The gravitational pull of wedding photography has been unusually unrelenting towards me lately, with several episodes of actual day weddings to cover, mostly involving friends’ friends, or people connected to people that I do know. I chose to see them as an opportunity to dip my feet and perhaps get myself wet in the strange world of wedding photography. Although I come from quite a large family with thousands of uncles, aunties, vultures and cousins, I found myself not being there to witness that many wedding ceremonies. This instantaneously labelled myself as a complete stranger in this game, regardless of my ordinary camera knowledge and experience I have gained through much random photography works.
I can do as much research as I can considering a lot of photographers publish their works online, and to certain extent, you can even find tips and tutorials for wedding photography anywhere. I can browse through as many sample photos as I need, and prepare myself as thoroughly as I wanted to, but at the end of the day the real challenge happened on the actual big day itself. There was not so much of being nervous, or feeling stressed out, but what troubled me most of the time was the inability to perceive what I want as an end result.
To me, visualisation is extremely important, and I set what I want to accomplish in my photography works right from the beginning, a concept some would say, and then did what I can with my camera and knowledge to make the concept work. There was a clear goal to work towards the direction. This is a controlled form of photography, and photographer has almost absolute control of the circumstances.
There is another form of photography that does not adhere to the visualization and preconceptions as mentioned before. Take photo-journalistic style for an example. The best shots happen at most unexpected and random times, and the photographers would have to be there, ever ready to pounce on each and every opportunity that sprouted in front of them. Clicking the shutter at even a split second too late will render the shots useless. On this side of the coin, all prior preparations and pre-conceptions will actually not work. The photographer’s instinct and quick reflexes to respond to the situation as it changes and reshapes itself are vital to ensure that the moments were captured. This is what some would call, sniping.
Now, you see, the problem about wedding photography is the fusion of both the ability to 1) visualize and plan the desired outcome in an overall concept beforehand, and 2) execute those pre-planned and visualized concepts in such a photo-journalistic manner. The fusion of both styles is not an easy thing for me, since I was much, much better versed with the earlier version. You have to have some ideas in your mind on how your photos are going to look like, but at the same time, you have to be extremely quick in reflexes to capture that exploding laughter that tells the best of stories, the hug that expresses deep connections, and the kiss that derives fired up passions between lovers. Not one second too soon, or one second too late can be tolerated, the impact on the photo outcome would be drastic.
Being fully alert at all times, knowing well and predicting what will happen can save lives here, but what truly challenged me was the shots that just happened so suddenly that there is no time to do any other adjustments, but to immediately point my lens on the moment, and rapidly click that shutter. It is either, you get it, or you miss it. Sometimes, you have the wrong lens on the camera, or the battery on the flash is still charging, or the metering option was not right. Anything could go wrong anywhere and anytime. Much training I am needed in terms of spontaneity and being responsive to adapt to the flow of events. I realized that I have become too tied up with what I wanted to have in my photos, that I actually have missed out on many other great shots that I could have had if I was quick enough to respond. This is my main struggle now. I will be faster, just watch me.
The best of wedding photographs I have seen follow a certain pattern: they all convey messages of happiness very, very vividly, and you can connect to what you see in the photographs. Even if it is just a plain headshot of the bride, but if the smile was warm enough, it could just light up the whole room. It is so easy to distinguish the good photographs from the bad ones, and tell what is good in the photographs, and what does not work. When it actually comes to myself being in the field and view the scene through the viewfinder, it was not as simple as saying “oh that framing does not work”, or “hey lets just follow rule of thirds” or “lets try this effect it may work !!”. I can tell if the photographs are good, and I can also tell that what I have achieved so far, are nothing to shout about.
Fistan would say, not enough bokeh, and get a Full Frame. Jasonmumbles would say, stop thinking and stressing out so much. LKM would say, F2 lenses FTW !!! But I say to all of you, give me time, and you will see what I will be able to do. Just give me time. All I really needed are tonnes of patience, and determination.
So it has been four days of holiday for me, for the auspicious Hari Raya, and I have troubled myself with much shutter therapy. On Sunday, I helped a friend on a wedding assignment, which was an eye opener for me since I am relatively new in this game, and I have come to learn a lot of new things, especially the flow of events and the traditional practices that are performed here in the West Malaysian Chinese weddings. Nothing overly dramatic, but I did get some really interesting shots. I shall share them with you guys in the following entry if I found enough time to process the photos.
This morning, I joined the group of merry Olympus gang to the Lake Gardens for a model shooting. For the first time, I went totally unprepared for a photo-shoot session, and stormed the scene with only one lens attached on my camera, the 40-150mm F3.5-4.5, and make do with what I can churn out on the spot.
I know a lot of people may bite my head off for not doing my research and preparations beforehand, but hey, there are times I just want to blend myself into a photoshoot, and just do not want to stress out so much about it. I just want to get the shutter clicking, and who cares if the photos come out a little underexposed, who cares if it is out of focus, who cares if I chopped off half of the face, for most of the time I got the shots right, I need to explore alternatives to find the creativity which I am seriously lacking these days. Creativity cannot be trained, or forced to happen. It comes naturally, and I desperately need it.
