Sunday, April 8, 2012

Wedding Photography - Some things I've learnt.

I shoot the odd wedding to expand my portfolio and keep myself up to speed. I started by doing it for friends and family and now I'm branching out into new clients as I become more confidant. I've reached the point now where I feel comfortable with people and scenarios enough to roll with the punches ie: go with the chaotic circumstances and changing conditions...
You only got one chance. Best you be on your A game.
I've also reached a point where I'm comfortable enough with my gear to stop wrestling with it and focus on the people in front of the lens more. I liken this to the days of having clients over my shoulder while I was producing artwork on Quantel or Discreet Logic machines. When someone is paying NZ$1000 per hour to have you put their television advertising together you want the machine to be the last thing on your mind. You need to be able to operate the 3D keyer [showing my age here] while counseling your client on how her dog is gonna be fine cause it ate too much sashimi [this has happened to me BTW and there were actually negative repercusions hahaha - no animals suffered I assure you, just humans].

I realise, [and this is something I say to my clients], that this is an important day and there are no second chances. There will never be this combination of people, dressed the way they are, with this weather, in this situation, in this mood, here for this reason, feeling like this, looking this good... EVER AGAIN.

So that's why I'll be all over the place like a rash, getting shots and getting in people's faces and making people laugh and feel relaxed so that when they look the images they don't cringe and say 'I look terrible in photos'. It's a lofty goal but if I've taken a photo of someone who hates having their photo taken and they don't mind the shot, then I've won. You gotta aim for the stars right?

This is not going to happen again.
These are some of the complications you face doing wedding photography as opposed to shooting in the studio or more controlled circumstances:
  • A schedule that is not in your control.
  • Challenging and often adversive lighting conditions.
  • Children and possibly animals!
  • Uncooperative people who may not want to be photographed at all.
  • Unforeseen equipment problems or limitations.
When presented with these things I try my best to go with it and make up new shooting possibilities on the go to make the most of the available backgrounds, lighting and weather. This is not to say I don't go with a plan and a backup plan too, it's just that even these things can be torn to shreds by well meaning clergymen and the whims of the wedding party.

Be ready to change your plans.
So, with this being said here are a couple of things I learnt on the last job:
  1. Leave as LITTLE as POSSIBLE to the last minute in terms of organisation. The bride requested that I get more shots of her leaving for the venue than my schedule allowed. I accommodated this at the expense of getting to the venue with 30 seconds to spare in terms of prep for when she arrived. I forgot to sync the clocks between my main camera and the backup. I should have done this the night before. [Exiftool to the rescue!]
  2. Have more storage than you need. Seriously, 22GB is nothing when you're using a 5DMKII. I filled up and borrowed an extra 4GB from a friend who appeared with his camera. D'oh!
  3. Plan the formal arrangements with the bride and the groom so you don't miss them. I got what needed to be got last time but the location for this changed and getting everyone required there was a challenge. If we'd planned even better this would have gone smoother, and it really helps to nominate a member of the gathering who knows who's who to be your wrangler and get the right people to the composition at the right moment.
  4. Have a backup camera. I didn't have an equipment failure on the last job but I realised on the day that this extra camera meant I could have two lenses for the ceremony and other moments. This meant I got some more intimate moments with the 100mm during the ceremony that would've otherwise not been possible with the 16-35mm.
  5. Find a nice way to avoid managing other people's photos. I found a few well-meaning people were hoping I might manage an extra 20GB of their photos and 'just upload them'. I cannot do this. There's no way I'll put them of my site with my name on them even if I wanted pretend they were mine cause they were better than what I shot!
I still had a lot of fun and the couple whose wedding it was were relaxed and flexible and open to playing up a little in front of the camera. I think we got some shots they're be happy to look at for the rest of their lives... which is good otherwise we gotta do it all again!