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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Photography for Dummies, By Dummies: Episode 05 (Part II)

Ever had a question about photography you wanted to ask, but felt it was too stupid? Now you can feel stupid in private instead!

You want to shoot weddings, do you now?

As I mentioned in my earlier post, DSLRs are now cheaper and easier to use (what with all the pre-set functions found in-camera), and therefore, everyone has a DSLR to play around with. That's good, because now everyone is able to dabble in photography and hopefully develop a true passion in the field (such as myself!). However, the bad part comes in when some people think they're experts courtesy of owning an expensive DSLR. I remember those days when my Canon EOS 1000D was laughed at by the Canon EOS 50D users... that is, until I showed them my work...

Anyways, almost everyone with a DSLR will have the same dilemma sooner or later, that is, shooting a wedding of a friend or family or whatever. The soon-to-be-married individuals see your DSLR and think you're the expert who is going to help them save money. IF YOU'RE NOT SURE WHAT YOU'RE DOING, DON'T DO IT. There, I've said it.

But if:-
1) You are doing it for fun, for your friend; or
2) You are forced into it by iron-fisted family members;

then the least you could do is try to do it well isn't it? In my simple contribution under the 'Photography for Dummies' set, I'm trying to articulate my limited experience in shooting events such as weddings. Mind you, I'm not covering pro duties. That's in a different forum. I'm on a different mission. Here I'm trying to raise the amateur bar of wedding photography. I took sometime to learn it, I invested blood, sweat and tears, so why should you bend over backwards if you can just learn from my mistakes?

Wedding Day (continued...)

Document the event
Inexperienced amateur photographers are quite extreme. This is what a typical wedding photo set from an inexperienced shutterbug might look like:-

a. all their photos are of single-person portraits; or
b. all their photos are of random happening or movements; or
c. all their photos are of abstract shapes and patterns and things.

Granted that shooting filled-frame, single-person portraits are (technically) the easiest to do, it’s definitely the back door short cut for yellow-bellies. When you shoot a wedding, you must be prepared to shoot an EVENT. It’s a wedding, tying the knot, etc. It’s not a photoshoot for the cute cousin of your friend. Try to find pictures that make up the fairytale story that it is supposed to be.
Shoot the small details
Following the above points, it’s also not good enough to just shoot people. Don’t forget your ‘product shots’ – which is the name I give the abstract object shots. Wedding cake, wedding rings, champagne tower, bouquet of flowers, dresses, shoes, tables settings, menus, etc., are all important as these make up the fillers in the cracks of your photography fairytale. Even if you run a tight story in your photographs, these extras give that story a little pizazz.

Make your subjects look good
Please be more selective in your photographs. If you don’t give a hoot about photography or the wedded couple, then fine. If you have a smidgen of conscience in you, please do the right thing and choose only pictures which make your subject look good. For God’s sake, please don’t post pictures of people yawning or digging their noses or scratching their butts. It’s not funny (unless you’re 5 years old) and no one will take your photos seriously.
Be Bold but Not Obtrusive
I learned this one lesson, the more events I shot. You got ‘get in there’, on your hands and knees if you have to. Being timid will not get you shots of those ‘moment’ we spoke about earlier in this article. Timing is paramount in events such as weddings. Once-in-a-lifetime stuff. So don’t mess it up. Nevertheless, in all your bravery and courage, please try not to disrupt proceedings. Ask the wedded couple if you’re not sure what you’re supposed to be taking.

Learn how to Use Diffused Light
Don’t hope to a wedding hall or venue or church with a low enough ceiling for you to bounce your light of it. More often than not, in fact, a very strong likelihood is that you’re going to face a very high ceiling. Therefore your usual amateur ceiling bounce is not going to work here. In this instance, your ability to bounce your flash light or even to diffuse the same, is the key to achieve the lighting you need. There are tons of options in the market, all claiming to be the be-all-end-all of bouncers. Tell you what, you go out there and test as many as possible and make the most informed decision you can. After that don’t regret it!

