Wedding Lens - Recommendations/Advice

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by mthao00, Jul 24, 2008.

  1. mthao00 macrumors member

    Aug 24, 2007
    My cousin, who is the groom, has volunteered me to be the main and only photographer at his wedding in two weeks. I'm what you would call a "beginner" when it comes to shooting events.

    Now, he's my cousin and understands the difference between hiring me and a professional photographer. I'm definitely going to try my best though.

    I currently have a D80 with a SDHC 4GB card. I'm renting a SB-800, 17-55mm, and the 70-200 VR lens from a local rental shop. It's going to be the first time using all three rental components.

    Truthfully, I'm nervous. Not about the lens and the shots I want to shoot but about light and using the flash. It's an outdoor wedding.

    I'm also purchasing an extra SDHC 4GB card and battery.

    Need your encouragement and tips. haha...

    mT :apple:
  2. gauchogolfer macrumors 603


    Jan 28, 2005
    American Riviera
    I'm no photographer, but my advice to you is sit with the bride and groom beforehand to find out what shots they want you to take. I.e. ring exchange, closeups, shots of the attendants, guests, etc. As long as you get those required shots in I think they'll be happier.

    I'll leave the technical stuff to the pros here.
  3. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    My first bit of serious advice is that if you can, get out of it. Shooting weddings can be very difficult, and more importantly it can alter relationships for years to come. I've had weddings where I wasn't happy with the shots, but the couple was, and one where I loved the shots, the groom was happy and the bride wasn't- and that was held over his head.

    Seriously, if you can- get out of it unless *everyone* with a stake (bride, groom, parents, parents-in-law) really understands that wedding photography isn't going to suddenly become your skillset in the next week.

    If you won't or can't get out of it (don't say I didn't warn you!) then rent the gear for at least a day this week to practice- at the same time, so you know where the sun will be, and also for the rehearsal, where you can practice some more. A wedding isn't the time to figure out how much fill flash to dial in.

    Get your shot list, get someone delegated to chase down folks for shots, make sure you've gotten dos and don'ts from the venue and the officiant as well.

    Make sure you can either go wide enough with the flash or arrange well enough for the group shots to work well. Make sure you have extra batteries, as well as extra storage.

    Without an assistant or second shooter, you'll have to figure out where the best photo ops will be for the pre-wedding stuff, and don't go getting trashed at the bachelor's party- you'll need to be up early for the getting ready pictures.

    Oh, and don't forget to smack your cousin for volunteering you- hard enough and publicly enough that you don't end up doing three more weddings this summer for other family members ;)
  4. Rotary8 macrumors regular

    Oct 24, 2006
    nikon 17-55 2.8.

    But like what the guy above said. There's a risk in ruining that once in a lifetime moment.
  5. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    I think the best wedding photographers are those who know how to direct people. Candid shots and details are all well and good, but the couple will be really disappointed if they don't get that "money shot" portrait to hang on the wall and distribute to relatives. Getting that perfect portrait will mean telling them where to stand, how to stand, where to put their hands, how to angle their heads, and then saying something to distract them and get them to smile or laugh naturally. You'll also have to play director for the group family portraits. People at a wedding tend to loose their normal sense of perspective. They freeze up, get distracted easily, don't know to pose, and will therefore need your guidance.

    In addition, I think it's important to be inconspicuous for all the other types of shots. Wear all black, don't stand out, and don't get in the way of things.
  6. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    The other advice you got is good. Make a list of "must have shots" I'd go as far a making stick figure sketches of those shots before hand.

    But one this I'll add is that make sure that part about "It's going to be the first time using all three rental components" goes away. Very BAD idea. There is not reason for it. Rent the equipmet a day or two in advance and shoot pictures of a stand-in model and then run those images all they way through your workflow. Do this more then once. Shoot hundreds of frames with all the equipment. I would say the same if you were going to Europe on vacation NEVER use "new to you" equipment for importent work. There is no reason to do it.

