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Wedding photography tips / experience [amateur] (Long)

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June 28, 2005 5:56:58 AM

Archived from groups: rec.photo.digital (More info?)

For those above average amateurs or very serious hobbyists
contemplating photographing a wedding, I offer up my experience after
having just recently photographed my first wedding. This is not the
advice of a sage or an expert. I work at a job which does not involve
photographs, and I take pictures because I enjoy it. I enjoy what I
am able to convey with it. I have become a light control freak. I
am also an exposure freak. By nature, I am a perfectionist. I did
not enter into this lightly. Everyone's advice is true. I had
realistic expectations of actual knowledge of my abilities. After
that, I only hoped it would unfold as I planned. I went in with
notecards of photolists which had been in preparation for weeks. I
compare it to a marathon. It requires the stamina of a trail horse
and probably everything you have to give, yet it is rewarding when you
do it well. When you have mastered the nuances of white balance,
levels, curves, saturation, color balance, unsharp mask, dynamic
range; when you understand how your film or digital sensor captures
light; when you understand the numbers comprising a pixel; when you
have mastered the rules of the big textbook methods of exposure for
certain scenes; when you have learned enough to break those rules;
when you know you can do it; then you might be ready. My tale
includes perhaps only 20% of the scope of my experience.

My account follows:


I photographed my first wedding last Saturday. I've been taking
pictures for only about 1.7 years and a sister-in-law sought

me out for the task. In speaking to her, it became somewhat mandatory
for me because to say no was requiring her to hire it done. It was
her 2nd wedding. The 1st wedding was done by an amateur with a little
bit of experience at the kind of thing, and his work was decent but
there was nothing outstanding. The bride was completely satisfied
with that.

Armed with the knowledge of the prior work, and also with a
realistic understanding of her expectations and tendency to be less
particular than most anyone else I know, I went accepted her
conscription as wedding photographer.

I had about 4 months in which to prepare.

I'd already spent a solid year reading this group and the links to
articles and sites that come through here. I'd long since learned
exposure and all that jazz, as well as how sensors collect data,
studied up on the "expose right" article and applied that knowledge
to what I'd already noticed. I was doing a great job of nailing
photos and staying within the sensor's dynamic range.

Along the way, I conversed a time or two with more than one friends
are either are, or used to be wedding photographers and picked up
some practical tips. I purchased a couple of books from Amazon based
on their ratings. The best books were found at my local library.
I'll say that book ISBN 0-936262-44-3 which is full of a lot of
talking and a couple of small photos in the margins was tremendously
helpful and practical and was among the best frank and valuble
discussion on wedding photography. Must haves, should haves, if
there's time photograph lists, but it tells you about things and why.

Books along the lines of ISBN 0-8174-3325-2 contain fabulous high
end photographs but really leave you none the wiser about where you
are going to stand, how much water you may drink, and who cares
about which traditions.

I read through about 6 or 7 books in total, and only with a lot of
in depth searches, found about 3 very useful sites or posts on the
internet about it. Most of what's out there is pure fluff, bride's
perspective, or an advertisement.


Everything they say is true. The soothsayers, the doompreachers, the
warnings, it is all sound advice to be heeded.

It was a great experience for me, I accepted in partial because I
knew it would be a challenge and it might take everything I had. It
is during these times which a human grows. I walk away much the
wiser. It was everything I expected. It was stressful, it required
great diplomacy skills in spite of knowing personally 60% of those
attending. It was heavy on my neck. I had a headache the entire
day and I was constantly borderline for a migraine, of which I am
prone to get. I probably lost 2 gallons of water to perspiration,
and soaked entire through my shirt in the sun and was completly
unsightly. I toweled off twice in the bathroom under my shirt.
(I was lucky it was a back yard wedding, even then, finding just 1
moment with enough time for a stunt like that is tough. I would not
have done it if on the clock.) As a photographer, I was not able
to, and did not plan to interact or mingle at all, which means not
even holding my toddler if he was upset. (Wife was in the wedding.)
The kid had to take solace in grandma.

