Tuesday, 14 August 2007

More on Wedding Photography - knowing your equipment

Well, after doing 3 wedding shoots, one of the most important lessons I've learnt is the need to know your equipment intimately. At the wedding shoot, there is absolutely no time to muck around your equipment or to start trying out new things. It is important to know every little details how each camera operates, how to set up the functions, how to even switch between functions without taking your eyes off the viewfinder.

I had to learn a few lessons about not knowing my equipment well enough which resulted in missed shots and out-of-focus or incorrectly exposed shots.

Here are some of my past experience to share with everyone and hopefully you won't make the same mistakes.

Wedding #1:
First ever wedding. Lead photographer with no backup except in the church service.

Equipment: A FujiFilm S9500 prosumer camera. No backup camera. A newly bought Nikon SB-600 flash gun.

Lessons learnt: Through-The-Lens(TTL)-Metering interface between the camera and the flash gun is crucial in a high tempo event shoot. It is nearly impossible to use manual settings on the flash gun on such events. As the FujiFilm S9500 camera does not "talk" to the Nikon SB-600 flash gun, I only could contend with the manual mode, which resulted in quite a few under or over exposed shots. I have missed quite a few shots during the church service. The S9500 is a great camera for outdoor shoots, but for indoor, low-light condition, it is simply terrible. The fact that SB-600 flash that I bought specifically for that wedding shoot could not use the TTL mode as the FujiFilm S9500 does not support it meant that all the flash shots I did was based on "guesstimates". I had to guess how much power I had to set the flash to produce for each shots based on the distance I was from the subject I wished to illuminate. This flash is a great flash, don't get me wrong, it is just that the camera wasn't design for TTL with any flash gun in the world, thus, not suitable for wedding shoots. Wrong equipment nearly cost me greatly!

Had the groom not asked his other friends, with flashy Canon 30D and big L lenses to cover the church service as well, it could have been a disaster for me.

Wedding #2:
Second wedding done a few months later.

Equipment: Bought a spanking Nikon DSLR. Now have TTL with the flash gun. Also bought the Gary Fong's lightsphere specifically for indoor low-light shoots.

Lessons learnt: Biggest mistake, got the camera 2 days before the actual wedding shoot. Didn't get to learn how to use the Nikon camera properly. What was I thinking? A DSLR with some 11 points matrix focusing, different type of AE-Lock and AF-Lock function. I was thinking I could simply read the manual and learn which buttons to press and how to set certain functions and I would be all set. How wrong I was!
The biggest problem I had was in getting the focusing correct. The AF-Lock works different from my FujiFilm. The 11 points matrix focusing and metering feature means that I had to be clear where the focus point was set in the view finder. Unlike the FujiFilm, the focus point is never always at the centre. I couldn't simply take it for granted to have the main subject framed in the centre, half-press the shutter, re-frame and press the shutter and capture it. I had to observe where the focusing rectangle was set on the 11 points insider the viewfinder among many other information like my ISO number, my f-Stop, shutter speed, and finally, the "dot" that represents a auto-focus lock.... Ah, not knowing my equipment well enough cost me some shots. I had some blurred shots as the results. The only consolation is that it turned out to be just a relatively few shots. Most shots turned out fine.

To sum up, it is very crucial to know your equipment very well. Buying new equipment 2 days before a big wedding shoot does not cut it. I've learnt my lessons. I was able to do my 3rd wedding with less equipment related problem and focus more on the shooting. I hope that you will not encounter similar problems like what I had.

Gazing at the bouquet


Qui-Bon said...

There are lots of good tips in this article Mr Leaf.

C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C said...

Wait, that didn't come out right. Let me rephrase:

Well for the record i think you did absolutely fine in wedding #2. Got some stellar shots, esp on location.

As for wedding #3, the bride's already recommending you to all her family from the sounds of it =)

Martin said...

This was a great article. To blunder and admit this shows courage and a willingness to help others.
You are getting there.