Shooting a Wedding

A legally married couple, happy!

A legally married couple, happy!

The long awaited wedding of my son and his bride has come and gone. In this post, the emotional content is not the topic, though I hope it will appear in the example photos that I add as they develop. No, I want to talk about my experiences as a wedding photographer and the technicalities of the photographs.

So, about the lead image. I shot it with the Leica M Monochrom (Type 246) (let’s call it the Monochrom for the sake of brevity) and the Summicron M asph 35 mm f/2.0. What’s not quite so evident in the photo is that I had the SF40 flash in the hotshoe. The flash had the diffusor head fitted and was swiwelled up 45 degrees. It was in TTL mode. A fill-in for the shadows resulted but you don’t really see it.

The wedding guests on the church stairs

The wedding guests on the church stairs

Quite a different task here, different tools. During the closing section of the wedding service, me and two helpers left the church post haste. Johnny positioned himself camera left with the Profoto B1X flash head on a closed, but extended tripod. Zoom reflector on the head, which was quite high up and tilted down. Replacement for the sun essentially, that didn’t shine on this overcast day. Nick was camera right with the Profoto A1 with the diffusor dome to flash-fill the shadows. Unfortunately, I ordered him too close and didn’t have him lift the flash above his head, so these ugly and illogical for the artificial sun situation shadows on the church facade resulted. Didn’t stop to check my rear screen, should have …
I photographed with the Nikon D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 zoom at 27 mm. In manual mode, 1/250 s flash sync shutter speed, I measured for the ambient light and got f/5,6 at the base ISO of 200. The flashes were on TTL and did their thing. When the congratulation melee after the service came to an end, I mustered a military voice and ordered everyone onto the church steps. No further positioning necessary, this wedding party was socially self-ordering! I had everyone look at the lens, declared smiling optional and shot a few versions. This one is the best, everyone is on it with at least a quarter of their face … 😉

Toga at the Meißen overlook

Toga at the Meißen overlook

Between the wedding service and the reception, we roamed far and wide for the formal wedding photos. The bride knew the perfect spot, a balcony-like vantage point overlooking the inner city of Meißen on the left bank of the river Elbe and the Albrechtsburg.
Ghastly interlude: when we went there from the parking spot, the connector on my “UpStrap” aftermarket camera strap failed and the D800 with 70 – 200 mm f/2.8 on it crashed onto the asphalt from hip height. The lens hood took the brunt of it and split, the camera body got two minor scratches and both camera and lens were functioning normally afterwards. That’s pro gear for you! On the other hand, I won’t go near that crappy strap again!
Anyway, same camera and same lens (Nikon D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 zoom), this time at 35 mm, ISO 800, 1/640 s (So I was in High Speed Sync! Didn’t realize this at the time. The Profoto flashes so much get out of your way with their automation. They save a photographer’s ass!), f/5.6. That gave an underexposure of -0.67 EV for the ambient light. The weather had gotten worse, a slight drizzle had started. I put a medium warm gel on the Profoto B1X flash head and then the OCF beauty dish with diffusor over that. The flash was high up on the lamp stand over my right shoulder. I was going for a darker, blueish background but the skin tones need a bit more work in post to take some more of the orange gelled flashlight out of them. That will make the background bluer, as intended.
Apart from these technicalities: the bride tailored her wedding dress herself! Here, she gathers it like a Roman toga. Continuing the theme, she spent her wedding in comfortable sandals or proper, flat dancing shoes. What a sensible woman!

Couple portrait with aura

Couple portrait with aura

But something was missing, the previous shot was a bit flat. We needed a hair light! Franziska, a formally educated graphic designer and photographer, was with us and generously offered to crouch behind the bride and groom with the Profoto A1. Bare flash, no light modifiers, aimed above the couple’s heads. We took it out of TTL and into Manual, and reduced the power two f-stops down from the last TTL measurement. I left the main flash where it was and in TTL, but I took off the warm gel as I could already see that it would make my work difficult in post. Yes, I sometimes look at my rear screen while I shoot … O_o
The lens proved versatile enough for this double portrait, I set it to 70 mm, the other data were ISO 200, f/4.0 and 1/250 s. So, after the strap shock, I had found my brains again and taken it out of HSS. There still is hope.

