Social media login for cameras.

In 2010 I made some predictions about technology and photography. Some of them have happened but others, maybe due to these larger companies not reading my blog, haven’t . I’ll have to have a talk to them about that :)

So what’s next now that we even have animal eye detection by Sony [the most popular comment on that story being “this feature will be useful when photographing the mother-in-law”] added to the list of technological advancements? As per my previous blog I’m not saying any of these enhancements are necessary but will repeat what someone said to me nearly 20 years ago “as long as the technology is available people will find a use for it”. That was after asking a sales attendant how many people needed a 7 channel home theatre system. And as long as manufacturers can add these enhancements to devices they will have a selling point to entice people to buy the latest and greatest - and other manufacturers follow suit not necessarily because it’s a good idea but rather to keep up so their product “also has that feature”.

I see the future cameras using their connectivity, tied in to their “face detection” “smile detection” “blink detection” ”animal eye detection “ etc etc - to connect to social media and access all your contacts.

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Do we need this? No, but as long as the technology is available people will find a use for it right? And perhaps for some it will be a selling point. “I bought this camera thinking I wouldn’t need the social media feature but after logging in to it just to try it out I photographed a wedding and the camera sent me a notification in the morning telling me that the bride had just left the hairdresser and was on her way to the make-up artists” - based on cellphone tracking which the bride and groom agreed to when they accepted your friend request and “limited date allocated social media connectivity via camera” clause. Of course there will be the bloggers who milk it and simply put up a controversial post about the feature to get more clicks [clears throat].

Meanwhile we stop to get a coffee on the way to the venue. After all the camera was sitting in its 12v car mount, recharging while acting as a gps and a minute ago the bridal car slowed down and stopped at the public toilets - that should allow a little time for a caffein recharge for those who don’t sleep too well the night before a wedding.

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When the Nikon D300 was released with wireless connectivity between bodies I imagined it being useful at an event, the camera sending thumbnail images to a remote laptop while someone monitors them and negotiates sales of the images with customers watching the images pop up on the display “That’s a good shot of my son, I’d like to order a print!” [swipes credit card and pays for image before it’s even downloaded at full resolution from the camera]. Now imagine two or three photographers at a wedding after you have done a “share contacts for 24 hours” function between the cameras, and you all have the same information. The second shooter takes a picture of a group of people, grumpy looking man with psychological condition approaches and mumbles “I told them I would only attend on condition no images of me are published!” - photographer shows him the image on the screen which has automatically blurred his face in the image “I know, facial recognition has excluded your face from the image as requested by the groom. Don’t worry, any images of you will immediately be blurred, every time your face appears on the screen with a red hue which tells me you are on the excluded list and it is automatically blurred or if it is far enough in the background the camera over-rides my settings and chooses a shallow enough depth of field for it not to be recognisable!”. Grumpy man nods his head and wanders off, then squints his eyes trying to work out how it recognised him when he didn’t think anyone had pictures of him…..

So, what about downloading a wedding shot list to the display then you can flip through them and get some ideas? BORING! This new camera will analyse the images you take through the day and pop up tips and suggestions as it recognises various scenes, and once it recognises the bride now has her dress on and is ready for the trip to the venue it will suggest shots you could take - based on geotagged data of wedding photos it googled while you were at the location, it will pop up the gps and show you a ‘suggested spot’ used 17 times previously at this particular location, which is worth checking 50m around the corner, an archway next to a fountain you didn’t know existed a minute ago. The same with the ceremony location - it researched photos with the most likes and pinterest links at that location and they all seem to have been taken from the right hand corner of the venue - possibly the lighting is better from there, or the background? Worth checking out when we get there I suppose.

After the ceremony we head off to another popular spot chosen by scouting out the location ourselves of course, after turning the camera off to walk there and fully expecting the camera to say “I was about to suggest this!” after it was turned back on. But as we set up the scene and preview the image on the display everything gets darker since the camera has a suggestion.

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“A more dramatic image can be created by exposing for the sky and adding flash from the left side at 45 degrees to the couple. Sam Jones and Robert Smith have been standing doing nothing behind you for 10 minutes, ask one of them to hold the flash which will automatically go into wireless control mode when you remove it from the hotshoe”

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Oh well, it was worth a shot….

Photography exercises for beginners.

Under construction:

So you just got your first decent camera and now you’re overwhelmed by all the settings and options available to you. If you just want to go out and take some pictures before you know exactly what you are doing here are my suggested settings to start with. Camera settings for beginners. If you’re ready to start learning about your camera and what the various settings do here are some exercises for you to do:

Let’s start with Aperture. Set the control dial to “A” mode and turn the control wheel while watching the aperture change in the viewfinder. If you have a kit lens it will most likely by f3.5 at the widest angle of your lens and the widest aperture. You won’t see the changes if you look down the lens on your camera because it only closes down as you take the picture - to make it easier to see through the lens. If your camera has a “depth of field preview” button you will notice that when you press it “everything goes dark” if your aperture is set smaller than the widest it can go. That is because the camera closes the aperture to what you have set it at to show you how much of the image will look “in focus” when the picture is taken.

In the pictures below we have a 50mm f1.8 prime lens set at f2. As the aperture is changed manually you can see how the higher numbers restrict the amount of light coming in.

Set your camera to auto iso for now and and find a subject that can show a difference in depth of field, something like a fence. In my samples the iso stays at 200 but as the aperture changes and less light is being let in the shutter speed changes to compensate. if you can shoot at 1/2000th sec at f2 and change to f2.8 [1 stop “slower”, each “stop” being either twice as much light or half the light, depending which way you go.] the camera has to let the light in for twice as long - 1/1000th compared to 1/2000th. At f4 it chose 1/640th but should have been 1/500th to be precise - no camera meter is perfect and no camera gets it right every time, besides, it was a “patchy cloudy” day so there were slight variations in the light. At f5.6 we see 1/250th sec which is spot on - 1/4 the speed of 1/2000th because f5.6 is “two stops” darker than f2.8.

Apertures work like “squares” 1, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22. Every second number is doubled. “1, 2, 4, 8, 16….”, “1.4, 2.8, 5.6, 11, 22”. If we start from 1 then 1.4 squared is close to 2, twice the area. 2 squared = 4, twice the area of 1.4 squared. 2.8 Squared is almost 8, half the area of 4 squared [=16]. You don’t have to understand the maths when making adjustments, it’s just good to have an idea what the numbers mean, then you can forget about it and concentrate on making good photos.

Now take another set of photos at various apertures focused slightly further into the scene. You will notice that the depth of field still changes quite a bit but not as extreme as when you are focused closer. The lesson? If you want the background ‘more blurred’ get closer to your subject. Notice also the two images shot of the building in the distance - almost no difference between f2 and f16 - this will be explained below.

To understand the difference between the depth of field when focused close and far we need to look at a lens. Scroll through the images and watch the difference from infinity, which is quite close to 3m, to the other end of the scale where it is focussed on 0.5m, which is reasonably close to 0.45m on the right, while 0.7m is quite far to the left. There is a lot of movement at the closer distances to change focus over a distance of a few cm. At the infinity mark we only have a small amount of movement to focus on 3m - which gives an idea why when we focus on something in the distance even the background is in focus.

Aperture samples

These images were taken while writing my ebook. These are the images used to show the difference between various aperture settings. This is the position that the aperture in the lens moves to when the shown aperture is selected and the shutter release is pressed.

Then I took some photos with the lens mounted on a body and set to the aperture I was using on the camera I was actually taking the photos with - so the aperture you see in the picture is also the aperture the image was taken at.

Here are some samples taken with the 70-200mm lens.

Here are some pictures of an older lens that shows aperture and depth of field at the various focal lengths and focus distances. Basically the white line shows the distance you are focused on and the other coloured lines match up to various apertures [the red line is for infra-red focus]. For example the “f22” is orange and there are two orange lines on either side of the white line. That shows what will appear to be in focus if you were to choose f22 to take a photo. Notice as well how the depth of field scale changes as the lens moves from 80mm to 200mm - less and less is in focus which is why the longer focal lengths give better blur in the background.

The older 50mm f1.8D has a depth of field scale as well if you look carefully at it. It doesn’t need lines like the 80-200mm because it doesn’t zoom. Looking at the first image - if we focus on 3m then at f22 the picture will look focused from infinity to around 2m. As we focus closer however the area in focus decreases and eventually at the closest focusing distance we only have a couple of cm “in focus” even at f22.

Here are some samples from the 50mm lens at various apertures with the focus point in the same place on a fence.

And some images taken with the focus point further away - when your subject is more than 20m away it’s hard to even tell the difference between f2 and f16.

Wedding photography poll.

Please reply in the comment below. What did you like and what did you not like about your wedding photos?

No need to say who the photographer is or even give your name, I’m just interested in hearing experiences and composing a blog post on the results to help other photographers who are interested, especially those just starting out, to understand what the customer does and does not like in wedding photos. Here is an example of wedding photos gone bad.

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The next flash design? Calling Godox!

Tired of heavy flashes making your camera top heavy? here’s an idea for the next step in flash design. How about having a grip shaped flash that mounts all the electronics and batteries under the camera like a battery grip - and a flexible flash head that can be adjusted just about anywhere! on either side. That will make it easier to carry the camera around your neck. When carrying two bodies it would make sense to use a system that hangs the camera from it’s original strap clips.

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Someone mentioned that it would be good for macro shooters if there were two flash heads. Perhaps it could come with the option to interchange which side you have the flash head coming out - and the ability to buy an additional flash head and plug it in to the other side - it will be similar to having a larger light source and softer lighting for portraits as well.

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Nikon's forced upgrade path prediction for DX bodies.

Edit: People are asking where the full frame bodies and new mirrorless bodies fit in - they are a category all on their own - this chart focuses on dx bodies and their users. Also the “Dx1” may very well be a Z mount dx mirrorless.

Over the years of new releases there has often been a lot of debate about where a new model fits into the old scheme of model numbers. Quite often the newer models aren’t replacing anything but are rather ‘in between’ two models. The pattern suggests a form of “forced upgrade” mainly for the advanced amateur and semi pro shooters. After all, the pro shooters will most likely be buying the highest performing bodies anyway so they don’t need any pushing, beginners are usually just starting out and all they need is the cheapest model to lure them in. It’s the advanced amateurs who need a gentle nudge to spend more on gear and this chart shows how it is done.

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Things were a little ‘messy’ in the beginning when Nikon introduced their first full frame D3 because realistically it did not follow on from the D1 and D2 series. When the D3 was introduced there was no longer a pro dx body. You would have to upgrade to full frame for that, which may have been part of their strategy.

Let’s look at the other models. We had the advanced amateur D70, D80 and D90. Below that we had the D50 which disappeared and was replaced by the lower level D40 which lost the built in AF drive in the process - you would have to upgrade from the D50 to a D90 to regain that. The lower series eventually turned into the D3000 model that continues to this day - beginners need to be lured in, not quite forced to upgrade yet. The D5000 series with the tilt screen is a step above the D3000 series and an added incentive for beginners to spend a little more money.

