On November 16th, two good friends of mine, Lucas and Renee, got married and I was lucky enough to have been asked to shoot the event.
Wait a minute, Matt! I thought you didn't shoot weddings?!
You're right, I generally don't. Weddings are the bread and butter for many photographers, but I usually avoid them. People tend to put so much pressure on a single day being absolutely perfect that this suffocating cloud of stress hangs over the event. People spend exorbitant amounts of money and scramble to ensure every minute detail is attended to - and usually, at least one major argument breaks out behind the scenes. I like to capture the essence of people. During many weddings, that essence is obscured by the stress of the event.
This was not that kind of wedding. Renee and Lucas are two of the most genuine people I know. They are warm and caring with a get-shit-done mentality. They treasure ceremony, but not spectacle. They cut out the distractions so they could concentrate on the friends with whom they were sharing the day. The event was bare bones and it was one of the best weddings I've been to. This is the type of wedding that I jump at the opportunity to shoot.
The event was outside on a cold grey afternoon. The temperatures were in the high 40's and a fine drizzle came and went throughout the day. While not the most beautiful day, the conditions weren't bad for shooting. The clouds turned the entire sky into a giant soft box and so the light was incredibly soft and flattering. Unfortunately, the clouds were also thick enough that not much light penetrated. I was grateful for the low light performance on the Canon 6D.
The ceremony was only 5 minutes long and there were a lot of moments to capture. To get as many as possible, I was on my feet the whole time leveraging the zoom on the 70-200mm f/2.8. If you're adjusting your focal length a lot, it's easy to lose track of your shutter speed. You always want to ensure that your shutter speed is at least as fast as the inverse of your focal length. For example, if you are shooting at 50mm, your shutter speed should be at least 1/50th of a second. If you go any slower than that, you risk blurring the pictures due to camera shake (here's a great video explaining camera shake by a rotund, yet charming Englishman -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2b62BJIw5c). To avoid camera shake, I locked my shutter speed at 1/160th of a second to cover the full range of the zoom lens (image stabilization on the lens gives me 2 stops of compensation but I prefer not to push the limits). My aperture was as open as possible to keep the subjects in focus, and I set my ISO to auto. At times, it pushed upwards towards ISO 12800. Going with a higher ISO can add a certain amount of unwanted graininess or noise to the images but with the general small cozy vibe of the wedding, the grain helped foster an older vintage feeling.
Post editing work was a bit heavier on this set than on most. The background was darkened about half a stop and the highlights were dropped fairly dramatically. In addition, the color temperature of the background was warmed significantly. This accomplished two things. First, it served to separate the subject from the background. Second, the warming of the background color temperature gives the impression that the weather was nicer than it actually was that day. The color temperature coupled with the softening of the image from the fine mist of rain that was coming down, gives more of a dreamy feeling as well. Normally, I prefer to minimize post editing so that the image is as representative of the reality as possible. However, at times, editing the photo to better reflect the feeling of a moment paints a more accurate reality.
This shoot was amazingly fun and I'm grateful I was asked to be a part of the couple's wedding day. The bride and groom are awesome people and they left me to my own devices to come up with images. The low-stress, joyous feeling of the day shone through in every single frame, making my job incredibly easy. The event reinforced the importance of one of the single most essential rules of photographing people: capture the emotion. If you're shooting the right people in the right environment, that's a joy to accomplish.