Diary of A wedding Photographer (it is like when someone decides to go on a day long hike in the mountains.)

1/125 f/3.5 ISO 250 80mm

I recently shot a wedding. I have never aspired to be a wedding photographer for several reasons that I have spoken about in other posts. With that said I never shy away from a wedding because it is a challenge. No one will ever say “wedding photography is fun” because it is not. If you are a full time wedding shooter it is your job and it is a very tough and saturated business. I will shoot weddings because they are a challenge and what I mean by that is; it is like when someone decides to go on a day long hike in the mountains. Sure you like the outdoors, you know how to hike and you like hiking, but a day long hike means you will certainly be doing a little bit of planning and you’ll be tired at the end of the day. Tired, yes, but you will have accomplished something you really like doing and that is capturing great images.

So let’s go over the gear I used and please know I try to keep it as simple as possible, but at the same time I want to do a great (not good but great) job.

Two full size DSLR camera bodies with full crop sensors. Full crop sensors are a must have for low light… and you will be in low light at some point.

Lenses must be good quality if you are doing a paid gig. If you do not own good lenses then go rent them. I am fortunate enough to have my own lenses, but there was a time when I had to rent one or two. For this wedding I used a 24-70mm f/2.8 on one body and a 70-200mm f/2.8 on the second body. I also had an 85mm f/1.4 prime for low light shots of the bride getting ready.

I had on hand one radio controlled speedlight on a stick that could be controlled from both cameras. So no matter which camera I was shooting with I could control the light. I use TTL mode for the light and increase or decrease as needed.

I also used a hand-held wand light for a few shots.

For formal portraits I used one light stand with a studio flash and a battery pack. Sounds expensive, but it was all Paul C Buff which is state of the art equipment that is affordable.

One Blackrapid double camera strap.

Sandisk two 32GB & two 16GB Extreme Pro SD cards with a water proof and crush proof SD card case. Note: I never used all the cards. Total images shot about 1800 for the day.

And yes one good strong assistant who I always work with.

So for the most part I like to shoot weddings in available light, I only use the speedlight when absolutely needed. I like to shoot in a journalistic timeline style, however I will do the formals and creative shots with bride and groom.

This wedding started with me arriving at the bride’s home in the morning to shoot the dress, shoes and some makeup shots. Then driving to the park where the wedding would take place. The actual location was along a walking trail in a wooded area. My assistant and myself quickly scoped out the area for the formals and we then checked the lighting in the wooded area.

The groom and the groomsmen arrived first and the shooting began. Doing creative shots as well as canids, myself I do not dwell and all the hokie creative shots, but more on the special moments. Moments like when two family members who have not seen each other in a long time are smiling and shaking hands or hugging. The image of two people interacting like that will mean so much more in years to come than the groom standing with his buddies in some overdone pose. Every photographer wants to create these awesome photos that have impact and will often overlook the value of the really special moments that don’t look that special at all… today. But as time passes the photos will grow in meaning.

Ok, so then the guests all showed up and headed to the wooded area. The bride had arrived, but was tucked away in the limo awaiting the big moment. So at this point it becomes non-stop shooting. Not spray and pray, but literally non-stop looking for special moments and interaction between her and her mother and the bride’s maids. Needless to say I must now stay with the bride until the ceremony is finished and I did.

I captured all the classic shots from ring exchange to first kiss, the laughing, the crying and everything in between. Turns out I never needed the speedlight at this point so I sent my assistant to a location on the other side of a ravine to be a second shooter for just one particular far away shot. It was a shot capturing the whole wedding ceremony as seen looking through the leaves on the trees. He used my trusty Canon EOS M3 and he did a great job for someone who is not a photographer.

Now shooting the crowd breaking up and departing, again a lot of little special moments. The bride & groom walking by themselves through the forest and making their way back to the parking area.

Now I must take a moment to say that I did not attend a rehearsal, however I had discussed the days’ timeline over breakfast with the couple about a month and half prior. But after the ceremony nothing was scripted, I just followed them and we would stop here and there and shoot. Sometimes I was shooting them without them knowing I was shooting. Use a long lens and put the shutter on silent, great trick.

Now I chose a big open spot in a field for formals with the forest in the background. This way I have no objects growing out of people’s heads and it looked good.

After formals it was the creative shots with the bride & groom. Again I did not get into the crazy over the top poses. I stuck to the images I knew they would like and that we had discussed. There was a very special shot the bride wanted to do with a clear umbrella and I had a brand new clear umbrella all waiting for her. With the help of my assistant the images were captured quickly.

Now a 45 minute ride to the reception venue, but it turned into over an hour-long ride due to an accident and traffic on the highway.

At the venue it was more shooting, but this time it was mostly shots of the whole bridal party. Something to kill time while we waited for all the guests to arrive.

And now the reception photos, the new couples arrival along with bridal party, first dance, mother son dance, father daughter dance and so on. The garter and bouquet toss and finally the cutting of the cake. Not to mention all the while capturing the little moments as I had mentioned earlier.