The primary targets for forced upgrades were the D100,200,300 and D70,80,90. The first step was to introduce a replacement for the D300 which didn’t quite happen - then after a lot of waiting the D7000 was introduced ‘in between’ the D90 and D300. It wasn’t quite as semi-pro as the D300 but was definitely half a step above the D90 with the twin card slots and half a step below the D300. [forget about megapixels, that’s not an indication where a body fits, after all the 16 megapixel D4 is way superior to the 24 megapixel D3200. So all the D90 users now had to either drop to a D5000 series body and lose their AF drive or pay a little extra for a half a step higher body. The D300 users had to choose between a half a step lower D7000 or progress to the more expensive full frame models.

Then along came the D500, finally a replacement for the D300 - a semi pro dx body and the only way for semi pro dx shooters to get the features they wanted because the really good D7200 had no successor - what they named the D7500 was half a step below the D7200 because it lost the dual card slots that many pros require as a form of insurance for potential card failure.

What comes next? My prediction is that the D7500 series will lose a feature after a while and will most likely lose their AF motor and at the same time a replacement for the D2 series will finally arrive, the “DX1” pro body with a built in grip, the only way for an advanced amateur to have a built in focus drive and twin card slots, because by then the D520 will have lost a feature and perhaps only have one card slot. Perhaps in 10 years time only the pro and semi pro full frame bodies will have the built in af motor - unless they finally reserve that only for the pro body in each format.

Conclusion: Every few years those who have grown accustomed to a particular feature in a camera body will be forced to pay a little more to retain those features. Beginners cameras will always lack a built in AF motor and twin card slots so not much can be removed from them - but that doesn’t matter because the first step is to lure new users in and introduce them to ‘GAS’ [Gear Acqusition Syndrome - ‘NAS’ for Nikon gear] and advanced amateurs and semi pros will avoid those bodies anyway. This is not such a big deal to me - I paid the same money for my D70 15 years ago as I did for me D7200 recently and the D7200 is a HUGE upgrade. Along with the fact that so many photographers seem to feel the need to buy the latest and greatest that the market is getting pretty flooded with low shutter count pro and semi pro bodies and many of us are quite happy to shoot with last years’ technology - after all some photographers considered them to be amazing a few years go - and they still are, they didn’t degraded when the new model was introduced. But for those who must have the latest, be prepared for a little ‘shove’ to a higher level after a few years.

My advice for now is to stock up on D7200 bodies because they are the last of their kind, as was the D50 in its day.

Nikon 50mm f1.8G vs 16-80mm vs 70-300mm for portraits/headshots.

I spent a while stewing about whether I needed to have a prime lens on one camera body when shooting weddings after I shot the last wedding with an 18-140mm and a 70-300mm VR lens and it went really well. I mean when you do a search there are always all these reviews on prime lenses and how good they are, and essential to some people, for portrait shots. I wondered about the idea of using my new 16-80VR on one body while keeping a 50mm f1.8G on the other body [shooting with two D7200’s] so that the prime would add that little extra when I do portrait shots. It’s one thing though to read reviews that are all done using one lens but its another thing to be able to speak from experience, which is why I always like to do tests and see actual comparisons. If I were to give people advice I’d want to be 100% certain as to why I advise a certain approach to a shoot.

I had the Nikon 50mm f1.8G on my old D5200, the 16-80mm VR on a D7200, and the 70-300mm VR on the other D7200, all on aperture priority. Now there will be slight variations when shooting in straight aperture priority but I wasn’t about to go fully manual because it was a ‘patchy cloudy’ day with slight changes in the lighting. All of the shots are “sooc” or “straight out of camera” with no fancy tweaking, converted from NEF to jpeg in NX-D.

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My model “Iris” is part Borg, she still hasn’t had all her implants successfully removed.

I started with the 50mm and here are the photos. I stopped at f3.5 because that is what the 16-80mm starts at, at the 50mm mark.

Then the 16-80mm lens. I went straight to 50mm to “see what I’m missing by only being able to go to f3.5”. After that I took a step backwards and took a shot at 80mm f4. Not bad, I prefer 80mm to any of the 50mm shots. At 50mm with dx if the subject and I were to both extend our arms our fingers would touch which is a little close for comfort to me for portraits, which I imagine is why most people say that 50mm on dx is good for 3/4 portraits [rather than head-shots] where you can stand at a mutually comfortable distance and take ‘waist upwards’ pictures without making your subject feel uncomfortable.

I may be only one of a very limited number of photographers on earth who doesn’t like ‘tons of bokeh’ in the image at the expense of a soft subject. I don’t like it when the eyes are perfectly clear while the ears are out of focus except in a very limited number of creative images. There does tend to be some sort of mindset among a percentage of photographers that “since more expensive lenses can create more background blur it can be reasonably concluded that the more blurry your background the better your image will be”, after all, “it was taken with a very expensive lens!”. I very much like the cinematic look - in the movies you will notice that most of the time the background is pretty out of focus while the subject is totally crisp and in focus, often due to green-screen editing. But while doing these tests I noticed that the longer the lens you use, the more the resulting image is like that, clear subject, blurred background. If your lens has a distance scale you will see why. If you are focused on 0.8m then anything at 0.6m is way out of focus at f1.8, but when you are focused at 10m [on the 70-300] then infinity is not far off, meaning that more is in focus when you stand further away from your subject. Let’s look at the results from the 70-300mm lens keeping in mind that the background would change quite a bit as I moved further away to keep the subject the same size

I had done some tests previously in different light and will add them to show what I mean about blur on the subject. The pasted settings look a little small but you can easily tell the ‘creamy background’ in the f1.8 shot but look at the ‘hair/Borg-implants’ at the back which is quite well lit - all out of focus, I actually prefer the f5.6 shot due to the detail in the subject. As mentioned previously, I’m one of those weird photographers that likes to present detailed photos to my customers as opposed to “creamy background” artworks. It’s just that I’ve heard people complaining that their photographer made the background in their wedding photos “all blurry” when “my cellphone takes better pictures than that!”. I fully understand the occasional ‘artsy’ shot but have read many times on the forums “people like to look at artsy photos, but they don’t buy prints of them!”. For wedding photography I prefer the photojournalists “f8 and be there” principle - if you don’t have the time to get creative, at least capture the scene, that’s why they hired you, to capture memories of their big day - being ‘artsy’ comes second. After seeing the 16-80mm at 80mm f4 I’ve decided I won’t be using a 50mm f1.8G unless the lighting gets really bad and I have no choice.

I’m not saying here that the 50mm f1.8G is not a good choice for shooting weddings on dx or fx, just that personally it doesn’t suit my style. After cleaning up my gear I realized that regardless of what lens I use, Piggy doesn’t like the Borg model.

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I recently received an older 80-200mm f2.8 push-pull lens and decide to try it out in the same situation. Many people seem to think that once you have an f2.8 zoom you are sorted for just about any situation. Realistically it’s one stop faster than the 70-300mm VR at the wide and and about 1 1/2 stops faster at 200mm. But of course the 70-300mm goes that much further than 200mm which is great for outdoor weddings. Then there is the VR on the 70-300mm which Nikon claims gives you 4 stops extra sharpness. In other words instead of having to shoot at 1/500th sec at 300mm you can shoot at 1/30th sec without seeing lens shake…. “in theory”. After taking several shots starting from f2.8 I decided that the photo I liked most was taken at f5.6.

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The pictures I took from f2.8 we’re ‘iffy’ because when you have such a thin field ‘in focus’ the slightest backward or forward movement , or lens shake, results in a soft image. Of course this will depend on other factors like af abilities of the particular camera you are using. As mentioned previously I’m not into ‘ears out of focus’ headshots. Of course this doesn’t happen as much with longer lenses due to the depth of field as you get further from a subject but realistically, if I have to shoot at f5.6 for the results I want then I’d rather use the 70-300mm VR which will give me a two stop advantage over the 80-200mm with no VR. The 80-200 has a two stop advantage in light gathering at the longest end but the 4 stops of VR cancels that out and adds a two stop advantage to the 70-300mm. Of course this brings us back to the argument that the answer then, is a 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens… IF you’re ok with lugging that weight around all day.

Nikon 16-80mm portrait tests.

I was considering the option of having the 16-80mm lens on one body and the 50mm f1.8G on the other to have an option for better portrait photos. After doing the tests I decided that I liked 80mm at f4 more than any of the shots from the 50mm lens at various apertures, and it gives a better working distance.

You’ll have to excuse my model “Iris”, all her Borg implants have not been successfully removed yet.

Godox K-150A becomes a K-600A - sort of....

When I bought a Godox K-150A recently I found that it was weaker than my Nikon SB800 flash. Several years ago I made a turbo-flash by adding a 3300uf capacitor to an older hammer-head flash. I decided to try that with this Godox, after all, the flash tube on it is pretty big so should be able to handle the power. The instructions advise a 3 minute cooling period after 30 full power flashes in a row which suggest something obvious - flash tubes work off a duty cycle. In other words you could fire it 30 times at full power in maybe one minute, then let it rest for 3 minutes [180 seconds rest plus 60 seconds shooting = 240 seconds for 30 flashes] - OR you could fire it at full power once every 8 seconds, 30 X 8 = 240. I realised similar results on my previous modification because at the time the batteries I had weren’t very good and it took so long to charge I could fire it at 5X the normal power as much as I wanted because it got so much rest while charging.

When I opened the Godox K-150A to have a look at connecting some wiring for an external capacitor [Don’t try this at home! The capacitors can kill you!] I caught a glimpse of one of the 4 capacitors inside and it had “330uf” on the side - about 1300uf in total.

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The capacitor I have is rated at 3300uf and 350v but I have charged it to over 500v previously and discharged it through an SCR to make a wire explode into plasma and split a glass jar full of water, so I knew it could handle the load. Adding the 3300uf capacitor should make it 4X as powerful in total so firing it once every 30 seconds should be perfectly doable without any issues - or maybe 8 times in a row every 240 seconds [hmmmm, maybe I should add a cooling fan?]. Either way most of the time we wouldn’t be using it at full power except maybe outdoors, then we could perhaps fire it at full power 5 or 6 times in succession and then give it time to cool down for a while. Besides, it’s an interesting experiment.

Here are the results of a comparison at iso200 f22 and 1/100th sec with my old Nikon D50 triggering the flash in remote mode with the built in flash on minimum power. I fired the Godox flash on minimum power, half power and full power each test. The interesting part is that the flash seems to charge a different voltage for each power selection so if you had it on full power, then turn it back to minimum, it fires at full power anyway then gets it right the next time because it can put in less charge.

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I originally started with f11 on the tests but the turbo-flash was so much brighter that I went to f22. Afterwards I tried to find two images that looked similar. The light had moved at some stage so the images look slightly different but their histograms are pretty close. The original light at f11 was very close to the modified light at f22 which would give us close to 2 stops more power - or 4X the power as per my original estimate.

