wedding photography

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 (retail), 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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exposure metering: under-exposure / over-exposure vs exposing correctly

When I posted this photograph of Peiwen & Eric’s wedding in Melbourne, Australia, on Facebook, someone asked the question: how much did I over-expose this photo by?

We have to be very clear with our terminology regarding over-exposure and under-exposure. This photograph is not over-exposed. It is exposed correctly! Did my camera’s light-meter jump all the way to the right-hand side? Yes, it surely did. Does it matter? No, it does not. Why not? Because I exposed correctly. Not under, not over, but correctly.

This photograph (which is ambient light only), is exposed correctly … because my subject, the bride, is exposed correctly. This is a key concept – we have to expose correctly for our subjects. Even if you decide to turn your subject into a silhouette, the decision was still very specific about how you wanted to expose for your subject.

If you are a landscape photographer, then most likely your entire scene is your subject. If you are a portrait photographer, then invariably, your subject is what you need to expose for correctly.

However, if you want to balance your subject which is shaded, in relation to a much brighter background, then you’re going to have to use additional lighting to expose correctly for your subject. But working with just the available light, you will invariably aim to expose correctly for your subject.

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bounce flash photography – adjusting the black foamie thing to be a snoot

During the day, as I photograph a wedding, I am continually mixing up the lighting, adapting and adjusting. It’s part of the process of giving my clients as much variety as possible, and also just being flexible in adapting to the demands of the various locations. It’s therefore a varied approach in using all kinds of light sources: off-camera flash, on-camera flash, video light and available light. It’s part of the fun, and part of the challenge of being a wedding photographer – thinking on your feet. Of course there’s extra pressure on you as photographer when you’re flown to Melbourne, Australia to photograph a wedding!

The morning after Peiwen and Eric’s wedding, they had the Tea Ceremony with the parents, and Peiwen was in traditional dress. I just had to get more portraits of the two of them, and with Peiwen in this striking red dress.

In the elevator lobby on their floor, there were these seats and mirrors and wood paneling that looked like it would make an elegant setting for some portraits of the couple. But the light there was uneven, and not very bright. I needed to add some light, but only had a video light with me, and on-camera flash. With that large mirror, someone holding up a video light would’ve involved a lot of Photoshop work. So the next option – bounce flash. But again, that large mirror there was a challenge.

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