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
There is no doubt that the
quality of enlargements, specially from around 16 inch upwards
will be noticeably better from a large
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.
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
Digital enhancement is outside
the scope of this site but is an area worth
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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