Wedding Photography Tips: Gear and Settings
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Carry the right equipment and know what it is capable of. The simplest functions of your camera and lens can get you some amazing shots.
Don’t Shoot Only at Weddings: The best wedding photographers shoot constantly even when they are not at a wedding. They shoot nature, streets, still lifes, portraits… not just to practise, but because other subjects give them ideas for wedding photography as well. So, imagine that busy marketplace close to your house as a large wedding venue and start shooting!
Try Changing Settings… Blindfolded! Customise your camera’s controls to suit your method of shooting. Practise changing them until you do not have to think about it.
Do You Know the Limits of Your Gear? What is the highest usable ISO? How does a lens respond when shooting against the light? Know what to expect from your gear.
Av or Tv… Which One is Best? Constrict or deepen the area in focus (depth of field) with Aperture Priority. Freeze or blur action with Shutter Priority.
Be Wary of Full Auto or the Program Mode: This is good for casual shots in good light. Left on its own in low light, it may select too slow a shutterspeed or too large an aperture.
Learn to Use ‘Program Shift’: By ‘shifting the program’, the Program Mode behaves like AV or TV, affording some control over aperture and shutterspeed.
Go Manual for Absolute Control: When both depth and motion need to be controlled, the Manual Mode is needed.
Try the Manual Mode with Auto ISO: Nowadays, with DSLRs showing superb noise control at ISO 3200 and 6400, Auto ISO lets the Manual Mode gain a level of exposure automation.
“Why Won’t You Focus?” Continuous AF can hunt if it gets confused. With wide aperture lenses like f/1.8, stick to Single Point AF so you can choose exactly what part of the frame will be in focus.
For Details, Shoot in RAW: RAWs are far more forgiving to errors than JPEGs. It lets you change settings like White Balance presets, or recover lost details.
12-bit or 14-bit RAW? 12-bit RAW is good in most cases. But, if the light is very contrasty and the highlights are critical, 14-bit RAW can be useful.
Keep One Finger on the +/- Button: Weddings are full of unpredictable lighting. Exposure Compensation is the single most important control you have on your camera.
Set the Right Metering Mode: Spot, Centre Weighted and Evaluative… select the metering mode based on the area in the frame you want perfectly exposed.
Don’t Blow Out the Highlights: It is easier to recover shadow detail in post. In very contrasty light, decide whether shadow or highlight details are more important. The camera cannot handle both.
See in Verticals As Well: Rarely do we tilt the camera for a vertical frame. Verticals are great for portraits and help us cut down on extra clutter.
Carry Two Camera Bodies: And attach them to a double strap so that you have two different lenses at hand for easy and immediate access.
Use a Polariser to Avoid Reflections: Wedding venues can be full of gleaming surfaces. In order to use these elements and to control the intensity of the reflection, a polarising filter is useful.
Nobody Stands Still: Switch to Single Point Continuous AF. The camera will continuously focus at one single point. So, the subject’s distance from the camera won’t be a problem.
Constantly Changing Light: The constant flickering of decorative lights can make you scramble and miss a moment if you are using the Manual mode. Switch to Aperture Priority.
When Grain is Inevitable: In extreme low light situations, you will have to use a high ISO. This will produce grain in the images. Convert the image to B&W to make it look artistic.
Lock Exposure, and Recompose: In tricky light, pressing the Auto Exposure Lock button lets you to meter from one part of the frame, lock exposure and recompose.
Detailed High Dynamic Range Shots: These are useful when shooting the venue and the décor. A combination of exposures allows you to render details in both shadows and highlights. Keep a tripod handy!
Shoot Now, Review Later …or else you will spend time looking at images and end up missing many potential shots. If you are confident about your exposures, you can also switch off playback.
Get Extra Lives: What if one of your memory card stops working or gets corrupted? What will you do if an accidental knock damages your lens? Always carry a backup body, battery packs, lenses and extra cards.
Read Your Pictures Using Histograms: A histogram shows you the range of brightness in the frame as a graph. Keeping an eye on it can help you achieve better exposures in tricky lighting.
Label Your Memory Cards: This will help you keep track of used and unused cards.
Use a Graduated Filter: Especially when shooting outdoors, this filter helps balance the exposure between the more important foreground activity and the sky, so that the sky does not lose detail.
Monopod Magic: Besides helping with longer exposures, a monopod is useful for taking the weight of the camera off your neck. It can also be raised to shoot well over people’s heads.
Switch Off Noise Reduction: In-camera NR can be aggressive, so it is best to reduce noise while postprocessing.
A Tilting LCD can be Extremely Useful: Getting a good angle of view makes a huge difference in weddings. This often means shooting over heads and through legs!
The LCD can also be Deceptive: Tones, colours and sharpness may not be accurately represented on the LCD. You need to gauge what it really conveys.
Certainty with Faster Shutterspeeds: Use motion blurs judiciously, because people may look upon them as mistakes. Use shutterspeeds of at least 1/125sec for slow moving subjects and at least 1/320sec for faster subjects, to freeze motion.
Fast Standard Zoom: This do-it-all lens offers a versatile range of focal lengths for subjects from large groups to extreme close-ups, and is useful even in low light.
Telephoto Zoom Lens: It helps you isolate a subject, or to shoot candids from a distance without being noticed by the subject.
Normal Lens: Switch to this lens when the light levels are really low and also when you want to be discreet. It also shows brilliant optical performance.
Wide Lens: This is good for smaller spaces like dressing rooms, or on a small stage. Moderate wide lenses have less distortion that can be corrected in post.
Ultrawide Lens: Imagine framing the entire wedding hall in one shot! There is bound to be significant distortion with such lenses, but that can be used for effect.
Invest in a Padded Camera Strap…: … because carrying a heavy DSLR for the entire duration of the wedding can cause serious muscle pain and fatigue.
Save Settings into User Profiles: Save the settings for techniques you use most frequently into user profiles in your camera. This will hugely speed up your shooting process.
Keep an Eye on All Your Settings: When your mind is on capturing the perfect moment, it is easy to forget the settings that you have last used. So watch out!
The Learning Never Ends: You can learn a lot about gear and technique from books, the internet, and from other photographers. The user manual of your own camera is a good place to start.