Wedding = Workout

This past week has been crazy. No time for blogging, flickr, or photography. On Saturday, though, I photographed a wedding for the first time. A long time friend of the family was getting married, and I agreed to shoot the event from start to finish as a gift to the bride and groom. Yep, for free. Ouch!

The Groom
Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 22mm f/5.6, ISO400 1/30 Second

I suppose it’s inevitable that if people know you have a pretty nice camera, and they see that you love photography, that eventually a friend with a limited budget will ask you to take photos of their wedding. I’ve had a keen interest in land/city scape photography as of late, so the thought of portrait/event photography had me a little nervous. After all, these are two completely different crafts. A landscape stays put while I fire away. It doesn’t have anywhere to go or any one to see. If I mess up during one session, it’s ok, I can come back tomorrow. Not so at a wedding. You get one chance to capture key moments, and that’s it!

That’s why the fact that I was doing this pro bono did not mean I didn’t feel any pressure. For example, the photographer who covered my wedding missed the kiss. Yes, our very first kiss as a married couple only exists in our memories, because apparently our photographer was doing something more important at the time (sleeping?). We were pretty upset! So I really wanted to stay on top of the ceremony, because these memories needed to be recorded.

I tried to arrange get to the event super early to scout the location out and take some test shots, but it didn’t work out that way, unfortunately. The place wasn’t open until within an hour before the start of the wedding, and I soon as I arrived, I needed to get shots of the groom and best man. This is pretty much how the entire day went: very hectic, fast paced, and seat-of-the-pants photography. I loved it and hated it all at the same time!

I didn’t get a lot of help from the actual location of the wedding either. The interior was lit solely by low hanging, fluorescent bulbs. The walls were pinkish-purple and the carpet was green. Yikes! Instead of trying to overpower the available lighting, I tried to work with it. During the ceremony I used a single, camera mounted SB-800 flash with a fluorescent (green) color correction gel taped on. I oriented the head straight up and attached a Lumiquest 80/20 light modifier to the speedlight. It really helped to stop the action while sending enough light forward to fill in the shadows cast by the overhead lighting.

After the ceremony ended, I spent about 5 minutes following the bride and groom around and snapping photos of guests greeting the new couple. Then came the worse part of all: Photos of the family. Multiple competing “photographers” surrounded me, often bumping right into me. I had to work fast and get it right quick. I survived to say the least. I’m just glad they came out ok! I’m thinking that I’ll be able to direct things more smoothly after I get a few more weddings under my belt.

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC

The reception was nearly 50 miles from the wedding ceremony location, in some remote spot that was very difficult to find. My GPS took me to the wrong spot, so we consulted the directions that came with the invitations, which were wrong as well! We ended up on location after the bride and groom, who wanted to take more photos before eating dinner. This meant I had to jump right out of the car and get to work without having a chance to really think things through. Oh well!


Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC

The longer I do this, the more I’m going to work with posing. This time around, I sort of let the couple do their thing. While I intend to study traditional posing technique more, I did like the natural and comfortable look to the photos that came from just letting the two pose themselves, so I definitely feel there should be a balance in how much the photographer intervenes in this respect. Though I had a ton of different ideas in my head for portraits of the bride and groom, they seemed a little more interested in relaxing at the reception, so I literally had less than 5 minutes to produce a few formal portraits at the reception hall. Fortunately, at this point of the day, I was used to fast pace!

The reception hall interior was an interesting place to shoot. The tungsten lighting inside was so warm that I had trouble making a full color correction, even with an orange gel over my flash. But I ended up liking the warmth of the room. Even my own two eyes perceived the warmth of the ambient light, so no sense cooling it down! Below is the best man with his wife. Aren’t they photogenic!? They look like a pair of movie stars:


The craziness died down as dinner began. I just relaxed, shooting small details in the reception hall and playing with the exposure I’d need for the rest of the indoor events. While the family insisted that I eat, my mind was too busy and anxious, so I chomped down on a clif bar and kept moving. Soon after, the dancing got started:

First Dance BW
Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC

Dance floor
Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16 f/2.8, SB-900 Camera left, SB-800 Camera right triggered via CLS

I have several images of the bride and groom dancing that I’m pretty happy with, but of course, I can’t post all of my favorites here.

