wedding photography

high-ISO bounce flash photography

The last wedding of the year just behind me, I want to use one of my favorite images to touch again on the recent topic of high-ISO bounce flash with on-camera speedlight. I want to show that the results aren’t a fluke – but that with a consistent approach to bounce flash photography, you can get consistent results. However, since we shoot under various scenario changes, we have to adapt a bit.

The venue was this hotel reception room with massively high ceilings … but with the walls closer by. Easy enough to bounce on-camera flash off. The one challenge here were the huge mirrors along the walls. This caused unpredictable reflections. It also flattened the light too much when shooting towards the shorter width of the room. So I ended up shooting as much as I could towards the longer end of the reception room.

Yes, the photo above was lit with a single on-camera bounce flash, shooting at a high ISO.

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high-ISO bounce flash photography

One of the misconceptions about bounce flash photography that many photographers cling to, is that you absolutely need a white wall or ceiling near you. While it does help, this shouldn’t stop you from trying to be a little adventurous with on-camera bounce flash to see if it gets you the results you want. There have been several articles on the topic of bouncing off various other surfaces, or, not any particular surface nearby:

Let’s step through another recent example: Gaby and Michael’s wedding reception was at a winery, with the reception venue a huge area with stone and cement walls. It was a beautiful venue, but dark. The top-heavy lighting didn’t help either.

Sometimes … actually, very often … you just need to add additional lighting to the mix to get the results you and your clients want. Simple as that. Then it is up to you to figure out a way that best serves that need – good lighting while retaining the look and feel of the place.

I’m hesitant to use multiple flashes in the corners of a venue – the cross-lighting can look wonderful when it works, but very often leads to weird cross shadows. I prefer predictable results. So for me, multiple light sources wouldn’t be a first choice.

I tried the Profoto B1 as a bounce flash into the area, but it wouldn’t give predicable results, or … it would mean that my assistant would have to scurry around and help match the direction that I am shooting in. This can get a little hectic.

I then did a few test shots with on-camera bounce flash to see if it was feasible. And at full manual power, and selectively bouncing, I could get pretty good light at high ISO settings and wider apertures!

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using the Profoto B1 portable flash at a wedding

With wedding photography, there are nearly inevitably time-constraints. It is therefore imperative that you, as the wedding photographer, are able to keep everything running as smoothly as possible on your side. Which implies that it is important that you (and your equipment) are adaptable. And it is also hugely important that your gear is easy to set up, and very reliable.

Karissa and Rory’s wedding was the first where I pulled out the Profoto B1 battery powered flash (vendor). I’m even more impressed with it now, than I was when I first tested it for my review: Profoto B1 500 AirTTL battery powered flash.  (And if you’d like to buy my previous AcuteB 600R kit, let me know.)

When using additional lighting, you ideally need a few things from your lights:
power! 
– and yet, a delicateness to the light when necessary.
speed of use is essential.

At 500Ws, the Profoto B1 dumps sunlight-levels of light, but you can pull it down 8 stops, to where the light can be used in subtle ways.

With off-camera flash, I’m mostly working with a specific distance, and then manual flash makes sense. The  Profoto B1 (vendor) offers TTL as well, and this might seem superfluous to some. But it really makes it easier and faster to get to correct exposure. You can do an initial exposure via the TTL mode, and then switch to Manual if your exposure is correct. This gives you the speed of TTL flash, and the consistency of Manual flash.

Here are more images from this wedding, with examples shot with the Profoto B1, as well as other images using various types of light ….

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wedding photography – macro photography: options and alternatives

With wedding photography, I mostly use a macro lens just for detail images at the bride’s place – rings & jewelry. I do use a macro lens for detail photos of the rings. However, during the early part of the day at the bride’s place, I try to bring as little equipment as possible. Then carrying a macro lens for just a few detail images might just add too much bulk to the shoulder bag. Also, if your budget is constrained, then it might seem a bit much to spend that much money for a lens that will see so little use. There are other options though than a full-blown macro lens.

A macro lens attachment that I often use, is the Canon 500D 77mm Close Up Lens (vendor). Screwing this onto the front of a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens like a filter, gives you very good macro results!

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non-photography goodies in my camera bag / roller case

Work as a wedding photographer isn’t just about taking photographs of key moments, or about the photo gear. Often enough it is up to you as the wedding photographer to help guide the day’s time-line and flow, and also just to help.  For me, wedding photography isn’t just a passively observed event where I take photographs. And if you shoot with a photo-journalistic style in mind, it doesn’t mean you have to remain uninvolved.  I’m there to record the day’s events, but also to help, if necessary, making it a spectacular day.

In the photo above, I took over from the maid of honor when her fingers weren’t strong enough for that final button and clasp at the back of the bride’s dress. My fingers were stronger, so I finished the last button. So as a photographer I’m often called on to do more than just take photographs.

With that in mind, here’s a look into my camera bag, and the non-photography related goodies I keep handy:

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I attended a wedding!

September 3, 2014

Angie & Johan’s wedding – One & Only, Cape Town

I attended a wedding! You may well laugh at that, but at 500+ weddings deep, this was the first wedding that I attended as a guest in about 20 years now.

