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Old 01-24-2013, 12:42 PM   #1
ynottony99
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Portrait Photography with basic equipment and basic skills.

Good friends of ours are getting married on a tight budget. They cannot afford to pay a photographer and have asked me if I would take their pictures. Of course I am happy to help, but I'm feeling the pressure since these are their wedding pictures! All of the photos will be taken in a room with incandescent lights dimmed moderately.

I have a Nikon D3100 and recently purchased the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens. I only have the flash that came with the camera. With all of that said, would you share with me any tips and tricks you might have to get the most from what I have, especially for the posed photos of the couple and family etc? I've read some ideas such as putting scotch tape over the flash to diffuse it, or and index card to 'bounce' the light up. Thanks in advance for any tips!
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Old 01-24-2013, 01:43 PM   #2
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For the flash, do you mean you only have the pop-up flash?

Do the pictures absolutely have to be taken inside? Any chance at all for daytime pics outside? If yes, then try for that and find a place to position them in evenly lit shade. Harsh shadows from the sun aren't pleasing. If you have a cloudy day, the lighting is taken care of for you. If it's a sunny day, you can look for a location that provides even shade.

If these pics absolutely must be taken indoors with a pop-flash, with incandescent light.... well then, create a gel for your pop-up flash to match it to the incandescent light. That will help with white balance.

And you could also experiment with bouncing from an index card--bouncing the flash will help with the directional quality of the light--but you might lose too much of the light this way--so do experiment ahead of time. That pop-up flash is not all that powerful.

Scotch tape, tissues, etc over the pop-up flash aren't going to do much in terms of improving light quality. The problem with the pop-up flash is that it's a very tiny light source aimed directly at people--which just creates for horribly unflattering light. Anything you can do to make the light source come from a different direction, and/or make it larger, is what will help. (Bouncing)
I'm just skeptical of bouncing pop-up flash as a primary light source because you lose so much of the light with bouncing and the pop-up is not powerful... But I've never really tried it... maybe someone here has and can comment.
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Old 01-24-2013, 02:20 PM   #3
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If it has to be inside, you MUST buy an external flash. nikon sb700 would be a moderate prices choice at $329.

If you plan on using the pop up flash, just hand out disposable cameras inho.
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Old 01-24-2013, 02:39 PM   #4
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First of all, don't feel too much pressure. I promise you, if they are relying on a free photographer, they do not care too much about the quality of their wedding pictures. They just want photos to document the day. I'm sure you'll care much more about how they look than they do.

If you don't have an external flash and don't want to purchase one right now, then you can diffuse the flash with paper. Pinterest has many suggestions. Experiment beforehand.

Many lighting errors can be fixed in post-processing if necessary. If you already have Photoshop, Lightroom, or the like, this may be more cost efficient and convenient than purchasing lighting equipment.

My best suggestion (having been in a similar situation) is to look up wedding photos beforehand. Wedding photography isn't necessarily great photography... there is a sort of regularity among it. Look up posing suggestions, common shots, etc. Then beyond what they request (I'd recommend having them make a list of necessary shots for you), just shoot what comes to you naturally. If they're asking you to shoot as a favor, they have little to no expectations and will only be pleased by the outcome.

Now equipment... Bring an additional memory card. Bring a spare, charged battery. If you have or can borrow an additional camera body, it may be beneficial to have a zoom lens on one body and a regular lens on the other so that you can easily switch back and forth.
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Old 01-24-2013, 05:37 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LittleMissMagic View Post
My best suggestion (having been in a similar situation) is to look up wedding photos beforehand. Wedding photography isn't necessarily great photography... there is a sort of regularity among it.
Sorry.... I have to respectfully disagree with this statement. Some amazing photography is coming out of the wedding ranks these days. Don't believe me? Check out Fearless Photographers. There is beauty in capturing a couple in love and a family happy in a moment. It can be gorgeous.

If you don't have the necessary equipment, instead of trying to rig something up that may or may not work... Rent what you need. http://www.borrowlenses.com/category/nikon_flash

You can get just about anything you want for a week to 10 days prior to the wedding which should give you a couple of days to practice and feel comfortable with your undertaking.

Couples who put friend-photographers into this position rarely understand the significance of what they are asking. It's not necessarily because they don't value photography, but often because they think it's just that easy.

ETA: Facebook for Fearless Photographers - https://www.facebook.com/fearlessphotographers
Website - http://www.fearlessphotographers.com/
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Old 01-24-2013, 06:05 PM   #6
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There is so much in LittleMissMagic's post I have to disagree with.

Unless this is a super casual getting married to a fifth husband in the backyard with the BBQ going for the reception kind of wedding.... the pictures matter. I don't care what the bride says, they nearly always matter on some level.

