Here comes the Bride
focussed or you will get photos like this one.
There are photographers who live for
excitement. These are the guys who hang out of helicopters to photograph the
insides of volcanoes. However, they are pussies compared to those in the
most dangerous branch of the art of photography – wedding photographers.
If you are seen with a
professional looking DSLR, you will get asked by friends to photograph their
weddings. Once you know the date, if you can, find a dying relative that you
have to visit that weekend. However, if you like flying in the face of
danger, keep reading.
One very experienced
wedding photographer even went so far as to call the craft, “Hours of
controlled patience, punctuated by moments of sheer terror and intense
bursts of creativity.” However, to make it less of a terror, here are some
guides to photographing someone else’s ‘big day’. And it is because it is
someone’s big day that it becomes so important to get it right. Wedding
photographers talk about the three P’s – preparation, photography and
presentation. My idea of wedding photography and the three P’s are pain,
persecution and panic.
However, looking at the
accepted “preparation”. This is very important and will make your job so
much easier. This would include going to the church, temple, registry office
or whatever before the great day to see just what you can use as
backgrounds, and where you can position the happy couple, and their parents,
and their bridesmaids, and their friends, and the neighborhood dogs and
everything else that seems to be in wedding photographs. Just by doing this,
you at least will know ‘where’ you can take some photographs.
Preparation also covers
talking to the couple and finding out just what they expect to be taken. As
pointed out at the beginning, when you take on photographing a wedding, you
are taking on a huge responsibility.
Also part of the
preparation is to make sure your cameras are functioning properly, so test
them before the big day. Note too, that I said ‘cameras’ because there is
nothing more soul destroying than having a camera fail during an event such
as this. Preferably, the second camera will be the same as the first, so
that your lenses will be interchangeable. Yes, lenses! You will need a wide
angle (say 28 mm), a standard 50 mm and a short telephoto (say 135 mm). The
wide angle is needed for the group shots and the standard for couples and
the telephoto for “head hunting”, looking for those great candid shots.
Now comes the actual
“Photography” itself. You have already written down all the shots that the
couple want, make a list so you can cross them off as you go. One series of
shots should be taken at the bride’s residence, and this includes the
bridesmaids. Many of these will be indoor shots, so do take your flash and
bounce the light off the ceiling to soften the effect of the flash burst.
Make sure you have new batteries, and a spare memory card!
So on to wherever the
actual ceremony will be, so you can get the bride outside, ready to walk
down the aisle with whomever is giving the bride away.
With those shots out of
the way, now you can go and get the ceremony and I do not recommend that you
use the flash for these photographs. For some religions, this is a solemn
time and flash bursts are very intrusive.
Cross off the rest of
the shots as you cover them – the signing of the register, emerging arm in
arm, confetti or rice and then the formal shots of the wedding groups.
After all this,
everyone is dying for a beer. However, you must wait a little while yet.
There is the ceremony of cutting the cake to be done yet, and photographs of
the guests enjoying themselves (other than you).
Having crossed every
shot off the list, make for the drinks department. You’ve earned it. After
all, you have probably taken around 200 shots by now!
The final ‘P’ is
presentation. Photograph albums are inexpensive, so put the best shots into
a couple of albums and present them to the couple as your gift.
And next time remember
the dying aunt.
Photograph the stars
Photographing stars is not just A List
celebrities, but is a whole section of photography, just to capture
Daytime skies are not difficult and if
incorporating sky with landscapes, just bracket the exposure or even P for
Program, but night skies are different.
The DIY photography books are ready to
bamboozle you with requirements such as grad filters, polarizers, horizons,
rule of thirds, verticals, digital instant check, meter medium bright areas
of sky, and bracketing. The same books tell you subjects that need to be
metered manually are most atmospheric optical phenomena such as cloud
coronas, iridescence (usually), all halos (if near the sun); some cloud
types such as bright cumuliform clouds, and in general any clouds that you
photograph with a polarizing filter, and never meter on the foreground if
you are taking pictures of the sky. The foreground is most often a few stops
darker than the sky. Conversely, never meter on the sky if you are taking
pictures of something on the ground. Since so many scenes in nature contain
a greater range of light than our cameras can record, graduated
neutral-density (ND) filters are a must in the landscape photographer’s bag.
