm

I'd like to pick up a reflector as well, I know many of the photos will be done outdoors - do people in general go for the gold tone reflectors or the white/silver ones ?

Are there specific things I should focus on practicing (aside from not "chimping" ) ?

I'd like to upgrade my flash unit as well - I've regretted the SB400 since I got it.

I know some will look through my portfolio here and tell me to not bother, I don't have the skills, etc - but I'd rather hear how to IMPROVE than be told that I just can't do it.

Thanks.
01/14/2010 02:36:08 PM · #2
I don't know that I'd bother with the reflector, honestly. Practice using your flash outdoors to take care of the fill light. With all of the rest of the pressure you'll have that day, I wouldn't try tossing a reflector into the mix.

And chimp all you like... would you rather be looking at the shots later in the day and realize that you had a critical setting goofed up earlier, or would you want to know this soon enough that you could re-shoot it? :)

Message edited by author 2010-01-14 14:36:53.
01/14/2010 02:50:36 PM · #3
The first thing I would upgrade would be your flash. Learn to use the flash indoors as well as outdoors. Make a list of what your friends want and what you think would be good shots. Look at the work of others a read as much as possible. There is a ton of pressure on the photog to get the shots as you normally can't go back and get them again. The big thing you need to do is have confidence in yourself. Use your imagination and have fun.
01/14/2010 02:55:02 PM · #4
Chimping is Good. Any time you shoot a new scene, setting, or change lighting, lens, etc etc. Or at least it can be good: I was at an event, and a fairly new photographer was chimping every shot. Part way thru, she showed me some of the best ones on her LCD: The highlight warning flashing was over 30% of the screen, and her shutter speed was too fast for flash sync, so she had the dark shutter curtain band on the edge of every shot. I tried to politely point out both things, but she was indignant, saying she "liked it that way".

As for reflectors, you may or may not need them for this shoot, but if you get the 5 in 1 types, you will get gold, silver, white, translucent, etc. I find the gold to be really too much in most cases. There are "sunfire" or other names for ones that are mixed gold/white or gold/silver. Practice with them to understand the looks you get from them.

In addition to the normal round ones, I have found one like this ( 40x60 ) to be affordable and useful.

If you are thinking of using reflectors at the wedding, you'll need a knowledgeable assistant, and a lot of caution: a reflector on a sunny day can do damage to your victims--er, models. Better, likely, to have an assistant handling the off-camera speedlight...
01/14/2010 09:04:10 PM · #5
Thank you all. This is a good start on things to think about.

chromeydome - I'm not sure what you mean about the reflector doing damage to the models ?
01/14/2010 09:13:30 PM · #6
Reflected sunlight. ;0
01/14/2010 11:47:55 PM · #7
Congratulations on your first wedding gig. We were all there at one point or another. I'm sure Alan has oooooodles more experience at weddings than I do, but I have found reflectors to be handy for outdoor wedding pictures, but for your first wedding, you don't want anything else to be a distraction to your concentration, so you could probably skip it (unless you have an assistant that knows how to use it).

I'm sure there will be lots of tips, but here are the first few that came to mind...

1. Relax - Have fun! (don't stress yourself out)
2. If you're shooting in nice consistent light, shoot in manual mode to ensure that the photos all look the same. The ever changing color of suits, dresses, etc. often trick your camera's meter, so running in manual will prevent one photo from looking great, the next one being a tad dark, and the next one being over exposed. (doing this also makes your post processing much easier)
3. If you change locations or lighting conditions change, don't forget to adjust your exposure if you're running in manual mode.
4. Shoot in RAW if you have the capability to work with RAW images on your computer.
5. Use the histogram on your camera to show whether you're over or under exposed....Don't rely on "how nice" the picture looks on the back of your camera. Error on the side of underexposed if you're having a tough time with the dynamic range of a scene.
6. Don't forget about composition.
7. Don't take all your pictures at eye level. Get on your knees, climb a ladder, lay on the ground, etc. Photos from these varying angles make for some nice photos during the reception, ceremony (if you can do these things quietly), and bride and groom shots (group photos are usually better off done at eye level unless you have some really great idea in mind.

I hope that helps and feel free to PM me if you have any questions about any of these.

P.S. I too am new at weddings. I have about 6 weddings under my belt. I feel qualified to provide tips due to the fact that I was in your shoes not that long ago. :)
01/15/2010 12:01:17 AM · #8
Originally posted by kashi:

Thank you all. This is a good start on things to think about.

chromeydome - I'm not sure what you mean about the reflector doing damage to the models ?


If you hit a model in the face/eyes with a reflector in full sun, can hurt their eyes. I had to use a reflector for fill when shooting against the sun--the assistant stood about 30-40 yards off to do it, and even then we swung it in only for a shot, and then right back out, after warning the model it was coming in, etc.
01/15/2010 12:24:09 AM · #9
I agree with ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', '/') + 1) . ' DelRioPhoto.

Definitely remember composition. Remember backgrounds and distractions. The hectic nature of the situation can sometimes distract you from what you are doing and you end up forgetting to think about the most basic things.