    There are many things you have no control over and well have to react to but you DO have control over when you pickup the equipment and if you use it before the wedding.

    Also bring a backup even if it is a point and shoot.
  7. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    I think your equipment is fine. I've been to a wedding last weekend and the guy used a 40D + grip, a 300D + grip (backup) with a 28-105 and a 50 mm lens + EX430 flash gun. He had a little helper in the beginning with a D200 and a 70-200 Nikkor. Suddenly my equipment didn't feel so puny after all, hehe :D

    His photos were good and what helped was that he was involved and both, the bride and the groom, knew exactly what they wanted and how they wanted it. This is a big advantage. Talk to the people before hand, ask them what they want shots of and what the ceremony is going to be like. Check the location and talk to the priest and couple what working distance they feel comfortable with.

    Equipmentwise, I think you're fine. I've shot a wedding as an unpaid wedding photographer with a D80 and it's a great camera :)
    I wish I had a tripod in church (I didn't even get a budget to rent equipment), I recommend you have one, too (that's the only thing missing from your list, except loads of batteries for the flash, you can never have enough batteries!).

    So for example, I was told during the ceremony that I was allowed (rather: required) to be on the altar -- everybody knew, except for the guy who was supposed to take pictures! There are a few money shots you need (kiss, ring, picture in front of church, dance with father/mother, etc.), but most of them are no brainers. Good luck!
  8. mthao00 thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 24, 2007
    Thanks everyone for the advice and warnings. haha... I'll be renting the 17-55 and sb-800 to test this weekend at a picnic. Not the same type of scenario but there'll be people there.

    Hopefully the weather will be the same for both weekends. I know I know... Prepare for all situations.

    Keep the comments coming...
  9. Rotary8 macrumors regular

    Oct 24, 2006
    if you're the only photographer, I'd try to borrow/rent another camera as a possible backup. If anything happens to your main body then you're screwed and so are the bride and groom.
  10. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    What you "need" to do is borrow a backup DSLR, bring 2-3 memory cards, etc. If your camera stuffs up, you'll need a backup. If you don't have one, you'll definitely ruin the wedding photos. ;) Also, having 2 cameras means that you won't need to switch lenses.

    Also, check out the venue if you can. Get a feel for the focal lengths you think you'll need, environment (backgrounds), etc. Just get feel for the lighting and such, and imagine where you'd stand if you needed to be in Room 1, or Room 6, etc.
  11. Renderz macrumors 6502

    Feb 27, 2004
    Hi MT,

    I've got the essentials below, I do consider them essentials. I don't skip on any of the things below.

    • DOUBLE up on everything. Backup camera, backup battery, backup memory cards. Don't risk their big day by not being over prepared, you won't get another chance
    • Be assertive, most people will need direction and will be looking at you to pose them
    • Be prepared, scout the location, speak the the couple to know what type of shots they want
    • Prepare a shot list so you know from the couple which are the MUST HAVE photos
    • Relax, have fun, it's a huge responsibility but remember if you look stressed that will not get you repeat work
    • KNOW your equipment, 2 weeks should be long enough to get familiar with your gear
    • Practise in varied locations, lighting conditions and subjects
    • Candid shots are usually the photos the work the best; with your 70-200mm you will be able to capture some stunning moments.

    I hope that helps. PM me if you have questions.
  12. gwuMACaddict macrumors 68040


    Apr 21, 2003
    washington dc
    Ditto. This is seriously excellent advice, all the way around. WTF was your cousin doing waiting until 2 weeks out to book a photographer? :confused::eek:
  13. pprior macrumors 65816

    Aug 1, 2007
    Don't do it.

    If you do, you are WAY understocked on CF cards. Having only 1 body is asking for trouble. Multiple charged batteries. Do you REALLY know how to shoot fill flash and expose for it properly? Outside sunlight weddings can be disaster for an unexperienced photographer due to lighting variation and harsh shadows. Watch for stippled shadows - they are the worst and impossible to fix with flash or in post.

