Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Photographing a wedding by yourself - Part IV - The reception

Today's blog post is the fourth and last in this wedding photography series, and fittingly covers the final part of the wedding day, the reception.

At this point, as a photographer, we have completed the toughest part of the day, trying to orchestrate all the posed shots. We have gone through the shot list to make sure that all requested photos have been taken, and done so at a fairly frantic pace. We want to make sure that we are never at fault for messing up the couple's wedding schedule. This always creates a bit of panic for me, as I am conflicted with trying to work quickly but also keep the creativity flowing.

Once the reception starts, that flow changes, because at this point I am capturing only what happens in front of me, and no longer directing anything. I am still running around trying to capture all the activity, so I still feel the pressure of capturing all the great moments, but in my mind it is now different. I am now in my photo journalistic mode,  searching for the best moments, but knowing that what happens from this point is out of my control. Even though it is louder and more chaotic, it is a little more calming to me. This would be even more true if I had a second shooter, but in this case it was just me, so I needed to be very attentive to what was happening in all areas of the room.

So...let's get to it...

Early in the day, when I was photographing the groomsmen, I noticed a bunch of cans of silly string in one of the guy's room. I asked what that was for, and he told me that they were all going to use this when the bride and groom made their entrance into the reception. I made a mental note of this to make sure I was was prepared to capture this fun. Before the wedding party was introduced, I went up to them and asked them where they were going to spray the silly string. Knowing this in advance allowed me to me prepared to capture this photo. I usually ask the participants if there are any special moments planned, since I would hate to miss something like this.

I usually set up one Canon 600 EX-RT flash on a 12' Manfrotto light stand somewhere in the room. For this reception, I decided to set up two of these, one on each corner (on one side) of the dance floor. I also had another flash on my camera, which was diffused with a MagMod MagSphere. This setup worked really well, as you can see the remote lights hitting the side and back of Cardiff's brother as he gave his speech.

BUT...when I turned the camera to photograph Cardiff and Lynda, I noticed that I did not have enough light on their faces. Putting the Canon 1D X MKII and Canon 5D MK IV cameras down quickly, I ran and moved one of the remote lights so that it faced the bride and groom. Now I had one remote facing the speaker and one remote facing them and it worked perfectly.

Taking the time to move the remote light was tough decision for me. A wedding photographer has to be ready to capture photos every second, never knowing what will happen at any given time. I knew that taking the 30 seconds to make this change could mean missing a great shot, so I had to weigh the risks versus the reward. Again, this is where having a second shooter really helps. I can rely on them to capture moments that I might miss.

But, since there were a lot more speeches and I needed more light on my main subjects, the decision turned out to be a good one.

One of the reasons that I love photographing events like this, is the challenge of capturing people's personalities in a photo. This photo of Gail (Cardiff's mother) really shows how fun and easy going she is.

And speaking of that...Lynda had some fun too. I was not expecting her to smash the cake in Cardiff's face, but after gently feeding him a bite, she went for it!

And even though I said that I don't usually pose people during the reception, there are plenty of times when I will ask people to get together for a photo. This was one of those times.

Just as in the wedding ceremony itself, where I am expected to get photos of the ring exchange, first kiss and more, there are key moments in the reception as well. The bride and groom's first dance is one of those moments.

I told you earlier that I like to know about any planned surprises in advance. But this is a good example of not knowing what was going to happen. Lynda was doing a formal dance with her father when they changed things up and had some fun. I had no idea that they were going to do this, but was ready to capture the fun.

I am a sucker for cute kids, and when I saw this little guy on the dance floor, I just could not help myself.

Some guys have all the moves (not me!)

This is another one of those key moments, when the bride throws her bouquet. Since they opted not to do a garter toss, they invited all single ladies AND men onto the dance floor for this. That made for a unique photo!

My wife and I showed up at 10am that morning to start the photos of them getting ready, and here it was 12 hours later and the day was coming to a close. As I always do, I went over to get one closing shot of the bride and groom. I decided to spin the camera and have a little fun. I grabbed my Canon 1D X MKII, which had the Canon 16-35mm lens mounted on it, along with a Canon 600 EX-RT flash and the MagSphere diffuser. I set the shutter speed to .25 second and spun the camera as I took the photo. The flash freezes my subject, keeping them in focus, but everything in the distance shows motion.

