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!

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