Wedding confession

Started Apr 11, 2009 | Discussions
bob elkind Veteran Member • Posts: 5,832
Wedding confession

This is a confession that only a moron or someone with an ego the size of the national deficit would think of shooting a wedding without any experience whatsoever, and yet that is exactly what I did.

For anyone considering this type of blunder, some words of advice: you don't know what you don't know... until it's too late.

I'm a sports shooter with a D700. My wife's co-worker was getting married, is basically penniless (i.e. living paycheck to paycheck), and asked me to shoot their wedding. I was offered some small fee, but my wife managed to negotiate the fee into house-sitting while we were on vacation. But wait, it gets better...

The bride, herself, has done a few occasional low-fee weddings, so she was very helpful and sympathetic. Now the fun begins. I'm armed with Sam Stern's 'wedding settings for idiots' (posted on dpReview, thanks! Sam!), my D700, SB-900, extra batteries, bounce card, white card, etc. etc. My son is my assistant. He has a D90, my other SB-900, bounce card, extra batteries, and his own copy of Sam Stern's wedding/event settings. Bride tells us that flash is OK, anywhere, anytime. Nothing can go wrong.

Or maybe not...

My son with the D90 has the SB-900 with the updated firmware. I forgot to update the SB-900 on my camera. Ceiling too high for useful bounce, every flash is full power. 10 shots into the wedding, the SB-900 starts to sputter.

Reacting quickly, I switch to higher ISO and shut off the flash. I'm going on natural light. Front wall of the church (behind the stage) is a solid purple. Adjacent walls are yellow. Carpet is orange. Light is a mixture of incandescent and flourescent. It seems that no two images have the same white balance. There is no possible help from a grey/white card reference shot.

Not only is the bride an amateur (or semi-pro) photographer, but everyone in her family is also a photographer. In a fair number of shots, you can count 6 different people in the same frame with cameras (SLRs and P/Ss) firing away.

Well, you can forget all about artistry in this wedding shoot... I'm just trying to survive, salvaging the basics.

So far I've PPed the easy shots (church ceremony and bride/groom photo shoot afterward in a wooded and shaded Catholic retreat called 'the Grotto'). The married couple is pleased. They had low expectations, and we managed to meet or exceed them. But any illusions I had of a successful career as a Sam Stern wannabe have been soundly repelled by a lorry load of richly-deserved humility.

To all who would contemplate shooting a wedding without enough experience to back it up: if you're not sure, you should just say no. Reading someone's advice, and reading about all the potential problems to avoid... that helps keep you from looking like a total idiot. But it won't necessarily absolutely keep you from looking like a total idiot (and the wedding couple is the victim, here). And you'll likely salvage a decent set of shots, barely adequate... but that's about the best you should expect. Ask yourself if 'barely adequate' is good enough for you or your clients.

Needless to say, I learned a lot with this one experience, and if I had it all to do over again I would have declined the request. I achieved 'barely adequate' only because I was lucky, not because I knew what I was doing.

I feel better now. I got this off my chest.

-- hide signature --

Bob Elkind
Family,in/outdoor sports, landscape, wildlife
photo galleries at http://eteam.zenfolio.com
my relationship with my camera is strictly photonic

 bob elkind's gear list:bob elkind's gear list
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Hocus Pocus Senior Member • Posts: 1,712
Interesting musings

bob elkind wrote:

This is a confession that only a moron or someone with an ego the
size of the national deficit would think of shooting a wedding
without any experience whatsoever, and yet that is exactly what I did.

Wellll.... I wouldn't be that harsh in making that assessment. I guess we all start somewhere, and you had a reasonable amount of other experience under your belt prior to accepting the task. You also seem to have encountered what amounted to 'a perfect storm' regarding the elements that conspired against you. A true perfect storm may not be easy to 'ride out', even for experienced veterans. I mean... think about it: the odds of encountering a group with a fair amount of photographic experience in one of the families... wow!

However, thank you for sharing. It's very good insight, and hopefully, something that others to follow will take note of and adjust accordingly.

If there is something I might suggest should you try again sometime in the future...

