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Photographing a Wedding

Photography Equipment

Equipment

There is no single correct answer to the question What's the best camera? Varying needs have dictated the evolution of different models, but one factor that has had more influence than anything else, and has caused much controversy, is format, film size or nowadays megapixels.

There is no doubt that the quality of enlargements, specially from around 16 inch upwards will be noticeably better from a large negative. 

The most popular format for wedding photography (the one I prefer) used to be medium format.  Medium format cameras use 120 or 220 (twice as many exposures) roll film.  They are seen by many photographers to give their user a psychological advantage over 35mm and digital users - when seen with one you will automatically be branded 'the official photographer'

Digital is however is now the preferred format.  Ease of use, the ability to check images on the LCD screen, and the ability of high quality digital SLRs for a reasonable price have all contributed to this shift in format.  If using digital, it is important to use a camera setting capable of recording images with enough data to produce a large print.
 
Digital Enhancement

Another option, and one that I’ve used with success when shooting with film instead of digital, is to have your negatives scanned onto CD.  You can then provide a range of digitally enhanced prints to supplement the negative prints.  I once changed the photographic venue of a wedding by taking the bride and groom out of the shot and dropping them (digitally) into a more complimentary background. 

Digital enhancement is outside the scope of this site but is an area worth investigating.

Reliability is Vital

Whichever format you choose be certain to have a manual exposure facility on the camera.  The camera brand is not important, what is important is that it is thoroughly reliable, and that you carry backup equipment.

Flashgun

The flashgun is an essential item of equipment to the wedding photographer. I would recommend that the gun of your choice has a high enough output to enable the use of an aperture of at least F8 using 100 ASA setting at a distance of 15 feet, you may need this power for maximum depth of field in large group shots.

To allow greater versatility  (for example when using fill-in flash techniques) the gun should have at least three auto-settings, with the lowest one capable of shooting at around F2.8 with 100 ASA.  This will allow you to use fill-in flash when the daylight exposure requires a setting of around F4 to F5.6. 

Providing that the gun satisfies the aforementioned criteria then the final choice should be made on aspects such as ease of handling and cost.  Most flashguns now are dedicated.

Some photographers will use a small light diffuser to soften the light output.  I prefer to work with the flashgun on an extension lead and hold the gun directly in line with and well above the subject, this action casts any shadow down and directly behind, often completely out of sight.  You must experiment to see which method best suits you.

Fill-Flash

I feel this is an important technique, particularly for wedding photographers.  I will provide you with an example of when I would use it.

Lets say you are about to photograph a wedding on a sunny afternoon, and there is no way to avoid shadows being cast on the faces of the group.

You should firstly take a meter reading, preferably ambient light. Lets say you are using ASA 400 setting and the meter reading tells you that the exposure should be f/11 @1/250 sec. You can use this setting, but the shadows on the faces of your subjects are going to result in shots that no one is pleased with.

To soften the shadows under these conditions, you will need to use a flash output just less than the reading of the ambient light.  If you use the same setting the picture will look false.  To do this, you must fool your flash.
 
In this situation you will want between one half and one full stop less exposure than the ambient meter reading, the easiest way to do this is set the flash on automatic to f8.
 
The flash will now output just a little less light than it would if you set it to agree with the ambient reading.

In a situation where the sun is not so harsh and there are clouds around you will want to reduce the flash output further, for example to between 3 and 4 stops less than the ambient reading.  This will provide a spark to the pictures and light to the eyes without being overpowering.

 
Fill flash is very useful, in fact sometimes necessary to light the face and eyes of people wearing wide brimmed bonnets  It is important that you experiment first with this technique.  It is not as difficult as many assume.

Exposure Meter

A separate hand-held meter is not a necessity if you have a camera with a built-in light meter.  If you are going to invest in a separate light meter I would advise that you use it on the incident light setting, results will be more consistent than they would be with reflected light.

Don’t ever try to use your auto exposure camera on automatic for wedding photography.  There are too many risks, especially for underexposure.  Take a meter reading with your camera built in meter if necessary and then use this to set the exposure guidely.  If you must use reflected readings instead of my preferred ambient then use grass or people faces to take readings.

Tripod

Generally, I would not advocate the use of a tripod; it is my opinion that it restricts the versatility of camera movement thereby losing spontaneity.  There will however be certain situations where the level of light available will dictate that you must use a tripod.  For example if you want to record some of the available light in the church, while using flash as your main light source, you may require to shoot at speeds of around one eighth to one fifteenth of a second. 

 
ASA Setting

ASA choice is very much a personal preference.  I prefer to use 400 ASA setting and find that the versatility offered by this higher speed  gives me more freedom from the necessity of the tripod.  It also allows me the use of greater depth of field where required.  If shooting with digital, I like to keep the camera setting as low as possible.  On most digital SLRs this is either 100 or 200 ISO.  It is also advisable to save the images in RAW format to retain as much detail as possible.  

Accessories

Other miscellaneous equipment may be needed.  If your flashgun does not have its own bracket then you will need a separate MOUNTING BRACKET.  PINS of various sizes are indispensable on a windy day (e.g. to pin down the Brides train)

SELLOTAPE can be used as an emergency measure in many situations.  A white sheet is useful for occasions where the rain has fallen on a park bench you wish to use. 

Some wedding photographers, to attract the attention of large groups, use a WHISTLE.  Small footstools are often used to sit people on when building up the required composition. 

Props can be taken along and used with imagination to set up humorous shots.  For example a book of 'Best Mans Duties' can be used in the Groom and Best Man shot.

FILTERS. Digital photography allows countless permutations of filters.  Do not however make the common mistake of over use of filters.


Take Two!

One final point on equipment, which cannot be over emphasised, is to take with you at least two of everything.  Never attempt to photograph a wedding without having at least two cameras, two flashguns and leads, and plenty of spare batteries and memory cards.

You do not have to spend a fortune on backup equipment; the main issue is reliability. 

 Wedding Photography Tips

 
 
 
posing bride and groom 
 
 
posing bride 
 

bride and groom posing

 posing bride and flowergirl