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Andrew Billington Photographyon

Thursday, 17 February 2011

A Narrative Approach to Wedding Photography, Part 2

This is the second of a series of articles I'm currently writing - thought I'd pop it on the blog. More will follow in the next few weeks....

In the first part I touched on what I think makes good wedding photography - how it should be a personal choice, a story that YOU want to tell, an aesthetic that is your vision - and in saying this it simply means that I can't hope to dictate or impose the sort of images that you should be shooting nor would I. So simply over the next few articles I'm going to talk about how I prepare for a wedding shoot, what I look for, how I conduct myself, how I choose to shoot and how I post-process the images afterwards. Take from it what you will but make it your own.
Pre-shooting Preparation:
There are three fronts on which I have to make sure I'm prepared. Firstly, equipment. I always have 2 camera bodies with me (and I'm often shooting on both) and if I'm away for a night doing two consecutive weddings I'll have a third body locked in the boot of my car just in case. The night before a shoot I make sure that cameras are cleaned, lenses dust free, batteries charged, spare batteries charged, memory cards formatted, cameras are pre-set to the settings I anticipate I'll be using so I only have to make minor adjustments straight out of the bag. Flashes are checked and re-chargable batteries topped up with spares ready to go. My current equipment list is as follows but it's only how I shoot and I am using Canon cameras for the simple reason that I learnt on them and know them well (I don't get into the Canon/Nikon/Sony debate):
- Canon 5D mk 2
- Canon 1D mk 4
- 28mm Prime (wide and great in low light) - hotel rooms and family houses
- 50mm Prime (classic documentary length) - Reception and congratulations
- 85mm Prime (great close portrait lens) - Ceremony in smaller rooms, portraits
- 135mm Prime (Superb fast telephoto) - Big churches, reception and speeches
- 16-35mm (ultra-wide and a bit funky) - Evening Dance
Flashes, batteries, spare batteries, cleaning material, lens hoods for everything, memory cards, off-camera flash cable, business cards, water, snacks, breath mints.
Secondly, details about the day. I talk to my couples about the day the first time they make an enquiry - I want to know what their choices are and how they are tailoring the day to suit them. I then meet up with them at the venue about a month before to make sure I have the final timetable of how the day is to run and any last minute thoughts, ideas or special things that they might have decided (write EVERYTHING down, you won't remember it the night before or on the day). Then armed with all this information I can tailor my photography to their day. The night before I make myself a crib sheet that I can slip into my pocket and refer to on the day (it has on it the timetable, anything special things of note and when they might occur, any special requests and on the reverse a list of all the formal shots requested).
Thirdly, and this is the most esoteric of everything I do, I prepare mentally for the day ahead. I rehearse the day in my mind - when and where are things happening, what space is available to me, what's the journey between venues, how long am I physically shooting before a break, what shots do I want to achieve (now this might fly in the face of a documentary approach but I want to make sure I've 'banked' certain shots to create a framework for the story of the day and then I can hang the reactive and situation led shots on that). I get my head into a place that is calm, observant, reactive and hopefully tuned to the day ahead.
Next time what happens when, after all this preparation, I step into a room full of people getting ready and try to put everything into practice.

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