I took the task as seriously as possible. I explained to the bride
in that inital conversation how weddings are the snake pit for
photographers and I repeated all of the doom surrounding weddings
and photos and how I have ***only*** one of everything and have no
backups. I even said, "you get what you pay for in life, and I am
free." My request to be used as a backup photographer were not
absorbed. I am not a professional and therefore will not accept
money for service, only reimbursement for associated costs.

At the same time, this was a favor and not a job so I was not going to
go out and buy anything. I always strive to do my photography with
what I have, rather than thinking a new piece of hardware will make it
better. I ended up caving a bit on this one and bought a stroboframe
flash bracket and extension cord for the flash. $120 flew out the
door on that one. Otherwise, what I had was it. A D70 SLR digital
camera, SB-600 flash, and a lot of memory.

I even read a book about flashes because that is an aspect of
photography I've yet to explore. I'm a natural light kind of guy.
While it's great info and I want to one day understand it all, I
couldn't learn manual flash techniques so quickly and it wasn't a
time to experiment, so TTL flash was the going to be the way of it.

The flash bracket was worth it. I'd considered one already a few
times and I really can't see going vertical for any kind of wedding
portrait, candid or posed with a flash throwing sideways shadows all
over. Watch out for those cheap frames you see on the web. Many of
them hinge along the grip where the grip kind of folds in half on
itself. This puts the flash on the wrong side of the camera, AKA,
the shutter release button is on the bottom rather than the top.
Gak! I got the cheapest decent frame from a real store after
trying it out.

At the last minute I ditched the plan to use a softbox over my flash.
All of my experiments in the last few months had given me a lot of
mixed results. I've not read up on it yet, but I think the softbox
covers up the ambient light meter which I think is on the flash.
While the flash is metered through the lens, I think the top half
still comes into play. There was zero room for every 20 frames to
be all washed out, so that idea was nixed.

I don't have any strobes, which are a great thing to have, although an
active photographer friend has stopped taking strobes with him to
weddings as he started to think the only person noticing the better
lighting was him, and he wasn't getting more sales with it, and why
do the extra work?

I showed up around 4:00 in the afternoon. This outdoor June wedding
was to occur at 5:30. The planning was very lax, with nobody to
organize, and the schedule was not known 100% by all, nor was anyone
there to enforce it. My attempts to get specific wants from the bride
were replied with me being the boss, whatever I want to photograph.
Ugh!

We had decided to photograph the parties before the wedding, the men
and the women separately at 4:30. Does this mean the women at 4:30
and therefore the men first before 4:30, or the men at 4:30 and then
the women? Nobody knows for sure. At 4:40 the men were still
milling around and not ready, and I was tipped off that the women were
dressed, so I went to their realm. Snapped a few great shots. My
first ones had an awful background, and I moved them such that their
faces weren't into the sun, knowing my flash could do enough to take
off the edges should the sun cast shadows. To my good fortune, it was
somewhat cloudy, and the sky was a great big softbox. The flash made
everything even, like text book wedding photos. I didn't want
anything but generic everyday photographs here.

I did get 3 or 4 great shots of the bride's back in natural light.
One of them I thought was completly useless. It was a slow shutter
of maybe 1/40th at f/2.8 while she stood near an open door. There
was a lot of blur from her movement and probably some from my
movement. I tried a soft focus effect in photoshop and it still
wasn't working. Finally I desaturated all the color and brought up
the levels to give it a much darker, contrasty and grainy look.
Just like that I transformed this worthless shot into what I believe
is among the top 4 photographs of the day. I think the bride is
going to love it. Her sister (my wife) does. The point is, you
never know.


I snapped 526 photographs from 4:00pm until we departed the
reception at 9:00pm. Of these, about 337 of them qualify as proof
quality and will be delivered as 4x6 when my local quality lab prints
them. Of these, about 106 occurred during the wedding itself, with
only 31 happening between the bridesmaids' fast and closely spaced
entrance to the silence of a non-working CD player, up to the point
of the recessional march.

About 34 of the photos were shot in RAW format, the rest were shot in
JPG. Once again, I don't have enough memory for RAW all the way
through, my camera won't do TIFF (which is bigger anyway) and what
equates to 100 photos of RAW is more like 525 photos of JPG at
10/12 setting. This would be a risk if I were hired.