Throughout the day I had:

* Taken 4000 images
* Used two cameras, 6 lenses, and 4 flash units
* Burned through 8 sets of Powerex AA batteries
* Partially filled 6 ProGrade Digital cards
* Changed cameras settings about 500 times
* Walked more than 9 miles

The next day I had the usual feeling of being hit by a bus. But as I always do, I got up in the morning and started culling through all 4000 images to build a gallery for the couple, their friends and family. By 3pm I had my Zenfolio gallery built and the email sent off to Cardiff and Lynda.

Photographing a wedding is not for the faint of heart. It takes an enormous amount of physical endurance and mental awareness to make it through the day with a successful outcome. But the reward from all this effort is immense. I love knowing that I just captured precious photos for Cardiff and Lynda that they will cherish forever.

Congratulations to both of them, and I thank them for letting me share their images and stories with all of you.

For those of you looking to photograph a wedding for the first time, or those who were just curious what it is like to photograph a wedding, I hope that these blog posts have given you some insight.

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Photographing a wedding by yourself - Part III - The ceremony and portraits directly after the wedding

Today, I continue onto part III of the wedding photography series. The first two blog posts, "Getting Ready" and "The First Look" took us up until the actual wedding ceremony. And now it is time for the big moment when the bride and groom are ready to be married.

I had attended the rehearsal the day before the ceremony, which gave me some real advantages on the big day:

1. I got to know all the people in the wedding party
2. I watched them rehearse and knew how they would be entering the wedding
3. I got a chance to look at the surroundings and determine best shooting locations
4. I was able to get some test shots to gauge available light and potential camera settings

Here is the wedding party about to enter the ceremony. I moved outside to get this shot of them in this shaded location.

During the rehearsal I looked back at the barn doors where the wedding party would be entering, and determined that it was not an ideal shot. The background was so bright that all the photos would be severely backlit. I knew that I could use a flash to avoid a completely silhouetted shot, but it still was not great.

For this reason, I chose to get the shots of the attendants from outside the room. And yes, there is always one character in the group. Love it!

Here is the bride's brother escorting their mother into the ceremony. I liked this location because I had muted sunlight on their left side, and shadow on their right. This created some beautiful side-light on their faces. I did also use a Canon 600 EX-RT flash powered down by -1 stop to add a touch of light to the front of them.

Originally I thought I would have to use a remote flash to light the inside of the building. But the sun was bright enough on the wedding day and provided sufficient light for me to use the Canon 1D X MK II at ISO 2500 without any flash.

I was using the Canon 70-200mm lens at f/2.8 to get most of the photos. And yes, I used that narrow depth of view to capture this woman's phone recording the ceremony. As much as we frown on people using their phones, it is inevitable, and so I used it to my advantage.

During the ceremony, I moved from the back center to both sides, in order to get front-on to the bride and groom.

I made sure to get back to the center before their first kiss..

As they were pronounced husband and wife, I quickly switched the camera from fixed focus mode to IO Servo focus to track them as they exited the wedding. I walked backwards as I shot these photos.

Immediately after the wedding party exited the ceremony, my wife and I went to work corralling everyone for photos.

I started with the bride and groom, moving them over to these beautiful flowers, grabbing that "just married" excitement from the minutes before.

We then added the bridesmaids and groomsmen.

I like to get formal poses and more fun ones as well.

As I was taking the photos, my wife was cueing up the next groups of people, like this shot with both sets of parents.

I was taking a formal picture of the bride and groom with their brothers when they asked me to hold on a second.  The brothers jumped onto their siblings and I shot this. This photo is now their profile photo on Facebook.

Whenever I take photos, I am always keeping my head on a swivel and looking at what is happening around me. I saw this little girl walking through the flowers and had to grab a shot. Precious!

Once we got all the group shots, we took the bride and groom for a walk around the property to get some photos in different locations. I was looking for good settings, but also keeping a close eye on my watch, as I did not want to take them away from the reception for too long.

This was the last portrait I took of Lynda and Cardiff before we all returned to the wedding reception. The total time shooting portraits took 50 minutes. We were slightly ahead of schedule, and that was a good thing!

