Recently, I had the opportunity to photograph a wedding. Some background for people reading this (who don’t have the context). The wedding was an “Indian wedding” in San Francisco, CA. It was a hybrid of a traditional North Indian and a South Indian wedding, and was compressed to two hours. There were several events that occurred before the wedding itself, and there were a few after the wedding.
For example, there was a cruise around the San Francisco Bay (thankfully, good weather).
There were also several indoor events (which were conducted in a basement, and so little natural light). There were several religious ceremonies, a civil ceremony, and lots of food, and drink, and partying as well.
Before heading out to SFO, I read a bunch of stuff about photographing weddings, and I spoke with one person (Thanks Allison) very familiar with this. I took a bunch of gear with me, and I thought long and hard about how to deal with the professional photographer(s) who would also be covering the event.
I was hoping that I’d be able to work alongside them, and watch and learn (and not get in the way). I hoped that they’d not be too annoyed with a busybody with a bunch of gear, and I hoped that I could stay out of their way.
Thinking back, and looking at the pictures I took, I’ve learned a lot; a lot about taking photographs, a lot about myself, and a lot about the equipment that I have.
Shoot fully manual mode – most of the time
Outdoors, it may be possible to get away with auto ISO, but even there shooting anything other than manual focus, manual exposure and aperture is a bad idea. I’ve tried a number of different options for metering, and focus preference, but did not find them to be particularly fun. But, that did mean that I was shooting stopped down (f5.6 or smaller).
Bounce the flash off the roof
I used a Nikon Speedlight SB-700 and if I didn’t bounce it off the roof, the foreground subject got over exposed. Using the diffuser, and bouncing the flash off the roof produced much better results.
You do really want f2.8 a lot of the time!
While I often shot f5.6 or smaller, I did find myself shooting f2.8 quite a lot. Not as much as I thought I would, but certainly quite a lot. And it was good that I had lenses that could go to f2.8. Most of the time I found that I was shooting between 50mm and 90mm so it was quite annoying that I needed two lenses to cover this range. But I managed …
Shoot RAW (+JPEG, but definitely RAW)
I’ve found that many of the pictures I took needed post-processing that would was much easier with RAW. For example, some of them required significant color (temperature) and exposure adjustment.
One example is at left, I think the color temperature of the picture above is better than the one below. The significant amount of purple in the decorations caused the image to look a little bit too purple for my liking. Luckily the little white altar in the foreground gave me a good color reference.
I don’t want to get into the “can this be done with JPEG” debate; I’m sure that it can, and there are many who prefer JPEG. I just feel lucky that I shot everything RAW+JPEG.
LED Light Panels are a must
I have a great flash, but it is no match for a good LED light panel. I really need to get one of those things if I’m ever going to shoot a wedding, or any other event with a lot of people.
Take more pictures; way more pictures
I’m not a “spray and pray” kind-of person. I tend to look through the view finder a while before clicking. I try to frame a shot well, get everything to look just right, and then the subject has moved, or the ‘moment’ has passed. This happened a lot.
I really have to learn to accept a lower ‘good picture’ ratio, and capture the moment as best as I can, and crop, and post-process later.
Lose a lot of weight
The professionals were at least a hundred pounds lighter than I was. The way they moved clearly reflected a certain difference in our respective ‘momentum’s!
I definitely need more experience with photographing people, something that I’ve known for a while. The wedding was a great excuse for me to happily point a camera at people who were having animated conversations, and click. Now I have to find other venues where I can do the same thing, and learn more about this aspect of photography that I’ve really neglected for too long.
P.S. My thanks to Allison Perkel for all the pointers she gave me before I went on this trip.