Buy GOOD CF cards. The expensive ones. Seriously I can't stress this enough. I did a wedding this past November and an entire CF card (Sandisk Extreme III 4GB) was corrupted. I swear I did nothing unusual that would warrant this corruption. I freaked out and cried like my world had ended. Luckily, I contacted a great company in Florida and they were able to save almost all the corrupted photos (for a fee that I gladly payed). I asked how I could prevent this from happening again (it had happened a couple times previous, but in situations not so un-repeatable) and the guy said to buy a new reader and new cards. I went to Adorama and did just that. I got 2 4gb Hoodman RAW CF cards. They're supposed to be very good and with very few instances of corruption. So far, so good. Expensive, but SOOOOOO worth it.

Make sure the bride and groom give you a nice chunk of time to take portraits whether it's before the ceremony (best bet) or after.

Be assertive, calm and in control...or at least act like it! :)

Practice photoshop! Bad editing can ruin really wonderful photos.

I also blog stalked...a lot. I looked at other wedding photographers and got inspiration from them.

Good luck and have fun!
01/15/2010 12:39:23 AM · #10
I was asked to shoot one for a co-worker and was scared and uncertain. The biggest thing I encountered was my flash batteries dying halfway through the day (between the ceremony and the dinner thankfully- not at any critical moment) and didn't have any spares so I had to run out quickly. Bring spares for both the camera and flash. I used a difuser on my flash for a softer light- although it will reduce your range a bit. If possible check out the location at the same time as the wedding/ dinner so you can check out the lighting situation- even if it is just an hour or two ahead of the actual event. As for other tips, I found this site had useful information and tons of articles: //www.wedpix.com/articles/
01/15/2010 02:50:20 PM · #11
Originally posted by Rompy:

Buy GOOD CF cards. The expensive ones. Seriously I can't stress this enough. I did a wedding this past November and an entire CF card (Sandisk Extreme III 4GB) was corrupted.


This almost seems like a contradiction... saying that people need to buy "expensive" CF cards, and then show an example of how a good card failed you. I would think that a Sandisk Extreme III would be among the better cards out there, certainly compared to something you'd pay $5 for at Wal-Mart or whatever. I would definitely go with better CF cards, but any of them are capable of failing.

I think this story does a better job of saying "expect the unexpected," whether it's with memory cards or any piece of equipment. An "expensive" memory card can still fail... heck, you could drop it into a cup of coffee accidentally. You could drop a lens... someone could steal your camera when you're not looking! Lots of bad things can happen, unfortunately.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to make darned sure you have as much back-up equipment as possible, and get your photos backed up in multiple places as soon and as often as you can.

When I shoot weddings, I carry a little photo hard drive with me so I can make copies as I go. It gives me a lot of peace of mind knowing that everything is backed up at least in two places before I even get home (and as soon as I get home, I copy everything to my laptop and then onto a big external hard drive).

And equipment-wise, I carry enough stuff with me that I have a back-up for virtually every piece of vital equipment (lenses, flash, memory, batteries, and so forth).
01/15/2010 03:36:01 PM · #12
One other thing you might consider is to rent another body if you don't already have two. Most reputable camera shops rent lens, bodies and such for minimal charge. Nothing like getting half way through the wedding and having a camera body die on you.
01/16/2010 09:54:42 PM · #13
re: memory card failure

A wedding photog once told me that he doesn't chimp the pics on the camera and just shoots shoots shoots- reason being that when you chimp, you access the memory card, when you delete, you access the memory card. It is when you access the card that things can go wrong, so if you access it as least as possible, you minimize the chances.

I appreciate this may be a bit risky in certain situations, or a bit daunting but he makes a good point.

01/16/2010 10:07:53 PM · #14
I agree with all comments especially in having a second camera backup that is essential and also plenty of batteries NIMh for the flash have a couple of sets as back ups. my tip is use back light for your portrait/groups, you get even lighting and no squinting into the sun use fill flash as much as possible outside .
01/16/2010 10:15:44 PM · #15
Originally posted by Tez:

re: memory card failure

A wedding photog once told me that he doesn't chimp the pics on the camera and just shoots shoots shoots- reason being that when you chimp, you access the memory card, when you delete, you access the memory card. It is when you access the card that things can go wrong, so if you access it as least as possible, you minimize the chances.

I appreciate this may be a bit risky in certain situations, or a bit daunting but he makes a good point.


Regardless of whether your friend is right or not (I have no idea), if you look right after you take the shot, you're only reading from the buffer anyway (and not from the card).
01/16/2010 10:20:17 PM · #16
I'm not sure that constitutes chimping... although the term does not have distinct clarification as to whether viewing the image whilst it is in the transitional phase from buffer to card is chimping, or merely any viewing of the image on the back of the camera (the buffer playback can be turned off of course) is distinguished as chimping.

01/16/2010 10:38:16 PM · #17
edit

Message edited by author 2010-01-16 22:40:04.
01/16/2010 10:39:20 PM · #18
Originally posted by alanfreed:

Originally posted by Rompy:

Buy GOOD CF cards. The expensive ones. Seriously I can't stress this enough. I did a wedding this past November and an entire CF card (Sandisk Extreme III 4GB) was corrupted.


