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.

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Nikon_shooter said...

Very informative Jeff! I may never shoot a wedding, but I volunteered to shoot at Grad Night, and a lot of this applies. What lenses would you recommend with a D600? I have a 70-200 f2.8. Do I need a wide angle?

Anonymous said...

Will you be doing a followup blog to explain how you process and then share your images with your clients? The time frame that you spend in post for a one day shoot would be interesting to hear about.

charlie said...

Appreciate the effort you have put forth in describing the wedding photographers task. I'm not a photographer that particularly enjoys this but i recognize the hard work and effort this entails. Curious about a few things:

Are you structuring your contracts such that the family gets full rights to all images or do you limit what they get and can use with friends and family?

With 4000 images in a shoot like his how much time do you spend culling through the mass of stuff to pass along to your client? Do you do it or do you have an assistant that does the editing and distribution?

When I do a safari and come home with 20k+ images the post production is brutal. Now i realize that you have a distinct advantage in that your lighting is somewhat controlled in blocks of locations that you are shooting but the time would still most likely be substantial to get the level of quality you desire.

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

Great idea. I will write a blog about the post processing next!