Most of the time, the subject of my photography is weddings, and weddings can become big and complicated. Even the smallest weddings can be full of stress over the logistics; but the details and the logistics are not what a wedding is about. A wedding is about love and commitment between two people; family and friends; support and unity. Unfortunately the beauty and importance of that message can be obscured when you are too busy fussing over the details.
Similarly, photography is a complicated art. There are so many details to fuss over, and so many settings to worry about that they can also get in the way of the moment you are trying to capture and the message you are trying to convey. The photographer who knows his/her camera equipment like the back of their own hand has a far better chance of truly seeing and capturing those moments. On the other hand, those who fuss with their camera settings will sadly miss the most important images. This fact is particularly true in the art of documenting a wedding. There are no do-overs and that makes the art of documentary wedding photography a beautiful challenge.
Preparation is the key to freeing yourself from the technical. Because lighting scenarios and exposures change constantly, I depend heavily on the Custom Shooting Modes on my Canon EOS 5D Mark III and 5D Mark IV.
As I enter a location for the ceremony, reception or even the portrait session, I immediately determine my most critical exposure settings and record them to my custom settings. Then, when the perfect moment is unfolding, I am able to change a whole host of exposure settings in a split second by switching to the appropriate Custom Setting, and not only get the shot, but get it perfectly exposed. This way, I am always focused on the moment and I am never distracted by changing the camera exposure settings.
Even during a portrait session, when things are less documentary in nature, it is still so important to be focused on the moments of expression and the composition rather than on the exposure settings. In photography, the moment is always paramount, and knowing your camera and your lights means you can focus on what really matters.
Here are some links that provide more info about the custom settings mentioned above:
When you are lighting your subject, remember to get the light off of the camera. You can do this by spinning the flash and bouncing the light off a wall, or you can use radio triggers like Canon’s 600EX-RT Speedlites (with built-in radio triggers) to employ a number of lights in your portrait work. One of the most dramatic additions you can make to your portraits is the addition of a “hair light,” which will separate your subject from the background. Put a flash or two in the background and point them back toward the back of your subject’s head.
In this example, I employed one Speedlite off-camera to the right, shooting into a white umbrella and two “hair lights” in the background and allowed them to flare into the lens a bit to create this bright and airy look in a very dark cathedral. The ETTL Flash Metering gave me perfect light, so I could focus on the composition and the couple, not the flash power settings.
Jared Platt is a lifestyle, wedding and portrait photographer from Phoenix, Arizona. In addition to running a photography business, Jared travels the world giving lectures and workshops on photography, lighting and post-production efficiency. Jared's interactive style and attention to detail and craft make him an entertaining and popular photography instructor.
Want to learn more with Jared online? Check out his Canon Online Learning class: Intro to Workflow: Storing, Editing and Sharing Your Photos.
Want to learn with Jared in person? Join us in Orange County, CA November 4-5, 2017 for a hands-on workshop: Creating Amazing Images from Capture to Print.
When photographing in the last moments of light, it is helpful to have a beautiful high ISO with very little noise. I am never afraid to reach into the higher ISO capabilities of my camera to get the right exposure settings for the most beautiful light. Portraits at 800 ISO are common practice for me. My shutter speed and aperture settings are the most important settings, and with clean higher ISO exposures, there is little trade-off.