Sony A7III Wedding photography advice

Started 8 months ago | Discussions thread
Mordi Senior Member • Posts: 2,304
Re: Your experience (or lack of it) will control your results

NoNayNever wrote:

Mordi wrote:

NoNayNever wrote:

Mordi wrote:

With all due respect, the LAST thing you need worry about is equipment. The fact that you even have to ask suggests you aren't ready to shoot a wedding.

Damn Mordi! Go on...

You stand on the precipice of an opportunity to break the heart of your wife's friend, break their friendship - and make you regret you ever thought of accepting the wedding photographer role.

That's a risk I'm willing to take.

Of course. It’s not your wedding.

My uncle owned a children’s portrait studio - my father was a PPA Master in industrial photography after years as a newspaper photographer. He shot weddings for my uncle, in the 4x5 Speed Graphic era. I went with him to weddings for 2 years, until I got my driver’s license at 17 and could shoot them on my own, first on 4x5, and in college, 120 roll film.

Ask any property insurance agent and realize that people are more concerned after a flood in the restoration of wedding albums than any other possession. Recently, in sorting through things my mom saved, I discovered a stack or reject prints from a wedding I shot in 1959. Through Facebook, friends tracked the couple down. They’d lost their album decades ago in a fire, and were overwhelmed.

Wedding photos can mean little to people today - but they become increasingly valuable over the years, when parents and grandparents are long gone. No matter what people tell you today, there’s nothing casual about loss of wedding images.

Most experienced event photographers will tell you that wedding are just about the most difficult kind of photography. The stress level even on an experienced wedding photographer probably equals that felt by an athlete about to compete in a major race. They know they can do it, but crap happens, and when it does, only the experienced survive.

I feel I'm up to it. I won a gold medal for boxing when I was 7 years old. Pressure, smessure.

Sure. That’s equivalent.

I put myself through college shooting weddings in the film era, and when I needed money in the early digital era, I did them for extra cash. I still do them for family and friends.

Where did you get your experience?

Answer above. Apprenticeship. Virtually every professional wedding photographer starts that way. Those that don’t tend to blow up early in their career. Today, Yelp complaints rid us of those who don’t do good work early in their careers.

While others may talk to you about equipment - I believe that's the least important factor - let me tell you what I believe you really need: experience as a helper.

1. You need to find a wedding photographer that will allow you to tag along and watch for a few weddings. No gear in your hands, except the stuff you hand to the photographer when s/he asks for it. Take note of the shots, the composition - and most of all, how to courteously but firmly direct people as you need.

Good advice, that I will do.

2. Today, it's popular to shoot weddings sort of like covering a social gathering - fun candids and funny stuff. But just fail to get good shots of the bride's mom and dad and extended family, and be prepared for unhappy clients. Brides often talk one story about candids and then are upset when they don't see the traditional poses, too. Do you have a list of all the people who the couple DEFINITELY wants to be photographed? Do you have someone in the family identified who can point them out to you?

Yes I have a list and a helper from their family.

3. There is more than the wedding ceremony itself to plan. Where will it take place? What will the lighting be like at that time of year? What is the weather likely to be? Where will you pose groups? What's your backup plan if it rains - or worse? What's the lighting in the church or synagogue? - is it LED? - if so, you can't easily shoot silent shutter - you will need a long fast lens. Are they Catholic? Have you scoped out the church so you can shoot their faces when their backs are to the pews? Have you plotted how you will get from there to be in position to photograph the couple coming down the aisle? Where is the reception? Will there be dancing? If it's going to be dark, how will you illuminate the dancing couples (not a single on-camera flash)?

Are they Catholic?

It matters. Some priests are picky about photography, as are some rabbis. You can show up not prepared for their restrictions. In the SLR era, I was allowed to shoot a wedding ceremony with my Leica despite the priest’s ban only after I demonstrated to him the week before that unlike most photographers shooting with noisy SLRs, I could do it near silently with an M4P. I shot the pre and post ceremony with my Canon T90 - which has a motor drive and a noisy mirror system.

