September 11, 2012
When I posted the article with tips and advice for second-shooting weddings, it generated a lot of conversations in the comments. I’d like to follow it up with two related articles, of which this will be the first - tips on how to improve your technique as a second photographer / 2nd shooter. (Tips on improving your shooting workflow at a wedding, will follow.)
second shooters – tips on fine-tuning your technique
Camera technique can be distilled into a few elements:
composition & framing, including lens choice
timing of the photograph, ie that moment
choice of aperture (for depth of field)
choice of shutter speed (for subject movement)
exposure (which obviously ties in with aperture & shutter speed)
That’s it. There’s not much more we can do with our cameras at the time of exposure. Sure, we can get fancy and zoom during exposure and do double-exposures and so on. But essentially, that is it.
A few simple elements, which can become very complex very quickly … especially when we’re on a photo shoot, or photographing an event. When the pressure is on, our fingers need to move over our camera’s controls without us having to really think about it. Instinct and finger-memory need to kick in when we’re under pressure. We have to know our cameras!
All of which brings us to this topic - tightening up your technique. Over the years I have used numerous assistants and 2nd photographers. When their work falls down, it is usually on a few technical points which are actually easily remedied.
It most often it boils down to shutter speed / aperture / ISO choices, and how they inter-relate.
August 15, 2012
wedding photography: using high ISO and flash to retain ambience at the reception
Chatting with other photographers at the recent WPS convention in Chapel Hill, NC, I was again struck by how there are so many different ways of approaching lighting. In this case, lighting at the wedding reception. The one photographer I was chatting to, set up multiple speedlights around the reception room, and then controls which are fired, from his on-camera Master speedlight. Very impressive.
In recent years, the wedding reception venues where I’ve shot on the East Coast of the USA, have moved away from being the dark-hole large rooms, by adding up-lighting, and making the places generally more vibrant and colorful. Coupled with the astonishing high-ISO capability of the last two generations of cameras, I really haven’t felt the need to set up additional lighting to lift the general light levels, like I would have in the past, as described in this article:
- wedding photography: TTL flash with off-camera manual flash
A wedding from earlier this year, at the same venue … where I was able to effectively light the entire place with just an on-camera speed light.
- bounce flash photography & the inverse square law
By using a higher ISO, and carefully bouncing my flash, I could get away with a much simpler set-up of a single on-camera speedlight.
Here’s an example of a recent wedding, where the reception was in a glass-house style conservatory. By shooting against the DJ’s lights, I was able to NOT have a dark background, but something colorful instead.
August 8, 2012
Alvin & Lucia – their wedding in Central Park, New York
A groom holding up the softbox for me … as you may well guess, there’s a story here.
Alvin and Lucia are from the UK, but decided to get married in Central Park.
Of course, there’s a story here too.
July 23, 2012
wedding photography: controlling those found, “photo-journalistic” moments
This photograph of Catherine, during the preparation on her wedding day, triggered a question in album of photos I posted on Facebook. The question was about the focal length I used, and also about how did I get this photo?
The answer is that this is a found moment – a candid moment – that I controlled. As I discussed in the article - wedding photography – a photo-journalistic style, or more posed? - I often guide things along on the wedding day. If I see something that I could nudge towards being a better photograph, I have no hesitation.
I think that many newer wedding photographers have a fear of interacting with their clients while taking photos. Perhaps this is due to shyness? (You’re in the wrong business then!). But this could very well be because the photographer is reluctant to do anything that smacks of posing their clients, thinking this won’t be quite the story-telling “photo-journalistic” moment then.
The photo above isn’t complicated at all, but it might serve well as a discussion on this topic.
July 15, 2012
wedding photography: portraits of the bride & bridesmaids
Continuing with the theme of photographing great portraits on a wedding day when there aren’t beautiful surroundings: when I have the time at the bride’s house, I will always try to get individual portraits of the bride with each bridesmaid.
I like doing this early in the day already at the bride’s house, because everyone’s energy levels are still up. Everyone is still excited, and emotions are still high. No one is hungry; with shoes that hurt them. So, with that idea in mind, I like getting as many of these portraits “in my pocket” while I can. We may not have the time again later on in the day when the schedule starts to run tight.