At the reception I shot the cake first as everyone advises. I took
some time for some creative lighting and got something good. Shot
the obligatory centerpieces and such. I got every event at the
reception. 207 of the proof photos were at the reception, and of
those, 21 are the bride/groom dance, and 14 were the bride/father.
It was here where my natural style came through. I don't have any
natural feel for posed shots, but candids and emotion catching shots
are my thing. My camera becomes just an extension of my intuition.
I got one of those top 4 photos during the father/bride dance and
the rest were pretty darned great photos.

I did get several black frames during the cake cutting mandatory cake
smear attack. My flash only pops about 3 times and then it is spent.
Rapid fire is limited. It wouldn't cut it if I were getting paid.
Oh yeah, I shot f/8 all day, or as much as I could. My flash guide
number isn't all that high, so they've got to be close for f/8.
Much of the time I knew my flash didn't have enough for the shot,
so I'd stop to f/4 or f/5.6 or some odd partial number above that.
In all those photos I expired 1 set of batteries, thereby only
using 1 of my backup sets. 2 more remained untouched. I had no
spare camera battery which is a risk, but I knew I normally get
1000 or so shots over the course of a month.

It took 12 long hours to post-process these photos and tweak for
the perfect settings of white balance, sharpness, color saturation,
perfectionist cropping and whatever else. About a dozen shots were
perfect as captured, and the rest by my standards needed the levels
brought in a bit so that the suits were 100% black at their darkest
points and the bride's dress was 100% white at it's whitest points.
I was very careful not to blow highlights on her dress. She was in
sunlight as the clouds lifted just as the ceremony began. Blown
hightlights are your enemy and yet their avoidance nearly mandates
much post processing in order to bring the best out of the picture.

You want to capture the photo right the first time and not rely on
photo editing to make it right. This applies to anything. I had
to edit out some background wall signs on photos which were the
only candids of groomsmen. I was lucky, the wall was carpeted.
It would have been better to have noticed this in the viewfinder
and waited for the better shot, or to have taken it over again later.

No one will understand what really goes into photographs. The bride
will never understand why I put up a fight initially, or that it
takes about a week of my time in spare time in order to accomodate
this task. She won't understand why I won't give her a "photo CD"
straight away that she can take to any "Generic Mart" or "Cheapco"
company which will butcher my work. They may never know how secretly
and inwardly proud I am to have snapped two photographs which looks
like they could go smack on the front of one of those fancy
wedding photo books at the library, and that I feel rewarded to
provide her a photo album which I expect to surpass her highest
expectations.
Anonymous
June 28, 2005 5:56:59 AM

Archived from groups: rec.photo.digital (More info?)

Ryan <quakeserver149@yahoo.com> writes:

> No one will understand what really goes into photographs. The bride
> will never understand why I put up a fight initially, or that it
> takes about a week of my time in spare time in order to accomodate
> this task. She won't understand why I won't give her a "photo CD"
> straight away that she can take to any "Generic Mart" or "Cheapco"
> company which will butcher my work. They may never know how secretly
> and inwardly proud I am to have snapped two photographs which looks
> like they could go smack on the front of one of those fancy
> wedding photo books at the library, and that I feel rewarded to
> provide her a photo album which I expect to surpass her highest
> expectations.

I enjoyed reading your report on your first wedding photography gig.
I'm in something like your position, only a much longer-term amateur
photographer; I've shot weddings very occasionally, perhaps 6 that I
was the official photographer for over the years. None for immediate
family members though :-). Anyway, your view is enough like mine that
I could relate to your experience, thanks for posting it.
--
David Dyer-Bennet, <mailto:D d-b@dd-b.net>, <http://www.dd-b.net/dd-b/&gt;
RKBA: <http://noguns-nomoney.com/&gt; <http://www.dd-b.net/carry/&gt;
Pics: <http://dd-b.lighthunters.net/&gt; <http://www.dd-b.net/dd-b/SnapshotAlbum/&gt;
Dragaera/Steven Brust: <http://dragaera.info/&gt;
Anonymous
June 28, 2005 4:27:41 PM

Archived from groups: rec.photo.digital (More info?)

Good writeup.

My own tips for beginners in case someone asks one of you to take their
photos:
http://www.silverace.com/dottyspotty/issue8.html

---

I've found that with my setup, it's not that bad once you've gone
through the process one time.