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I have tried charging this flash with a $10 inverter along with a security battery and it works, which makes it a viable “poor mans outdoor light”. But don’t try it yourself or it could end up being a “dead man’s botch-up”

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As mentioned previously, this could prove fatal if you don’t know what you’re doing. I discharge the capacitors before working with them and if you don’t know how to do that I’m not going to tell you or encourage you to do it.

At the moment it is all just taped together, after all why be a perfectionist about it before you know if it will work or not?!

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I have disassembled it for now as it wasn’t practical. maybe for someone with no other options who had a spare capacitor lying around it would be an option, but as a DIY mod the capacitor would cost more than the light itself, and for that price you can buy the E300 which would be less bulky and also not worry about blowing your fingertips off in the process :)

Godox K-150A - weaker than an SB800.

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Godox have been producing some good value products lately, flashes, studio strobes, fittings etc. I bought an E300 studio strobe for around $75 a year ago and it has worked well in my ‘garage-studio’.

I recently purchased a Godox K150A on Aliexpress for around $40 which included shipping which is a VERY good price for a 150Ws flash/strobe IF it actually is that power. When it arrived it felt very light which isn’t always a bad thing with these days, things are getting lighter, smaller and more powerful with advancing technology. I fired it a few times and wondered if I was judging correctly because it didn’t quite look all that powerful at full power, so the only way to be sure would be to test it against my trusty Nikon SB800. I looked up the Ws rating of the SB800 and found this discussion and this one suggesting that it is about 75 Ws - meaning that the Godox K-150A should be twice as powerful.

One thing you need to remember with the K-150A is that is has a remote sensor that is ALWAYS on which can be quite annoying. If you compare its power with another flash you have to keep turning it off at its main switch so it doesn’t also fire when you fire the other flash. I imagine this would be a major nuisance to some users, maybe not a big deal for those on a budget.

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The strobe tube itself looks like it means business as well and I imagine it could take a fair bit more energy than the smaller Nikon SB800 flash tube could. I decide to place them side by side in my garage and do a few tests to be sure it was a fair comparison - after all, the SB800 can zoom while the K-150A is a bare bulb flash.

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Please excuse the scene, the 'dark circle on the garage door is due to a potassium nitrate and wax smoke bomb explosion - it made quite a mess but I leave it there as a reminder to use an insect smoker rather. Here is the plain bounce flash test, both the same distance from the ceiling, camera settings D7200 iso100 1/100th f11 to give me an idea of the power it would have in daylight. [I know the sunny 16 rule but most days have enough haze to only require an aperture of f11]. Notice the power difference? The 75Ws SB800 seems to be more powerful than the “150Ws” K-150A! I used the Sigma 8-16mm lens at its widest setting on my D7200 to show all the light in the scene.

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Now for the direct flash test. The SB800 was at its widest setting and of course the K-150A only has one setting and fires at a much wider pattern. Here they look quite similar when you look at the ceiling, but when you look at the centre the SB800 is brighter - the K-150A is throwing most of its light outwards and upwards towards the left - the floor is darker as well.

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Now we try to even things out a bit - I set the SB800 at full zoom and put a standard reflector on the K-150A. The K-150A still seems to fire upwards and to the left a bit more than expected.

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Then of course the way most people would use it, with a softbox.

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The strobe head was battling to stay up with the relatively light weight on it - perhaps it’s best to use this strobe with a shoot through umbrella rather. It has a fitting that doesn’t have any means to tighten it - just a spring loaded clip that holds the shaft in place - for now, if it lasts. With the SB800 I used a hand-held S-mount adapter which holds the flash nice and central, and I had the flash at its widest zoom setting. Both lights are feeling the strain of trying to light a subject through double diffusion - but the SB800 still looks twice as powerful as the “150Ws” Godox K-150A.

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Conclusion: The Godox K-150A is NOT a 150Ws flash, unless of course I got a dud. We’ll see what the supplier says when I contact them. On a few discussions it was suggested that because the K-150A spreads its light over a much wider area it would be superior in a softbox and not create hotspots as the SB800 would. So of course I had to try that, both at full power and minimum aperture to see how the softbox looked from the front. I’m afraid the SB800 wins again. After that I put it up against the Godox E300 and gave the E300 a 1 stop disadvantage to even things out a bit - the results weren’t substantially different but the K-150A was still weaker.

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While I had things set up I decided to do a few more tests with some fresnel lenses I bought. I’ve been thinking about how to focus the flash for when you are shooting in bright sunlight from a distance and diffusion isn’t practical - you may as well get as much power as possible focussed on the subject. Here are the two fresnel lenses, a rectangular sheet and a nice round lens. They were $3 and $7 respectively.

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It’s not so much the shape of the lenses, rather the fact that they were different focal lengths that gives the different patterns. The round one had a 55mm focal length and the rectangular one is only advertised as “3.5X magnification” they don’t mention actual focal length but you can get the same results from either based on how far from the flash you hold them..

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I held this round lens right up against the front of the reflector. I think it has real potential in outdoor shoots.

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$10 WS-25 slave flash failure

A while ago Godox released a cheap slave flash for about $12 The CF-18 which works very well. Recently I saw an even cheaper slave flash, the WS-25 , mentioned as “absurdly cheap” and for the price I though it was well worth trying one out.

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When it arrived I had a look at it and actually read the manual for a change. I shows how to install batteries and turn it on and beyond that doesn’t even mention the slave mode so I went back to my usual mode of ignoring the manual and working it out myself. I got it only for the slave function and didn’t try it on the camera. It charges up reasonably quickly and with the first few attempts didn’t respond to a 1/128th power flash from my SB800. They don’t say where the sensor is - it is most likely in the front because when i did work that is where I aimed the test flash. Eventually I raised a dispute on Aliexpress [I have always received a full refund with disputes which is why I deal with Aliexpress] I did a video of the tests I did and counted the fires vs misfires. I did quite a few tests first to make sure it wasn’t an S2 mode which ignores the pre-flash of TTL flash mode and then fires on the second flash. Not so, it is just totally irregular. It fired twice, missed 4 times, fired 5 times, missed 3 times, fired twice, missed once, fired 3 times, missed 4 times - and near the end of the test I was giving it a few extra seconds to make sure it was charging up [even though the ready light was on for each test shot I did].

Conclusion: The Godox CF-18 was a really good price for a slave flash, perhaps something to put behind the subject as a rim light when your main light fires. I may have got a bad sample but regardless of how much something cost if it doesn’t actually do the job it is absurdly expensive. Maybe others will have a better experience?

Caters news agency - promised me thousands to go exclusive with them.....

Just over a year ago I was privileged to photograph a special wedding shoot. A touching story involving a man with Alzheimers who forgot he was married and proposed to his wife again - they went through with another wedding which he thought was his first. Stuff.co.nz published the story that night with a mention of my name as the photographer and I spent the next few days receiving emails, facebook messages and phone calls asking for permission to use my images in news stories around the world. Caters news agency called and gave me a story about how much coverage they could provide and how beneficial it would be for me to give them exclusive rights to the images BIG$$$$$$$ blah blah blah. It all sounded good, I wasn’t sure how much I could believe but gave it some thought. Then an hour later Linda [the bride] called and told me how Caters had promised her all sorts of benefits by going exclusive with them and said how much she would love to go down that track. At that moment I decided we would be going exclusive with Caters. After all, I photographed the occasion for free just to be a part of it and make their day as happy as possible - I expected nothing in return - I did not expect to gain anything from it besides hopefully a few more hits on my new website and of course, it was the couple’s big day and not my place to put a damper on it all.

I will repeat for emphasis - I did not expect anything from the occasion, I am really happy with the amount of traffic it steered towards my website and I am not bitter at all, I decided to use the opportunity as a learning experience as well and I just want to share the results with anyone else who might one day receive such an offer…… as a warning!

Moving on: I called Caters back and told them we would go ahead with “going exclusive, lots of coverage BIG$$$$ etc.” and just had to ask “How much can I expect to earn?”. “Ohhh, upwards of $3000! …… but it takes a few months you know, people have to buy rights to use the images from our site” . Uh huh! Ok then let’s see how it goes. I had to fill in a contract which I faithfully adhered to though I received several other offers, one person ‘borrowed’ some images for their story then contacted me and asked for more and I forwarded their details to Caters and the next day I received a message “Looks like I won’t be doing the story, sorry but $1000 is too much to use the images!” - wow, so Caters must be making good money with my images then! Now what will I buy with my $3000 “over the next few months”?

This part is what I am really happy about, the Washington post published the story with a link to my blog that had a lot more photos and my website views shot up. Not exactly “viral” but 14.5K views over the last year.

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That, along with the happiness of the couple was more than enough payment for a few hours of my time and I am super happy about it. But of course, as mentioned, feel it worth sharing the monetary results with other photographers and people receiving similar promises from companies wanting to use their images.

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Over the next few days, then separated by weeks, then months, I checked into my BIG$$$ account with Caters expecting to see the results I was promised. To me “it takes a few months” means “more than two months, and less than a year” otherwise the statement should be “it takes more than a year [or two]” if someone were to be totally honest in their communication. I mean if someone were to ask me how much they could earn by doing this I would tell them that it will take a few years. Well actually based on current income and the rate things have slowed down, mathematically it will take a few centuries unless there is going to be some sudden surge in sales related to their anniversary - yeah right! I suppose based on inflation I would only need one sale in 100 years time to cover the amount - which should be able to buy a lens cap for the lens I could have bought today for the same money. Hmmmm, I think I’m beginning to understand the ‘honesty’ in their promise as would be explained by their lawyers in a court case. After all 100 years is “quite a few” months.

Anyway, after about 10 months I saw there was enough to ask for a payment. I went through the process of supplying my request and filling in bank details etc. and waited. I received no reply. A week later I sent an email to the person who had previously replied within minutes - no reply. I decided to just wait it out - after all it adds to the story of the kind of service others can expect from this company and I wasn’t going to starve without the money. About a month later I saw a payment in one of my accounts finally. Based on my sales over “a few months”…..

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This resulted in NZ$387 or US$265. Maybe their promises are in Zimbabwe dollars? I imagine in this case their lawyer could argue that I received a lot more than promised. This may sound silly and to most of us it is - but in a legal case this is the way arguments could go - after all they could say that they knew I came from South Africa and were explaining it in terms I would understand, and kind of proves how fruitless a law case against them could be for someone who was really upset about their promised deal.

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In conclusion, this was an interesting experiment. I went exclusive with them to make the couple’s day happier and didn’t care what I got out of it. The traffic to my website for a few hours work/fun was worth more than $3000 in payments for SEO possibly. But there is obviously a certain amount of disappointment involved in not receiving something that was promised - if they had simply said “we don’t know how much you will get” I would have still done it for the couple, but obviously they won’t be able to rope others into their deals so easily by being truthful now will they? Personally I can’t say how photographers should handle a situation of having media available for a potentially viral story, maybe someone can chime in in the comments, all I can say for those who are new to the situation is “Get it in writing or ask for the amount in advance” - don’t believe their promises.