Alternatively, you could explore fast lens with wide apertures. However, this may be an expensive alternative unless you are rich or are willing to consider 3rd party alternatives. My 2 sen? It’s worth a look at 3rd party lens manufacturers. Used in the right hands, it's actually pretty decent. If not, you might also want to bump up the ISO and learn how to control it, either by using your light or post-editing. I was able to reach a decently harmonious setting using the Canon EOS 1000D. I don’t see why you couldn’t try to do the same. I doubt your camera is worse off compared to my beloved 1000D.

Shoot in RAW
Don’t have time for post-editing if you shoot in RAW? I don’t care. Unless you’ve got your lighting basics down to pat like a pro (and even pros need that breathing space for any margin for errors), you would most probably need to edit or manipulate certain (if not most) of the pictures post-production. A bona fide pro once told me there was no way anyone could get the White Balance of your photos right every time. Plus, everything is happening in real time and you WILL NOT HAVE TIME to nitpick over WB or exposure. Click. Next. You’ll thank me for it later. Unless you don’t care about being taken seriously as a photographer.

Don’t Discard Your ‘Mistakes’
Well, not immediately at least. It’s hard not to delete those shots you think are a lost cause as you walk around taking a fiver. Bear in mind that spoiled shots stand the chance of rejuvenation in Photoshop. Remember the earlier point on shooting in RAW? Aren’t you glad you took my advice? More radical options include creative cropping and even turning the damned thing upside down. Don’t hold back. Which brings me to the next point…

Change Your Perspective
Go loco. Get creative. Go mad if you have to. You’ve read a few wedding magazines and you’ve checked out the pro shots in a website online. You’ve also taken my advice and prepared a checklist of things to shoot, which you have since done. What now? Most wedding images have become stereotype. There are wedding images and there are wedding images. You can’t run from it if you don’t try. Change your perspective and get radical. If you fail in getting any usable shots, then you’ve got your checklist to fall back on. If you succeed, the wedded couple will remember you best of all for the different perspective you brought to their quaint little wedding. Add in a little credit and you may be on your way for a career shift. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Wedding Group Shots
Don’t forget your group shots. The best vantage points are places high up. Get a ladder, find a balcony, whatever. Location, location, location. Remember to be assertive and scout out places earlier which might be suitable for large group pictures.

Expect the Unexpected
Never forget Murphy’s Law. If something can go wrong, it will. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Confused? Well, mistakes happen. But as the photographer, it’s up to you to salvage those funny and cute memories. Sometimes, these awkward moments end up as the best moments of the day. Try to calm everyone down and start taking photos. You could end up with some unique memories that everyone can appreciate and love!

Have Fun
Oohh.. one more thing. Have a little fun. Let your hair down. It’s a wedding for God’s sake! I’m not asking you to get pissed drunk and forget your job. Professionalism, remember? But if you’re having done doing this job, this positive energy rubs off on others as well. If you walk around like you’ve got a super-telephoto lens stuck up your arse, then how would you expect people to be all cheery and co-operative when you want to shoot their picture. A camera in your hand and a sincere smile on your face (not those pervert, leery kind of smiles..) can work wonders.

Trust me.     ;-)

Does this article feel disjointed? It doesn't make any sense? Perhaps you need the full article. For a quick link back to Part I of this article, please click on the link provided below:-

For those of you who are interested in viewing the other photos and/or articles in the Photography for Dummies Series, please click on the links below!

Episode 1: You want to buy a DSLR?

Episode 2: Lighting the way

Episode 3: The Rule of the matter

Episode 4: To RAW or not to RAW

For those of you who like statistics:
Vital Stats for July: 3 post 103 pics
Vital Stats So Far: 88 posts 3,454 pics

Disclaimer: The views published in the above photoblog are the author's and the author's alone. If readers are not agreeable with the above views, well, you can bugger-off. All rights are reserved for the photos and the article itself. This article may be reproduced with permission of the author for private or public usage, or other forms of general mayhem. Any unauthorized usage of the images or articles contained therein is expressly prohibited and violators will be prosecuted with the full force of Malaysian law applicable. Thank you for reading this disclaimer.

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