Setup:
* Minolta 600si/650si
* Two Li-Ion battery packs, new. (One usually holds out through the
entire wedding + reception due to the size of the battery in the 600si,
but a second spare just in case.)
* FujiFilm 400 ISO consumer negative films are fine for most people -
they only want prints, rarely project, and this is a solid film to make
prints from w/o spending the entire bank on pro films.
(Let's face it - they've asked a friend, not paying a pro...)
Quality nevertheless, printed correctly at a good lab, is excellent,
esp. in daylight shots.
* Tripod - for those shots where you need group shots and don't want to
hold the camera all the time. Also good for those indoor shots under
lower lighting conditions.
* Bag to carry the camera + film + batteries + etc.
* etc - lens cleaning cloth (must have in case the lens gets dirty),
lens UV/etc filters (to protect the front of your lens in case it hits
something hard by accident - break the filter not the lens), bag strap
(yes, people forget the shoulder strap for the carry bag - a must have
so you can move about easily), water bottle + energy bar/snack (for you,
you have absolutely no time to sit down and eat most of the time; but
don't drink so much you'll need the bathroom that often), white/gray
card (you'll want this in case of any difficult lighting conditions if
you want to achieve solid exposure accuracy and/or white balancing later
on) and/or back of hand (a pretty good gray card if you don't have one),
sunscreen + sunglasses if you're out in the sun, packable parka if
you're in the cold, cloth for general wiping of your face etc, baby
wipes/cosmetic face wipes so you can quickly clean up w/o going to the
sink, and finally, ZipLock bags to store all of your unexposed films
seperately from your exposed films in a water and airtight bag (Yes, you
will be carrying the exposed films everywhere you go no matter what
happens this day - lose these and you are in deep trouble!).
* And your choice of a backup camera with fresh battery and loaded to-go
with fresh film.

---

Why film? It's one of the few formats that people still want today - a
true 'negative' in their hands they can easily understand and use.
(strange but true - some people want 'hard copies') And some people just
can't seem to operate a PC to view their photos.

It's also one of the cheaper setups you can buy (eg. 600si for $150-200
+ film) if you're doing this on a 'friends' basis.

---

Why 600si? Actually, you can buy any of the Minolta cameras - I've
found that the metering in this camera tends to be reliable, and when
the exposure is troublesome, it tends to under/over expose in a
predictable manner. Any camera you can rely on to act in a certain way
under certain conditions is fine. Also, the battery is the bigger pack,
not the smaller one used in modern SLRs, so you don't have to worry
about battery changes even after 30+ rolls of film.

I tend to run everything in full auto mode, adding exposure comp. only
as needed. There simply isn't much time to do anything else except
pre-metering and fixing everything in manual mode during a wedding, and
I find that the Minolta does a very good job in full auto.

Oddly, the 600si is easier for me to operate one-handed due to the
larger, better designed grip and the location of the buttons. (Yep,
you'll need a camera that can be one-handed in some cases!) The
instant-access switches and buttons allow for quick settings changes w/o
having to enter any menus or do silly things to the camera.

---

You can replace the setup with any dSLR or even a 7MP digicam nowadays.
They've all got enough pixels to make for a good 8x10" print, and the
only thing you'll really need is a big flash for indoor shots (for the
P&S 7MP digicams; dSLRs usually have a powerful enough flash).

---

Lens-wise, you can go with a basic 28-200mm Tamron for the most part and
get away with acceptable shots in all situations with 400 ISO. The
24-135mm Tamron is a nice choice as well, letting you get wide shots of
the church and other settings. (assuming a 1:1 sensor; adjust for those
dSLRs that don't have a fullframe 35mm sensor)

Here, flexibility in zooming is more important than a fixed length lens
(there's just too many times you'll be too far/close to the subject for
a fixed length lens.).

Plus, you can also put that fixed lens on the spare camera and use that
for those special shots.

---

If I were to move to dSLR, I'd focus on those cameras with image
stabilization in the lens or the body - you'll find that it'll help a
lot indoors and in low light situations.

I would focus on those cameras that have at least 8MP or higher - no
point using a 6MP dSLR when there's better out there today. You'll want
sufficient resolution to blow up the shots and have fine details come
out looking good.