Confused by now? You should be!
Grad ND filters are generally used to
darken a background that’s significantly lighter than the foreground. Common
examples are sunrises and sunsets with bright skies and foregrounds in shade
or mountain scenes where a snow-covered mountain is much brighter than the
However, there is another style of
photography when taking shots at night including the night sky. The simplest
way is long time exposures, and a tripod, of course. Start with as wide an
f/stop as your lens allows, and shutter speed of about 20 seconds. Any
longer than that and the stars will begin to blur, because of the earth’s
rotation. Increase the ISO as needed for a good exposure.
However, incorporating the foreground
with the night sky can produce some different photographs. What you have to
do here is light up the foreground. Using a wide-angle or fisheye lens, you
can also incorporate the foreground into your images. Depending upon the
subject, the foreground as a silhouette may enhance the overall image, or
detail in the foreground may complement the night sky. The foreground can
also be lit using a variety of techniques, which I think produces the most
Painting with Light is another
technique that can be used if the foreground is close enough. There are two
ways to paint with light: using a constant light source such as a flashlight
or with studio lights.
Constant light source: while the
shutter is open, use a constant light source to illuminate the foreground.
Move the light around during the entire exposure so you don’t end up with
hot spots. Use the headlights from your car for something easy.
(Courtesy of Nikon), here are Tips for
Night Sky Photography:
Look for cool clear moonless nights
(unless you specifically want to photograph the moon!), and avoid light
polluted areas (big cities or towns).
Start with fresh, fully charged
Use a sturdy tripod and cable release;
set up your composition, lock down the focus, and make a test shot. This
will help determine exposure, and if you need to make any changes to your
Set the white balance between
2800°K-4000ºK. Check the histogram after you take the picture to make sure
the image is being properly exposed. It’s easy to underexpose the stars or
overexpose a foreground.
Zoom in to the image on the LCD to
Consider making a series of exposures
for the foreground to merge as an HDR composite with the stars.
A good starting exposure for most star
shots is to use the widest aperture on your lens, expose for 20 seconds,
increasing the ISO as needed for a good exposure.
If you’re going out to specifically
shoot the moon, research the phases of the moon, so you know what time the
moon will be rising and setting each evening so you know when to plan your
shoot. Also note the direction it will travel in the sky to plan your
So there you have it – go out tonight with your camera
Improving your (Digital) Photography
At the outset, let me state
that ‘photography’ is actually just the same whether you use a digital camera, a
film camera, a pin-hole camera or sensitized glass plates. Despite calling this
article “digital” photography there are some specific areas which refer to
digital cameras and their different capabilities.
The first item refers
to the placement of the image in the frame. This is where the ability to
instantly review images in digital photography is so good. Look at the image
in the viewer on the back of the camera and see if it can be improved by
different placement of the subject within the frame. Remember the ‘Rule of
Thirds’ (place the main subject one third of the way in from either side and
one third of the way up or down from the top or bottom of the picture). This
is a tried and true rule of thumb and you can demonstrate it so easily with
digital photography. It may feel ‘wrong’ initially not having the subject
slap bang in the middle of the frame, but try it and you will find you are
getting better, more pleasing pictures.
While still on the
subject of the overall image, don’t forget to take each shot two ways – in
the landscape (horizontal) format and the second in the portrait (vertical)
format. Again it sounds strange to shoot a landscape in the vertical format,
but it gives the viewer a different emphasis, which can improve an otherwise
With most digitals
having reasonably good zoom lenses these days, experiment with different
zoom settings and distance from the subject. A ‘tele’ setting can give you a
very different style of photograph from the ‘wide’ setting taken closer to
the subject. This ability to experiment, at the time of shooting, is one of
the biggest plusses for digital photography.
One of my standard tips
is “Walk several meters closer”, and by doing this you will find that you
can make the subject fill the frame (to even overflowing) and get rid of
horrible distracting backgrounds.
You can also see the
difference in the backgrounds between shooting at f2.8 as opposed to f16.
The larger aperture (f2.8) gives a blurred background, which is exactly what
the ‘portrait’ mode does. Many of the tricky settings are just automatic
combining of different apertures/shutter speeds, and a general knowledge of
first photographic principles will always help your photography too.