The thing is, a lot of people really don't get what goes into wedding photography. And they see a DSLR and automatically equate it with great pictures. So even if you tell them you've never done it, that idea that the DSLR is a magical mystical camera is still in the back of their minds. It takes skill and knowledge to do a wedding decently. Add a decade of experience with more knowledge onto that and you might have what it takes to do a wedding well.

Do not put a diffuser, paper, tape or anything on a pop up flash. It's a waste of time. If you have a fast prime, use it and keep the PUF closed. Many wedding venues, and some people who perform wedding ceremonies, do not allow flash photography anyway.

Most lighting issues that arise with new photographers at weddings cannot be fixed well in post. Add that to the fact that a lot of new photographers tend to miss the focus and you end up with noisy soft images that you can't use because the people are indistinguishable from each other really, really easily. Bottom line, you need to be able to get as close to the right exposure as possible and you have got to be able to get the focus right. That's the minimum you need.

"Wedding photography isn't necessarily great photography".... really? Ok, that's like saying that Disney photography isn't necessarily great photography. I'm sorry but it shows a real lack of understanding as to what really goes into wedding photography.

Chikabowa's suggestion of renting equipment is a good one. But do make sure you have it in plenty of time to get comfortable with it. A fast zoom can be invaluable at a wedding.

Now, am I sounding like this may not be that easy? Good. This is a special event in a person's life. You mess it up and you mess up their memories. I've seen some good friendships ruined over bad wedding pictures. Don't take on the job unless you're sure you can do it. Even if it's for a friend for free.
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Old 01-24-2013, 06:44 PM   #7
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If you have not accepted yet, I would try to come up with a good way to gracefully get out of it. While I'm sure their asking you was considered a complement to you, I think that's a lot of pressure to put on someone. If you still want to shoot their wedding for them try to find some ways to unload some of the pressure. Are their any other friends or family that could help you as a second shooter. What about your friends purchasing a bunch of disposable cameras, that everyone could use. Anyone else have any suggestions?

Seven years ago, my cousin asked me if I would shoot a wedding video for her. Of course I accepted, but it was one of the more stressful experience of my life. Luckily they had a wedding photographer, so that helped take some of the pressure off. I borrowed my uncles camcorders so I was able to have 2 sources (or a backup) of my video. I must say, the video came out great and my cousin is grateful to this day, but it was a stressful experience and I also did not get to enjoy the wedding.

You also have to take into consideration the amount of your time it will take up! The wedding itself is just a small portion of the time you will take. Checking over the photos, adjusting them and printing them take a lot more time. I don't even want to think how much time I spent on the wedding video, but it well over 20 hours, of course much of that was because I wanted to make it as professional as possible. Syncing up 2 video files isn't easy!

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Old 01-24-2013, 07:28 PM   #8
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The real key is how good is your friendship with these people?

As posters have stated, your expectations of what you can accomplish and the bride and groom's expectations probably don't match. It would be nice to think that their expectations are lowered, but that is probably not the case.

Another poster volunteered in a similar situation (sort of) last year, taking pictures for an event at his daughter's school. Most posters here were saying the same things to him that they are saying to you now: don't do it. If you do do it, expect parents to be miffed somewhat (they were paying for his services, even though it wasn't any more than to cover the pictures). I believe his event turned out all right and he got some decent shots. Of course, he had some lighting if I remember correctly.

The venue you describe is difficult to get good shots in. And that's with good equipment. You do have basic equipment that has probably taken good shots outside and maybe some good ones inside, under different lighting.

So, not to knock your approach, it is just that you do have an expectation situation.

I would also suggest renting some better glass(f1.4 or f1.2 if you can). You also need to shoot in raw with high iso and hope you have a good post processing program. You run the risk of either dark pictures, grainy pictures, yellowy pictures, or bluey pictures, or a combination of all of these. It's just the nature of the process.

I run sound for our church and most photographers at the weddings are using a full-frame camera with the big gun lenses. If your friends truly will be happy with 30-50 shots of their day, without expectation of great pictures, than go for it. To get those 30-50 shots, I'd guess you'll need to take 300-400 to whittle down what you do take and may look good on the small screen, but won't later on when you download it.
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Old 01-25-2013, 07:27 AM   #9
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Thank you all for some very thought provoking and helpful posts. This situation has arisen rather quickly. We are helping with some of the expenses of the wedding, and buying more equipment, even a flash is not an option. The wedding is tomorrow night, so even renting is not practical.

I have taken pictures at several other events in this venue, so at least I have some experience with the challenges this charming old building presents.

I am going to take all of your suggestions and do my very best with the circumstances, equipment, and what little ability I have! I will let you know how it goes!
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Old 01-25-2013, 09:53 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ynottony99 View Post
Thank you all for some very thought provoking and helpful posts. This situation has arisen rather quickly. We are helping with some of the expenses of the wedding, and buying more equipment, even a flash is not an option. The wedding is tomorrow night, so even renting is not practical.