---

I would bet nowadays that with the latest crop of P&S 7MP+ digicams, you
can also get very nice shots at a wedding if you had to use only these.

The only thing you'd want would be a more powerful external flash, but
otherwise, you'd get most of the features you'd want - fast AF, very
good auto white balance, decently sharp photos, a range of zoom lengths,
long battery life, etc.

---

Key is also a good print lab. Off color, off exposure shots can be
corrected to look great if you have a good operator at the helm. And,
this is one of the ways to save yourself from having to learn and color
correct hundreds of shots - a waste of your time IMO because a good
print lab can do it as good/better in less time.

If you have a camera like the 650si or can mark off and see where the
panoramic frames might be in any other dSLR/SLR, you can try taking all
of your photos in panoramic 35mm mode as well, which I've done.

Coupled with a 24mm-135mm Tamron (or any wideangle zoom), you can create
some very interesting and stunning shots of a wedding w/o much work, and
the panoramic photos will lend themselves to a very unique photo album
that no other bride has.

(Here, look up movie shots & composition books - basically, you'll be
setting up shots similar to movies with the wideangle look.)

They'll cost the same as a 8x10" or less to print.

Here, you'll be considering the sharper 35mm negative films for blowups
larger than the usual 4" tall panoramic prints (which are typically
10-13" wide already), as well as sharper lenses capable of handling
>8x10" prints. (eg. refer to Popular Photography magazine's lens
review data)

---

The Hasselblad/Fuji 35mm panoramic (two 35mm frame) camera is also a
possible choice here. The lenses are quite sharp, and you can get
beautiful shots with this camera. Processsing will be more difficult
due to the use of 2 35mm frames for each shot, and you will have half
the shots per roll.

---

For a dSLR/digicam, I'd make sure you get at least a 1GB card if not
larger for the task, and fully test out the entire card + camera for
hundreds of shots before the wedding. You'll easily be able to pack in
about 300-400 7MP photos on one card (an entire wedding if you're
careful about shot selection).

Never, ever format, delete or erase a digital photo in camera during the
wedding! You may accidentally wipe the card in error, and that's a bad
thing!

Lockable formats like the SD/MemoryStick card formats add a physical
layer of protection to the images you have taken -lock the cards after
the wedding before you put them into any PC or card reader for
immediately backup to CD/DVDs.

Make sure you test out the camera/card to PC transfer before you get to
the wedding! You don't want an accidental mistake to wipe the card!

Immediately backup the entire card to CD/DVDs ASAP! Verify after writes!

Make sure the PC you transfer images to is 100% virus, trojan, etc.
free! Nothing like a bug eating up your pictures!

Never edit the original images! Make sure you're editing off a copy of
the original image!

---

For film users, make sure you have tested and can rely upon the print
lab first! If not, get local recommendations from other pro
photographers, and then, maybe even drop of a few rolls at a time
(instead of losing the entire wedding to a possibly suspect print lab!).

Ask them to lock in the color correction to whatever you find to produce
the best overall rendition - warm, cool, etc. Some labs normally print
a bit warmer, some a bit cooler, some neutral - but, have them print to
whatever preference you have otherwise, you'll wind up with hundreds of
shots printed a bit too cool/warm for your liking!

Have test photos printed on their selection of papers, too! You may
find matte or glossy or whatever to be preferable.

(usually matte for most of these weddings to prevent fingerprints, but
also ask the couple - they may want glossy more)

Papers do matter!
Fujifilm Crystal Archive is a good start - long lasting, whereas others
made fade quicker!

Films do matter! - You'll want to buy a batch for the wedding, test a
roll from that same batch first, and assured that everything's okay with
the film, use the rest for the wedding. Don't buy from different
batches - that can mess up the color balance, etc later on.

You'll want everything at room temperature the night before so the films
are ready to use the day after (if refridgerated).

The day of, you'll also want to de-canister every roll, and drop it into
the ziplock bag which will stay in one compartment/pouch of your case -
you'll have only one place to reach for for a fresh roll of film, and
won't have to dig around in the bag. De-canister first - things will
happen very quickly during a wedding, and you won't have time to open up
a can.