    Did I mention don't do it? If you do, please post results however so we can give you a pat on the back for bravery :)
  14. vga4life macrumors 6502

    Jun 16, 2004
    My better half (a pro but who doesn't normally do weddings) and I shot my sister's wedding. We have MFA (photo) and BFA (film) degrees respectively. We were equipped - multiple bodies, fast lenses, a mix of 35mm, 6x7, and digital, etc.

    The photos came out fine but we both vowed never, ever to do it again.


    If pro photogs are like doctors, wedding photographers are like ER trauma surgeons or battlefield medics. It's a stressful environment to begin with, and knowing the people involved makes it that much more stressful.
  15. blackstone macrumors regular

    Dec 12, 2005
    Washington, DC
    I once agreed to shoot the wedding of two close friends, although I was not doing it alone -- another friend of the couple (also an avid photographer) was also shooting. The two of us split up the shots, coordinating everything beforehand. Although I had never done a wedding before, I did have a lot of experience doing event photography for various publications in college. It was exciting, but very stressful. I'm not sure that I would do it again.

    Based on my own experience and your self-description, my advice is:
    If you can possibly back out of this, back out now. You've said you are a "beginner" at shooting events. Shooting a wedding is one of the most difficult events you can possibly shoot. There are many moments that you must capture, and there is no chance for a re-do. There are many people that you must capture -- as in, every single guest at the wedding -- and you must get flattering pictures of all of them. And everything runs on a very tight clock. Even if you think you have ample time, you don't -- it goes by incredibly quickly.

    If you can't back out, however, then here's what you need to do to avoid a complete meltdown:
    1. Get another photographer to help out, or at least an assistant. You'll find that there are many times when you have to be in two places at once, with too many things for one person to keep track of. If you can actually be in two places at once, then you have a fighting chance of getting most of what you need to shoot, shot.
    2. Rent a second camera body. As others have said above, this is important both to reduce the amount of time you spend swapping lenses, and to ensure you have one working body if something goes wrong with your D80.
    3. Get spare batteries and CF cards. The most important batteries will be your flash batteries. You will burn through at least one set of flash batteries during the course of the wedding, possibly more. And you need to make sure you have enough CF cards and camera battery life to make it through everything. Estimate what you will likely use, and then come prepared with at least double that.
    4. Get very familiar with the equipment you'll be using. Everything will be happening extremely quickly. You will be running entirely on your instinctive sense of how your equipment works and whether it has any quirks you need to accommodate. You do not have time to fiddle with unfamiliar equipment.
    5. Plan everything. Several days before the wedding, get a schedule from the bride and groom. Walk around the site and figure out where everything will be, and do some pre-planning of where you will be during the ceremony and where you will do the portraits. Do some test shots. And then wake up early the morning of the wedding to make sure that the weather and everything else will allow you to stick to your plan.
    6. Prepare a list. Find out who the important family members and friends are, and make a list. Make sure you take photos of them, and plan for posed group shots if necessary.
    7. Prepare for disaster. Something in your plans will go awry. Be prepared for your batteries to go dead, your body to break, your lenses to fog at a crucial moment, or for a catering truck to park where you had planned to shoot the posed shots. Think of backup plans for every eventuality beforehand so that you do not panic during the wedding.
    8. Keep your eyes open. On the day of the wedding, you want to capture not just the set pieces, but also the serendipity. Don't get so focused on the plan that you forget to look around for unexpected moments!

    Good luck. You'll need it!

    Edited to add: I should reiterate that if you can possibly avoid doing this, then that's the best course of action. You have a lot to lose in terms of your relationship with your cousin and cousin-in-law-to-be, and very little to gain. And the less experience you have with event shooting and with your equipment, the more likely it is that big things will go wrong.
  16. Renderz macrumors 6502

    Feb 27, 2004
    A friend of mine is very smart, handles serious dollar negotiations, is well respected in his company but photographing weddings scares the crap out of him!

