Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The big day... wedding!

So I was the "official" backup photog for a friend's wedding this past weekend... what an experience. I'll start with the boring stuff... my gear. I was so nervous with the request that I actually started freaking out a bit and did more planning than I would otherwise...

1. Lowepro Computrekker Plus - 6.06 lbs (I just bought this... great backpack... carries a ton... weighs a ton.)
2. Canon 20D x2 - 3.4 lbs (I borrowed an extra 20D just for this wedding...)
3. Canon EF-S 10-22mm - 0.85 lbs (This was gonna stay on one of the bodies full time. I love wide angle shots at weddings....)
4. Canon EF 50mm - 0.64 lbs (I need a fast lens that is great for portraits just in case I need in door available light or just a good portrait lens...)
5. Canon EF 100mm macro - 1.32 lbs (Brought this just in case... you never know when you need a macro lens for the ring or center piece type shots)
6. Canon EF 70-200 2.8 IS - 3.2 lbs (This is gonna be my main lens...)
7. 580 EX II flash - 0.83 lbs
8. 430 EX flash - 0.73 lbs

That's just the camera gear which comes in at about 17 lbs... plus laptop, power cord, batteries, chargers, random accessories and tripod... I was carrying 20 some odd lbs. I'm probably never doing that again.

So anyways, some select shots from the wedding:
I love this shot of the bride's dad. He looks a contemplative (or a bit sad). A thousand emotions and memories must be racing through his mind on this day. While I'm not thrilled about the guy in the background, I like the composition, especially the slight tilt. But really it just comes down to the emotion on the dad's face :).
From Christina and Oscar's wedding

This is my favorite shot of the wedding dress. Depending on the monitor you are viewing, the dress is either perfect or slightly too bright... sorry guys. In post I increased the contrast quite a bit to try to make the background fade out and the dress pop out more. It is unfortunate that I didn't control the DOF better to get the entire dress in sharp focus.
From Christina and Oscar's wedding

This is might be my favorite shot of the day I think. Using the dress as background for the wedding shoes seems to be a no brainer and standard thing to do... I of course didn't think of it until one of the brides maids told me. Thanks! I made it into a high contrast B&W image just for fun and all the distractions seems to melt away.
From Christina and Oscar's wedding

Shot of the bouquet, again using the dress as the background just makes sense (that and there are no good backgrounds in the tight hotel room that we were in). Having vibrant flowers set against the white dress seems to bring out the flowers even more which I like. Also I like the the fact that only half the bouquet is visible... no need to include the whole thing as that might be too distracting.
From Christina and Oscar's wedding

Just a fun little dance shot with some motion blur (on purpose of course :p)
From Christina and Oscar's wedding

So for the wedding itself, I concentrated on using the 70-200 and 10-22. The 70-200 allowed me to stay back and zoom in to capture the emotions on people's faces and just get close up shots. The 10-22 to me is a must have for weddings, it's just sooo much fun. I love using it as it can create really interesting perspectives and can really exaggerate the train. Some shots:

Long hall ways seem even longer with the super wide. It's great for impromptu group shots.
From Christina and Oscar's wedding

What do you do when you have a group of cool guys standing together? You use a super wide and get low to create the hero photo... I mean come on, you got a group of guys looking all cool in their suits... you gotta make it look dramatic right? Having a strong light source also seems to add a bit of drama I think. Just make sure you keep the subjects in the center so you don't get too much distortion.
From Christina and Oscar's wedding

Here is the super wide really exaggerating the dress train, making it look nice and long... Again, be careful of the distortion and try to keep the bride in the center.
From Christina and Oscar's wedding

Full album slideshow here:

Some lessons I learned...
1. Having 2 bodies with very different lenses helped tremendously. I can go from a super wide to get entire crowd in to a long telephoto and get close up shots near instantly. No more missing those special moments because you had the wrong lens!

2. Having a super wide is almost a must have I think. 24mm is not enough, you need wider. I love the fresh perspective you get from it, not to mention it does great job of exaggerating the beautiful train on the wedding dress. Also wide angle shots of people getting out of the limo or just of people partying can be really fun.

3. Be mindful of your setting... This applies both to your physical location as well as camera setting. Too often I forgot to change my setting when I go from in door (wide aperture to get all the light, shallow DOF) to out door without changing my settings. What I get are a bunch of crappy pictures where the bridge is in focus but the groom is not due to the wide aperture. Remember to step down and lower the ISO when you are outside... inside, you might have to bump up the ISO quite a bit and open up the aperture. I need to be far more careful of my settings in the future... way too sloppy.

4. Use a flash... both inside and outside. The flash outside allowed me to shoot against the sun in a number of shots and still get a half descent exposure of the main subject. Very useful as fill flash. It is even more important in doors so you don't get blurry or really dark photos. If you use a flash in doors, consider gelling your flash to match the ambient light. Slap on a CTO (color temperature orange) gel if you are shooting inside a room lit by tungsten lights so that the flash color will match the ambient light source so that it can all be corrected by camera's white balance. If you are shooting in fluorescent, use window green gel.

5. Speaking of white balance... make sure it is correct! Sometimes with all the mix lights at weddings, it can really wreck havoc with the beautiful white wedding dress or people's beautiful skin tones. Bring a gray card if you can... There are quite a few photos in my album with poor white balance so people's skins just doesn't look right... sigh.

6. Don't be afraid to shoot into the light. I've seen so many great wedding photos that were shot straight into a strong light source... it just creates interestin shadows and lines. Sometimes that over exposed feel just works real well too. Some examples from Hassas Photo blog.... He has some really great shots (take a look at all his other works). Albert Jou also has some great shots like this one.

7. Hotel room window with curtains can make really moody soft lights. I unfortunately didn't get any of shots like that... but here is an example.

8. Shots of the bride getting make up done are sometimes really beautiful images... especially in B&W :). Unfortunately I was kicked out of the make-up room (the make up person couldn't work with people in the room with her...).

9. Don't forget to zoom in all the way. Some times just shots of the bride and groom holding hands during the wedding is really powerful.

10. Don't forget about the other guests. While the bride and groom should be the main show, sometimes the most powerful images will come from the crowd, especially the parents. Keep eyeing the crowd to watch for reactions. Don't forget to get down a little so that you are at their eye level, sometimes that feels more intimate.

11. Continuous shooting is your friend. Trying to catch that magical moment is tough... just keep shooting.

12. Crop crop crop. I suck at composition and a lot of images was improved with some minor (ok ok, some photos needed major) cropping to cut out distracting lines, flares, or just dead space.

Overall, I was semi-happy with the results. Nothing really worth writing home about, no great shots that stand out but I felt I captured a few good moments and had a few emotional shots. One of my weak points is also understanding what angle is the most flattering angle for people... it is different for everyone I think and I just don't seem to understand what angle would work best... I also know I missed a lot of the key moments... no good ring exchange shots... no real good shots of them walking in or walking out. No good shot of the kiss... oh well that's why there was 2 pro photogs there :). It was still a really great experience for me... this is really the third wedding that I tried to do some serious shooting... still a long ways to go.... But considering I was having nightmares of dropped equipment, or just complete lack of inspiration and bleh images... I guess it was ok :). It's funny... when I first started photography two years ago... I told people I would NEVER EVER do weddings... too much pressure... what if you miss the magic moment?! I don't want to be responsible. Just being a friend and running around taking snap shots is perfect for me, a nice little comfort zone but I have actually thought about doing it more seriously in the future. Anyone getting married and wouldn't mind having a free back up photographer in training :p?