Learn about and pick SLRs that have a rapid rewind mode (eg. on the
600si/650si, press the rewind button down during rewind) - you may need
this and it's better to make a little noise for a few quick seconds than
to lose the shot.

Learn to load film in the camera quickly and by feel - you may have
limited light to work under and you'll want to be confident loading
film. Should be a quick motion, completed in 5 seconds or less from
ejection of the prior cartridge.

---

For all cameras, learn how to quickly reset everything to default
settings - you may just find yourself underexposing by accident after
bumping a switch or making one shot that way, and forget how to get the
camera back to normal the long way around.

Always scan the menus and indicators on the camera between shots when
you have time - you want to ensure everything's set correctly - you may
have bumped something and now the camera's exposure is off by accident.

---

Have fun! Mumble - why am I spending 5+ hours for my buddy today?!?
Smile! Mumble - I'm sweating like a pig, haven't eating in hours,....
Enjoy the beauty! Mumble - no wonder pros get paid thousands a day for
this job! Recall the happy moments when you get your prints back!
Anonymous
June 29, 2005 12:57:31 AM

Archived from groups: rec.photo.digital (More info?)

"Ryan" <quakeserver149@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:42C0AE68.546A2C7F@yahoo.com...
> For those above average amateurs or very serious hobbyists
> contemplating photographing a wedding, I offer up my experience after
> having just recently photographed my first wedding. This is not the
> advice of a sage or an expert. I work at a job which does not involve
> photographs, and I take pictures because I enjoy it. I enjoy what I
> am able to convey with it. I have become a light control freak. I
> am also an exposure freak. By nature, I am a perfectionist. I did
> not enter into this lightly. Everyone's advice is true. I had
> realistic expectations of actual knowledge of my abilities. After
> that, I only hoped it would unfold as I planned. I went in with
> notecards of photolists which had been in preparation for weeks. I
> compare it to a marathon. It requires the stamina of a trail horse
> and probably everything you have to give, yet it is rewarding when you
> do it well. When you have mastered the nuances of white balance,
> levels, curves, saturation, color balance, unsharp mask, dynamic
> range; when you understand how your film or digital sensor captures
> light; when you understand the numbers comprising a pixel; when you
> have mastered the rules of the big textbook methods of exposure for
> certain scenes; when you have learned enough to break those rules;
> when you know you can do it; then you might be ready. My tale
> includes perhaps only 20% of the scope of my experience.
>
> My account follows:
>
>
> I photographed my first wedding last Saturday. I've been taking
> pictures for only about 1.7 years and a sister-in-law sought
>
> me out for the task. In speaking to her, it became somewhat mandatory
> for me because to say no was requiring her to hire it done. It was
> her 2nd wedding. The 1st wedding was done by an amateur with a little
> bit of experience at the kind of thing, and his work was decent but
> there was nothing outstanding. The bride was completely satisfied
> with that.
>
> Armed with the knowledge of the prior work, and also with a
> realistic understanding of her expectations and tendency to be less
> particular than most anyone else I know, I went accepted her
> conscription as wedding photographer.
>
> I had about 4 months in which to prepare.
>
> I'd already spent a solid year reading this group and the links to
> articles and sites that come through here. I'd long since learned
> exposure and all that jazz, as well as how sensors collect data,
> studied up on the "expose right" article and applied that knowledge
> to what I'd already noticed. I was doing a great job of nailing
> photos and staying within the sensor's dynamic range.
>
> Along the way, I conversed a time or two with more than one friends
> are either are, or used to be wedding photographers and picked up
> some practical tips. I purchased a couple of books from Amazon based
> on their ratings. The best books were found at my local library.
> I'll say that book ISBN 0-936262-44-3 which is full of a lot of
> talking and a couple of small photos in the margins was tremendously
> helpful and practical and was among the best frank and valuble
> discussion on wedding photography. Must haves, should haves, if
> there's time photograph lists, but it tells you about things and why.
>
> Books along the lines of ISBN 0-8174-3325-2 contain fabulous high
> end photographs but really leave you none the wiser about where you
> are going to stand, how much water you may drink, and who cares
> about which traditions.
>
> I read through about 6 or 7 books in total, and only with a lot of
