Wedding guestblog by Ferry de Wet

As you know I sometimes invite “guestbloggers” over to write something on the blog for you.
There is really no fixed set of instructions for the guestbloggers so they can really do something that is fitting their style and presence online. For today our guestblogger is Ferry de Wet. You can find him online at http://www.ferrydewet.nl/

So here he goes 🙂

Part 1

How to shoot a wedding
A big title. Can you tell all there is on wedding photography in a single blogpost. Nope,this is not possible. Can I tell from experience what you can do and can’t do? Yes of course… Although I could probably write a book to cover all for this subject. I strongly believe that wedding photography is one of the more challenging disciplines in photography. You will do fashion, portrait, news, party’s, indoor, outdoor, mixed light, natural light, flash, the Works.

The first and most important thing is to stay true to your own style of photography. Even when you just started, you will have a certain style, it just needs further developing. With weddings you can go for an artistic approach were every shot has to be a gem. You can try a style called ‘different’, because all the wedding photographers that claim to make non-standard photo’s. I also make that claim and talking to a potential client, it quickly shows they don’t want that swan-bridge type of picture that everyone has either. So standard seems to be a style that’s not appreciated by many anymore, they want something “different”. But still there is a market for standard too of course, best is to incorporate this into your session.

My style is a journalistic approach,in pictures I create a story of the day. Part of this approach is that you realise that sometimes good is just good enough. A mother proudly gazing her daughter is a winner, even when there is some clutter in the background and composition is simply done by the rule of thirds. It all boils down to the message/feel a photo carries. Of course you can blur the clutter later on in photoshop to improve the picture. I always convince the couple to do those dull portraits outside the venue with their parents, best men (M/F), friends etc. this being a typical standard shot that, looking back, is always really good to have. And the rings, oh so standard, but you have to shoot the rings.

My own wedding was shot by one of Nike’s photographers. He shot great photo’s, but missed the rings and much of the groupshots. And I didn’t brief him on that. I was too much photographer to be a client, but too much client to act fully as a photographer. What is it that they say “at a plumbers house you always have a leaky sink?”

On one single day I have been told that I am a great photographer and by someone else that I make nice pictures but they would also check out some other colleagues. A polite way to tell me that they don´t like what I do. These comments mean you have a style. And not all people will agree with that style. In the end however if the client is happy, that’s what it’s all about.

On the internet there are several comprehensive lists of what the must-take photo’s are. Google for them (shutterfly.com also has a comprehensive list), read them and then forget them. No, it is not a bad thing to have a list of the shots you want on a day, but everything on a wedding goes by really fast. You need to get great photos of the couple, their parents, friends, children, the car, the rings, the cake, the venue, signing, saying yes, a tear, a smile, laughter…….

And working from a list will make you less spontaneous. However it is handy to recognise the list and use the ideas and make them your own.

And did I mention: have Fun in what you do!! Enjoying what you do almost instantly makes you so much better at what you do.

Part 2
A wedding can roughly be broken down in a few parts (not for the couple that shouts yes while skydiving over sea, but for most):

Preparation:
The bride is at home, the groom is on his way, she is getting dressed and having her make-up done and hair. Here the details are important, the invitations, decorations, dad having a coffee, a shoe, a childhood picture on a side table etc. As a male photographer I am often the first man to see the bride. This is an honour, so I treat it that way. Take a quick photo and be gone to not spoil a beautiful mother daughter moment. Oh and the question I get most? Should the flowers be pinned flower up or down! For men this is up and for woman it points down.

The groom arrives:
Of course here the first looks on the couples faces are priceless. Getting the right position to capture them both is the biggest challenge. Typically Dutch (also elsewhere?) is her coming down the stairs where her love awaits. Having enough room for a good picture is like wishing for the winning lotery ticket. It is there, but somehow I never get it. This means wide angle and when I have to choose, I go for the bride. Men are often a little less emotional and when asked honestly, both prefer the bride to be in this shot. Of course when it is possible to photograph both… Need I say more?
Also mums, dads and siblings should not be forgotten. Oh and grandparents…. Don’t forget the grandparents.