I have taken pictures at several other events in this venue, so at least I have some experience with the challenges this charming old building presents.

I am going to take all of your suggestions and do my very best with the circumstances, equipment, and what little ability I have! I will let you know how it goes!
If you've shot at the venue before you have a leg up on most people who try this kind of thing for the first time.
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Old 01-25-2013, 10:16 AM   #11
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I will say good luck.

Also, I think we are all a little curious on how you do. post a picture or two to this thead.
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Old 01-25-2013, 12:23 PM   #12
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"Wedding photography isn't necessarily great photography".... really? Ok, that's like saying that Disney photography isn't necessarily great photography. I'm sorry but it shows a real lack of understanding as to what really goes into wedding photography.
I was in a really cynical mood yesterday and posting from an iPhone, which is never a good combo.

I'm not saying that there isn't great wedding photography. I love looking at wedding photos. My personal favorite wedding photographers are the Roots who shoot many Disney weddings - www.rootweddings.com/blog

However, there are a lot of cut-and-dry wedding albums out there. It starts to feel really rhythmical - and that's what the bride likes. She sees the Pinterest photos of the "First Look" or "Trash the Dress" or whatever and that's what she wants. The Pinterest brides are my pet peeve because when you get expectations like that and require all of these "creative" shots, what you're really doing is limiting the natural creativity of the photographer.

I stand firmly behind my belief that if a bride is relying on a last-minute free photographer, she doesn't really care how beautiful the photos are. She just wants a collection of who was there and what happened. Maybe this is just because photography is so important to me, and if I were planning a wedding, the first thing I would do is secure a photographer whose work I consistently love, and I would dedicate whatever chunk of the budget necessary to that.

And I'm in no way saying that you're not qualified for the job. What I meant in my original post was that if you care so much that you are posting on a photography board, and photography is your hobby, then you're probably going to yield much better results than the bride is even considering a possibility. When I shot a wedding I was notified about the night before, the bride wanted photos of the families together. I arrived early and photographed the getting ready, the details, everything - nothing she had even thought about or considered a possibility (mind that this bride had never hired a professional photographer... she'd just asked a friend to take photos, but he bailed the night before - she was very easy going).

And I do think that you can fix a lot of exposure and lighting issues in post processing. Perhaps this is because I started out as a retoucher, then moved into photography, so I'm kind of doing everything backwards. I agree that it's easier to get the shot you want and require minimal retouching, as opposed to spending a lot of time fixing things that could've been prevented in the first place.

I'd use the pop-up flash as little as possible. The last thing a bride wants is to look shiny in her photos, and the pop-up flashes always bring out the littlest bit of moisture on one's forehead.
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Old 01-25-2013, 12:35 PM   #13
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If a friend wanted me to shoot a kid's birthday party, a family get-together, etc.. I'd do so happily.

But my attitude for something like a wedding would be: I'm happy to bring my camera and take lots of photographs, but I'm not your wedding photographer. And I would strongly suggest you hire a professional.

I'd be very concerned about the couple's expectations. Maybe their expectations are quite low, they don't care about the photos at all, and if someone gets a few decent shots, it's just a bonus.
Or maybe they think that any person with a dSLR can produce shots comparable to a pro.

Personally, I know I *could* produce some very nice shots that a couple might be happy with. (Still not comparable to a pro, but certainly nice shots). But I wouldn't be confident in being able to reliably produce such good quality photos. While I *might* get some good shots... I'd fear walking away from the ceremony with the realization that my settings weren't great, I got poor exposure, and none of my pictures are even decent. I'd fear walking away with blurry candids, boring ceremony shots, and bland portraits.
While I know I'm *capable* of producing good shots, I wouldn't be confident enough to do it with the pressure on.
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Old 01-25-2013, 01:11 PM   #14
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First, I agree with the poster who said please don't stress about this. Some people view their wedding pictures as priceless heirlooms, but material things like these are not as critical to others. In either case, it certainly is a compliment that they asked you!
I don't want to post links, but you could find some really good information if you search for flash photography blog. That is, if you want any more info than the wonderful prior posters have already offered.
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Old 01-25-2013, 02:13 PM   #15
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Wow this is a rough place to be. This thread that is. Not ur situation. Good for u that they asked you. Good luck. Stay cool and just do it. I'm sure ur friends aren't the kinda people that would blame you like someone said. If they do them they aren't worth it.

This is all I will add. You can also rent at lensrentals.com. I would if u have some time to play with the equipment u grab. It can't hurt. If u don't have time I would try to steer clear away from flash on the camera like others have said.

Oh and my wife and I have never looked at our weeding album. Maybe one of the rare ones but we haven't been married for 40 or 50 years. Maybe we then. Lol

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