So my day started at 10:30am at the bride’s home and ended around 8:00pm at the reception. So I think you can see what I mean when I say it is a challenge and not just a “walk in the park.” I must also say that I give everything I have to make this day run as smooth as possible for everyone. And most important of all is I need (not want) to deliver good quality images. Why? Because that is what I do. I want the bride and groom to have nice photos, but at the same time I want nice photos for myself. I want to be able to look at the images I captured and say to myself “you did a great job here today.” I know that sounds crazy, but that is how serious I take what I do. Maybe everyone else likes the photos, but if I don’t like them I will beat myself up about it. I won’t say anything to anybody, but I will just feel I failed… got love that OCD lol.

All in all is was an amazing day the bride & groom are amazing people and their guests were just so easy to work with. I did not have any problems with cell phone shooters and everyone was respectful of the paid photographer.

Are You Registering Your Images? ( I find this to be a topic that creates more questions than it does answers…)

1/400 sec at f/2.8 ISO 50 200mm

1/400 sec at f/2.8 ISO 50 200mm

Are you registering your images with the Us Copyright Office? I do. As a matter of fact I am uploading a few thousand images as I’m writing this post. I find this to be a topic that creates more questions than it does answers for the average photographer and sadly enough most photographers do not register their images. I have found that many photographers have very little knowledge about copyright. Most think it is some BIG process and they’re afraid of it. Copyright is as unknown to many photographers as is death. Are you afraid to die? For many the answer is “yes” because we really do not know what happens after we die. So like anything in this world that is “unknown” we as humans tend to shy away from it and pretend we didn’t hear anyone say a thing. Do you remember learning to ride a bicycle? And what happened after you learned? So easy that even if you haven’t ridden a bike in 10 years it only takes two minutes and you right back at it. Again the fear of the unknown… I could do a month of blog posts on the “fear of the unknown” in just the fears I have had and have overcome in my life.

So why do I need to register my images? Well, the truth is no one has to register their images at all. Last I checked in my state of New Jersey USA there is no law saying images have to be registered. The key to the mystery is in the word “copyright.” It is your right to register your images to protect them and have control as to how the images are used or not used. Also you  as a photographer want to dispel all the myths about copyright and copyright vs registering. Simply put “you own the image as soon as you click the shutter.” You own the images the same as you own your car, but you have to register your car in order to drive your car. Same goes for images/photos, sure you know you own it, but you must prove you own it. Because you did not buy your photos you do not have a receipt and you created them yourself, so you need to tell the government that you created these said images and this is done by registering them at the copyright office. Now at this point I will give my little disclaimer that most of the information I am about to speak of can be found in a book called the “Copyright Zone” written by Ed Greenberg & Jack Reznicki. Ed is an intellectual properties attorney based in New York City. Jack is a professional photographer of many years. The book is the “real deal” when it comes to all the things a photographer needs to know about copyright. I am not paid in any way to promote this book, however I can say it really is a must have for anyone who is serious about their photography and wants to protect their images. I found Ed & Jack a few years back when I joined up with Scott Kelby’s infamous Kelby Training for photographers which by the way is now called “Kelbyone.” Ed & Jack had a few courses that explained copyright and really shed some light on the subject for me. Actually it explained everything I needed to know to start registering my images. Then the book came along in a revised edition and it goes deeper than the classes did.

Strangely enough I was one of those photographers that was very receptive to copyright and wanting to learn all about it as I was learning how to use a camera back in the day. But I could never really find a one stop place that explained it and most of all “how to” actually go through the process. I was receptive to copyright because for many years I have written songs and some poetry and I learned a long time ago to copyright my work. So when I started off into photography right away I knew at some point I had to learn how to register the images. Back in my songwriting days there was no internet and it was all done on paper and through the US Mail system. Now it is all done online and it really is so easy a child can do it. But with that said; I have found that in order to keep the process as simple as possible I had to incorporate copyright into my workflow. It really is not hard at all if you use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop will work too. However I have found Lightroom to be much more streamlined because my whole workflow process centers on Lightroom. I will write a post in a few days explaining my copyright workflow.

There really is only one reason that you register and that is to protect your property. For some odd reason that I cannot seem to figure out, some people do not want to protect their images. They’ll come up with all kind of excuses or they believe in some urban legend they heard or read. As for reading the Copyright Zone and given the fact that Ed Greenberg has made a very successful career as an intellectual properties attorney, one of the best at what he does, so when Ed speaks I will listen. If Joe McNally walked into a room full of photographers and started talking and giving advice I would certainly take that over something I read on the internet or heard from somebody in the local photography club. Really just a little common sense coming from the correct source will take you a long way in life.

So my post is not a tutorial about how to register your images, if you want to learn I would suggest picking up a copy of the Copyright Zone, not only is it a good read, but very informative and worth every cent you paid for it. So in closing I will say this; yes it will cost you money to register your images. It is $55 to register a collection and a collection can include a lot of images, thousands. I don’t know the current maximum amount aloud, but I can tell you I just uploaded around 4500 images and I have another several hundred to add. All for the same $55 dollars… And please know I am not a wealthy man, I am not poor and I could easily find something else to do with that $55. But I put a value on my work and what I do. Yes I will do “Time for Print” with a model or up an-an-coming entertainer when there are no paid jobs, however I conduct that shoot as if it were a paid job, I may have to invest in any number of things to make the shoot happen. I may have money laid out in travel, location fee or permit, lunch for whoever (boy am I nice guy or what) or maybe even wardrobe or a makeup fee. Why do I invest? Because I want good images and then after I get as good of images as I can afford and I can achieve with my skills and gear… I register them to protect them.

Thanks so much for reading.