Angie, who I’ve been friends with for more than 20 years, invited me  to her wedding in Cape Town. And you know what? It’s a huge compliment when a friend invites you to their wedding. With a bit of free time now, and a bit of financial wriggle room, and on top of that, not having visited friends and family in South Africa for 9 years now, I thought it was time. I had to go.

Oh, Angie has appeared on Tangents before: on a photo shoot with fashion photographer, Angie Lazaro

With this entire 2-week visit to South Africa, I decided to forego all the heavier, bulkier camera gear, and only take my Fuji X100s (vendor). It is compact and light, yet the image quality is superb.  It’s a specific decision where I forego the versatility of a variety of lenses, and just accept the single 35mm-equivalent lens.

I specifically wouldn’t have taken a larger camera to the wedding anyway – I wasn’t the photographer, but a guest. Still, I wanted to be able to take a few photos. Here are some of them. All shot with the Fuji X100s, and available light:

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wedding photography lighting – shooting in partial sunlight & shade

I strongly believe that when you have the ability to control a photo session, that you pick your battles. You don’t have to try and make everything work. Set up portrait shots in light that favors you. Of course, off-camera flash really helps you in being able to pick where you want that light that favors you.

Solid advice that I adhere to, is to not have a person or a group of people half in the sun, half in shade. It’s a recipe for disaster, or a tough battle to fight, lighting wise. But then, slightly amneding Sean Connery’s immortal words in The Untouchables, “Don’t bring a knife to a gun-fight.” When you have enough light to match the sun, then it is possible to pull something out of that challenging situation!

I like using speedlights for additional light, but I also have my Profoto AcuteB2 600R Power Pack (vendor), in the trunk of my car … just in case I need something more than a knife. But really, if the Profoto B1 500 Air (vendor), was available for Nikon, it would be the Profoto B1 that I pull out. 500 Ws of easily portable light!

I really liked this building as a backdrop, but at this time of the day, half the facade was in sun, and half in shade. And this is where having a really powerful flash on location, is very very handy. I can dump sunlight levels of light (through a softbox!) to match the sunlit areas, and match the exposure levels.

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photographers – becoming more confident in posing people

How to confidently pose people for portraits, is likely as big a challenge for new photographers, as how to use light. Even a model as professional and inventive as Ulorin Vex has told me that one of her biggest frustrations with photographers is when the photographer expects her to drive the shoot, and pose herself and come up with ideas. So yes, even when working with professional models, you need to guide them.

For me, the first step in becoming more confident in posing people was to practice. And practice by posing yourself while looking in a mirror ), and figuring out what looks good as a pose, and what just looks clumsy.

But the break-through realization for me was that as a photographer, the people that I am photographing, gave me permission to pose them. It’s not an intrusion to (gently) pose people so that they look good in front of the camera. Somehow, it had to eventually dawn on me that I have their permission. I don’t have to be shy and wonder if I should. In fact, I have to pose people when photographing their portraits.

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photography: posing tips – the leaning pose

Even when you’re photographing a bride as graceful as Patricia, there’s still a need to adjust and guide the pose. I liked the roughness and color of this gate, and I also knew the background would be an out-of-focus mush behind her.

When you ask someone to lean against something, they tend to fall back onto the wall or object, with both shoulders and their back flat agains the surface.

My starting point with this pose, is that I show what I want. Remember, people don’t usually know what you’re after, and they most definitely don’t know the composition you’re getting. So I like to get in there and physically show the pose. (And yes, she did laugh at me doing that.)

Then it’s series of gentle verbal nudgings to where the photograph will look good:
– roll against your (left) shoulder towards me,
– separate your (right) shoulder away from the wall,
– lean a tiny bit towards me,
– pop your knee out,
– use your hand to shape your body / leg / arm.
– drop your chin / lift your chin.

And with that, I’ve finessed the leaning pose that I showed to my subject.

With the leaning pose, those are my general instructions, and it usually gets us to where the photograph will look good! I don’t rigidly pose, but use a few verbal instructions to finesse the pose. In that sense, the way that I pose someone is fairly “loose”, and helps keep the momentum of the photo session going, because we don’t get stuck in the minutiae of every limb’s every position. We get to a point where “yes, this looks great!”, and then we move forward to the next place. The momentum is also important.

(This photo is from Patricia and Erwin’s wedding, where I was the 2nd photographer for JC Carley.)

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Peiwen & Eric – wedding in Melbourne, Australia – slideshow

I’ve shown a few images already of the wedding I photographed in Melbourne, Australia, early in March 2014. Everything fell into place during our visit to Australia – and on the wedding day itself – great weather, lovely people, a truly fantastic couple. It’s a huge honor indeed that Eric reached out to my last year, enquiring whether I’d be up for photographing his and Peiwen’s wedding in Melbourne. And yes, I did feel a lot of pressure. The images dared not be mediocre!

But Eric and Peiwen really were great to work with – sparkling personalities, and full of energy and ideas. It also helped that they allowed for ample time for the romantic portraits on the day, as well as the next day with a visit to Brighton Beach. It all turned into a set of photographs that I am truly proud of. Here, are some, (yes, only some) of my favorite photographs from Peiwen and Eric’s wedding.
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