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The eve-of-the-wedding-WeeGee party

On the eve of the church wedding, there was no stag party, but an informal event at the bride’s parents’. When a word-guessing game with the double-entendre topic “Hai-Raten” started, I found myself sat in a corner of the room in a comfy, but low armchair. Luckily, I had the Monochrom in hand, 35 mm Summicron M asph and SF40 flash mounted. ISO 800, 1/180 flash synch shutter speed, f/5.6 for two of them, f/9,3 for the one with the lamp in the picture. The room was sparsely lit with a few incandescent bulbs, so this time the flash was the main light. Again, it was fitted with the diffusor hood and swiveled up at least 45 degrees. Still, the lighting was harsh with a rapid falloff into the background. The Monochrom with it’s fabulous sensor kept details in both the highlights and the shadows. In post-processing, I could therefore go for an increased macro-contrast while leaving the micro-contrast as it came out of the camera. I was going for a mood like in the New York reportage photos of WeeGee. And doesn’t the 35 mm lens look wide if you arrange your subjects close to the edges of the frame?

Postproduction in Lightroom

Postproduction in Lightroom

It is like this: a wedding photographer’s work is far from finished when the last frame is shot. The weekend after the wedding, the newly married couple came to see me and helped separate the wheat from the chaff. The digital photographer’s harvester combine is Lightroom, in my case it’s Lightroom Classic CC with the network functions switched off. We used the scoring system with the number keys 3 to 8. A number 3 to 5 imparts the respective number of stars, meaning anything rated like this goes into further processing. The 6 key makes the frame of the image in the film strip red, meaning this is a photo we liked a lot. The 7 key makes the frame yellow, meaning it is in post-processing and needs more work. Finally, the 8 key makes the frame green, I mark them this way when I export them (see below) and then I’m finished. All green …

Closeups take a circuitous route over Photoshop.

Closeups take a circuitous route over Photoshop.

The time spent scoring the photos pays off when you use Lightroom as a photo management AND processing tool over several days. The task looks less daunting if you mask out the chaff (starred below 3) in the film strip. One thing’s for sure, the job’s much too big for a single sitting! This way, you stay organized and keep a fresh, critical eye by doing it in stages. Lightroom and Photoshop are well integrated and if a portrait like the one above needs more work, you right-click it in Lightroom to open it in Photoshop. In this case, I added a layer by copy, applied Imagenomic’s Portraiture plugin to this layer to smooth out the juvenile skin, did a color range selection on the skin tone, made a layer mask with that selection, collapsed layers, saved, bingo, good skin! Pro tip: don’t overdo it with Portraiture or similar plugins, otherwise everybody will look like they were made out of silicone!

This is where it all ends up.

This is where it all ends up.

For now, the last step in that post processing pilgrim process ( they should have named Photoshop “P^4”, P to the fourth power 😉 ) is an export preset in Lightroom that’s uploading JPEGs to a site on the groom’s server while also saving them to Apple Photos on my Mac. When I’m through with all selected photos, the wedding guests will get login credentials for that site, their perusal and hopefully, enjoyment. Plus, we already printed some.
Still, much work to do. I relive the wedding this way, a delight!

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2 Responses to “Shooting a Wedding”

  1. Mirrorlessless | Mostly Black & White Says:

    […] being ungrateful and have been replacing the Nikon D800 that served me so well shooting the wedding with a new body. Ten days ago at Photokina, mirrorless system cameras were all the rage. I had a […]

  2. Test Drive | Mostly Black & White Says:

    […] planning the financial intricacies necessary to purchase this camera. I’ll have to sell the wedding‘s first and second spare cameras and their individual accessories, then I could just afford […]

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