First off I never intended to shoot weddings.
I take photos because I love to take photos for too many reasons to list here. I do not mind the occasional portrait or event shoots. I enjoy pro bono photo work for a good cause or to help a friend. Weddings are different. Huge expectations are automatically attached on one of the most special/stressful days of people’s lives. Had safeguards for weddings though.
- Strangers and those who I did not know well were easy to say no to. Who knows what potential horrors hide behind a seemingly friendly face.
- Up to this point, those I was familiar with that asked were not willing to pay anywhere near a reasonable rate. And weddings are one shoot I will not do for free or near free.
Weddings are way too much work with too high expectations to take lightly or eat costs.
Then there is Ed.
Ed started work at my job the same week as I transitioned to the team he was hired to.
Sat us next to each other and we hit it off right off the bat. In short order we became very good friends.
Fast forward a few years and he asked me to photograph his daughter’s wedding. He then hit me with a two-part Ed tactic.
- He would not accept no.
- He told me to name my price.
Dang it Ed. So now I am shooting a wedding.
And so now here we go. Overkill is my normal state. I once brought a Mamiya RZ67 (Which I once dubbed cinder block to my Hasselblad brick.) on a monopod…
…to an indoor trampoline park birthday party and it was not even my kid’s party. I had a ball. Especially fun was how folks ducked out of the way like it was a giant video camera. Fun shots.
Also, there was the time I tasked myself with capturing family reunion honorees. Could have used any number of digital and film cameras including a Pentax K-1 I had recently acquired when I was on a Pentax bender…
…but instead, I bought and thoroughly practiced with a simple constant 3 light setup to use with a Hasselblad 501c.
Years later I am glad I did. Two of the five honorees are no longer with us. One lost was my dearly departed grandmother.
In retrospect, I am glad I overdid it. This picture provided me comfort at a time when I really needed it reminding me of the importance of capturing special moments.
Add a friend entrusting me with his daughter’s day and saying “I trust you” means I will be more OCD than usual with this.
Where: Four Fillies Lodge, Peterstown, WV
- Apologies upfront to any WV resident and WV native readers, but this gave me pause. Perhaps popular media and news feeds have maligned WV unfairly, but the first word that came to mind was not “yay”. Sorry. True to expectations we were stared down by a roadside pitbull and child as we drove down a narrow road at one point which led me to emit a low, sustained groan. Otherwise fine though. Most events took place at the lodge so we were good. The folks at Dollar General and Shoney’s (Whose gift shop had some agita inducing T-shirts and WV branded whiskey flasks. First time I have seen a whiskey flask outside of a Western movie.) were quite cordial. Also helped that my wife and I drove a pickup truck.
When: Months away.
- This was appreciated since it gave plenty of time for me
to second guess mys… I mean to prepare. Also, let me know that I was not an afterthought which helped.
Who: A wonderful young lady that I have been hearing about for years and her fiancee.
- Never met them beforehand, but they are Ed’s folks so they have to be cool. Did text with them which helped.
Expectations: A few formal photos, but they did not want it to be too structured. Mostly candid and journalistic. The bride did not want anything too stuffy or pose-y.
- Ding, ding, ding. Right up my alley. A short shot list was provided before the event but was left to do as I pleased for the most part. Dream customers essentially. And they were chill chill not pretend, say I’m chill and then worry you to death customers.
What did I do to prepare?
Learn the venue.
- While the site was too far away to visit beforehand I learned as much as I could about the event and venue as possible by visiting the venue’s website and communicating with their staff, Ed, and the bride to be.
- The wedding itself would take place outside in a wooded area mid-afternoon. Happy they avoided high noon.
Check the weather and timing.
- The first concern with an outside wedding was what to do if the weather did not play along. But it did. Slightly overcast afternoon sun with no falling weather. Perfect. Too rough and they would have likely moved the proceedings inside.
Choose the right gear.
- Made changes to my gear lineup in preparation for this event. I had a full-frame and a crop Sony camera at the time. Mismatched sensor sizes would complicate matters unnecessarily and would not provide a proper equivalent main body back up. Found this out during a previous formal event shoot. So when Sony put the A7II (Since traded for an A7c.) on sale recently for an insane price of $899 (Has since returned to a still very reasonable price.) I quickly traded my a6000 towards it.
- The plan was to cover 28-200mm with two zooms during the wedding outside. Coverage was more important than the maximum aperture. Inside I would switch to two primes to cover near and far subjects. Also brought some on-camera flashes for fill outside and just in case for inside. Battery grips were purchased also. In addition to ergonomics, I had the A7II before and it will require two batteries. Here is the kit used.