Couple a SB-900 with a SB-800 ready to go as a backup. Flash is just as important as camera bodies as far as having a backup goes for critical event shooting, but is a detail sometimes overlooked by folks. In particular, the SB-800 seems to be more robust in such circumstances for reasons that I do not fully understand at this time. Some folks even couple a SB-900 with two SB-800s to allow for a comfort zone with respect to recycle time and cool-down periods.

Iliah Borg Forum Pro • Posts: 29,046
Re: Wedding confession

The biggest problem is using flashes indoors in TTL mode. It is an incredibly wrong way of doing things. Worse is only BL-TTL.

Second problem is shutter speed when you have FL lights.

-- hide signature --
Gale Bizet Forum Pro • Posts: 15,266
Re: Wedding confession

I really feel bad for you.
I would only consider shooting a wedding if I had to feed my dog.
I shoot wild life.. Don't blow whites. Have a D200 and a D300, SB800.
I still would not do it. That would make me give up photography.
People always want me to shoot pics of them.. NOOOOOOOOOO....lol
I don't shoot people, scares the, you know what out of me.

Well at least they are satified. They have the memories, regardless of what you think of the pics. You did a wonderful deed for someone.
Feel good about yourself.
Best of the future to ya
--
Best Regards
Gale

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mironv Veteran Member • Posts: 9,778
Re: Wedding confession

Iliah Borg wrote:

The biggest problem is using flashes indoors in TTL mode. It is an
incredibly wrong way of doing things. Worse is only BL-TTL.

Second problem is shutter speed when you have FL lights.

-- hide signature --

And what's is a TTL problem??? Both BL-TTL and TTL are perfectly workable indoor or outdoor. Nikon iTTL never been better its so easy even cave man can do a flash work.
Mironv
http://mironv.smugmug.com/

 mironv's gear list:mironv's gear list
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mironv Veteran Member • Posts: 9,778
Re: Interesting musings

Hocus Pocus wrote:

bob elkind wrote:

This is a confession that only a moron or someone with an ego the
size of the national deficit would think of shooting a wedding
without any experience whatsoever, and yet that is exactly what I did.

Wellll.... I wouldn't be that harsh in making that assessment. I
guess we all start somewhere, and you had a reasonable amount of
other experience under your belt prior to accepting the task. You
also seem to have encountered what amounted to 'a perfect storm'
regarding the elements that conspired against you. A true perfect
storm may not be easy to 'ride out', even for experienced veterans. I
mean... think about it: the odds of encountering a group with a fair
amount of photographic experience in one of the families... wow!

However, thank you for sharing. It's very good insight, and
hopefully, something that others to follow will take note of and
adjust accordingly.

If there is something I might suggest should you try again sometime
in the future...

Couple a SB-900 with a SB-800 ready to go as a backup. Flash is just
as important as camera bodies as far as having a backup goes for
critical event shooting, but is a detail sometimes overlooked by
folks. In particular, the SB-800 seems to be more robust in such
circumstances for reasons that I do not fully understand at this
time. Some folks even couple a SB-900 with two SB-800s to allow for a
comfort zone with respect to recycle time and cool-down periods.

-- hide signature --

People that have a so called problems with SB900 are some that can't understand fact that when one use a flash one needs to think more and they don't so they get into some problems. Why and for what reasons anyone will shoot burst of shots of ordinary object ( people waking in a wedding ) with a flash at 5-8fps and complain that flash gets hot in a few seconds. Maybe its very fashionable to make a noise with a shutter in a church at a wedding but if same photogs will spend a energy to observe and look for crucial moments and be ready with positioning them self's and composing nice pictures with sniper mind set one shot one kill they will not have problems with a flash.
Mironv
http://mironv.smugmug.com/

 mironv's gear list:mironv's gear list
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samjstern
samjstern Veteran Member • Posts: 7,017
Well Bob, while

Ilia and Mironv are fighting it out about TTL flash
I must say that I sympathiize with you.
I have been under a rock and a hard place too over the years
many more time than I care to share. Mostly equipment failure.

But you got through it.
I hope you got some shots that you like.

I just got back from a wedding today.
The bride and groom were a hoot.
I had a ball with these people.

Have a stiff drink and I appreciate you being big enough to share with us.

Now I am going to sit back and watch Ilia and Mironv go at it.
I must say that on the onset I am in Mironv's corner about TTL.

