Monday, November 29, 2010

Wedding Photography: An Occasion of Firsts

The Event

Instructional tie-tying videos courtesy of Youtube
Last month I did my first wedding. I went over to the wedding couple's house as planned to take some pictures of them and their dog before driving off to the ceremony/reception location. When I got there, they were, of course (and luckily!), still getting ready. I was setting up when I noticed I should probably stop everything and just grab the camera - they're both wonderful, but a little hopeless at tying a tie, so they were a little made for a great moment!

I had spent months leading up to the event reading and researching to help prepare myself as best I could. One thing that I found very useful was to engage people in some kind of activity suited to their personality in some way. Both of them are extremely charismatic and it would have been a shame to simply photograph them smiling in front of the fireplace mantle. We can do that any time. The challenge was to create images from the day that would not only be interesting for those who know them, but hopefully for anyone because they're great images. Well...that was the challenge and I did the best I could - I'll hopefully continue to improve like many others learning how it's done, but for this time around, I was satisfied with the results I got surprising them with some bubbles! (and they humoured me - thanks guys!)

Then it was time to head to the location and meet the hordes.

The wedding couple was soooo relaxed and everything went very well, but no matter how cool any bride and/or groom is, there's still the inescapable pressure of the situation. Aside from the usual questions of equipment and settings to capture the moment properly (and technically correctly!), there's also the issue of having grandparents on their feet waiting for you to get the family portrait shots right within a reasonable time - you just can't expect them to be on their feet as long....

Luckily people were enjoying themselves and THIS is what the family portrait session turned into

But I forgot to mention - perhaps it helped that there was actually no bride, but instead two grooms (as I'm sure you've noticed by now from the photos). That's right - two dudes! I'd never been to a gay wedding and it was amazing! The location was on the grounds of a beautiful historic fort (complete with guards!).

One of Toronto's top drag queens, Miss Conception, even made a surprise visit to dazzle the audience with a few entertaining numbers.

Later she hosted a runway show featuring the guests at the wedding!!! Now many times have you seen that at a wedding?!

Lucky for everyone else I was behind the camera...otherwise I would have had to show everybody how I rip it up on the runway!


I went out about 2 or 3 days before the event to get myself an umbrella kit - I knew it would be impossible to do without it (or at least...less good without it). I know, I know...never use gear you don't have a lot of experience with. My options were to shoot with bare speedlights and hope for walls to bounce the light off of or just go out and get a kit that I knew I could use anyway. I went with the Westcott Umbrella Kit, which comes with the stand, clamp and convertible umbrella, meaning that you can use it as a reflective umbrella or take the black cover off and use it as a shoot-through. And was I ever glad I did get myself one! It was very portable to move to different locations with minimal hassle and the pictures turned out so much better because of it. We were supposed to shoot the family outside, but because of weather were forced to move inside. I was ready and thinking ahead toward a plan B, but still at the last minute we got shuffled around and had to improvise. I'm sure the indoor shots of the family would have been a catastrophe without the small, but effective lighting setup I showed up with....

In my bag I also had my (Alien Bees "Paul Buff" CyberSync) radio triggers to fire the flash off-camera, of course (more about that here), but I also had a small assortment of lenses, which helped in different situations. The most multi-purpose lens I had with me was my Canon 18-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS, which although not a crazy expensive piece of glass, gave me a very useable zoom range. I'd like to do a few more paying gigs to get myself a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS or even the 24-105, but that just wasn't in the budget for this event. The 18-135 is not a fast lens, but it's certainly a noticeable step up from the 18-55 kit lens!

For low-light situations without having to use my speedlights, the Canon 50mm f/1.4 prime was very nice to have. It allowed me to put the flash in the bag for a while and take some candid shots of people just...having a good time. In a crowd of people you can really single someone out with such a wide aperture and shallow depth of field and it's just a great lens - the 50mm f/1.8 is a great lens too (especially for the money!), but the 50mm 1.4 is quieter, faster and more accurate and most's just as sharp as the reviews say it is!

A lens I got only recently before the wedding was my Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 ultra wide angle for "getting it all it in" does just that. It's a great effect, but now I see what some have been saying all this time - it's amazing for adding a different and interesting dimension, but has to be used properly. You don't want to put anybody to close to the edge of the frame or you get what David Ziser calls "The Mr. Gumby Effect".

I think many of us would like to shoot wedding photography the way David Ziser does and it's encouraging to know that he gets amazing images using a crop sensor too! Check out his blog - it's a general, all-round great resource!

I must say - I had an amazing time shooting the wedding and I learned a tremendous amount doing it. For example I was glad to have noticed while photographing concerts to turn around once in a while and see what else is happening. Audience reactions can make for important - and perhaps often neglected - moments as a big part of what's going on. Think about how great it is to see amazement, surprise, wonder, humour and an array of other emotions as a result of what's happening at the focal point. The centre of action is important and perhaps most important, but it doesn't comprise the whole - how did it make everyone feel? how did it speak to them and how did they respond? Maybe even some of the pros can sit back and think about that one.

But now that we've got the pros attention - one question: ...does shooting a wedding ever get any easier...¿?

In the end I wound up at the after-party and was glad I did. It ended the way any self-respecting party should: where else but the bathtub, of course!

Congratulations and all the very best to Daniel and Ryan and thanks for entrusting me with your very special day!

Oops! Have I missed something?! Help share resources by adding them with a short description in the comments section or write me and I'll make sure it gets posted!


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