- Really held its own against the newer III. Other than battery life and the whole one card slot thing it was every bit the match for the newbie A7III. As much as I love the A7III a two A7II set up would really make sense. Traded for the newly released A7c.
- Best all around-er in camera-dome in my opinion. Does everything well and few things fantastically.
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD
- Best wide to tele zoom value, period.
- Best lens I have ever owned. Still great, but since replaced with the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 for reasons outlined in the link.
Rokinon/Samyang AF 45mm f/1.8 FE
- My favorite 50-ish lens.
- Since replaced by the larger, but brighter Rokinon/Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE… until I went on a Canon STM RF 50mm jag for a minute and then went back and bought this 45mm f/1.8 again.
- A great lens.
- Since replaced by the slightly brighter Rokinon/Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 FE… and then a Canon RF 85mm f/2 jag before coming back to Rokinon/Samyang with their 75mm f/1.8.
Vello BG-S3 Battery Grip for Sony Alpha a7 II, A7S II & a7R II
Vello BG-S6 Battery Grip for Sony a9 and a7 III Series Cameras
- At $79.99 a pop these are a screaming bargain. Not as solid as Sony versions, but these have performed flawlessly. The A7III variant is especially well built and can charge the batteries in grip.
- A second battery is not needed for the A7III since they use the newer, larger Sony battery like the A7c. The grip helped with the larger and heavier Sony 70-200mm f/2.8, but is not really needed for the smaller, and lighter Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8.
- If you have an A7II A second battery will be needed for an all day shoot.
- Great bargain and worked perfectly this day. Used with bounce card it worked perfectly outside and inside.
- I also brought a 4×5 and a medium format favorite just in case but never used them. Perhaps with more time permitting. Sony really did the job this day.
- Being more of a mobile, opportunistic affair did not allow for setting up stands and I did not have a voice-activated light stand so I did not have an opportunity to use the excellent Godox AD200.
Things I learned:
- My wife came with me and it was truly great to have her supportive voice nearby. She was key to my success that day.
A large vehicle helps.
- Brought a large truck. No particular reason for bringing a beast of burden, but its large size paid dividends. Made carrying the gear a snap. But I actually ended up ferrying the bride and groom at one point and carrying them in comfort worked out quite well.
24MP is really enough.
- For a prior formal event, I had an A7RII w/ 42MP available to me. Sounded good on paper, but I do not tend to blow up to poster size and I do not crop often and when I do it is not by much. So what I had was a camera that did create great, detailed, pixel peep friendly images, but also kicked my run of the mill laptop in the gut and filled up my cloud storage at an alarming clip. Laptop sluggishness is not an issue with my daily use, but every time I have a project with a large number of photos it became quite an issue time-wise. So I traded it for an A7III when it was released and have not had a great interest in the latest and greatest MP war cameras. This leads me to my next point.
I still needed a more powerful laptop.
- I am the type that will buy the latest camera and use an old dusty SD Card in it because it’ll do. I had that same mentality with laptops, but this wedding was the last straw. There was no external rush, but even at 24MP it took me days to get through what I could have processed in a day or two with a proper setup. This led me to deep-dive research media laptops. Conclusion? Gaming laptops. Lower tier gaming machines offer great value. They do away with unnecessary bells and whistles and offer great grunt for the dollar. The spec list below can be had for less than $1400 all day with a 17″ or 15″ screen. Look for sales and holiday markdowns and you might do even better. Personal preference, but I chose a 17″ model to serve as a portable all in one rather than a traditional laptop. A 15″ model would do for most.
- 15″ or 17″ display
- 16MB RAM minimum
- 1TB+ hard drive
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 graphics
- SD Reader (A surprising number do not have this)
- The difference between the laptop I had, which was not bad just not up to the task, was immediately noticeable. So much so I cackled the first time Lightroom immediately responded to my inputs. It has cut hours from my large project post-processing time.
- Once I put the camera down, similar to when I put the mic down for my other hobby, I revert to type as an introvert. As such I negotiate my price for all of my efforts upfront and deliver a blog site backed by a cloud gallery. From there the customer can share, download, print, and such to your heart’s content. Has been well received by all so far. For a “seasoned” group I included an instruction page that provided online printing recommendations/instructions as well as listing local businesses for those that desired/required that human touch.
Black and White is your friend.
- Nothing new here. The dance floor was bathed in red and blue lights at times. I love black and white anyway so instead of fighting with the lights I used the lights for a bit of illumination in what would be cave lighting otherwise knowing I would convert them to black and white after the fact.
- I endeavored not to take myself too seriously and connect with the family and guests. Shared many a laugh with guests and it was a great time.
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