I recently had the pleasure of taking photos (lots of them!) at 2 friends’ weddings over 3 days. Yep, quite exhausting, but good fun and really good experience. Of course, I wasn’t the main photographer at either of the weddings – not even a ‘second shooter’, as both weddings actually had 2 pros at each. But I was more than happy to take lots of shots without the added pressure of actually having to produce the goods!
At the first wedding I was actually an usher (the ‘photogrusher’), so couldn’t actually take as many as I wanted, as I had other duties to do (it’s actually quite stressful in itself, being an usher!). At the second wedding I was free from any responsibilities and so could take more. Over the two weddings, I shot around 500 photos. Anyway, here are a selection of some of my fave shots, and my thoughts on what I’ve learnt from this experience is at the bottom:
So, What Did I Learn? A Lot!
Although all of my equipment is pretty budget stuff (i.e. no mega expensive ‘L’ lenses for me, I’m afraid!) I found that it all worked to do the job pretty well. My Canon EF-S 55mm – 250mm zoom (available from Amazon US and UK) was invaluable, especially for the candid shots – it meant I could be at a good distance from my subject, and thus able to take photos unobtrusively, without them knowing I was there. This just wouldn’t really be possible without such a long focal length.
When I bought my 50mm f/1.8 prime, I used it extensively for lowlight photography without a flash, which it excels at, but at the weddings I found its limited focal length rather, well, limiting! It’s much harder to take candid shots when you have to be really quite close to your subject – and people generally stiffen up when they know they’re having their photo taken, losing the great naturalness of candid photography. And as I was sitting quite far back from the couples during the ceremonies – which were both in dimly lit interiors – I found that the 50mm just couldn’t get me close enough to the action. I couldn’t use flash during the ceremony either, so this means I didn’t get any good shots of the vows at all. Luckily I wasn’t the pro! Makes me realise that I’d really need to invest in a constant f/2.8 zoom or something similar (similarly expensive!) if I wanted to take some close up, lowlight photos without flash…
But, talking of flash, I fell in love with my Canon 430 EX ii (available from Amazon US and UK) all over again! Being able to bounce the flash off the ceiling during the receptions meant that I could get some lovely looking – and sharp – shots, even when taking shots from quite far away with the 55 – 250 zoom. It was also great to take some dancing shots.
Flash. Bouncing the flash off the ceiling was great for natural-looking shots indoors. By raising the ISO in the camera to around 800 (thus making it more sensitive to light) it meant that my flash didn’t have to work so hard (easier on the flashgun!) and that the light travelled further, so I could take flash shots from across the room. To take some cool dancing shots that included the ambient light, and a sense of movement, I shot in shutter priority mode, and chose a speed of around 1/20th sec – this mean that the flash worked to ‘freeze a moment in time’ – sharply – with the slower shutter speed meaning the ambient light (and thus light trails of the dancing/movement) was also picked up. So much better than those normal flash snaps you see with a pitch black background!
A slow shutter speed and flash was also used to get the shot of the happy couple with the fireworks in the distance.
Shooting Mode. I shot most of the time in Aperture Priority (‘AV’ on Canon cameras, ‘A’ on Nikon), choosing – generally – the lowest f number available to me. This meant that I could put the backgrounds out of focus, which is generally what I wanted for the mainly-candid photography that I did. I wrote a whole post on how to blur the background of your photos, by the way, if you’re interested. Ooh, and angling your camera when taking photos can really add some drama to your shots, I found.
Post Production. I found that Photoshop can indeed be your friend! I used a combination of curves, unsharp mask, black and white conversion and applying a simply vignette over the shots (not everything used in every photo!). When I first got into photography I never thought I’d be interested in the post-production side, but now I absolutely love it – it’s very addictive when you realise the power you have in your hands!
What Do You Think Of My Efforts?
I’d really appreciate any comments/thoughts/advice on how you think I’ve got on – from my technique, to my post-production, to composition – everything, really! I’ve so much to learn, and every comment really helps. Unless it’s a ‘your photos suck’ comment. That probably isn’t too helpful…!