The image of the entire interior from above was fun to capture. The scene is much darker than is shown in the photo, so to brighten things up a bit at cast some cool shadows, I bounced light off the wall on each side of the room using my two strobes.

One of the things requested of me was a shot of the bride and groom at each table. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to these shots. Group photos are tough enough, but throw in some really low interior lighting and now you’re sweating bullets. I think I was able to manage OK with these, though, using one flash as a main light and the other dialed down for fill:

The Group
Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC

In the end, the groom primarily requested and expected coverage of the ceremony and maybe a couple of snaps of the reception. But for some reason, I kept shooting till the end of the event. I was exhausted afterward, but I think it was worth my time. The experience was a great way to break into the crazy business of wedding photography, and give my current skill set a real run for its money. I learned a thing or two by throwing myself into it I think, and can definitely see how I can make refinements. Who knows, maybe I’ll say yes to the next gig too. =)

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC

A few more notes:

My workhorse glass for this wedding was my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC, paired with my Nikon D300s, though I brought most of the lenses I own to the event. The VC kept the background steady at slow sync speeds down to around 1/15th second, especially during the reception, were I relied on rear curtain to burn in ambient light into the exposure. The Tamron had no problems focusing quickly and accurately, and especially at f/5.6, the images were tack sharp. I found the focal range to be extremely flexible for wedding coverage as well.

In all, I fired off about 800 frames during the relatively short event, and it probably would have been a lot more if I was with the bride before the wedding (I didn’t even get introduced to her until AFTER the ceremony).

Ok, this post is way too long….I’ll talk about other aspects of the wedding in later entries. Special thanks to Bridget for being my brave and tireless assistant throughout the 7-8 hours we worked!

Congratulations to the new couple!

New Couple
Nikon D300 + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC

11 thoughts on “Wedding = Workout

  1. Nice job Jonathan! Great job. Especially for your first solo wedding! You’re a really great photographer, hopefully I can be as good as you are one day.
    I bet having Bridget was a huge help. I really don’t know how anyone can do it all alone.
    Are you considering wedding photography as a career?

    1. Thank you Tori! My legs were really sore afterward, but yes, having Bridget around was essential! As far as making this a career? Not really sure yet. I’ll try it a few times and see how it goes. =)

  2. Very good Picture’s for being the first time… I would Hire you if I were not already Married.. hehehe Do You want to photograph a Baby.. =) Just Kidding..

    I especially Love the First Dance B/W Picture then the one that you took upstairs of the Dancing, very good Picture’s..

    That is really Messed though about your Wedding Photographer missing the First Kiss… You guys should have done a repeat 🙂
    Again Nice Picture’s..

    1. Hi Rosa! Thank you ^_^

      Actually I may want to try baby photography one day. It’s fun to expand my photography! Haha, yeah, maybe my Bridget and I can do a repeat now….we look a little older though =P

      1. Then I guess we will go to San Francisco so you can take Brandon some Pictures.. =)

        Do a repeat type Anniversary Picture, with the Dress and all.. Then you the Tux.. That would be Awesome. 🙂

  3. ohhhh, sounds really tough!!
    I wouldn’t shoot wedding, except just for fun and personal memory;))
    But you took nice photos under such bad conditions. おつかれさまでした^^

    1. あかね、ありがとうございます!結婚式の後には眠くなった。この仕事は難しかったけど面白かったよ。

      I thought I’d never shoot a wedding either! Some how it just happens haha.

  4. WOW! you did GREAT!! I have the same thing coming up for me in feb. A friend with a limited budget. Thanks for sharing this! I will tell you more later but this is awesome work. Your handy work with the speedlights is IMPRESSIVE. and you got shots like that @ a KH! whoa! I thinking about taking my camera with me to the meetings just to ractice abit with the lighting in the meantime. Thanks for posting this!

    1. Thanks so much Rashard! That’s cool that you’ll be shooting a wedding soon!!! It’s ca-razy! But you’ll have fun. Let me know if you need anything bro!

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