ILia likes to talk in fables. He never really tells us the facts. He likes to talk around them.

I am hoping Mironv can get him to tell us and show us his method.

-- hide signature --
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OP bob elkind Veteran Member • Posts: 5,832
Miron...

Mironv wrote:
...

Of course you are right, Miron, but be assured that I was far from '5-8 FPS' when the SB-900 decided it was too warm inside the church. It was more like 1 FPS or less. I may have a defective SB-900, but doesn't excuse me for not having wrung out the SB-900 beforehand. My sin was not checking my gear.

-- hide signature --

Bob Elkind
Family,in/outdoor sports, landscape, wildlife
photo galleries at http://eteam.zenfolio.com
my relationship with my camera is strictly photonic

 bob elkind's gear list:bob elkind's gear list
Nikon D3300 Nikon D850 Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Tamron AF 28-75mm F/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical (IF) Tamron AF 28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD Aspherical (IF) Macro +6 more
Iliah Borg Forum Pro • Posts: 29,046
Re: Wedding confession

And what's is a TTL problem???

You can add another bunch of question marks. It does not change a thing.

Nikon iTTL never been better its so easy

Right (let's forget for a moment of the firmware issues), but easy is not always useful.

even cave man can do a flash work.

Are you trying to insult Bob?

-- hide signature --
OP bob elkind Veteran Member • Posts: 5,832
Iliah...

Iliah Borg wrote:

The biggest problem is using flashes indoors in TTL mode. It is an
incredibly wrong way of doing things. Worse is only BL-TTL.

Second problem is shutter speed when you have FL lights.

Yah, I know . Now you tell me!

-- hide signature --

Bob Elkind
Family,in/outdoor sports, landscape, wildlife
photo galleries at http://eteam.zenfolio.com
my relationship with my camera is strictly photonic

 bob elkind's gear list:bob elkind's gear list
Nikon D3300 Nikon D850 Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Tamron AF 28-75mm F/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical (IF) Tamron AF 28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD Aspherical (IF) Macro +6 more
Iliah Borg Forum Pro • Posts: 29,046
Re: Well Bob, while

I must say that on the onset I am in Mironv's corner about TTL.

Yeah, pushed to the same corner.

-- hide signature --
OP bob elkind Veteran Member • Posts: 5,832
Thanks, Miron

The Wedding Wizard wrote:
...

Nikon iTTL never been better its so easy even cave man can do a flash work.

Thanks for the compliment :=)

-- hide signature --

Bob Elkind
Family,in/outdoor sports, landscape, wildlife
photo galleries at http://eteam.zenfolio.com
my relationship with my camera is strictly photonic

 bob elkind's gear list:bob elkind's gear list
Nikon D3300 Nikon D850 Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Tamron AF 28-75mm F/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical (IF) Tamron AF 28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD Aspherical (IF) Macro +6 more
Iliah Borg Forum Pro • Posts: 29,046
Re: Iliah...

Thom posted his way of using flash indoors several times. I must say I use pretty much the same approach, just a different flash - 2-eye Metz potato smashers.

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samjstern
samjstern Veteran Member • Posts: 7,017
Re: Thanks, Miron

Yes sir,

I wonder how long it will be if ever before the flash master Iliah enlightens us so we can use HIS methos of indoor flash.

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Iliah Borg Forum Pro • Posts: 29,046
Re: Wedding confession

they are satisfied. They have the memories, regardless
of what you think of the pics. You did a wonderful deed for someone.
Feel good about yourself.

Ditto.

-- hide signature --
mironv Veteran Member • Posts: 9,778
Re: Thanks, Miron

samjstern wrote:

Yes sir,
I wonder how long it will be if ever before the flash master Iliah
enlightens us so we can use HIS methos of indoor flash.

-- hide signature --

I don't know Thom or Iliah methods but can share my very simple approach to flash.

After you read this you need to go and see pictures so you may have opinion if this is a look that you like or not but this is how I work with flash indoor.

