Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Preparing For Committment

I spent the whole of the labor Day weekend in glorious sunshine. I heard that the weather in San Francisco wasn't so summery on Saturday, but I was further south shooting a wedding, as I said, in glorious sunshine. Friday night was the usual check and re-check before a shoot. I created a checklist for all my gear and checked everything off as each item was first loaded into a gear bag and then loaded into my car. When I'm finished at the venue, I'll use my checklist again to make sure I have all my gear heading back home with me. I had been down on Thursday to have a last look at the premises before the actual wedding on Saturday, so I was happy with just using speedlites for the evening jollifications. The main lighting issue was going to be balancing with the direct sunlight that would be bathing the unsheltered area where the ceremony would take place.
My solution for this would be having a reflector facing the bride and groom to feather them with some fill light. This way I can hold the sky sky behind them without the couple and the wedding party turning into silhouettes.

We arrived at the bride's hotel at 10 am signaling the start of a long day. There was also an acute sense of tension in the air. No, not the usual, "oh my god I'm so nervous" tension. It was more "I'm gonna kick someone's ass in a minute" tension.

It didn't take long to see what the cause of the feelings were and once identified it was easy to stay unconnected to the cause. Our bride seemed to really like us so all I had to do know was give her a happy record of her wedding day and also document all that was going on in a way that she and her husband would be proud and excited when sharing the memories with their family and friends.

There are some basic things to bear in mind if you are shooting a wedding and most of these things fit neatly under one heading. Preparation! I've already mentioned a check list for my gear. It's not a good idea to wait till just before you leave to grab your favorite camera and lens only to realize you didn't bring a spare card or your batteries are only half charged because you grabbed the wrong ones as you left home. Make a list and get everything ready the night before. That way you can rest properly and enjoy some calm in the morning before you leave for an assignment.

Always try to get to the venue before the actual day. For this wedding, I actually visited the venue at the same time in the day that the wedding was planned for. This way I was able to see how the light would fall on the day. I was also able to work out some angles and locations for shots that would probably work really well on the day. I remember on one engagement shoot in particular, I was moving the couple from shot to shot and to a few locations that helped to tell the story of their engagement. At one point the guy said to me,
"This is so easy I'm really enjoying this. We know exactly where we need to go and we now what kind of shots we'll be taking when we get there. It's as if you came here before and worked it all out".
"I did" was my answer.
I had also told them it would be a 2 hour shoot and although I hadn't been looking at my watch, when I said, "We're done".
He said, "Wow, 2 hours just like you said. Very professional!"

 If you've done your homework, deciding what gear to take with you will be easier. Weddings can be very physically demanding and you'll be surprised how many miles you can cover from moving quickly to capture those angles around the hotel and the event venue. Especially when the venue is in an acred countryside setting! I've never had a camera fail on me yet, but I still always have at least one backup with me at a wedding. If nothing else, I can have 2 cameras with different lenses always at the ready negating the need to change lens and possibly miss that all important shot. Whether you use SD or CF cards, take more than you think you'll need. I always carry extra cards. I also carry a portable multicard back up drive with me too. As I shoot at a wedding, I'll often swap out a card for a new one and also backup the one I've been using on my portable drive. That way, I'll need to be struck by lightning twice to lose that data!

With the popularity of documentary/journalistic style wedding  shots, grab the fastest glass you can. F 2.8 is good and anything wider is very cool. I try to use reflectors before I introduce flash to a wedding. My reflectors are not just the ones I bring but are also walls of buildings, low white or light coloured ceilings, mirrors, light coloured tablecloths, and anything else I see around me that reflects and affects the light in a way I might light to make use of it. Even though I try to keep it natural, I do always have at least one speedlite in my gearbag when I shoot a wedding.

Batteries and chargers, need I say more?

You also need to be passionate about producing beautiful art that will be a meaningful memory for someone. In all of this, remember that you are also a guest at the weeding and the more unnoticed you can become, the more surprised and delighted the Bride and Groom will be when the see those amazing moments you captured without them even realizing you were right there for them... sharing their the joy!

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