My Thoughts/Findings as a D800 Wedding Photographer

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b3nb123
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My Thoughts/Findings as a D800 Wedding Photographer
7 months ago

When I was looking to replace my D700, as I'm sure many on here did, with a D800, I had concerns as to whether the D800 was the right camera. The thought of using the highest resolution 35mm DSLR available was exciting but I wondered how it would be using it.
So I thought perhaps a thread would be handy that answered anyone else's worries could be handy, certainly the points that I had worried about before buying it!

Memory cards - expensive, will I fill them to fast??

Typically I take 1500 photos at a wedding. This isn't 'spray and pray', this is taking and retaking to reconfirm focus, plus pretty much double-clicking everything just to be sure I avoid blinks where neccessary. (This hasn't changed with the D800, in fact I take more now as the focus is doubly-important!) Getting home and editing them isn't the time to wish you'd retaken one!

I bought 4 SanDisk Extreme Pro 32GB 90MB/s CF cards, for about £80 delivered, from BHPhoto as they had a sale on. Even with shipping and tax they came in at about £80 each, cheaper than the £125 UK price!

I also bought 4 Transcend 400x 32GB CF cards. £40 each. These weren't listed on the list of tested cards and transfer speeds. I haven't ever noticed the difference in which cards I'm using! Last week I did once run the buffer down to the point I couldn't take more, but that was at the end of a sequence of moving images during the confetti. Hardly a deal-breaker. The buffer is easily big enough to compensate most of the time. I checked, and I was actually using the 90MB/s cards, so I gues the CF speed was being limited by the SD speed (SanDisk Extreme 45MB/s). So I guess spending more on really fast SD cards isn't going to make a noticable difference either.

This is just how I feel using it. Certainly for lots of repetitive shooting I'm sure you'd be thankful of fast cards. But basically I'm happy going out loaded with my slower cards to a wedding.

I use 14-bit lossless compressed NEF and the 32GB cards hold about 720 I found 12-bit fitted maybe 1000 images and I figured when I have a week of several weddings (4 in a row coming up) I'll probably shoot 12-bit just to use less memory, so my memory cards will last!

My secondary slot is my SD. I use 16GB SD cards mostly, set to full-size medium resolution JPGs. a couple of thousand JPGs will fit on there. I think this is an adequate backup to keep. In fact I copy these over to another folder and they are small enough to keep all of. If anyone ever asked where that 'missing shot they remember me taking' is and it turns out I binned it, then You can make a perfectly huge usable file from the JPG version.

Any on-camera editing I may do at the event I make sure I do to the NEF to make space, I like the thought athat all the JPGs are still there from the entire day. When viewing the files on the camera screen scrolling through the NEFs you start again, at the beginning of the JPGS. I didn't realise this was how it worked, you could just as easily delete the JPG and keep the NEF. Deleting one does not delerte the JPG and the NEf together. So I make sure I'm aware of which I'm losing. I like to know I've kept the JPGs as a fail-safe that will be there not just after any on-camera editing, but well after I've finished the NEF edit and long since cleared the CF cards off.

Will my shooting technique have to change?

I have found I want to be doubly-sure a photo is sharp, so I'm taking more care in confirming just where the focus is, and I'm taking a few extra shots to be sure where I'm in slower shutter-speed situations. I read that even the movement of the mirror can shake the photo, but I've never noticed that in my wedding use.

Will my PC & laptop cope?

I use a quad-core 'AMD Phenom II x4 955' with 8GB ram, Windows 7 64-bit. It's a couple of years old, so certainly not amazingly fast by today's standards. It makes me wait while Lightroom renders the sharp version of the image, perhaps a second or two. Also while it's doing this anything else I'm doing (sometimes an iplayer radio in a window or something) stutters for a second. A little annoying perhaps, but it really doesn't bother me, it's not ages. I would say it's perfectly accceptable. Lightroom exporting the 500-odd finished JPGs however take a s couple of hours perhaps, but I just leave it to it and do something else!
I also use my laptop for some work, perhaps getting a head-start on the edit while the wedding breakfast is taking place. My laptop is really nothing special, but it seems to cope almost as well as the desktop PC! It's an older i5 'M30' with 6Gb ram, Windows 7 64-bit.

