wedding photography tips

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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wedding photography: dealing with the DJ’s lights

As wedding reception venues and DJs are becoming more sophisticated in their lighting, there’s now the added challenge of spotlights and lasers and other lighting effects that compete with the simplicity of just using flash.

So how do you deal with this? You just deal with this. One way or another.

You can either embrace the colors (as in the example above),
or you can use flash to neutralize some of the wild color casts.
Just how do you do that? Well, there’s a little bit of homework at the end of this.

Very often, I shoot towards the DJ’s booth, so that the wild colors become splashes of color, whether I add (on-camera bounce) flash, or not. This way I don’t have to directly compete with the lights, but they become an enhancement of the image.

With lasers skimming around – my advice is to shoot a lot to make sure you have enough images, in case some were spoiled by bright green dots. Also, learn to love photoshop and the Healing Brush.

With up-lighting that becomes quite prominent – well, there’s the little bit of homework to do at the end!

And if anyone advises you to use specific settings such as (for example):  1/60 @ f/4 @ 1600 ISO to cover every situation, they are fools who are misleading you. There are too many variables for generic camera settings. Scenarios and situations change. You need to adapt.

You’re not a passenger of your camera’s settings. You control them to allow more ambient light in, or less. And if you allow less ambient light in, you need to add additional light, whether flash or video light.

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wedding photography: bounce flash “indoors” … in the limo

This is a reminder that when you have a high-contrast situation such as when photographing the bride and groom inside the limo – then using on-camera bounce flash is your easiest way to control the lighting. Simply bounce your flash behind you into the limo. Even with the dark interior and fittings inside a limo, enough light should spill back to lift the shadow detail.

The trick here of course is to expose correctly for the ambient light, if possible. With the camera settings then dictated by the ambient light coming through the window, simply use TTL flash to give enough fill-light. Dial down the FEC if necessary.

If you look closely at this image, you’ll see the slight trace of the shadow from the flash – this is because, even though I bounced the flash upwards behind me, I hit the ceiling of the limo and with it so close to the flash, it created a secondary smaller light source instead of just the larger bounced light source. Even with that, the effect looks quite natural, and the reduced contrast certainly did help post-processing.

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how do you meter for TTL flash & ambient light?

In taking these kinds of candid images, I set the camera so that there is enough light recorded on the test shots without flash. No real metering technique, but I judge by the LCD to see that there will be enough detail in the background. It is kinda the dragging the shutter technique, but not as specific perhaps. I just want some ambient light to register.

Then I simply use TTL flash to expose correctly for any subject which is turned away from the main source of ambient light – the window. Without flash, these kids’ features would be in deep shade relative to the rest. But the TTL flash lifts the exposure to where I want it to be … with everything well exposed.

It really is that simple, and this technique allows me to shoot fast, and get great candid shots by concentrating on the photography and not the specific settings all the time.

I used the Black Foamie Thing ™ to flag my flash and not hit people behind me in the face with a strong burst of flash.

The back-ground is quite well-lit, because in bouncing flash behind me, the background inevitably opens up a bit. Again, this is the inverse square law helping us out with bounce flash photography.

camera settings: 1/125th @ f4 @ 1250 ISO  (FEC not recorded.)

So back to the question, how did I meter for the ambient light here? I didn’t. And I certainly did not meter for the white tones via the histogram method. The reason is – I don’t want to expose correctly for my ambient light. The light levels are too low – ie, I won’t get enough depth-of-field, at a good shutter speed, at a useful ISO … with good quality light on my subject. So I purposely want to under-expose for the ambient light. And then I add TTL flash. The TTL flash here is a dominant light source, and not mere fill-flash. Hence, carefully metering for the ambient light here isn’t all that useful.

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when you need extreme bounce flash to photograph the wedding processional

As mentioned in the article on photographing the wedding processional, in my opinion, the wedding processional in the church is likely the most challenging part of the day in terms of our technique. People are moving towards you – admittedly at slow pace, unless the bridesmaids are nervous. Then they can easily just zip right up to the front! The light levels are low, and the light is most likely uneven. Adding flash to this is a reliable way to get clean open light on your subjects, but bounce flash can be a bit of a challenge.

As an example, with this wedding in Temple Israel of Lawrence, in New York, the light was really low. Not just that, the temple itself was cavernously huge. Yet, a few test shots showed that I could get the kind of light that I like, using just on-camera bounce flash.

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wedding photography – lighting large groups of people / formal portraits

Relating to the article positioning your flash for the wedding formals, where the family portraits and groups where photographed with a single umbrella and two speedlights, the question then inevitably comes up – what do you do when you need to photograph a large group of people.

The obvious answer is – you need a lot more juice! You either need to add more flashguns, or use a more powerful unit.

As a wedding photographer of Indian weddings, I know that I will be dealing with huge groups of people. And that means a small aperture – and that means a really powerful flash.

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podcast with Ed Verosky – wedding photography tips

Over the weekend, Ed Verosky did an interview with me for his latest podcast.
The topic is wedding photography tips.

It’s nearly half-an-hour of me motor-mouthing it on various wedding photography related items. Not only does it sound like I am in a rush, I sound serious too!

There is one “typo” that I picked up listening to it now. At one point I mention the “first 30 books” on photography. What I meant to say was, the basics covered in the first 30 pages of any good introductory book on photography. I’m sure there are other moments that I fluffed it. No luxury of back-spacing and changing what was said!

I hope everyone enjoys the podcast. Let’s hear some comments!

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wedding photography – improving your shooting workflow

As a companion piece to the previous two articles - tips & advice for second shooters at weddings - and - tips on improving your photography technique - I want to offer some advice on shooting workflow. Not post-production workflow, but rather some things to look out for while shooting.

These articles with tips are just as relevant for any area of photography. The techniques here are applicable to any field or level of photography. I feel so strongly about the advice here, that I’d go as far to say that the further anyone strays from these, the greater the chances of mishaps or even catastrophic problems.

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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 metering, (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.

This is a list of 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.

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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.

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