The next blog will talk about photographing the reception, including the key moments and creative lighting.

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Photographing a wedding by yourself - Part II - The first look

Welcome to part II of this wedding photography series, as I take you through my day of shooting a wedding as the sole photographer. The last blog post started with the "Getting ready" part of the day, and now we move on to the next part of the day, as we prepared for the couple's "first look". 

Actually, Lynda actually asked us if it was OK to have two first looks. Two first looks??? I was a bit confused until she told my wife and I about a surprise she had in store for Cardiff.

Before I take you through that hilarious part of the day, I should tell you that both Lynda and Cardiff had agreed to see each other before the wedding ceremony. We highly encourage this, since it lets us get nice photos of the wedding party before the service, saving time after the wedding. 

I knew exactly where we were going, since we had met with Lynda and Cardiff a couple weeks before the wedding, to scout the location. A short walk from the wedding location was a beautiful grove of redwood trees and I figured that it would be nice even lighting here for portraits. 

We all left the hotel (making sure that the girls and the guys did not see each other yet), and drove to the venue.

The guys walked into the grove first and escorted Cardiff up the path, while the girls formed a wall and blocked Lynda from his view.  We backed Cardiff into position and then waited for Lynda to approach him from behind.

Since Cardiff is into SciFi, Lynda thought it would be funny to have him turn around and see her in a Jabba the Hutt costume instead of her dress. So funny! As she approached, I even said "Wow Lynda, you look amazing". :)

He turned around, expecting to see Lynda in her dress, and was completely surprised. Right after taking the shot of Cardiff with his back to Jaba (Lynda), I had quickly moved to capture the expression on his face.

Being the goofball that I am, I suggested that we do a traditional wedding pose with Lynda in the costume.

And then she left to change and we walked Cardiff farther into the trees.

Now it was time for the REAL first look. I stood behind Lynda as she walked towards Cardiff and focused on her. I had the Canon 1D X MK II set to f/3.5 for selective focus and in IO Servo mode to keep her in focus as she walked. I was using my Canon 70-200mm lens, since it has a great focal range and is so sharp. I also had a Canon 600EX-RT flash set to -1.5 to add just a touch of light to my subjects.

As soon as he turned to see Lynda in her wedding dress for the first time, I changed so that my focus was on Cardiff.

After admiring each other, they stopped and talked for a while. I had asked that all the members of the wedding party stay back so that this could be a private moment for them. Even I stayed back and relied on the zoom of the lens to capture this emotional moment.

Then it was time for some posed shots. I placed them in a spot where I had a solid background (without breaks in the trees showing bright sunlight)

We started with a traditional wedding pose with the all the bride's maids on one side and the groomsmen on the other. And yes, we had to include Ash (their dog) who obviously was not too interested in posing. To add a little more lighting on this group, I was firing my on-camera flash towards the ladies while my wife held another Canon 600EX-RT flash pointed at the guys. She was standing to my right and pointing the camera towards the left of the group. This criss-crossing of the lights helps to create even lighting on everyone.

Then we mixed up the pose.

I then asked Cardiff and Lynda to walk towards me. I moved them far enough from the rest of the wedding party to get this shot with them perfectly focused, with everyone else soft in the background. This is one of my favorite photos from the wedding. The camera settings were as follows: Canon 1D X MK II, Canon 70-200mm at 85mm, ISO 640, f/2.8, 1/250th sec, with the Canon 600EX-RT flash at -1.5)

After getting the whole wedding party in photos, we broke out into smaller groups.

At this point, I was relying heavily on my wife who helps group everyone together and make sure that all the ladies are holding their bouquets correctly. I tend to be more involved with the camera settings, focus and lighting.

Right before leaving the redwoods, I had Lynda pose for me one last time. She looked so beautiful, and the background was so amazing that it almost looks fake.

Looking at the metadata from the images, I took the first shot here at 1:11pm and we were done with photos by 1:47pm. This was well ahead of schedule and gave everyone in the wedding party a chance to relax and hang out before the commencement of the wedding.

The next blog will talk about photographing the wedding itself and the portraits straight after the ceremony.