Update: 30/01/2019, I just contacted Linda, the “bride” in this story and asked her how things went over the last year. She replied that the story has been published in two magazines and “was paid $600 all up [US$400] which is much less than expected but better than nothing I suppose”

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Insect fogger in the woods.

A while ago I bought an insect fogger and filled it with glycerin and water and got some really nice smoke effects. Today we visited Yarndley’s bush and took the fogger with - filled with pure vegetable glycerin this time.

It’s a 5-10 minute walk down a hill to the beginning of the forest which was preserved for posterity by some forward thinking people.

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The insect fogger is powered by a gas cylinder and is reasonably safe to use. There is a metal screen around the ‘flame’ area of the fogger and it sits pretty stable - but to be even safer I made sure I set it up on the solid walkway.

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The first thing to do is to check which direction the air is moving so after a few puffs I got an idea where to move to once the smoke was flowing. The results were quite satisfying. I’ve included some images with no smoke for comparison.

"Firespeed photography"

Tonight I tried something new. Light painting with fire mixed with high speed photography. Basically I used a 4 second exposure, after blocking off all the light from the window and underneath the door of our garage. I put a tarpaulin on the floor to catch [most of] the glass and set up my 'studio' in the middle of the garage. Ignore the shoes please - they were comfortable. In this scene I am clapping my hands to make the sound activated flash trigger fire.

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The basic principle is that if your background is dark enough then you can add as many exposures as you want as long as they don't interfere with each other. This can become quite challenging as you add new variables. The biggest variable here is the strength of the flame because it changes as it burns out. You think you have everything right, then you find out that after adding fluid to get your flame going again it is now too strong and exposes the garage door in the background.

 

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Then when you have your aperture and shutter speed right you give the board a spin and realise that the subject wobbles a bit and gives movement when this happens - which leads to the decision to shoot the bulb and trigger the sound activated flash trigger at the beginning of the exposure, before moving the flames.

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After you figure that out and get ready for a proper shot with the air pistol you're so excited that you spin the board too much and the flames go in front of the subject and "burn" the image out.

 

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Now you think "Well I'm glad I worked that out and didn't use the only clear bulb I saved for this shoot, I'll have it all perfected for this shot". That's when you realise the microphone is too close and the flashes fire before the pellet even hits the bulb - and it's too late, the bulb is destroyed.

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By this time the flames have burned down to a good intensity that doesn't light up the garage door and you get the spinning of the flames at just the right speed only to realise that in the time it took to remove the broken bulb and set this one up the flash has gone to sleep and you forgot to wake it up before firing the next shot. This was the test shot of the flames before I shot the bulb.

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By now the ground made crunching noises when I walked, there was broken glass everywhere. I got a few reasonable results and learned that 'next time' I need more space behind the subject so as not to light the garage door - or I need to make a shield around the flames to direct the light only at my lens, not behind the subject. I got a few 'keepers' but there is a lot of room for improvement.

 

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Here's a short video showing how it was done.

Nikon Mirrorless Z6 and Z7 .

When dpreview released the news about the new Nikon mirrorless people all over the world were complaining about slow load times on the website there was so much interest. Of course when the first comments are made on a new release from anyone it always seems to be a race to see who can say the most negative things about it.  They look like really nice cameras and may be perfect for some depending on what they intend to do with them, and of course they will always be tweaking and adding new changes in future - perhaps the Z6S and Z7s will have twin card slots - they have to give people an incentive to upgrade in future. Some may use them for the video features and not care about any of the complaints about the stills side of it. Others may be perfectly happy with the stills frame rate and not care about video.

But: The biggest issue I can see is only one card slot. Even though the xqd cards are supposedly more reliable than SD cards, and faster, no card is perfect. You wouldn't want a card to fail during a really important shoot with no backup. I would rather have my D7200 with twin card slots than one of these bodies at a wedding. Also the rated 330 shots per battery charge is dismal. My old D5200 has a rating of 500 shots per charge and mine always seems to run out much too soon. There are always many variables involved and most likely if you spend a lot of time going through menus and watching the screen when you don't need to you could get less than 330 shots, but if you are shooting at a fast frame rate and not doing a lot of chimping I imagine you could get 2000 shots on a battery charge.

At the moment I will do what I normally do, sit back and watch the scramble for the 'latest and greatest' and maybe in 5 or 6 years time buy one for $800 when they are considered "not up to scratch" any more, which is what happens with digital gear. I imagine by then though a dx version will come out - unless it has twin card slots like my D7200 I won't be getting one. I'm hoping that they take the D7500 sensor and produce a dx mirrorless that does 20 fps stills and some high frame rate video. The J1 could do 1200 fps, I think they can do better than that with a lower res sensor than the Z7 [the Z6 does faster frame rates because of the lower megapixel count].

Either way it will be interesting to see where this goes, it's good to see competition between the companies, us consumers are the ones who benefit from it.

Safe, effective smoke effects - the insect fogger!

I have always enjoyed playing around with smoke effects. And once I tell you this you won't be able to help noticing it but there is added smoke or haze in just about every movie you watch. When the heroes go into a cavern and turn on their torches you can see the beams of light because they have added haze - for that purpose - to add "atmosphere"- even though it's a damp cave where there should be no dust it's simply there to "look cool". There is a company that sells "Atmosphere Aerosol" which is quite interesting to use but needs to be back lit because it is more of a haze than smoke.

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In the next outdoor movie you view watch the smoke in the forest scenes, in movies showing old buildings and libraries watch the haze in the air as they make the actors stand with a window behind them. Smoke effects are as much in use as lighting effects - we just don't notice it most of the time because we think it's natural smoke and haze.

I like thicker smoke because it is more versatile, it can be used as smoke or "fog" from the front or simply left to dissipate and be used as "atmospheric haze" when it is no longer visible when front lit.

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I have made plenty of potassium nitrate smoke bombs and they create nice billowing smoke for a while or, if packaged correctly, a 3-5 minute constant output of smoke. These methods can be a bit of a fire hazard and even dangerous if not done properly. I had a 5kg pot of molten wax and potassium nitrate and sugar smoke bomb mix turn into a rocket engine in my garage - totally my fault of course [I impatently turned up the gas cooker to melt the wax faster] but also an indication of why it is necessary to find an alternative - my car's resale value is also lower due to the burn marks on the paint. Smoke grenades are commercially available at quite a cost - and I personally don't like the different colours because they are obviously fake and only good for novelty shoots - though occasionally that is fun - but use them wisely as you get about a minute for your $20. I prefer natural looking smoke that can double as mist or fog and produce atmospheric haze as a useful by-product - it makes sense in almost any photo - coloured smoke doesn't [but as mentioned, is still fun now and then]. I also wanted something that doesn't need too much attention to get it working properly. Something you can 'set and forget' and leave on the side while you take pictures or video. Devices like that are expensive and I think I have finally found a cheap compromise.

Introducing the insect fogger - don't put diesel and poison in it, you're not trying to kill insects - rather add a 50/50 mix of water and vegetable glycerine, it has hardly any smell to it. Here is a demo video of what I hope to use in future for some photoshoots.

An insect fogger is reasonably easy to use and work with. I paid NZ$225 for mine  [US$152]. Also, compared to smoke bombs there is no smell from it. The added advantage is that it is much safer to breathe, basically as safe as being in a disco for the night. Smoke bombs that burn can get an awful smell depending what you put in them to slow the burning down but last night when I used the fogger in the street it looked like a foggy evening, there was no smell to suggest something was burning, which prevents the neighbours calling the fire brigade.

 

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Shooting your first wedding

"With great power comes great responsibility" [Uncle Ben; Spiderman] This applies especially to editing RAW, using shallow depth of field with fast primes and using flash.

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Should you be photographing someone's wedding if you need to ask questions about wedding photography? No! A wedding is a very important day for a couple and if things go wrong it could result in serious financial and emotional implications for the couple, and yourself. But on saying that not everyone can afford a wedding photographer and no matter how hard you try to get the purists to believe that, they will still be convinced that the couple should sell a kidney or promise their firstborn so they can afford to pay a professional to do the job. Don't waste physical or emotional energy trying to convince them otherwise, just move on and start working towards doing the best job you can on the day. Some people need to learn to tolerate diversity. First off I invite you to do a search on complaints about wedding photos to see what customers want - here is an example. Besides all the complaints regarding what was wrong their primary statement on what they expect from a professional was “crisp clear photos” [not “creamy bokeh”, not that it doesn’t have its place in some images]. And you’re probably feeling hopelessly inadequate so I will provide some horror stories to show that there are people who have shot multiple weddings and possibly still know less than you do. Over the years on various photography and wedding forums I have heard some scary “photographer” stories in really bad situations. A professional photographer was approached by someone who was regularly photographing two weddings a weekend for some mentorship, quite surprisingly. She was already photographing weddings with two high quality Nikon bodies and all the best glass. She took all her pictures at f2.8 and 1/100th sec in auto iso mode “because someone told her those were good settings to use”. She also had the pop-up flash out for all her pictures “because someone said it was a good idea”. This was a “professional” with a website, making a living from wedding photography. Then there is the guy who commented on a discussion about how histograms show exposure “Now I realise why all my pictures look ok on the screen but awful in print!”. He had been photographing 50 weddings a year for several years! ….. and didn’t know how to get correct exposure yet! A little later he commented on a discussion about the sunny 16 rule. “Wow, I tried these settings at the last wedding and my pictures look great now!” - it was just a discussion about a pivotal setting for exposure in sunlight, not a hard and fast rule about settings you must use in sunlight! Now these stories are not to put anyone down, just to let beginners know that there are many people making a living from wedding photography who understand very little about photography itself. They just bought “a camera that takes nice pictures”, bought the lenses the people on the internet advised, and started advertising themselves as wedding photographers. I even read a post from someone just starting out in wedding photography “I just started and haven’t shot any weddings yet, does anyone have some wedding pictures I can use on my website?” -Really?! And will the people viewing your website know that you never took the pictures and may have nowhere near the level of skill required to take photos like that when they hire you? - Being a wedding photographer isn’t like being a bodybuilder - you can fool people into thinking you’re a photographer but being a professional bodybuilder…. well, they look a certain way and people will know if you’re lying about being one straight away. So let’s move on now -

Choosing gear: There's a quote that goes something like this "Amateurs worry about sharpness, professionals worry about sales, artists worry about light" and I'll add mine "Purists worry about zooming in to 100% to argue their point". In previous discussions about shooting a first wedding I've read comments like "I would force myself to shoot with my sharpest prime lens and discipline myself to take all the pictures with it!". Seriously? They were talking about a 50mm f1.8D on a Nikon D90 [crop sensor] which would result in a 75mm equivalent focal length - because they were so obsessed with the sharpest image they could get, perhaps only 10% more than their kit lens, they were prepared to forego the option of getting everyone into group shots. The statement "I would zoom with my feet" doesn't work for every situation - you can't always move fast enough or far back enough to get everything in. Sometimes you're in a confined area or have too many people behind you to be able to 'zoom' back with your feet and fit everything in. Here's a fact At f8 in good outdoor light NOBODY will be able to see the difference between images taken with your kit lens and a prime lens. This is the part where the purists will say "but zoom in to 100%" and get a smug grin on their face. WHY? Nobody does that, the customers certainly won't. It's like pressing your face up against a billboard, you will see imperfections but you won't see the whole picture - customers view the whole picture. Besides the fact that unless the two images are taken of the exact same subject and processed exactly the same you will only pick up microscopic differences if you zoom in at 100% and very few people will notice, or care about those differences. 

