Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Big Milestone

The wedding yesterday went well, about as well as I hoped it would and way better than I feared it might. It was a fairly small affair, with around 100 people attending. With this being my first wedding shoot, I have countless lines of thought in reflection, but most are not blog-worthy. They're simply learnings. But there were still some things to blog about.

Preparation: We were over prepared for sure. But with this being the first time, we didn't know when we had prepped enough. So we just kept at it. In the end, we had everything we needed, had made all the right people connections, and knew everything we needed to know. We had invested some time in worksheets (i.e. shot lists) that were useful, but we had gone overboard and didn't need a lot of what we did. It's not engineering, you just have to roll with it sometimes.

Planning: We planned a LOT. We each knew exactly what we needed to do, and when to do it. We had done mental dry-runs, and had hours of coordinating discussions beforehand to understand how it all worked together. Of course, the plans didn't go quite as planned, but we had planned for that. A good example: the bride had asked for a large number of family photographs to be taken at the church in the hour immediately before the ceremony. We made it through the bride's family in the first half of the hour (right on schedule), but (as we had counseled) the wedding-day coordinator and the bride and the bride's attendants/sisters all realized that with people filing into the church, we needed to put family photos on hold. We figured this would happen, and had already scoped out a place at the reception location as an alternate photo location. Two very important factors here: we invested time on a comprehensive plan, and we were flexible enough to roll when rolling was needed.

People: At 100 attending, it wasn't a huge crush of people. The bride and groom were experienced in life (not much younger than I), which led to a more mature demographic trend in the attendees. During the wedding, they were very well behaved, bordering on sedate. Not much changed at the reception! Fortunately, the bride's sisters knew how to have fun, and did so. The bride's mom, widowed just a few weeks ago, was also full of personality. Amazing. Although she is very experienced at life, she was on the dance floor often. Few men danced at all; the dance floor was almost exclusively women, and always featured the bride's sisters. A few young kids played at the cheesy colored light balls and foggers the DJ was sporting, and chased the bubbles from the bubble machines. Yeah, that DJ brought the house down! I mean mean down. Down to silence, twice. Yes, this poor DJ, a meek gradmotherly type, had her gear shut down on her twice. Silence for 5 minutes each time. Now that's a serous reception buzz-kill. Not much to photograph then, except the long line at the bar.

Equipment: We had everything we needed and with one exception, it all wored great. One of the two strobes we had on the corners of the dance floor blew a fuse three times. The third time we just left it alone and carried on without. When you buy "Cowboy" brand lighting equipment, you can expect some issues. I see Alien Bees coming our way after a few more bookings. The investment in flash brackets, radio triggers, and external flash batteries proved to be worth the pain. I'm glad we spent to money. We got many positive comments on our use of tethering during the post-ceremony shots. To make sure each shot was good, I connected my camera to my Mac laptop, and viewed each shot while I took it through the tethering utility. The wedding coordinator (and brides BFF) and a few sisters watched the screen with me and we all decided when we liked the shot. Some vets of the biz may be agast, but we found this to be a big plus. A few times we saw small flaws and reshot, someting I would have missed if it was just me looking at the camera's screen. The groom metioned later in the day that he was very impressed with how we were doing QA on the photos as we took them to make sure they were good. We'll make this a standard practice. It's easy, works great, and (based on my statistical sample of one) the clients love it.

Operations: I rented a backup camera, a 40D just like mine, with a nice 24-105mm f4L IS lens. I gave it to Matt, my assistant/son, to use so long as my gear worked. So we had three photographers most of the time. Overkill for a wedding of this size, but handy at times. Kevin (#2) and I (#1) worked the front of the church during the service. For the procession, Kevin shot from the back/staging area and I took the aisle shots. Matt (#3) roamed around taking random shots until the bride was ready to enter. Then e went to the balcony and shot from there as she walked down the aisle. After the ceremony, Matt handled ligting adjustments, Kevin arranged the groups of people, and I shot. Perfect. At the reception, we found that we were getting in each others shots a lot. Really, one photographer could have covered that reception. But we had three, so we just managed.

The programmed part of the reception was over pretty quickly, so it was essentially people sitting and talking, people standing and drinking, or people dancing for the rest of the night. The crowd thinned quickly to about half, so with three potographers, it was about a 1:15 ratio. We quickly ran out of new things to shoot, and just focused on capturing people doing interesting things. As the eening wore on, and the booze settled in, more interesting things happened. ut it was still pretty sedate as far as receptions go. When something fun did happen, it was like Brittany Spears leaving a rehab center - our flashes and stobes lit up the night.

Between the three of us, we took a little under 2,000 photographs for the day. That should boil down to about 200 keepers, and maybe 50 we're really happy with. At least, I'm hoping it's that many. Now it's time to do the sorting, rating, and winnowing before we jump into Photoshop for minor corrections, cropping, etc. Our web site (through BluDomain) is underway, and should be up in time to deliver the proofs of this wedding to the clients.

First wedding, done.

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