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Photographing a wedding by yourself - Part I - Getting ready

This weekend, I photographed a wedding for my wife's second cousin and his new wife. Cardiff lived with us for a little bit when he made the move from Southern California to Northern California, and had yet to get an apartment This gave us a chance to get to know him better and really feel like he is part of our family. Over the last couple years, we have watched him as he progressed in his new job and then met Lynda. So it was only fitting that we would photograph the wedding for them, as their wedding gift from the Cable family!

When my wife and I talked to them about the wedding plans, we gave them the option of having a second shooter. As we always do, we highly recommend one for weddings. Since they are a young couple trying to make a living in the San Francisco Bay Area, they do not have an endless budget. They both opted to have me shoot the wedding on my own, with my wife assisting. And I assured them that I would still be able to get great images for them.

But the pressure was on. I woke up on Saturday morning and felt the pressure of delivering for them. Being the only shooter meant that I HAD to get it right. Thank goodness, we had planned well and were ready to take on the challenge.

I thought it would be beneficial to take you all through the day in a succession of blog posts, the take you through the thought processes, the settings, the location choices and a lot more.

Let's start with the planning and the wedding preparation.

Cardiff and Lynda planned their wedding at the Roaring Camp park (with really cool steam engine trains that go through the Santa Cruz mountains). My wife and I visited the area with the couple about a month ago to see the setting. The day that we visited, it was very sunny with harsh light, severely limiting the locations for portraits. I was hoping for cloudy skies on the wedding day, which would give us many more options.

We walked most of the area taking note of interesting objects, flowering foliage and good backgrounds. And then on Friday, I drove back to the location for the rehearsal. Even though the venue was set up for another wedding, and the rehearsal was not inside, it still gave me a chance to get to know the wedding party and coordinator. I watched as they practiced everything and determined my best lens choices and lighting setup.

Saturday was go time!

My wife and I drove to the hotel where the bride and groom would be getting ready. As we always do, we went straight to the bride's room where she and her bride's maids were getting ready. The ladies always start much earlier than the guys and the room is usually much bigger and better for shooting. And, the bride is the most important subject of the day anyways. Sorry Cardiff!

I start taking photos of the bride getting her makeup and hair done. I chose to use a combination of a Canon 70-200mm lens on my Canon 1D X MK II and a Canon 24-70mm lens on my Canon 5D MK IV.

In between photographing the bride and others getting their makeup done, my wife and I typically get detailed shots of the dress, rings and anything else of importance. In this case, there was nowhere to hang the dress (which we usually do in a window), so my wife positioned it on one of the chairs, which we moved by a window.

My wife set the bride's engagement ring in one of the flowers of the bouquet. I switched lenses on the Canon 5D MK IV, relying on the Canon 100mm macro lens for these shots. I also used my Gitzo tripod to make sure the photos were sharp.

I wanted to try another setup with the rings and tried another part of the bouquet.

Since I did not have a second shooter photographing the guys, I took some time to head downstairs to their room to see if I was missing only photo opportunities. I took a handful of images and then headed back up to the bride's room.

I took photos of Lynda opening gifts from her mother, the groom's mother...

...and Cardiff had sent a gift to Lynda. He sent a locket with a note inside. I asked Lynda to hold the note out away from her and took this shot at f/2.8, focusing on the note. I love selective focus shots like this.

Then I headed back down to the guys' room where Cardiff received a gift from Lynda.

He opened up this Cthulhu doll (I know - I had to look it up too) knitted by Lynda. I had him hold it out, just like I did for Lynda upstairs. Matching gift shots.

I took photos of the guys getting ready and saw this tie clip on Cardiff. I loved it and made sure to get a tight shot of this.

As is usually the case, while the ladies were all primping for perfection, the guys were having fun and starting the party early.

Not wanting to miss anything upstairs, I jammed back upstairs in time to catch Lynda's mom helping her get into her wedding dress.

There is nothing better than window light! I asked Lynda to come over to the window and captured some portraits of her there.

I had her look at me, look out the window, and also look down at the flowers, to get a variety of poses. All of them were beautiful. At this point, we were running about 15 minutes behind schedule and needed to get to the venue. My wife was nice enough to grab me a sandwich which I slammed in 2 minutes and then packed up for the next location.

Stay tuned for the next blog focusing on the pre-wedding portraits of the wedding party. And we even had two first looks, with some big laughs!

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.