Will my software support it? Will my workflow change?

My workflow uses ACDSee for the initial weeding out of the shots I want to keep. (Only ACDSee 17 accepts the NEFs). I find this quicker than importing all 1500-odd NEFs into Lightroom, but I'd be interested what everyone else does in their workflow?
Then I use Lightroom for the adjustments, while I'm doing this I'm editing a text file listing the Photoshopping I need to do later. This is just a list like 'group shots w/ bridesmaid- bride's eyes' etc.
I find I only take about 5 or 10 shots in to Photoshop once the export has finished. For this reason I don't bother buying the pricey Photoshop upgrades, I'm still on CS4. Photoshop (and bridge) CS4 doesn't read D800 NEF files. But I don't care, I've never been happy with the D700 Nefs that have been through Photoshop. I only ever take the finished JPGs into photoshop, so it does all I need, perfectly.

I have an issue though, on editing D800 files - The computer's rendering of the image, to make it fill the screen seems to make everything look sharp! I'm wishing ACDSee had a second loupe window that would go straight to the faces for me! Currently I have a two-screen setup, 22inch 1080 monitors. One set to thumbnail view, the other a full-screen preview. That's how I edit down the 1500 pics to 500 on a typical wedding. Often it takes a zoom levels of zooming in to actually notice the focus may be off a bit. I'd love to know what everyone else uses.
Lightroom never used to have an 'undo' for files you'd just deleted so perhaps now that functions is there I should try that for the full edit process?

Are my lenses good enough?

I have noticed with the D800 that a sharp photo is more satisfying than ever, but I've also noticed my 80-200mm f2.8 is actually back-focusing a bit. I may have been doing this for ages, but the amazing resolution brings out any problems you may not have noticed!
It's made me think to calibrate all my lenses (AF Fine-Tune) and I have a new 70-200 VR coming!

How will the battery last?

I bought a DSTE battery grip, with 2 EN-EL18 compatible batteries, from amazon. Really cheap, like £30 for the grip and £80 for two batteries. I had seen people discussing DSTE grip and batteries form ebay that come as a set even cheaper, but new Royal mail restrictions on Li-ion batteries mean they can't sell these to the UK. So I had to buy these compatible batteries and also a compatible dual-slot charger, which annoyingly was £60 itself.

I also bought a couple of compatible EN-EL15 batteries but I've never had to change that!
The EN-EL18 is seen by the camera as a set of AA's I think! So it doesn't display much info liek shot count or anything. I charge it every time between events, but it's only ever lost about a 3rd of its power after 1500 shots! (Perhaps it's better for it's lifespan if I keep using it until its worn right down?)

What will I spend on my new camera?

Mine was a grey import, costing £1500 , Feb 2014. Grip £32, 2xEN-EL18 £80, En-EL15 £12, Battery Door £11, Charger £80. New 750GB SSD for laptop £300, 4x Extreme Pro CF cards £320, 6 Transcend 400 CF cards £180. 4x 16Gb SD cards, £160. New version of ACDSee £50. Total upgrade to new camera nearly £2500. Actually not much more than the Jessops price or the camera alone!!!

What will the clients get?

The finihsed set of 500ish images may be 12GB. So I offer a reduced-size (resized to 4000px in ACDSee so about 10MP) on DVD for those who only take the cheaper packages. (A waste, I know, I know!!) Those on the upper packages, or for a £30 upgrade get a custom wooden USB stick of the images. These are awesome! £80 for 25 i think ,so about £15 each to produce, but the clients really Ohh and Ahh about it! See Here: Pic on my business Facebook Page

Anyway, that's just my thoughts, findings and how I work with it,
I'd love to know your comments, or thoughts about how you use it and everyone else's workflow with the D800

 b3nb123's gear list:b3nb123's gear list
Nikon D800 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28-70mm f/2.8 ED-IF Nikon D700 Nikon AF Fisheye-Nikkor 16mm f/2.8D +4 more
Nikon D700 Nikon D800
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