Going to:
The travel between the different locations provides a few snaps, but often is limited to the car and getting in or out. Although a classical shot (not a standard one, classical!) is shot from outside into the car when both are in. High ISO or a subtle fill flash and something from e.g Adobe will do the trick here.

The portraits of the couple:
Most couples have limited experience with having their picture taken. I always do a pre-wedding shoot. This can be as simple as the couple in jeans with their dog in nature, or even in their own garden, this is big in some countries where an engagement shoot is a market on it´s own. Here it helps the couple getting used to you shoving a camera in their face..

Look back at any photo you took of an inexperienced model. The first shots the expressions are often rather dull/blank (at best), if not with a look of absolute fear in their eyes. Later in the shoot you will see confidence, fun and they bring their own ideas to the table. Those first shots is where you benefit from this extra hour you shot before. As for the location, try to agree on a setting that is important to them. This way I ended up in a industrial kitchen, a parking garage and more traditional, nature. If possible scout the location, if not possible to go there use the internet. They trust you to have the eye for spotting the good shots once you are there. And just have fun with the couple, make them feel at ease and help realise that this is THE day.

Ceremony:
Be as unobtrusive as possible, but be everywhere. Walk around and shoot from as many angles as possible, not only the couple but everyone. Even the person you hardly notice and is in the back row. This is possible the lifelong friend who flew in and wants to have the family to have all the space. See if you can get some height and take the shot from above, use reflections, shoot details. They possible spent a small fortune on flowers to make the room their own, so it is nice to use these as framing or background. Or shoot them in detail. And of course the different moments, saying Yes, signing, the proud look on the fathers face.

Part 3

Groupshots:
The best thing you can do is have the master of ceremony on your side here. He/she knows more people then you do. And where I try to blend in most of the day, here is where that little dictator inside is allowed to come out and direct everyone to the required positions. Have the couple think in advance about the groups they want to be photographed and make sure you and the master of ceremony have that list.

Reception/Diner/Party:
Being held mostly inside, always with difficult light and no set times for activities. So be careful not to miss the cutting of the cake, speeches, handing over that special gift. Also it’s the opportunity to make those candid snaps of people when they are unaware of you taking a picture at that moment. Especially at the parties is where you have mixed lighting, in summer maybe a little daylight, indoor coloured lights, a dark suit, a white dress. The only advantage here I can think of is that you have a reference point for white balance when editing the photo’s. I always shoot RAW, but I believe that this is a must especially with those tricky light situations. RAW gives you far more flexibility to correct colour and lighting. When you have to make a decision on lighting always make sure that the lighter parts are ok. If they are over exposed you have nothing to work with, where in the dark parts you have far more room for improvement. Plus noise reduction in editing has improved in time and now even leaves you with details in the picture after processing. I know, spoken as a digital dinosaur, that with my current DSLR I can shoot at 1600 iso or even 3200 and have the same noise or better then at 100 or 200 iso just 5 or 6 years ago. This gives a lot af freedom as you don’t want to flash away all of the party.

So when you can do without your flash, please leave it off. And when you do need it, use it as a fill light, bouncing of every surface you can find that will let you bounce the light.

Most important:
Fun!! Have fun in what you do. Somehow, and there will be a perfectly sound scientific explanation, you are good at something you love doing. Enjoy the day as much as anyone else who is there, feel part of the day, and this alone will help you take better photo’s.

Know your equipment, as you can imagine, it can be a little annoying when you have to fiddle with your setting and have the happy couple waiting for you to be done. And use equipment that is good enough.

This mostly comes down to the following:
· Speed: not as much that you need 20 frames per second, but instant reaction when you spot a moment.
· Quality (read size) of the pixels: 6 Mp is sufficient for a 1m x 1,5 m poster, so extra pixels are there for safety and allows you to crop later on. Bigger pixels are important, a full frame camera will easily outperform a compact on contrast and color. This besides the lenses and jpg
· Reliable focus: yes I know, nothing as good as manual focusing, but I rely on a good AF system quite a lot. It works faster then I do.

And did I mention: have Fun in what you do!! Enjoying what you do almost instantly makes you so much better at what you do.