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Of course better equipment does provide advantages over 'lesser' gear mainly in low light. Outdoors in good light it doesn't make so much difference but when the light levels drop the situation becomes more 'desperate' shall we say. A full frame sensor is 2 1/2 X bigger than a crop sensor and gathers that much more light - there's more than one stop better image quality than a crop sensor [DX]. Then we have an f1.8 prime lens for low light situations [of course f1.4 is 2/3 of a stop better but lately f1.8 lenses seem to be sharper than their f1.4 counterparts]

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What the customer wants: What is you prime purpose in shooting a wedding? It should be recording memories for the couple. After all that is what 99.9% of customers are expecting you to do. Secondary to that should be impressing other photographers and winning competitions. After all, what photographers like in an image isn't necessarily what your customers will like, and I will now present a prime example of this: I have seen this comment in various forms over the years, this was from a recent discussion I saw about people not happy with wedding photographers.

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Now of course it is totally your decision whether you are going to aim to totally please the customers or also establish your 'right as an artist' to sacrifice a few images while being creative, with the goal of ending up with one or two potential competition winners. Pictures with a shallow depth of field do look more professional and are generally recognised as having been taken with a more expensive camera and lens but keep in mind the saying "just because you have the gear doesn't mean you have to use it". If you have a lens that can open up to f1.4 and blur the background that doesn't mean you have to take as many pictures as possible at f1.4 - it will certainly impress your photography mates who don't care about the people in the background because they don't know them, but will your customers like it when they recognise a beloved family member standing behind the couple but "they're all fuzzy"? Don't you think they would like to see that person clearly? What would you like if it were your wedding? As I say I have read many comments along the lines of "Most of the photographer's pictures were all blurry in the background, my cellphone could do a better job!". Blurred backgrounds have their place but try not to overdo it. When the background doesn't matter then blur it as much as you want, get those killer shots that impress the customers and your photographer mates. When there are family members in the background shoot at a smaller aperture and have them clearly discernible - just don't show those shots to your photographer friends, most of them won't understand why you didn't "make the picture look more professional". After all there is “professional fashion photography” and “professional photojournalistic photography” - both professional but one shows more detail than the other - what do your customers want to see in their memories of the day?

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Backups of backups:

You only get one shot at a wedding, you need backups of everything. Ideally your camera [both of your cameras, you should have two at least] should have dual memory card slots so you can save the same images to both cards so if one fails you have the other one as insurance. It happens, memory cards fail - it probably won't happen to you but then again if it does things can turn really nasty - many photographers have had to refund their customers due to missed parts of the wedding photos - pictures the customer knew they took but weren't available to deliver. Worse still, you could end up having to pay for their entire ceremony over again to get the pictures they wanted. Backup lenses - one of your lenses could fail, what will you use if it does? Even having your kit lens handy could save the day if your 24mm f1.8 prime lens fails and you need to get some group shots that can't fit into the picture if you only have the 70-200mm lens left. Yes you paid a lot of money for your gear, it is professional quality and highly unlikely to fail - but accidents do happen check out this video. Flashes, two of them, batteries - plenty of spares, memory cards . You have to ask yourself what you would use if the camera you were holding fell into a swimming pool - you must have a plan-B, even a Plan-C. If one camera dies it would be really handy to know you have another spare body besides your second camera, and you can continue shooting with two bodies - used entry level cameras are cheap and take better pictures than a pro-body that is full of water. Even spare clothes - trust me when I say it is not a good feeling to have split pants when the bride is 20 minutes away from arriving and all that's available is the gardeners green rain paints to borrow.

A second-shooter is a very good idea and something I consider essential. They will get many of the shots you get plus some extras for the couple and provide another form of insurance if something were to go wrong with your pictures. If you're a guy then it's handy to have a female second-shooter who can go into the room when the bride is getting dressed and get some of those getting-ready shots that she wouldn't fell comfortable with if a guy was in the room. Now a professional charging $4000 to photograph a wedding would possibly pay a second-shooter $500-1000 to take some pictures for them as well, and generally demand all the images be handed over at the end of the day. If you're shooting a budget wedding or possibly even doing it free for a friend because they can't afford a photographer then there are many ways of getting a second-shooter. I run a group on facebook for that purpose - there are always new photographers wanting to get into the industry but they have no experience and no portfolio to present and most of them will almost beg you to allow them to shoot for free while providing you with the photos they take - so they can use them on their profile. I even know of a professional photographer who charges $400 for a newbie to take pictures at a wedding he is shooting - to understandably, make up for the risk of what could go wrong with a newbie at the wedding. Post an ad on facebook and you will be inundated with requests for people wanting to help.  

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Gear: Possibly the most important piece of non-photographic gear you could have on a long wedding day is comfortable shoes. And try to get something comfortable and discreet, you don't want to stick out like a sore thumb amongst the guests with bright green stripes on the side of your running shoes, this applies to any clothing you wear. Get something that could pass for formal shoes at a glance but need a second look to see that they are hiking shoes or similar. Talking about shoes this is actually a good time to mention something very important when photographing a wedding - Don't try anything new at a wedding! Like wearing brand new leather hiking boots on your first really long hike - it will result in serious blisters. Leather boots need to be worn in until they are comfortable, and you need to be sure they are the right size for you. I heard a horror story about a nervous photographer who 'heard that manual focus would give better results ' than the autofocus he was accustomed to using. Apparently he got at least a dozen in focus over the colourful 5 day Indian wedding. Even brand new camera gear could be faulty, or not work with the component you bought it for. People have been caught out buying a new 64 gig memory card for their older camera only to find out on the day that their camera can only support cards up to 32 gig - not a comfortable situation to find yourself in halfway through the ceremony when you plug that card into your camera and see the error code on the lcd display, and it's the only empty card you have available. Or after fitting the new 50mm f1.4 lens that arrived yesterday you find that you never really had a full understanding of how narrow the depth of field is at f1.4 so besides the fact that you end up with a bunch of photos where only one person is in focus during critical group shots, you also realise it's not the person you were focused on, the lens needs to be fine tuned to your camera before you use it. Make sure you know the gear you are using on the day. This reminds me of another comment I read on a discussion forum: "If I were to photograph a wedding I'd hire two professional camera bodies and lenses for the day" ........ would you know how to use them though? There are a lot of settings on a professional camera body that are very different to amateur bodies. You are seriously better off shooting with the amateur gear you know than messing up with professional gear on the day - if you do hire 'the good stuff' make 100% sure you know how to use it on the day.

Camera strap: Perhaps as important as comfortable shoes because you will be carrying your gear for 6-8 long hours. Simply having camera straps around your neck is guaranteed to give you a nasty headache which doesn't inspire much creativity during any photoshoot. There are many options for holding two camera bodies, some are expensive - you need to decide how much you are prepared to spend to hold your valuable gear, after all you don't want to go cheap and risk damage if it doesn't hold properly. On saying that, there are a lot of reasonably priced options out there. I've found that a really effective and reasonably priced option does exist. If you shop on Aliexpress a dual camera strap can be bought for anywhere from $10 while the plastic holsters in the picture on the right start from $3 each. Screw the straps into the camera tripod mount and you have what is a common method of securing your camera without tiring your neck muscles. But they do swing around a bit and if for example you are washing your hands, both cameras bounce around against the basin. With two of those cheap plastic holsters you simply screw the fitting into the base of the dual harness mount and the cameras are also secured at your hips. If you adjust the straps so that when your shoulders are 'hanging' it shifts all the weight to the belt, but when you shrug your shoulders all the weight is taken off your hips, it forms a well balanced method of carrying your cameras without burdening your shoulders or having too much weight on your belt. Another tip is that instead of putting the holsters on your 'main' belt simply wear a second belt on top of your other belt, that way the ridges of the holster don't wear on your hips all day.

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Lenses: There are a lot of options for lenses. I will quote numbers for full frame [FF] and crop [DX]. Full frame cameras have 35mm sensors while dx or crop sensors are smaller so the numbers need to be multiplied by 1.5 to give an equivalent focal length. A 35mm lens on DX will be similar to a 50mm lens on FF. These are things you should know if you're going to shoot a wedding.

Fisheye and ultra-wides: 8-16mm DX, 12-24mm FF. can add to the pictures for the album but should be used wisely. A nice shot of the couple at the base of some redwoods perhaps, or a rainbow in the background can justify creating a little distortion in a wedding photo. But use with great discretion - 2 or 3 images could sneak into the album but if you have too many pictures with a lot of distortion they can start getting 'sickening' having the viewer desiring 'normality' again. The following image was taken with a fisheye lens to give an idea of how much can be included in an image but also showing what it does to straight lines.

Picture courtesy Mata Taputu Photography.

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Mid range zoom: 17-50mm f2.8 DX, 24-70mm f2.8 FF. [The best lens to have]

The Sigma 18-35mm [27-52mm] f1.8 lens is almost in this range and perhaps comes as close as you can get to a "prime-zoom". Of course 'prime' means only one focal length but the 18-35mm f1.8 is like 3 primes in one lens, fast and sharp and a worthwhile consideration for DX shooters.

The mid range zoom is the most useful lens for weddings. At one stage when the best Nikon body you could get was the DX Nikon D200 the bulky Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 was a top choice for wedding photographers. Some went as far as having two D200 bodies and a 17-55mm on BOTH bodies [as backup]. Not what I would advise but an indication of how useful that range is. Fact: You can crop in on an image to "zoom in" but you can't "crop out" and fit more in - Duh! Pretty obvious but also an epiphany you don't want to have on the wedding day. Some DX photographers might choose a Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 giving an equivalent of 42-112mm, only to find that in a small room with the bride getting ready when asked to get a group shot they can't fit everyone in. This dispels the over-used term "zoom with your feet" because in a small room there is a limit to how far you can back up - sometimes you simply need the wider angle. At the last wedding I shot [Some Filipino friends of mine] the guests loved dragging more people into photos and asking for a group shot. At one stage I was backed up to 18mm [DX] and managed to step on a chair to fit everyone into a group shot - it would have been nice to have the option of 16mm [24mm FF]. The Nikon 16-80mm f2.8-4.0 is looking like a very good general purpose option for DX bodies. In short, if you only have one lens make it a mid-range zoom - add a 50mm f1.8 [DX] or 85mm f1.8 [FF] and you have a general purpose lens plus an option for some shallow depth of field portrait shots. Of course it is good to have a longer lens as well which brings us to the next option:

Tele Zoom: Sigma 50-150mm f2.8, 50-100mm f1.8 DX, 70-200mm f2.8 FF.