    I know there is pressure, but it's not the scariest thing in the world. I love em!! I enjoy the pressure and the buzz.
  17. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    Probably some of these posts have scared you a bit, but I think as long as you clearly communicate your experience and what you get is what you pay for, then it'll be alright.

    I found it exciting (I don't like to sit through long ceremonies, especially if part of them are in a language you don't understand and last longer than 1 hour) and I was complimented for being very discrete.

    One practical piece of advice: if you have `action' shots (e. g. ring, kiss, things you cannot repeat or set up), leave more space in the picture and crop a little less than usual. You can crop always later. In my case, it has increased the number of good pictures :)
  18. Mattjeff macrumors 6502


    Jun 2, 2008
    Ok I understand where these people are coming from with warning you but don't get all nervous about it if your stuck. I asume that your locked in by now and its a bad thing to go into a wedding (or any shoot) and be nervous as hell. I did a great wedding about 3 months ago and I am in no way a wedding photographer.

    BlackStone had some great advice that I will second.

    Get another photographer to help out, or at least an assistant.
    I had my sister around and she could at least be a gofer for me.

    Rent a second camera body.
    This helps Soooo much! Time between switching a lens may not seem that bad when your just casually shooting but those "moments" happen very fast!

    Get spare batteries and CF cards.
    A must! Cards and batteries will burn up fast! And when your out, your out.

    Get very familiar with the equipment.And location you'll be using.
    Know your lenses well before you go. If possible go before the day of and check it out. The day of show up early and see what it looks like.

    Prepare a list.
    Create a list of shots they want. If it helps just google "shots at a wedding list" or something and it should get you some ideas. I take it you will know most of the people there but its still good to also make a list of people to get shots of.

    Prepare for disaster.

    Keep your eyes open.

    hope this helps you!
    Best of luck!
  19. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    Have you ever been to a wedding? Do you know the schedule of the event and etiquette of the photographer (you can't be 3 inches away from them during the ceremony, etc)?

    Important: know when, where things are going to happen, and where people would be standing.

    - 18-55 f2.8 lens is perfect for 1.5 magnification factor camera
    - 50mm f1.4 lens if you are going to shoot events in low light situations (reception dinner, etc)
    - With the tele, if you are shooting more than 130mm (200mm with magnification factor of 1.5x), then you are too far. I take it it's the f2.8?

    - Test the equipment. Learn the controls (download the camera manual online if you don't have it yet).
    - Spare equipment (never had a professional camera fail but had a $600 flash fail with no back up), even a point and shoot digital that is good quality can do.
    - Spare battery and charger with you (know how many shots a battery can do, how long it takes to charge, and how many shoots you are going to do).

    I take the budget is too low to hire an assistant. The cost would be >$150 per day for a competent assistant.

    All the testing, education, experience, backup equipment all cost money and thus have value, so wedding photographers have to charge properly. Note photographers have to pay their own health, liability insurance, hire accountant, etc. before getting anywhere close to making a profit that would be close to normal salary.
  20. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Oct 9, 2005
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    If you really go through with this, you had better reassess your memory card situation. 8 GB is nowhere near enough. Ditto for the battery. You will need a heckuva lot more than two 4 GB cards and 2 camera batteries. The same applies to the SB-800: you'll need a LOT of batteries for it, too.

    Do yourself a huge favor. Tell your cousin that you simply cannot do this, that you do not have the appropriate experience or the appropriate equipment for such a venture. Unfortunately many people think that there's not much to taking photos at a wedding and that Uncle Joe or Aunt Suzie or Cousin Billy can use their "fancy camera" -- maybe it's a decent DSLR and maybe it's not -- and bring home great shots. Well, maybe they can and maybe they can't and, well, this is a once-in-a-lifetime deal. There IS a difference between snapshots and more professional-looking images which can be printed in an 8 x 10 and hung on the wall. If you blow it the happy couple will not have wonderful photos of their wonderful day and what might have been a good relationship in the past stands to be sorely tried and perhaps destroyed. Do you want to risk this?

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