> in depth searches, found about 3 very useful sites or posts on the
> internet about it. Most of what's out there is pure fluff, bride's
> perspective, or an advertisement.
>
>
> Everything they say is true. The soothsayers, the doompreachers, the
> warnings, it is all sound advice to be heeded.
>
> It was a great experience for me, I accepted in partial because I
> knew it would be a challenge and it might take everything I had. It
> is during these times which a human grows. I walk away much the
> wiser. It was everything I expected. It was stressful, it required
> great diplomacy skills in spite of knowing personally 60% of those
> attending. It was heavy on my neck. I had a headache the entire
> day and I was constantly borderline for a migraine, of which I am
> prone to get. I probably lost 2 gallons of water to perspiration,
> and soaked entire through my shirt in the sun and was completly
> unsightly. I toweled off twice in the bathroom under my shirt.
> (I was lucky it was a back yard wedding, even then, finding just 1
> moment with enough time for a stunt like that is tough. I would not
> have done it if on the clock.) As a photographer, I was not able
> to, and did not plan to interact or mingle at all, which means not
> even holding my toddler if he was upset. (Wife was in the wedding.)
> The kid had to take solace in grandma.
>
> I took the task as seriously as possible. I explained to the bride
> in that inital conversation how weddings are the snake pit for
> photographers and I repeated all of the doom surrounding weddings
> and photos and how I have ***only*** one of everything and have no
> backups. I even said, "you get what you pay for in life, and I am
> free." My request to be used as a backup photographer were not
> absorbed. I am not a professional and therefore will not accept
> money for service, only reimbursement for associated costs.
>
> At the same time, this was a favor and not a job so I was not going to
> go out and buy anything. I always strive to do my photography with
> what I have, rather than thinking a new piece of hardware will make it
> better. I ended up caving a bit on this one and bought a stroboframe
> flash bracket and extension cord for the flash. $120 flew out the
> door on that one. Otherwise, what I had was it. A D70 SLR digital
> camera, SB-600 flash, and a lot of memory.
>
> I even read a book about flashes because that is an aspect of
> photography I've yet to explore. I'm a natural light kind of guy.
> While it's great info and I want to one day understand it all, I
> couldn't learn manual flash techniques so quickly and it wasn't a
> time to experiment, so TTL flash was the going to be the way of it.
>
> The flash bracket was worth it. I'd considered one already a few
> times and I really can't see going vertical for any kind of wedding
> portrait, candid or posed with a flash throwing sideways shadows all
> over. Watch out for those cheap frames you see on the web. Many of
> them hinge along the grip where the grip kind of folds in half on
> itself. This puts the flash on the wrong side of the camera, AKA,
> the shutter release button is on the bottom rather than the top.
> Gak! I got the cheapest decent frame from a real store after
> trying it out.
>
> At the last minute I ditched the plan to use a softbox over my flash.
> All of my experiments in the last few months had given me a lot of
> mixed results. I've not read up on it yet, but I think the softbox
> covers up the ambient light meter which I think is on the flash.
> While the flash is metered through the lens, I think the top half
> still comes into play. There was zero room for every 20 frames to
> be all washed out, so that idea was nixed.
>
> I don't have any strobes, which are a great thing to have, although an
> active photographer friend has stopped taking strobes with him to
> weddings as he started to think the only person noticing the better
> lighting was him, and he wasn't getting more sales with it, and why
> do the extra work?
>
> I showed up around 4:00 in the afternoon. This outdoor June wedding
> was to occur at 5:30. The planning was very lax, with nobody to
> organize, and the schedule was not known 100% by all, nor was anyone
> there to enforce it. My attempts to get specific wants from the bride
> were replied with me being the boss, whatever I want to photograph.
> Ugh!
>
> We had decided to photograph the parties before the wedding, the men
> and the women separately at 4:30. Does this mean the women at 4:30
> and therefore the men first before 4:30, or the men at 4:30 and then
> the women? Nobody knows for sure. At 4:40 the men were still
> milling around and not ready, and I was tipped off that the women were
> dressed, so I went to their realm. Snapped a few great shots. My
> first ones had an awful background, and I moved them such that their
> faces weren't into the sun, knowing my flash could do enough to take