Many wedding photographers work with a FF 24-70mm and a 70-200mm f2.8. This is the safest option because you cover the 24-200mm range, from the 'safest wide angle' to a reasonable long lens with good 'compression'. In good light the Nikon 18-140mm lens covers this range and a 50mm f1.8 on the second body could serve as a portrait lens. 50mm on dx isn’t quite right for headshots though as you can see in the tests I did. This picture was taken with a D7200 and the 70-300mm VR lens at 240mm which is like 360mm on a full frame lens. My second shooter was posing the couple and I stood off to the side - they were actually live-streaming their day to family back in the Phillipines and stopped to chat with them for a while. A long lens allows one to capture moments like this without them even knowing you are photographing them. 

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Another option is the 'slower' [f4-5,6] 70-300mm lens. On a DX body it gives the equivalent of 105-450mm which may sound extreme but comes in very useful at an outdoor wedding

Macro: Many pros have a dedicated macro lens. generally a 105mm f2.8 is better than a 40mm f2.8 because you can work from further away and not block any of the light on the subject. This also gives you the ability to light it with a softbox or similar if you have a decent distance from the subject. These days a macro lens isn't essential for wedding photography, though nice to have, because many of today's lenses can already focus pretty close and you can still crop in and get a decent shot of the rings. After all how many macro shots are you going to include and how big are they going to print them?

Primes:

This is the part where I advise people to think carefully about their choice. During a recent discussion on a photography forum a professional wedding photographer with over 400 weddings under his belt stated “I got all my best shots with a zoom lens”. I’ve also often seen the statement “People like to look at artsy images but they don’t buy prints of them”. Just because some pros are happy to shoot a whole day with a 35mm f1.4 doesn't mean it's a good choice for you - your style may be different. Every few months at least one person puts up a poll on my wedding photographers group "What are your favourite wedding lenses?" Usually "24-70mm f2.8 plus 70-200mm f2.8" gets the most votes. Then there is the occasional "24-70mm f2.8 plus 85mm f1.8 'because the 70-200mm is a heavy beast to carry around all day'" [Many Nikon photographers are finding that the f1.8 G lenses are sharper than the f1.4G lenses and totally adequate in low light, besides being lighter]. Amongst the prime shooters we have people choosing "35mm and 50mm", "35mm and 85mm" [most popular combination] with the occasional comments "But I want to get a 24mm because I'm feeling restricted by 35mm" and sometimes you read "I'm going back to zooms because I miss too many shots changing lenses with primes". Those who "only shoot primes" will often say "When the light gets low I can simply use a wider aperture!". That sounds ok until you realise that this is the part where you lose the control over depth of field you had by being able to choose the aperture you shoot at - now you are being forced to go to the shallowest depth of field to get your shot. Fair enough if a shallow depth of field works for the situation, but it won't always be enough to get all the important elements in the image. That's where I advise learning to use flash as well - that way you can still use a smaller aperture, for example, when doing group photos. 

Obvious fact: Though primes can get impressive results we don't see the pictures people miss by not having a wide enough lens to catch all the action when it happens. Other photographers will be impressed by the results they see - the customers will be the ones who know what was missed - who do you want to impress? As mentioned primes have their place but don't overdo them simply to impress other photographers - think about what the customer would like. As per the quote at the beginning "With great power comes great responsibility" - being able to really blur the background also allows for the possibility of blurring out something or someone important in the background if you're not 100% sure of what you are doing. 

Also, if you aren't accustomed to the shallow depth of field of f1.4 primes then the "limited" aperture of an f2.8 or even an f4 lens serves as a 'protection' against you having too much of your image out of focus. There is a good chance you will have to delete a few out of focus images if you shoot with an 85mm f1.4 prime. At the last wedding I shot I may not have got any competition winning images but with my 18-140mm and 70-300VR lenses I never had one out of focus image out of 2500. Not one.

Do yourself a favour and run a check to see your most used focal length in Lightroom. If you're one of those people like me who doesn't use Lightroom then download a free program like Exposureplot and let it analyse a batch of wedding or social photos you have taken and see which focal length you favour before choosing which prime to get. Keep in mind that whether you shoot with primes or zooms can also be dependent on which part of the wedding you are shooting. Getting ready shots and the ceremony along with the congratulations after the ceremony may require the ability to zoom. But the formals where you take the bridal party for some posed shots and fun stuff may allow you to choose a prime for a planned shot while perhaps having a 24-70 handy on the other body for 'just in case'. If the ceremony is in a dark candle-lit church on an overcast day you may have little choice but to go with your fast primes and take what you can get. It's like choosing what settings to use on the day - it's not something you can do in the morning when you start and then forget about it, as much as we would all love to be able to do that - you have to be adaptable and adjust depending on the conditions. They may have an outdoor wedding planned and after scoping out the venue you choose the gear that will suit you perfectly - then on the day the clouds roll in and it gets really dark and rainy and everyone rushes indoors to the plan-B location which may not quite suit the gear you have chosen.

How sharp does your lens need to be? These days all digital cameras have more than enough megapixels and the majority of lenses are more than sharp enough to capture the detail you need on the day. The Nikon 60mm f2.8 has actually been described as "too sharp for portraits" because it shows all the flaws in a person's skin. How sharp is it? DXOMARK is a very useful site to check lens sharpness on. What they do is compare a lens on various camera bodies and show the actual sharpness in megapixels that a lens is capable of on a particular body. For example the 60mm f2.8D Nikon registers 13 megapixels of actual sharpness on a 24 megapixel Nikon D7100. I have been given permission to copy and paste these screenshots by: www.dxomark.com

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This site can be quite an eye opener when you start checking up camera and lens combinations. Many people will tell you to rather shoot with the 35mm f1.8 prime on a D7200 than the 18-140mm "kit lens". How do they compare in  real world sharpness?

 

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Ooh wow, 12 meg vs 11 meg about 4% difference in linear resolution. Aside from the fact that the f1.8 would be very useful in low light situations and would put the 18-140mm f3.5-5.6 to shame in that situation do you think anyone would tell the difference outdoors in good light? That is where the 18-140mm would put the 35mm to shame in regard to versatility. Don't be restricted by the "but primes are much sharper than zooms" mentality when the light is good - nobody will know the difference at f8. Also did you notice we had 11 megapixels of sharpness while the 60mm 2.8D is described as "too sharp for portraits" at 13 meg? Obviously the 18-140mm is more than sharp enough to capture a wedding with. Now let's take the highly regarded Nikon D700 full frame with the 50mm f1.8G lens - a combination that many pros have made a living with. 

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9 megapixels of actual sharpness!  This is not a comparison between full frame and crop sensors because there are plenty of 24 and 36 megapixel full frame sensors out there that can make the numbers look very different in favour of full frame and primes - it's just to show that 9 megapixels of sharpness can wow the crowds and earn someone their living, so don't let anyone tell you the 11 megapixel combination of a D7200 and 18-140mm "kit lens" isn't good enough to shoot a wedding. There will always be more megapixels and sharper lenses that will have the purists dumping their gear to "upgrade" but at the biggest sizes anyone will print wedding photos, any of today's cameras and lenses can do the job quite sufficiently. Have a look at these images. All taken with either a kit lens or a super-zoom lens. The sharpest one of all, the smashing light bulb, was taken with an 18-105mm lens and a 12 meg D90. The cameras used range from the 6 megapixel Nikon D40 to the 24 megapixel Nikon D7200 - can you tell which is which?

In case you didn’t flip through the images have a look at this one in particular from my gallery of high speed photography. The image was taken in the dark with the flash set to 1/128th power which makes it fire in 1/41600th sec resulting in very little visible movement. One comment on it was “'The sharpness of this image is sublime”. What kind of gear do you think this was taken with? Actually it’s a cropped version of an image taken with a 12 megapixel Nikon D90 using the 18-105mm KIT LENS. Though expensive professional gear has advantages over the “lesser” gear there is no reason why you can’t still get impressive results from cheaper gear.

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What about filters? I collected some information from various discussions on the forums - cheap filters and bokeh This is a highly debated topic which means it's a matter of personal choice. Keep in mind that as per my other blog on cheap filters you can get focus issues, lose 1/3 of a stop of light or have 'nervous bokeh' due to a bad filter. The filter can also protect the front element from dirt. However, on one discussion on the subject a photographer who also works for an insurance company stated that they get more claims for "filter scratched front element when lens was dropped" than they do for "damaged front element due to no filter". The front element of a lens is pretty tough [there will be variations amongst manufacturers] but I did several tests including shooting a lens with an air pistol. It survived without a mark!

I also dropped a faulty lens that wasn't good for anything else, connected to an old film body, just to see how the lens would handle it. My conclusion was that if you were to drop it from high enough to damage the front element then the internals would fly apart anyway. If something were to hit the front element hard enough to damage it a filter won't help anyway, it will just help to scratch it. I used to get a filter for every lens I bought but no longer bother with them. It does add resale value though if people know it "has had a filter on from day one".

Camera bodies: if you're going to do this full time then go for a full frame camera with two memory card slots [Two of them of course]. Having said that "back in the day" professional photographers were shooting with the 8 megapixel Canon 20D and then the 10 megapixel Nikon D200 which they thought was amazing. There were even pros shooting with the 5 megapixel Olympus E1. So there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to do it with any of today's DSLR's, apart from the fact that twin card slots is highly advisable in case one card fails - [it does happen!]. In normal daylight the results will all look pretty similar between the camera bodies but in low light situations each stop of light helps. A full frame sensor is 2 1/2 X bigger than a crop sensor meaning just over a stop of high iso advantage [cleaner images at higher iso's]. An f1.8 prime will give another two stops over the f3.5 of the wide end of a kit lens. A prime lens with less elements [lenses] will have a better "T-stop"  meaning that both lenses may be at f4 but the prime may transmit exactly f4 of light while the inferior kit lens has so many extra [inferior] elements that at f4 it blocks some light and maybe only lets through the equivalent of f5 meaning you will need a higher iso or slower shutter speed to get the same exposure as the prime. A filter could lose you 1/3 of a stop as well. At the end of the day in a candlelit church this could be the difference between shooting at 1/100th sec f1.8 and iso 800 on the pro setup vs 1/100th sec f3.5 and iso 5000 [not 3200 because of the lower T-stop and a filter on the lens perhaps] at the wide end of the kit lens. Keeping in mind too that the pro full frame body will have a cleaner iso 1600 than the iso 800 of the crop sensor body. But there is no reason why you couldn't get almost the same results from a crop sensor D7200 with a decent prime lens in low light situations, and again, outdoors nobody will be able to tell which image was taken with a full frame or crop sensor Watch this enlightening video comparison.

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Camera Bag: My advice is to get a 'top loader', not something that needs to be zipped up every time you want to move it somewhere, like those backpacks that have to be fully zipped up to prevent distracting 'crashing' noises behind you from cameras and lenses falling out when you're walking along a concrete path - besides being distracting those noises could test the strength of your heart as well. I have found that a large top loader bag is very convenient when you want to quickly reach into it and pull out a lens or flash without having to zip and unzip each time you move. "Piggy" also approves of it. Actually I think he was waiting to bite it, he doesn't like anything put on the floor.

