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Wedding Photography and Auto Functions

October 12th, 2010

Yesterday i shot a wedding for the first time in about 7 years. It was the 10/10/10 and apparently that is a great day for a wedding, because despite the terrible weather, there were al least another 4 weddings taking place within a stones throw of the one i was photographing.

I’ve been trying to be a little creative with ways to get out from behind the gallery counter more and back behind the camera, where i love to be, so when a friend asked me if i might shoot his daughters wedding, not really expecting me to say yes… (him understanding my love of empty quiet places and general dislike of crowds.) i surprised both of us when i said, sure, why not?  Well, i had just bought the Canon 5D Mk II and was having fun taking pictures of anything and everything so it seemed like providence.

Really, it all stemmed back to a wedding i went to in Chile last year, an awesome wedding of a very dear friend of mine and his, lovely (now) wife, who is Chilean.  That’s a whole other story really, but there was this fantastic wedding photographer there named Gardner Hamilton, who was absolutely inspiring to watch in the  way he approached the job.  I started thinking that i might like to do a little of that again, cause after all, its about taking pictures and the creativity you apply that makes it worthwhile.  So when my friend asked me if i would be interested in shooting a wedding, the seed had already been planted.

So for the last few months i’ve been gradually collecting  bits and pieces for the 5D that a landscape photographer rarely has need of, like a flash, a remote flash cable, a shoulder bag (i normally use a backpack), and a 70-300mm zoom lens.  The 70-300 actually proved to be the wrong lens, too long and too slow for the job being f4.5-5.6, but its small and light, and i got it at a great price second hand, so not a big deal.

The biggest surprise was that i had to learn to use the auto function on the camera.  I have never used auto functions i’ve never had them on any of my cameras, even my pocket point and shoot (Lumix LX2) is set to full manual exposure and flash control.  The last wedding i shot was with a leica RE, with prime lenses, full manual focus and exposure with manual film wind on.  Did i mention it was also film?  The biggest problem was the constantly changing light of a windy overcast day… and i remember thinking, “ah, i see where auto exposure would be handy…”  so this time i thought now i have auto exposure, also auto focus, zoom lenses and this great new TTL flash.  The auto focus i’ve already adapted to, the lumix has that, the zoom lenses were easy, i’ve had them before too.  The auto exposure took a bit of getting used to, its completely foreign to my style of taking photos so it took me a while to trust it…

I shot the whole day with the camera set to aperture priority, checking exposure every few shots and adjusting the compensation dial, and it hardly missed a shot.  It wasn’t until the evening reception under the subdued light of candles that i was back in familiar territory with the dial back on manual.

I did a quick download of 48Gb of images (!) today and they look really good, all the histograms look the way they should, i’ll get a couple processed in the coming few days and put them up for comments.

I’ve learnt several things.  Wedding photography can be a fun and rewarding experience.  They are far from being easy money.  There is a place for Auto exposure functions.   I need a 70-200mm f2.8L lens if i plan on shooting any more… really that’s more of a want, the way i justify buying a new toy…  That’s one of the reasons why we do this though.

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