I use my easy approach to interior shots. I don't meter or pay attention to a metering ambient light at all. I use however CW so flash metering is working in that settings. I walk in any interior average room or restaurant like in your shot and set shutter manually to starting point of 1/60 now I can go lower and how much it depends on how much movement people do and what amount of it I like to have in a shot. On wedding receptions I go as low as 1/10 whenever I like to include some movement of object. Now with out a flash I do 3-4 shots starting at 1/60 and mid f stop like f4-5.6 look only if brightest parts of room are getting correct or close exposure with out over blowing. In that you can work ISO up or down to keep this part set. Once you get your high lights of ambient in control turn flash on and EV0 take a shot. To much flash turn down on EV a bit till you get main object to your likings.

Once you do that you will notice that object is well illuminated you did not loose atmosphere of ambient light and darker parts of room getting better than with out a flash check up shots. Simply put light after exposing a main object is still going around and evens out ambient like fill in. You done. Only one thing you need to control EV on a flash in ITTL. That's all. If you move from one side of room to other and you notice that ambient is getting blown or darker lower a shutter speed or increase it. You don't need to worry about a f stop as flash will keep up as long as you have fresh battery's. Even when you think ceiling is to high to bounce position a flash head at small up angle to combat a direct strait flash shadows.

I often use 2-3 flashes at events like that but if you use one is fine to.
It can't get any simpler than that.
Mironv
http://mironv.smugmug.com/

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OP bob elkind Veteran Member • Posts: 5,832
followup on the subject of flash...

Iliah, Miron, and Sam are all accomplished photographers, and yet you guys have different techniques with regard to selection and use of flash. That should be surprising to no-one.

I would love to have such problems, as would many others. If life tells us anything, there is more than one way to shoot a wedding, and there is more than one way to use flash (or not use flash, per Fred James).

You guys have worked long and hard to perfect your techniques, and you are very very good at it. That's all that really needs to be said. I kinda think you guys would do well with a flashlight and a Brownie camera.

Printing out Sam's instructions, reading them once or twice, that won't make someone an instant wedding photographer. It's a starting point, a 'leg up' so to speak, on the learning curve. It took a lot of time and effort on Sam's part to come up with a distilled and consolidated set of settings, but you can't put years of experience (and talent) onto a cheatsheet... at least not all of it.

If I hadn't said so already, I appreciate the supporting comments (and condolences). I've learned a bunch from you guys.

-- hide signature --

Bob Elkind
Family,in/outdoor sports, landscape, wildlife
photo galleries at http://eteam.zenfolio.com
my relationship with my camera is strictly photonic

 bob elkind's gear list:bob elkind's gear list
Nikon D3300 Nikon D850 Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Tamron AF 28-75mm F/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical (IF) Tamron AF 28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD Aspherical (IF) Macro +6 more
Iliah Borg Forum Pro • Posts: 29,046
Re: followup on the subject of flash...

The way for those who rely on in-camera ISO:

Put the camera into M, set 1/30 (may be 1/15 or 1/60, depending on the level of ambient light) and f/4..f/5.6, determine the ISO for the perfect exposure of background. Now decreasethe ISO by 1 stop. Mount the flash, set it to A or AA. Fire, look at the result, dial the necessary compensation on the flash (I often have something like -1/3 to -2/3 EV).

-- hide signature --
Arkayem Contributing Member • Posts: 502
Re: Wedding confession

Hi Bob,

I have seen this same thing happen to many otherwise good photographers. Shooting weddings is more than just photography. It's knowing what will happen and when and always thinking ahead, coupled with good shooting. Sometimes, it's even coordinating the wedding.

As far as flash goes, I use only SB-800's and I shoot as fast as they will recycle. They get hot, but they don't shut down, and I have never had one burn up on me in five years of shooting weddings with them (except one time when I used a Quantum TC Hi V pack), and I shoot about 1500 images per wedding; 99% with flash. I also have a Q Flash as a backup if my SB-800s all die. I don't use it as primary, because it simply makes my rig too heavy.

You have to learn to think like your flash. You have to fully understand when to use TTL and when to use TTL-BL; when and when not to bounce; when to use pos and neg compensation, etc. You haven't got time to think about it during the heat of the shoot.

 Arkayem's gear list:Arkayem's gear list
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PinHeadPhotography Regular Member • Posts: 380
Re: Wedding confession

Poor guy, think of it this way; your camera could have failed on you. It's happened to me a few times. I had to work with my D70s (goodness its still in mint condition.)
--
...I'm a crazy kid...

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