> off the edges should the sun cast shadows. To my good fortune, it was
> somewhat cloudy, and the sky was a great big softbox. The flash made
> everything even, like text book wedding photos. I didn't want
> anything but generic everyday photographs here.
>
> I did get 3 or 4 great shots of the bride's back in natural light.
> One of them I thought was completly useless. It was a slow shutter
> of maybe 1/40th at f/2.8 while she stood near an open door. There
> was a lot of blur from her movement and probably some from my
> movement. I tried a soft focus effect in photoshop and it still
> wasn't working. Finally I desaturated all the color and brought up
> the levels to give it a much darker, contrasty and grainy look.
> Just like that I transformed this worthless shot into what I believe
> is among the top 4 photographs of the day. I think the bride is
> going to love it. Her sister (my wife) does. The point is, you
> never know.
>
>
> I snapped 526 photographs from 4:00pm until we departed the
> reception at 9:00pm. Of these, about 337 of them qualify as proof
> quality and will be delivered as 4x6 when my local quality lab prints
> them. Of these, about 106 occurred during the wedding itself, with
> only 31 happening between the bridesmaids' fast and closely spaced
> entrance to the silence of a non-working CD player, up to the point
> of the recessional march.
>
> About 34 of the photos were shot in RAW format, the rest were shot in
> JPG. Once again, I don't have enough memory for RAW all the way
> through, my camera won't do TIFF (which is bigger anyway) and what
> equates to 100 photos of RAW is more like 525 photos of JPG at
> 10/12 setting. This would be a risk if I were hired.
>
>
> At the reception I shot the cake first as everyone advises. I took
> some time for some creative lighting and got something good. Shot
> the obligatory centerpieces and such. I got every event at the
> reception. 207 of the proof photos were at the reception, and of
> those, 21 are the bride/groom dance, and 14 were the bride/father.
> It was here where my natural style came through. I don't have any
> natural feel for posed shots, but candids and emotion catching shots
> are my thing. My camera becomes just an extension of my intuition.
> I got one of those top 4 photos during the father/bride dance and
> the rest were pretty darned great photos.
>
> I did get several black frames during the cake cutting mandatory cake
> smear attack. My flash only pops about 3 times and then it is spent.
> Rapid fire is limited. It wouldn't cut it if I were getting paid.
> Oh yeah, I shot f/8 all day, or as much as I could. My flash guide
> number isn't all that high, so they've got to be close for f/8.
> Much of the time I knew my flash didn't have enough for the shot,
> so I'd stop to f/4 or f/5.6 or some odd partial number above that.
> In all those photos I expired 1 set of batteries, thereby only
> using 1 of my backup sets. 2 more remained untouched. I had no
> spare camera battery which is a risk, but I knew I normally get
> 1000 or so shots over the course of a month.
>
> It took 12 long hours to post-process these photos and tweak for
> the perfect settings of white balance, sharpness, color saturation,
> perfectionist cropping and whatever else. About a dozen shots were
> perfect as captured, and the rest by my standards needed the levels
> brought in a bit so that the suits were 100% black at their darkest
> points and the bride's dress was 100% white at it's whitest points.
> I was very careful not to blow highlights on her dress. She was in
> sunlight as the clouds lifted just as the ceremony began. Blown
> hightlights are your enemy and yet their avoidance nearly mandates
> much post processing in order to bring the best out of the picture.
>
> You want to capture the photo right the first time and not rely on
> photo editing to make it right. This applies to anything. I had
> to edit out some background wall signs on photos which were the
> only candids of groomsmen. I was lucky, the wall was carpeted.
> It would have been better to have noticed this in the viewfinder
> and waited for the better shot, or to have taken it over again later.
>
> No one will understand what really goes into photographs. The bride
> will never understand why I put up a fight initially, or that it
> takes about a week of my time in spare time in order to accomodate
> this task. She won't understand why I won't give her a "photo CD"
> straight away that she can take to any "Generic Mart" or "Cheapco"
> company which will butcher my work. They may never know how secretly
> and inwardly proud I am to have snapped two photographs which looks
> like they could go smack on the front of one of those fancy
> wedding photo books at the library, and that I feel rewarded to
> provide her a photo album which I expect to surpass her highest
> expectations.

Nice story, as someone looking to do a wedding soon I enjoyed it.
!