Camera settings:  Again, if you need to ask then you shouldn't be charging to shoot weddings yet and hopefully you're simply doing it because the couple has no other options. This is also personal, even though shooting fully manual is the purists idea of how all photography should be done some of us don't have enough "RAM" in our heads to do this through the whole day. If you can adjust your settings without thinking in the same way you drive your car then by all means do it - but for people like me who get caught up in the action, forgetting your camera on the wrong setting when you follow the bride around the corner into much brighter/dimmer light can be disastrous. I'd rather let my camera do the thinking in these situations and only have to make small adjustments later rather than trying to rescue a disaster of an image. If you're going to be in the same lighting for a while then manual is a good idea, you will get greater consistency. If you're worried you will panic on the day then have a look at my camera settings for beginners , better to shoot in "P for panic" than try to take manual control but totally make a mess of the day.

"A" 'Aperture' priority mode is what many photographers choose through the day so they can determine how much of the photo is in focus - it is a way of 'taking control' of an aspect of the pictures while letting the camera still make sure your exposure is 'in the ballpark'.

"S" [Tv for Canon] 'Shutter' priority mode is what some will use during the reception or perhaps if you have the couple doing some dance moves among the trees and want some "artistic blur" then you may want to dial shutter speed down to 1/15th sec and make things look dreamy. Just don't forget it at the wrong settings. Other possibilities are when you are using a longer lens which will show more movement in the images, you dial up the shutter speed while the camera opens the aperture up as much as it can before increasing iso to compensate.

"P" 'Program' mode. Tell the customer it's "P for Professional" while you actually know it's "P for Panic". There are pros that revert to this mode when the action speeds up and they don't have time to choose the perfect settings - there is no shame in using this mode - your main objective is to present memories of the day to the customer, they don't care how you got them. And the thing is, as long as you know why you are choosing a certain mode and getting the results you want it doesn't really matter. For example I know that Program mode will choose a high enough shutter speed while making sure it opens the aperture to its widest before raising the iso - which is pretty close to what I would do anyway. And since I set my auto-iso to kick in at 1/125th sec I will have a fast enough shutter speed to prevent blur and catch most of the wedding action you will have on the day. If the settings reach their maximum [I have auto iso set to go no further than iso 6400] and there isn't enough light the camera will then decrease shutter speed below my 1/125th limit to get the correct exposure - as I would do. It's all about knowing what the modes do so you can choose one that would get as close to the settings you would choose if you were in manual mode and had the time to make adjustments. This also means setting auto-iso accordingly.

Flash: This falls under "gear" but I thought it pertinent to leave it until after "settings" because the first thing you need to learn about flash is getting the settings for your ambient right - but that's a topic for another discussion. This is also one of those topics highly debated by amateurs who, for some reason, seem to think they actually have to pick a side between "flash" and "available light". Meanwhile professionals are more mature and simply use whatever tools do the job for a situation. You will hear people saying "I love natural light" when they see a picture that has been taken in really nice diffused light - not realising that harsh sunlight is also 'natural' light. People just seem to name it 'natural light' when it looks good. The fact is that natural light doesn't always look good and sometimes needs 'help'. It also depends on what kind of look you are trying to achieve - or perhaps you want to give them a view of their location but the light is less than ideal in all directions. Here's a situation when I wanted the nice cloud formations in the background. The light looked really good in the other direction but why not add some variety to the day? If you expose for the couple  the background is totally blown out, if you expose for the clouds the couple can hardly be seen, and as much as dynamic range has improved on sensors these days they still have their limitations.

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This is the part where you add some flash from the front. [D7200, 18-140mmVR plus SB800 on-camera flash.] As you progress you will find that off camera flash looks a lot more professional but is not always an option when things are moving quickly.

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Remember it's not a competition between which is better, flash or natural light. It's a way of being a more versatile photographer and presenting more options to your customers. This is what the scene looked like with frontal light from that huge white diffuser in the sky. A totally different look to the image and could just as well be two different locations [taken with the D7200 and 70-300mm VR lens] which actually emphasises how useful it can be when you have a flash at your disposal to add to the lighting. 

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Batteries: Eneloop rechargeables are very good for flash, I've done tests with them and they are the best. As mentioned in the section about backups, you should have at least two camera batteries for each body, preferably 3, even if you know your camera can do 1000 photos on half a charge. Besides that, halfway through the day change your camera batteries and flash batteries whether they are showing as being low or not, don't wait for a warning on your display at an awkward moment. Godox offers an option for a wireless flash that takes a lithium battery which apparently lasts the entire day. You would also want to be sure you have backups of those batteries as well though - which is why for now I’ll just stick with the AA battery versions I already have.

What about iso limits? How far are you prepared to go, how much quality are you prepared to lose and how long are the couple going to look at the image before they flip over to the next image [in other words, how important will the image be in their album, if they even print it]. Some images are just for fun. In this case the couple wanted some pictures in the cellar of this old homestead. I knew I would be using flash but decided to see how the D7200 would do at iso 25600 with no help from the flash. Many pros would never dream of handing over such a 'washed out mush' but I gave this image to my friends - I charged absolute minimum for the day and they were happy with this image, they're my friends and that's all I care about.

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Back to the discussion about flash. Many beginners buy their first flash, put it on the camera and fire it directly in someone's face, the camera automatically sets the background to turn out black [because the photographer chose the wrong settings] and the picture looks awful. From then on whenever they read a post about someone asking about flash they respond with "Whatever you do don't use flash, it will ruin your pictures!". Meanwhile there are many pros making a living using flash in their photos - maybe someone should warn them too? Have a look at this website demonstrating how to use flash and still have the light looking natural.

Bounce flash is the most underrated technique possible. People will tell you that good lighting is about having the largest diffused light source possible, and will go to great lengths to shoot with the biggest softbox they can assemble. Meanwhile bouncing the flash off a suitable white surface provides a light source 5 or 10 times bigger than their softbox. In the setting above I aimed the SB800 over my right shoulder, in the direction of the light that produced the shadows in the previous image. It is often better to work with the existing light source than to work against it, in this case the settings for ambient totally killed the existing light - [D7200 18-140mm SB800]. Again, it's not about whether the one looks better than the other, it's about the fact that you have the ability to use either as needed.

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Posing couples: Don't overthink this one. You may see a pose you really like and try to copy it but never get the same results - this is often because the moment was spontaneous and the photographer probably told the couple "Just be yourselves" and stepped back and photographed the occasion - you can't pose spontaneity. Not every couple will be so forthcoming with their poses, some will have researched poses and will be a dream to work with as they try them out. Others may stand there like statues and say "What should we do?". The best you can do is build up a good rapport with the couple before the day and work on it through the day. One way of getting them to 'loosen up' is to move a distance from them, get out a long lens and tell them to 'stay' for a while as you back away. They will start talking to each other and feel more comfortable with the lessened pressure. Once you are far enough away get them to start walking toward you slowly then tell them to just talk with each other, maybe ask them if they can dance, tell him to 'twirl her around' - think of ways to get them into more interesting poses than a pair of statues. Reverse psychology can work wonders - tell them to stand still, stare straight at you, look serious "and whatever you do don't smile or laugh!" - see how long they keep looking serious.

Working together: Occasionally you may end up working with a videographer. There are two general approaches to this 'situation'.

1.) You both say "You do your job and I'll do mine - just stay out of my way!"

2.) Or "Let's work together and do our best to make it a happy day for the bride and groom!".

I personally prefer the second option. If both parties work together it is perfectly feasible to get good pictures and video for the couple - which is what they would want. Starting the day thinking  about having a competition with each other is a distraction you don't need, and neither does the couple, they're paying for professionals, act like one [both of you]. Being professional means more than charging for your services, it's the way you behave as well. Talk to each other, agree on who will stand where during various parts of the ceremony. If the videographer wants to get a clip with the bride walking toward the groom for the ceremony discuss where they will be standing and work out where you can stand so as not to mess it up. Hopefully the videographer will do the same for some shots you would like to get. Be prepared to sacrifice one or two shots to make it easier for them to get a stunning video for the couple. Having a videographer can also relieve some of the pressure from you especially during the formals after the ceremony. Find out what 'scenes' they would like to set up with the couple and stand back and get some nice 'candid's from a distance. Then while you are setting up your shots they can do the same with video. Once again, ask yourself "What would the couple want?" or "What would I want if it were my wedding?".

Workflow: This is something that may take a while to work out. Depending what software you use [I find Nikon NX-D perfectly capable and useful software for editing] there could be several approaches to this topic. First you need to have the time on your cameras set the same. It's not nice trying to "arrange by time taken" when one body was set to daylight savings and the other wasn't and they're an hour different and the pictures overlap in time, like an hour's worth of 'getting ready' photos overlapping the ceremony photos. In Lightroom you can change the time in the exif - best to simply get the time set right from the beginning. After the shoot download all the pictures to your computer - don't delete them from the memory cards yet, anything could go wrong with the computer after downloading the pictures. Once they are on the computer back them up to an external hard drive or cloud storage. Now you may need to rename them since the numbers the camera gives them could be duplicated on both bodies. After you have "cameraA" and "cameraB" files renamed you won't be asked "these files numbers already exist, what do you want to do...." you can perhaps make 4 folders "preparation" "ceremony" "formals" "reception" and copy the images to their relevant folders. With Nikon NX-D these folders can be opened one at a time and global adjustments made. If white balance is set to 'auto' there will be slight variations between images in the same lighting - select all the images taken in the same lighting and 'fix' the white balance to the same setting for all of them. After making all other adjustments you need in whatever program you use [I export as jpegs and give each image one final tweak in PSE13] then decide how you want to present them. I still present them in 4 separate folders as jpegs. How many you present is up to you. People used to say that 300 is more than enough, now it seems to be around 500 - but also think what you would like if it were you and someone said "We got 2000 pictures on the day, how many do you want?". I'd take all of them though some say "How long will it take to look through all of them!?" the answer to that is that they have the rest of their married lives and don't have to print or save them all. Most photographers though will only want to present their best work and not let any "sub standard" images be seen by potential customers. Personally with the dozen weddings I have shot the customers have really been happy about receiving all the images.

Other topics: Canon vs Nikon [Sony is starting to creep into this argument], Mac vs pc: Use whatever does the job for you, there are good options in both camps and you are buying into a system, not just the camera body - what lenses do they have to offer, how much do they cost? Nikon always seems to be slightly more expensive but their kit lenses are generally better quality. 3rd party lenses come out for Canon first because there are more of them out there and cost less than 3rd party lenses for Nikon for this reason. Mac's are more stable but cost a lot. PC's are cheaper to buy to get the same power as a Mac but they slow down over time as programs are added. My 8 year old Macbook pro is as fast as it was on the day I bought it. I recently bought a decent pc build which is really fast and 1/3 of the price an iMac would have cost - but the second month's updates wouldn't install properly and kept downloading and trying again each time I started it up. The response from other Windows users? "Just forget it, next month's updates will fix it, they always do!". PC users get used to working around problems with the system - not that Apple products are perfect, they definitely are not but I've never had to work around problems while waiting for them to fix it on an iMac. Either way at 1/3 of the price I went with a PC but if I was making a good living from photography it would have been another iMac. Of course there are full time pros who use a PC for their editing [you will also find they are used to working around their problems, like having to be a mechanic to drive a certain car :) ] 

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For those interested I have added a slideshow of images from the last wedding I shot with an 18-140mm lens. Most of the indoor shots involved using bounce flash with the SB800.