Photography is in
reality ‘painting’ with light and you should never forget this. The position
of the subject, relative to the sun (the celestial lighting technician) can
make or break your photos. The amount of contrast in any scene can also
baffle the digital sensors so they will try to balance out the contrasts
which can spoil the effect you were trying to create. If your camera shows
you those dinky little histograms, you can soon see if the light is biased
in any particular direction.
What you have to do is
try and balance bright or dim light. In low light conditions, try using your
camera’s night shooting mode, or lower the ISO to 50 or 100 to get some
detail in low light. Also look at trying to use a tripod, or steady yourself
against a wall or pillar to avoid moving the camera.
In bright light, try
your camera’s Beach or Sunshine mode, or go to manual mode and choose a fast
shutter speed to control the amount of light that comes in.
Be careful if you place
your subject in front of a bright window or they will become a silhouette.
Try placing them off to the side of the window instead, or facing a natural
For better photographs
indoors, turn your flash off. Try to maximize the light by pulling back the
curtains, opening doors and turning on the incandescent lights in the room.
Sure, you will have slower shutter speeds and you may have to look at using
the tripod, or even just holding the camera firmly on a table, but you will
get more natural photographs.
getting the ‘decisive moment’ by partially depressing the shutter button
when taking candid shots. This means you are not waiting for the camera to
focus, before the shutter fires.
One of the regular readers has moved
into infra-red photography, and gave us the benefit of his experiences.
Dear Harry, about 2 months ago I took
up Infrared photography using a converted Lumix DMC GX8 with 12-60mm lens, I
had the camera converted to take infrared pictures at Protech Photographic
in Uckfield, Sussex, UK.
I taught myself how to take and process
the pictures from the Internet, and in post 14, give a step by step guide as
to how I process my images.
This is not a right or wrong way to
process them, but is the way I treat mine, it may not achieve the result you
want, but this is how I started and I am learning from here.
Firstly download the NIK Collection,
https://www.google.com/nikcollection/ in a drop down box.
And also download the faux color swap:
As above, both will attach themselves
automatically in Photoshop. I have minimized the NIK Collection and clicked
on to the actions button/arrow, the color swap I have imported 4 times to
make it easier to see, it comes up as InfraRed. Adjustments, the window can
be closed when not needed.
Open NIK Selective Tool in its drop
down box and chose Define 2, click it and wait for it to work. When it has
finished working click save. You will then be asked what options you want to
save the picture.
Next click Viveza 2 in the NIK
Selective Tool menu, here is now where you have to decide what do in the
brightness, contrast, saturation and structure slides. At this point do not
worry about color, when happy with the image press OK, let the program work
then press save. To keep things easy I keep the same picture number but add
Viv (Viveza) to it.
Now minimise the NIK selection tools
box and open the color swap menu in actions, click InfraRed adjustments.
Now the fun starts, click the Master
box, choose whatever colors you feel need adjusting and slide away, remember
you are adjusting the whole picture, when happy with the result click OK
then close the slide box.
Open Viveza 2 again, click Add Control
Point, then move the control point to where you want it to be. I start with
the sky, and by using the slide open out the area I want to effect. Next
adjust other parameters using the slides. You will only be adjusting what is
in the circle or part of it, the area nearest the control point being
strongest the effect weakening as the distance increase from the control
For my next control point I started on
the tops of the trees on the right hand side, basically just continue
playing with control points until you are happy with the picture.
Run Define 2, when it has finished
working, click Layer in the top menu bar and at near the bottom of the list
click Flatten Image, save the image, again I use the picture number but add
Your image displayed, on the left hand
side there is a box that has 30 or so presets, scroll down, and chose one
I am pleased in the main part with the
images I have. The main thing to do is experiment at every step and remember
I have only just scratched at the surface of what is possible,
I like it, just one other small thing,
to make the images smaller for use on the web page I use Obviousidea Light
Image Resizer. It works every time and have used it for years. It can resize
one or hundreds of images at one go. The camera I use is a Lumix DMC GX8
with 12-60mm lens. Feel free to comment or if you have any questions please
ask away, but I am not an expert, just someone that has discovered the
fascination of infrared photography.
Thank you very much for your
experiences in IR photography. My experiences were in the days of very
sensitive film and very fiddly! This electronic method looks to be much
better. If anyone would like to contact Stanley, here is his contact email: