The weddings we shoot will not always be filled with supermodels. The bridal party will not always be the most cooperative. The lighting will not always be perfect. As professionals, we have to overcome challenges on every shoot. It is our job to provide the best images we can to our clients no matter what problems may arise. You can either complain about problems or make excuses after the fact, or you can put your mind to overcoming any obstacle that is put in front of you.
By simply changing the phrase “I can’t” to “How can”; will allow you to exercise your creativity. Saying “I can’t” is like sitting on the couch eating potato chips, when you know the lawn needs to be mowed. Your brain is like any other muscle is your body; it needs exercise or it gets lazy. That is why I said to myself How Can I shoot an entire wedding with one lens and still deliver outstanding photos to the bride and groom? This exercise in forced creativity made me think outside the box and look for inspiration in places I have never looked before.
First lets talk about the lens I used. Coming in at $1,369 is the Canon 35mm 1.4 USM. I cannot tell you enough how much I enjoy the lens. From f/10 down to f/1.4 the lens worked beautifully. This lens is built to shoot in low light, and delivers beautiful images time and time again. It also has a durable feel, when you put this lens on your camera it screams professionalism. Of course this being a prime lens, you will be moving around quite a bit more. But you would not believe how many people came up to me and mentioned how hard I was working. I guess when you have to “move” instead of “zoom” people really take notice.
I love to get those nice bokeh backgrounds, especially in portraits, the problem with most lenses is that when you open the aperture up wide such as 1.4, the focal point of the image loses a little sharpness. This is one thing you don’t have to worry about with this lens. You can open the aperture up all the way and still get a tack sharp subject with a nice out of focus background.
Lets use the image below as an example. This image was shot at 1/160 – Aperture 1.4 – ISO 500, with no flash. I used the ambient light of the room to add a slight fill and the window light to give the light some definition. The heart shaped light in the background is coming from an overhead light directly above the subject. I added some vignette in post just to add to the effect. If not for the 1.4 aperture of this lens I may have had to decrease my shutter speed thus increasing the chances of camera shake and blurring the photo. If you have a need to photograph in low light I would highly recommend this lens.
The 35mm is a somewhat wide lens, and it can cause some distortion in your photos, if you are not careful. More than likely your clients will never notice it, other photographers may, but most people who point out the distortion will just be looking for flaws in your photos. I shot several formals with this lens, I will let you make your own decisions on the distortion.
This image was shot at the brides home. I had the bridesmaids and MOB come in and stand behind the bride while she was getting ready. It makes for a nice shot of the bride and the girls without looking posed. I wish I would have used a slightly smaller aperture so the bride was a little more in focus. 1/100 – f/1.8 – ISO 50 – No flash. If I would have used a f/3.5 of 5.6 the bride would have been tack sharp as well has the ladies in the background.
This is a shot just before the wedding. This was a two minute setup and shoot and I delivered about 8 shots similar to this for the client to choose from. Notice how this is relaxed but still formal. Just the type of photos today’s clients want. As you can see when I posed them I did not just line them up, noticed how their bodies are turned in different directions. Then I told them to look around at each other, then I instructed the groom to “fake laugh” which of course makes everyone else smile and laugh. Which leaves you with a nice natural looking fun formal pose. 1/200 – f/5.0
Same scenario here a nice casual formal shot. This was the wide version. 1/200 – f/3.2
Here is the same photo, the only difference is that I cropped it in post. Two images out of one!
This is a more traditional formal shot. 1/250 f/4.0
Now a formal shot of the bride and groom. Notice the bend in her arm and where she is looking.
I would say that the formal photos turned out great. I only see minimal distortion if any at all. Prime lenses will deliver some of the sharpest images you can imagine.
Bridal Prep and Portraits, I have heard people say that the 35mm is not a good portrait lens. I think it is one of the best lenses you can use for preparations and bridal portraits. I will let you all be the judge of that. Here are several preparations and bridal portraits.
In the next two shots I positioned a flash behind the bride and used window light as fill. To be able to use off camera flash I used B&H’s Impact power Sync. They are a cheaper alternative to pocket wizards. I used them several times and never had one issue. I will be writing a separate post on these soon.
This shot is all ambient light, notice the low angle. I don’t think I normally would have shot this image low, but do to the fact I was shooting with the 35mm, it was the only way to get my ugly mug out of the mirror. If I had a zoom I would have just came it tight and kept myself out of the shot.
Just some window light….
I again used the off camera flash to add some backlighting to the bride.
When you have a fast lens you can really use the ambient light to your advantage.
I had a bridesmaid hold the flash which was attached to a monopod just above the light. The flash was pointed down and away from the wall. This left me enough light fall off to edit in photoshop, but not to much to over expose the dress. Off camera lighting.
In this shot I used the window light as a backlight and used a flash that was cranked down 3 stops. That allowed a glowing effect, but it also wasn’t so much light that the background was completely blown out.
For these next two shot I used ambient light from an outside light.
The Ceremony, is where it gets a little difficult. Of course this lens has it’s limitations, but how can we overcome them? Remember, don’t be mentally lazy and say I can’t. Always say How can I? Now this being an outdoor wedding, the limitations were easier to overcome than say, a church wedding. I was free to move around as I needed and get fairly close to the ceremony. By getting close you eliminate the need for telephoto, but you also do not want to be intrusive. So I did my best to be very “NINJA” like and be everywhere and not be seen. I’m not saying this is easy, and it is definitely not for someone just starting out. But it did make me think about new ways to get the shots.
The bride walking down the isle. I knew I needed to get her expression when she first saw her soon to be husband. But being at the front of the isle would not have allowed me to do that. So I chose a quiet spot in the back, as the bride walked by I was able to grab this shot of her with her dad. Even the event staff was checking out the wedding.
Ok, now the brides is walking down the isle. I have a good 8 to 9 seconds to get to the front. If I had a zoom lens on my camera I would have went in tight on this shot. If I did I would have missed all those great expressions in the background.
I was hiding behind the bridesmaids for this one.
And a little cropping takes us right into the action!
Now we can get a view of the whole ceremony. I think these are great scene setters in the album, they always make for great background images. These will make beautiful two page spreads that you can then overlay additional images on.
I was kind of surprised that the kiss happened so fast and without warning. I would have liked to have been positioned closer but I still managed to get a few shots of the kiss. A much wider angle than I would have liked, but if the image were cropped slightly it would bring the subject closer to the foreground of the image.
Toasts and Speeches, can be difficult with a whole bag full of lenses, let alone one prime. Remember the bride and groom’s expressions and reactions to the speech. Hopefully with the right image they will never forget what was said.
The First Dance, just may well be the most memorable dance of your clients lives. You are going to have to get plenty of shots. I usually try some with flash and some without. I think it is important to get a mixture of artistic shots, as well as safe shot for the first dance. Try shooting these at all different angles, and always check the background.
The Reception, the party, the music, the drunk people. Yup, this is what it’s really all about. I say have fun, everyone else is. I am always on the dance floor, I talk to people and mingle like I have known them forever. It helps people relax around you, it makes people less camera shy. Have fun and celebrate, your clients just got married! O yea, and make sure you get plenty of good photos too. Get low, get high, get sideways, use flash, shoot wide open, shoot at f/5.6 with your flash turned around.
The Traditions, it seems like the more weddings I shoot the less people do the bouquet/garter thing. These shots can be tough to nail. One of the most import things I can recommend is make sure your flash is fully charged or you have one of these.
The Flowers, your client spent a lot of time deciding on flowers. And, they’re going to be dead by the time they get back from the honeymoon. Make sure you get some shots of the bouquet. This was shot outside using the same light as images 19 and 20.
In conclusion I would like to say that I am very happy with the results. Sometimes we as artists need to push ourselves and get out of our comfort zones. By doing this we force ourselves to look for different angles. I am not saying this particular “experiment” will work for everyone., especially someone new to the business. What I am saying is you must constantly challenge yourself, you must always strive to be better. From the photographer who has been shooting for 20 years, to the person who has just picked up a camera, there will always be something new to learn. Photography is a life long learning adventure, and if I ever stop learning, that’s when I’ll lose my passion.
I would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Just post them in the comment section and I will answer you to the best of my ability.