This almost seems like a contradiction... saying that people need to buy "expensive" CF cards, and then show an example of how a good card failed you. I would think that a Sandisk Extreme III would be among the better cards out there, certainly compared to something you'd pay $5 for at Wal-Mart or whatever. I would definitely go with better CF cards, but any of them are capable of failing.

I think this story does a better job of saying "expect the unexpected," whether it's with memory cards or any piece of equipment. An "expensive" memory card can still fail... heck, you could drop it into a cup of coffee accidentally. You could drop a lens... someone could steal your camera when you're not looking! Lots of bad things can happen, unfortunately.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to make darned sure you have as much back-up equipment as possible, and get your photos backed up in multiple places as soon and as often as you can.

When I shoot weddings, I carry a little photo hard drive with me so I can make copies as I go. It gives me a lot of peace of mind knowing that everything is backed up at least in two places before I even get home (and as soon as I get home, I copy everything to my laptop and then onto a big external hard drive).

And equipment-wise, I carry enough stuff with me that I have a back-up for virtually every piece of vital equipment (lenses, flash, memory, batteries, and so forth).


I agree with you completely (about backing up), but after having 3 different Sandisk Extreme III cards corrupt on me, and after having no problems at all with the Hoodman cards...I guess my point was, for something as important as a wedding (by that I mean, something that can't be "done over again") it would be in the shooter's best interest to get cards that are least likely to corrupt. Even if it means spending an extra $40 per card. Oh, and try not to drop them in a cup of coffee! ;-)

01/17/2010 01:14:05 AM · #19
I skimmed the answers of others but didn't read every word, so forgive me if this has been said, but... I just tonight shot a big birthday party in a restaurant. The last party I took my 85mm and though great for low light it was not nearly wide enough for many shots, even "small group" ones. So tonight I took my 50mm, also good for low light, and I still found it frustratingly narrow. I had to stand too far back for small groups and found it nearly impossible to get the large ones -- and yes, people asked. I think my next investment will be for a wide lens that can be used in low light. Either that, or get much more proficient with the flash attachment.
01/17/2010 02:10:22 AM · #20
I like to add bringing a bunch of fresh batteries for your flash....I know the weddings I have done i have went through a bunch of batteries..
01/17/2010 08:24:50 AM · #21
Okay - you guys are a wealth of information and help ! I thank you so much :D

- extra batteries (for everything)
- extra body, if possible
- practice with using fill flash
- relax
- have fun
- wide angle (does an 18-55 count for that, from the minimalistic equipment list I have at my current disposal ?)
01/17/2010 08:52:56 AM · #22
Originally posted by kashi:

Okay - you guys are a wealth of information and help ! I thank you so much :D

- extra batteries (for everything)
- extra body, if possible
- practice with using fill flash
- relax
- have fun
- wide angle (does an 18-55 count for that, from the minimalistic equipment list I have at my current disposal ?)


I would say not to worry too much about the wide angle - its not essential - however I will say the lenses you have are woefully inadequate. Only the 50mm 1.4 really cuts the mustard and thats not going to help you very much unless you get up in people faces.

I would say you need a proper workhorse lens, something like the 24-70 f2.8 or the Tamron 28-75 f2.8 - that will set you quite well for the day. Obviously the couple are aware that you are not pro or even putting yourself across as one - however if you want to achieve `pro like` results that you can look at and feel proud of, then definitely look at hiring or borrow a decent 2.8 zoom as mnetioned above.

Maybe a few weeks before it might be worth going along to the venue(s) and checking out how the light is, it might give you an idea ow how your lenses will fair on the day.

Good luck!
01/17/2010 10:13:38 AM · #23
As for reading, this blog by Neil Van Niekerk has some very good information on wedding photography with on camera and off camera flash. Dig around and you will certainly find some very useful information. I did.
01/18/2010 03:57:08 PM · #24
Originally posted by Simms:

... I will say the lenses you have are woefully inadequate. Only the 50mm 1.4 really cuts the mustard and thats not going to help you very much unless you get up in people faces.

I would say you need a proper workhorse lens, something like the 24-70 f2.8 or the Tamron 28-75 f2.8 - that will set you quite well for the day. Obviously the couple are aware that you are not pro or even putting yourself across as one - however if you want to achieve `pro like` results that you can look at and feel proud of, then definitely look at hiring or borrow a decent 2.8 zoom as mnetioned above.

Maybe a few weeks before it might be worth going along to the venue(s) and checking out how the light is, it might give you an idea ow how your lenses will fair on the day.

Good luck!


As much as I would love to put my hands on one of those lens - there isn't a local place to rent (I've checked), and purchasing is completely out of the question.

It's something I'll keep on the back burner though - not that I'm likely to come across that kind of cash just laying around ;)

I realize my equip. list isn't much - it wasn't purchased with weddings in mind at all. But it is what I have.
01/18/2010 04:22:41 PM · #25
GRRR!

Message edited by author 2010-01-18 16:23:23.
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