As they say, careful what you wish for! Right? I signed off my previous post with...
“As much work as this has been, I'm almost wishing I had another low key wedding lined up so I could immediately refine and apply lessons learned.”
Just a few months later, here I am wrapping up my second wedding shoot. So, how did this one go? Certainly not low key, but wow, what an experience!
Benito and Judy are a beautiful couple, this was a lovely ceremony at a fantastic venue in downtown Portland, Oregon. As a photographer, it was a whirlwind of a shoot - we were time boxed tight, with just one hour to capture some quick portraits before the ceremony. Judy and Benito were fantastic sports, gracious as I invited/pulled them from the reception a few times to capture additional portraits in the evening light. The day unfolded beautifully, so many moments filled with emotion.
One of those moments was the money dance. This was a first for me, what a sweet tradition! Judy and Benito explained it in our pre-wedding meetup, but it still brought tears to my eyes as I watched it play out. So many couples lined up, each waiting a minute before stepping in to pin bills to the dress and tux, then a turn to dance with the bride and groom. A very sweet way to support the new couple.
As usual, I’m shooting with the excellent Fuji X system. The Fuji cameras are small and approachable, these aren’t monsters that intimidate folks when pointed in their direction. Just by their physical design they help keep things light, casual, natural, even striking some curiosity here and there. Yet the image quality is deceivingly superb.
I mixed in a few new tools. As usual I rented a Fuji X-T1 body from BorrowLenses.com, adding to my own Fuji X-E1 kit. I also rented the fantastic Fuji XF 50-140mm f/2.8 lens. I’ve been looking forward to shooting with this lens, and I was blown away by the performance. The constant aperture is a perfect match made for my manual shooting style, and that image stabilizing was something to behold! This pairing is sure to find its way onto my rental list for every wedding and event to come.
I also recently added a Wescott 32” Rapid Box to my own kit. Beautiful soft light spills out from two speed lights, filtered past an internal deflector and baffle. This medium sized box is solid yet easily portable, did I mention beautiful and forgiving light? My 24” Strobies box has been relegated to kicker light duty.
So, what worked well this time around? For one, planning! I met with the bride and groom a few times to plan details, we created a solid contract, schedule and shot list. The night before the wedding I compiled my notes into a mini spiral notebook, one of those pocket size affairs that I could throw into the camera bag and refer to throughout the day. That worked brilliantly and I’ll do it every time. In that notebook were shot lists, the poses I wanted to try for, location notes I scribed when I first arrived to the venue, important names, even some lighting tips - basically anything I would possibly need during a brain freeze. Even though circumstances on the day of the wedding forced our plans to change we were OK because I knew what was important to Judy and Benito.
Another essential was my assistant, my daughter Abigail. She handled the camera bag, extra body, lenses and speedlights. I would hand her a body, she would hand me the other - instant focal length change. Tools were always in reach, lens changes were simple, and I could concentrate on using the camera in my hand without worrying about the rest of the gear. I’m finding that shooting with an assistant is an essential part of shooting in a fast paced environment, and Abigail is a great help!
A few lessons learned. First, I’m absolutely adding Fuji’s XF 10-24mm to my rental list next time! My own XF 18-55mm is nice, but just not quite wide enough for the drama I can get from the 10-24mm. I think I could shoot an entire event with just the 10-24mm on one body and the 50-140mm on the other. A second welcome addition would be remotely adjustable speed lights. My four YN-506 speed lights were in use constantly, two in the softbox, the others on stands to light the venue. It would have been nice to control intensities from the camera, I’m looking to upgrade to the newer models that add this feature. Another note-to-self is how important rim lighting is - though we were moving so fast I was lucky just to have time to nail a one light setup. My kit needs more CTO gels - one MagMod system is not enough, I think I’ll pick up a second! And time, certainly, the more time we have to shoot together the better - though I think we did amazing work together in the tight timeline we had.
We talked about style a bit in the last wedding post, and I feel I am getting closer to describing my own style. I tend toward a somewhat desaturated look. Pushing back cool colors, pulling up warm colors. A bit of split toning for warm brown highlights and cooler shadows. For darker shots I tend toward a bolder chrome look, for brighter shots toward airy skin tones and dusty colors.
One debate I continue having with myself is how to speed my Lightroom process. I’m dialing in my own recipes, creating some of my own presets, but I sure do like playing with the sliders - all the sliders over and over again - to tune in my own look. I’m unsure how much a pre-made preset system will improve my efficiency, I keep going back and forth on this one. The Fstoppers system looks excellent, but that’s bunches of money if I end up pushing it aside to do my own thing anyway. Any tips from those of you who have a preset system?
There it is. One weekend photographer, two little cameras, a fabulous day! Congrats Judy and Benito, you are a beautiful couple. And hats off to West End Ballroom, Cheryl’s on 12th for catering, and Deblin McKnight who ran it all like clockwork - You all pulled off a great day! (In fact, it was Deblin who suggested the alley shot from the “secret window” above. Nice tip Deblin!)
For now I’m holding off on making my next wish... until I’ve had at least a few weekends to rest.