Choosing a lens for wedding photography.

There's a motor vehicle workshop in town that has this sign on the wall. Basically if you want your car fixed you can only choose one of these options. You can't have a cheap, fast and quality repair - one choice excludes the others. It's similar with lenses.

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In the case of lenses however a fast lens is generally a quality lens so we need to change the wording a little. In other words it is impossible to get a cheap 28-300mm equivalent f1.4 lens to cover every situation at a wedding.

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Now comes the part where you decide what your priority is: Versatility or creamy bokeh, price is secondary and may simply determine whether you choose between used or new, manufacturers lenses or 3rd party. Weight is also a factor but with mid range zooms anyone should be able to handle one all day at a wedding - the 70-200mm f2.8 is a different topic. Fortunately you don't have to pick an absolute corner, you can choose anywhere along the sides of the triangle or somewhere in the middle. For example. [From now on I will refer to lenses for the dx/crop sensor bodies as I use a Nikon D7200]

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As you can see [in my opinion] the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 hits the sweet spot in price, versatility and light transmission. [I don't mention the Sigma which is better built because its zoom action is in the reverse direction of Nikon lenses, it's still a good choice if you can get used to that. The Sigma 18-35mm is an amazing option for those who can live with its limited range - someone used to shooting primes only will find that this is a dream lens, like 3 - 4 primes in one lens - if you like the 35mm [50mm equivalent] prime then with the Sigma 18-35mm you have the option of going wide if needed and I think it is a very sensible choice. Last weekend I shot a friends wedding, they are from the Phillipines and those people love their group shots. If I wasn't shooting my 18-140mm lens I would have been in trouble with the various requests "Take a picture of us" and it starts off with me moving the lens to 35mm, more people get added in, 24mm, more people get dragged into the shot and then I'm at 18mm and dragging out a chair to stand on from the other side of a table to get everyone in. My point is: The ultimate quality prime lens can still become useless in some situations. Are you going to tell the couple "I only shoot primes and I didn't have time to change lenses, but the 4 of you in the middle will be really sharp!", or "The 50mm 1.4 is so much sharper than the 24mm so I didn't bother getting a 24mm, actually the 35mm is also very sharp so I can fit 8 of you into the picture!."

But what about lens sharpness, distortion, colour, contrast - all those terms you read about in the reviews? Besides the fact that all of these things can be adjusted when you process your images, and modern cameras automatically correct for a lot of these imperfections anyway, can you honestly tell the difference in an image you see that isn't a side-by side comparison at 100%? I know that if you squint your eyes, tilt your head to the left and twist your tongue against the roof of your mouth you can actually see a difference but will your customers see this difference?Are you afraid to let other [armchair] photographers know that you are not shooting with a prime lens? Is the following image sharp enough for your needs? When I took it I owned an 18-105mm kit lens, a 70-200mm f2.8VR, a 50mm f1.8D and an 85mm f1.8D. What lens do you think I used?

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It was taken with the 18-105mm kit lens on a 12 megapixel Nikon D90 and is a 6 megapixel crop from half of the image [resized to 2500 wide for this blog]. What makes it sharper than the average photo is that the flash was set at 1/128th power which fires in 1/41600th sec so there is almost no movement in the image - technique is so much more important than lens sharpness. On dxomark the 18-105mm yields 7 actual megapixels of sharpness on a 12meg dx sensor so with a 50% crop you're looking at about 3 megapixels of sharpness. It would look good on a billboard viewed from the correct distance - and please don't tell me "now zoom in to 100%" - what would the point be of pushing your nose up against a billboard to prove there are imperfections to people driving past who will never see those imperfections?

As we go through these various points please think carefully about your choices and ask yourself the question: "If it were my wedding how would I like it to be done?"

Now for some facts:

1.) You can take an f1.4 lens to f4 but you can't take an f4 lens to f1.4 But: you can blur the background later in an image taken at f4 but you can't recover detail from the background in an image taken at f1.4. My point? If you're shooting with an f1.4 prime use the aperture wisely "just because you have the tools doesn't mean you have to use them" you don't use your new flash when the natural light is perfect and you don't shoot everything at f1.4 to blur the background beyond recognition just because other photographers say "Ooooh what creamy bokeh, it looks so professional!" - until your customer says "Why is the background so blurry? My cellphone takes better pictures!" because Uncle Bob is smiling for the first time in years but his face is out of focus behind the couple so they wonder what is wrong with your camera [this is the wedding where uncle Bob's only camera is in for repairs so he didn't shoot the wedding for them]. Blurred backgrounds can look very professional but your main focus should be capturing memories for the customer, that is why most of them think they are employing your services, not to impress your photographer friends. What's important to your customers will differ greatly to what other photographers appreciate in an image and if there is something or someone important in the background it is safer to shoot at a smaller aperture to get it in focus. Just don't show your photographer friends the images or they will tell you that you need to 'separate the subject from the background' more [the background that your customer wants to see that is].

Nikon 18-200mm - I was shooting at 200mm but zoomed back to show the scene and ended up preferring this image.

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2.) You can crop more with a sharp prime than with a zoom but you can't zoom with a prime. Sounds obvious but you will come up against these arguments. So how much difference does this make? Well the Nikon 24mm f1.8G is one of the sharpest primes out there and on dxomark it yields 15 megapixels of actual sharpness on a 24 meg dx sensor. And the 18-140mm 'kit' lens? 11 megapixels  of actual resolution which is nearly 4X that of the sample image I posted of the bulb being smashed! So with the 24mm prime I can crop 1.36X [32.7mm]to get to the same resolution of the 'kit' lens at that focal length. But the 'kit' lens can go all the way back to 18mm and out to 140mm. However when you crop you are also magnifying any movement in an image - as when you zoom of course - but the 'kit' lens has VR [vibration reduction] while no 1.4 or 1.8 prime has it. At 140mm and 11 megapixels resolution the kit lens will have far superior image quality to the 24mm cropped in to that size at 2.5 megapixels. Of course anyone shooting weddings must have at least two camera bodies with perhaps a 24mm on one [35mm equivalent] and maybe a 50 or 85mm on the other and there is no reason why you couldn't get really good images from that combination - just be prepared for the fact that your widest lens is your critical limit - a 2.5 meg crop will still look fine with a quality lens, you can crop in but you can't 'crop out' wider.

Nikon 18-200mm, wireless sound trigger for the flash plus a pellet from an air rifle.

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Here's another blatantly obvious fact:

3.) You don't see the images a photographer missed. At the end of the day when people are going "Ooooh" and "Aaaah" at the amazing portraits produced with creamy bokeh you are seeing the best images they were "able to" capture, obviously not the ones they weren't able to capture. I once read a comment from an amateur regarding what they would do if they were to shoot a wedding, "I would take my sharpest lens, currently a 50mm f1.8D and discipline myself to take all the pictures with that lens!". Seriously? a 75mm equivalent for every wedding photo? Just because that lens would give 13 meg actual resolution over the 11 of the 'kit' lens. That would mean getting 4 people in the middle of a 12 person group shot at the reception in the case of the last wedding I shot, unless of course you were planning on doing a pano and stitching later which I think some people are 'dedicated' enough to attempt in their quest for 'ultimate quality' to impress their photography mates. Good thing he didn't get to shoot a wedding when he owned the 200mm f2 lens, it would have been his sharpest lens and it would take a lot of discipline to shoot an entire wedding at 300mm equivalent simply to get ultimate sharpness.

Nikon 18-140mm at f5.6

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So now we come to the "mid range zoom". 24-70mm f2.8 on full frame, 17-50mm f2.8 on a crop sensor and perhaps we could include the 16-80mm f2.8-4 Nikon and the 18-35mm f1.8 Sigma lens. Some people use a Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 on a crop body but I find the 28mm wide end a little limiting. For those who insist "Primes are still sharper than f2.8 zooms" give it a break, nobody will see the difference. Have a look at Zhuoya photography, one of the best in New Zealand. Most of the images in his gallery are taken with the Nikon 24-70mm [full frame] please contact him and let him know where he is lacking if his images don't meet with the quality standards for wedding photography.

Food for thought. As mentioned on my previous blog I have a few groups for wedding photography on facebook. Often the topic of "which lenses do you use" come up with a poll and the most common are [full frame cameras]:

Often: 24-70mm f2.8 plus 70-200mm f2.8,

Often: 35mm plus 85mm primes,

Occasionally 24-70mm f2.8 plus 85mm "because the 70-200mm is a heavy beast to carry all day"

Sometimes followed by "I've been shooting primes but am going back to a 24-70mm f2.8 because I'm missing too many shots changing lenses" [As I said, we don't see the shots a photographer missed]. Also occasionally "The 35mm is sometimes a little limiting so I'm thinking of going to a wider prime"

 

Nikon 18-200mm. I had this shot in mind but didn't know what focal length I would need - the 18-200mm allowed me to choose at the time. 

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Perhaps we can all learn from the experience of others. If you shoot only primes and know exactly why and are happy doing so then by all means continue doing so. If you're reading this to decide what to use then please consider a mid range zoom to start with - for crop sensors perhaps the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 VC [13 meg actual sharpness] and because you should have more than one body for something as important as a wedding then maybe an 85mm 1.8G on the other body. Another good option would be the Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 plus a 50mm 1.8G on the other body. The 50mm f1.8G gives 14 meg of actual sharpness on dxomark and could yield a decent 4X cropped image [75mm equivalent X 4 = 300mm equivalent]

Another option is the very good 18-140mm 'kit' lens to cover all situations plus maybe the 50mm 1.8G for some 'bokeh' portrait shots during the day and the 18-35mm 1.8 Sigma in the bag for when the light levels start dropping. If it was your wedding being photographed what would you want, primes with ultimate quality or zooms that get everything in? The Sigma 35mm f1.4 yields an amazing 16 meg resolution on a 24meg crop sensor while the Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 is two stops slower and 'only' yields 12 meg resolution. All those numbers to get your head spinning and sway you towards "ultimate image quality" rather than "ultimate versatility". Which would you rather have and more importantly which would your customer rather have? With a 35mm or 50mm top quality f1.4 prime you can get resolution and background blur not possible with the 24-70mm. But then you can't zoom back and get in the 12 people lined up asking for a group shot in the reception hall, this part isn't my opinion, it's fact. Let's look at the 2X crop from my 12 meg D90 and the 18-105mm kit lens giving around 3 megapixels of actual resolution. Is the resolution critical to your decision when this is what a kit lens can accomplish? If not then all that's left is background blur vs versatility for you to decide. I’ve added a very interesting video below.

 

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