In the recent article where I showed how I use a fast telephoto zoom to eliminate background clutter from the image. The shallow depth-of-field throws the background out of focus, and the long focal length compresses perspective. This compressed perspective you get, by shooting at the longest focal length, makes the background “stuff” appear larger, and hence even more out of focus than with a wider lens. Conversely, you can say that the tighter view allows less of the background to appear.
This time I remembered to take a pull-back shot as well, to show where we were:
July 6, 2012
wedding photography – simplifying composition with a fast telephoto zoom
If you can create a good photograph out of seemingly “nowhere”, then you can bring a variety to your images that is out of the league of photographers who have to rely on picture-perfect scenery. This is especially true with wedding portraits. We’re under pressure for time, and on top of that we can’t always control where we shoot. We have to make it work wherever we are.
One of the basic techniques I rely on heavily with my wedding photography, is to eliminate distracting elements by shooting with a fast telephoto zoom. The shallow depth-of-field works to my advantage. And the longer focal length compresses the image so that the background isn’t a sweeping vista anymore, but a narrower view which YOU can control with your own position. Move around to find that composition.
The photograph above is perhaps an excellent example of this. The groom, also a photographer, left this comment on the Facebook album:
I also had an “ah ha” momemt watching you create images. We went to unfamilar places and you played with the background blur to create cool shots like the one of us sitting on wicker chairs, at a dumpy metal table, outside, facing a pedestrian-filled parking lot.”
There really wasn’t much more than that – the concrete slab outside a restaurant, with a few tables and chairs, with a parking lot in the background, and a few small trees and shrubs. Now, I don’t quite have a pull-back photo to show you where we were, but I do have this test shot with a slightly wider field of view, which shows some of the background. It was a mess.
July 5, 2012
shooting wedding photos in the mid-day sun, using off-camera flash and a large softbox
Shooting under the mid-day sun is always a tough scenario we face as photographers. Recent topics here have included shooting wedding portraits in bright sunlight, as well as taking photos in harsh sunlight. These techniques mostly revolve around adapting to the harsh light. We can often sidestep having to work in the hard sunlight by positioning our subject so the light is more flattering.
Sometimes though, these alternatives are out of our hands, and decisions are made for us. Then we have to deal with the hard sun with the only other option that will give good results – overpowering the hard sunlight with lots of off-camera flash.
April 4, 2012
bridal portrait – working with the available light
This striking portrait is of Rachel, a bride whose wedding I photographed yesterday. Yes, a Tuesday wedding! The prep was at a hotel on the Jersey shore, and when Rachel was ready, I wanted to shoot a few straight-forward portraits there in the hotel. There was a lot of light in the hotel room itself, but the decor was white – which helps for high-key portraits. But I wanted some variety.
So I scouted around, and decided to do some photographs in the passage outside her hotel room. Since it was a wedding on the Jersey shore, and we did other portraits later on, on the beach, I thought this bright wallpaper wouldn’t be too inappropriate as a backdrop. Now it was just a question of light …
February 24, 2012
romantic wedding portraits – working with an idea
I was down in Baltimore last weekend, photographing a wedding there. The groom, Chris, follows the Tangents blog, and he and Lindsay sought me out as their wedding photographer. While this is hugely flattering, there is now a little extra pressure to live up to and even exceed expectations!
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February 1, 2012
bounce flash photography & the inverse square law
After you’re done noticing the decorated candles that the bride is holding while dancing with the groom (a tradition in Palestinian weddings), you may well notice how evenly lit this photograph is – from foreground to background.
The people visible in the background seen there between the bride and the groom, are nearly as well lit as the bride and groom. Because this was on-camera bounce flash, the background will be brighter than may have been anticipated. If I had used direct flash, or flash with a diffuser cup or bounce card, my background would’ve been much darker. This is because when we bounce flash behind us, the Inverse Square Law works for us.
This gets interesting, but hopefully we can make it less complicated than the topic often appears. So hang in there …
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