Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shooting a wedding... prepare, and then be flexible

I got the chance to shoot my wife's cousins wedding and reception on last Saturday.  I felt like I really had my stuff together and was as prepared as I could have been.  It felt like it was planning for going into battle.  All the things that I have read and learned from all sorts of sources on the internet made my time really enjoyable, and challenging.  So I tried to do it all.  Shoot video and shoot photos.  I kick myself for missing things, or wishing I had X piece of equipment handy, or not doing more.  I look back now and realize that I could have done so much more.  But all that doesn't matter now.  All I can do is put together the best possible video and edit the best possible photos to capture the day.  In the end, I loved it, and I think they will love the final product too.

Here is what I came away with for the video:
Here is the link in case the video doesn't play. http://5d2.smugmug.com/Weddings/Jen-Wedding/i-R8gpQJd/0/1080/JenWeddingCompilation-1080.mp4

Here are the photos:

Things I did right
I brought almost everything that I own, equipment wise.
I made a shot list for all of the "wedding events" so that I knew what was coming, and what was left.
I watch other wedding videos to get ideas.
I made people laugh and got some very good shots.
I didn't settle with good enough shots, I took on complex shots that paid off.
I stayed out of the way.  I did my thing, and hopefully was not distracting to the guests.
I got all the shots on my shots list.

Things I did wrong
I left the Zoom H4N on Phantom power, which sucked the batteries dry in minutes, not hours.  Lost audio files of the ceremony because of that.
I didn't carry both cameras with me at all times.  I should have.  I need a belt/holder for second and third cameras.
I didn't start the GoPro because of my fear of running out of battery in the middle of the ceremony, and I didn't have any good spot, or way to mount the camera in trees.
I didn't bring an assistant to hold a reflector or a diffuser.
I didn't set the shutter speed and ISO on some of the inside shots and got harsh shadows.   Single flash system does not hold up well with large wedding parties.
I didn't balance the stabilizer to perfection so I had to post stabilize.
I didn't use the jib for the wedding ceremony, to get shots over the crowd standing for the bride entering. Although, this was probably good since I would have had to change the depth of focus and could have really screwed it up.

Things that I learned
In the end, I am happy with what I was able to do.  It was worth the hours of planning, the equipment testing. But here are the little things that I learned along the way.

1. Don't try to be the photographer and the videographer.  You really need multiple cameras and multiple people shooting to do video well.  There are so many angles, and movements that you need to do with video to make it interesting.  And of course to capture all the little moments you really need a dedicated photographer.  Switching back and forth, and making sure all the settings for the cameras switch as well, is not a good place to be in.  It can be done, but I would not recommend it.  Also, don't try to shoot anything if you are suppose to be in it.

2. Don't let the batteries run out on a Zoom H4N while recording.  If you do, take out the card and put a new card in so that you have a chance of recovering what you did record.  There is a good chance you can, but not if you replace the batteries and continue recording to the same card.  Don't leave phantom power on, if you aren't using a powered condenser mic.  I had the Sennheiser G3 wireless mics that don't need phantom power, and I left it on and got maybe 30 minutes of record time.

3. Learn how to make people laugh.  People are usually pretty solemn at weddings, but if you bring out the joy, however you can, you will be remembered and you will get shots that look like people are really glad to be there.

4. Plan ahead as much as possible.  Get there early, and if possible, go there before hand to scout out the great locations for shots. If you are looking for good spots while people are waiting for you, they will get bored and frustrated.

5. Learn how to direct people to do what you want.  Chin down, turn to your left, step forward need to be direct and assertive.  For those few moments, you are the boss and you can't be timid about asking for what you want.  This does mean that you have to do it in a way that stops people relaxed and happy.  Don't be a photo Nazi. Be a stewardess on a first class flight to Hawaii.  Happy people make better photos and video.

6. Don't waste people's time trying to get your camera to work.  You should take a test shot as people are gathering for you, check the settings to make sure you know what is best for the situation, and then shoot.  Talk to people while you are shooting so that they have some feedback.  If you are stuck staring at the back of your camera, or spending time adjusting things, people will get bored and not listen.

7. With large groups of people, take lots of shots.  If there are kids in the shot, don't try to hard to make them look at you, chances are that if you are being entertaining to the group, the kids will look as well.  So catch them when they do by taking more shots.  If you are any good with Photoshop, you will be able to edit the perfect shot with a composite of multiple shots.
8. Make sure you set expectations up front.  Shooting is about 1/6 the battle.  Remember that for every good picture, I spend about 10 minutes per photo.  From every 1 minute of good video, I spend about 6 minutes of editing.  So, why does that matter? Because you want to set expectations about what it will take before someone is going to get your final product(s).

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