4. How will you handle the many people with smartphones who constantly step in front of wedding photographers today? And the people who show up with cameras as good or better than yours, and intrude on your setups?

Did I mention the boxing?

You did. Winning a boxing title at 7 isn’t quite the same as professionally handling a wedding, even if most attendees are friends.

5. You will have a second A7III body with you, right? Because your whole effort and your commitment fails if one of the many issues reported here on the forum occurs with your one camera. I would not even agree to shooting backup for a family wedding without two bodies. And remember - both bodies have to accept your lenses and batteries.

I have a second non-Sony camera, yes.

That’s fine. I am amazed how many people come onto the forum “surprised” by issues they never saw during a shoot. I just shot a family religious ceremony with a rented A7RII in silent mode, and - in the middle of it - someone turned on some ceiling LED lights. I immediately spotted the striping, and shut off the silent mode. No time during an event to start fiddling with shutter speeds to see if one can “fix” the problem in real time.

This represents a small percentage the things you need to think about other than a few lenses. On a full frame body, the most useful lens for me is a fast 35mm - if you do the job right, you'll take about half of all shots with that one lens. To be prepared for the possibility that you can't use silent shutter because of pulsating lights, you will need a long fast lens, like 80-200 f2.8. With those 2 lenses, a spare body and a 2-flash radio-triggered package, you can get 90% of all you need. A 14-16mm fast superwide will also be nice, but I've made do with my 15mm f4.5 Voigtlander because no one moves fast when you'll use that lens, and the A7III is wonderful at ISO 6400.

That's interesting, thank you!

But of all this, the experience working with an experienced wedding photographer is the most important. Someone who knows how to shoot a wedding and has an iPhone will easily outshoot some who has all the gear - and doesn't.

Good luck.


Despite the fact that my father and uncle were PPA Masters, the only photos I have of my own night wedding were those shot by a friend with a disposable film camera of the cake cutting and a few in front of a fireplace. My wife’s cousin was a big photo maven, and owned a complete Nikon F system with a a 28mm f2.8, a 50mm f1.4, a 105mm f2.5, and a big Metz flash system with photocell triggers. Except he bumped the flash synch on his Nikon from X to M, and of course, all his rolls were blank. He never knew that wedding (and news) pros in that era ALWAYS fired their flash against a wall with the back open before starting an assignment, so they could see through the lens if the synch was off.

Thanks for all of your advice Mordi. I was joking about the boxing by the way, I know that is sometimes hard to realise over online text. I'll take all of your advice on board, thank you!

Sorry if I didn’t get the Joking, NoNay. I just want to emphasize that shooting even backup at a wedding carries responsibility. Shooting backup to a pro is very liberating, by the way - It leaves the pro the time to “focus” on the must-have shots. On 2 weddings in the past 4 years, I had the luxury of backing up pros, while I concentrated on getting interesting shots.

On one Jewish wedding, I sat on the floor while the groom did the ritual lifting of the veil, and got the shot of the seated bride’s unveiled face looking up through the veil as the groom lifted it - and that hangs on the wall of the parents’ home, not the standing-eye-level shot of the pro.

My partner had limited me to one camera and 2 lenses for that shoot - a 17mm and a 50mm. When I saw the hired pros blanketing the chuppah with Canon super-zooms, I dashed to the balcony and got a great shot with the 50, with the lovely PA countryside visible in the big glass panes above and behind the wedding canopy ceremony. As one of the pros looked up after the bride and groom walked back down the aisle, he saw me in the balcony holding my camera. He looked back at the scene - and shook his head when he realized none of the 3-man team had that shot.

 Mordi's gear list:Mordi's gear list
Sony a7 II Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2 Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS Sony FE 35mm F2.8 +7 more
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