There were seven Olympus users present for the shoot-out session, 6 of them were using the exact same camera model as I am using now, the Olympus E-520, one E-30 and one E-510, which kind of made the group a little interesting. Most of us were not experienced before, so having each other in this fresh adventure was not a bad idea, since there were no "sifus" to intrusively restrict you with some of those technical non-sense which, I do believe some can be seriously done without. To me, technical side of photography, getting the settings right, the exposures and focus in check, are extremely important, but those should not be getting in the way of your photography expression. You can get a technically perfect photograph, eg. perfectly exposed skin tone, no shadows clipping, no highlight burns, super creamy bokeh, spot-on composition, but if the photo lacks the drama and depth, such as the model's expression, or the story behind the whole scene, it wont work either. Even if all else fails, but the photo can somehow touch your feelings and convey a strong message, then I believe that is one good result.
I am not up to the level where I can tell stories through my photos yet, though I work very hard towards that path. I am shying away slowly from the technical freak I used to be. I may not be technically "perfect" yet in my photography knowledge, but I dare say that I have had sufficient basics to push me forward at this stage. Now I need to work on my artistic side of photography, which to be plain honest is a terrible, terrible mess. My framing style is too "in-the-box", my arrangement of subjects are too random and disorganized, and I always almost never consider the colour combinations, or the patterns at the background. Exploring angles and positions of camera at extreme cases must be considered too, and I have come to realize that shooting anything from high-up can be interesting. If I need to improve further, I must think more like an artist. Now I do wonder how many engineers out there have become great artists? Not one that I have come across in my life so far. Sad case is it not? I have heard from general belief that art cannot be earned, it is a gift. For all the wishful reasons, I do hope that statement is wrong.
How do I feel about the outcome on this shooting session? I know, I could have done better. Yeah, you will notice I did not show any half body, or full body shots here, mainly because none of them come out good. I did explore a variety of angles, but the success rates are so low that only those selected few are the usable ones, by my standards, and even so I am anticipating lots of complains. Nonetheless, I shall not be too hard on myself in the sense that, model shooting is not exactly what I do every single weekend, and as much as I like to admit that I love portraits, it is not an easy thing to master either. There are things like communication with the model, directions on poses, and how you compose the whole flow of sessions, must be clear and worked out appropriately. I still lack the commanding aura of a portrait photographer, and I believe this will only come with much more practice and experience.
As shown in the photographs in this entry, I have tried different ways to convey the photographs. I use brightness of the background to add the dreamy feel, and lots and lots of green to emphasize on natural beauty. For some reasons this model does not look its best smiling, or maybe it was me failing to capture the beauty of the smile. I do feel that expression wise, the photos appear very dry and bland. This can be improved in future sessions, and I must remind myself to review my photographs more careful next time.
I still have tonnes to work on my portraiture works, but for now, this will do. People is a complicated species, hence photographing people is not as straightforward as an insect, flower or food, which I have more than adequate training sessions hands on. Maybe it is time, I start reading up some tips on posing and model shooting tips.
I have stumbled upon this cool photographer who voiced out his opinions on how a true photo-enthusiast should be. I find myself connecting well with what he blogged about, and you can find his full entry by going to his site here:
As a person who really loves photography, photography is my everyday life and not just a 2-hour weekend hobby. When I was stuck in that “Gold-digging Game”, photography became unhealthy competition and comparison, and money became the ruler for measurement of so-called success. Here’s why I think photo-enthusiasts are cool… …
1. Photo-enthusiasts shoot what they like, how they like it without having to think whether it makes money or not, or whether it must be better than a competitor’s shots.
2. Photo-enthusiasts express freely all the time without the fear of rejection. But many professionals will call their daily mundane shots “nonsense”. Probably, “nonsense” to commercial photographers means it doesn’t make money OR it’s not up to commercial standards of sharpness, megapixels, photoshop retouching, bokeh… … etc. I shoot “nonsense” all the time.
3. Photo-enthusiasts are never tired of shooting. Sometimes, a commercial photographer will rather “take-a-break” when it comes to shooting for pleasure, shooting streets, shooting a family’s outing.
4. Photo-enthusiasts NOT equipment-enthusiasts, I must emphasize, are not insecure about what sort of equipments they own. They can shoot from their mobile phones and be happy. They do not need high-end equipments to prove to others that they are professionals, cause they don’t need to. Many of them own the simplest photographic equipments and produce works that can put many commercial photographers to shame. When I was stuck in that commercial rat race, I was stuck in upgrading my equipments every 1-2 years. And I recently discovered some of my best wedding shots are only done with my humble Canon 20D camera I used to own.
5. Photo-enthusiasts also do not constantly need to prove to others by shooting with new gimmicks every time, just to attract attention to themselves, or prove that they are knowledgeable in gimmicks, or to “stay ahead” in their particular photography industry.
6. Photo-enthusiasts can stay happy, really happy, just within their small group of friends and families without the need to prove to others that they have a multitude of supporters.
7. Photo-enthusiasts have the time to learn new skills, whether it’s from the internet, from books and magazines, or from another individual. It’s hard for a commercial photographer to suddenly slow down and cut down their number of jobs, just to spend time learning.
8. Photo-enthusiasts loves to share. They are not insecure about what they know. They have no fear of competitors. They are humble and real. They are not living in disguise. They have no need to put up a false commercial front to attract business or fool their competitors. They basically are themselves and expresses themselves freely. They shoot purely for pleasure.
I find myself agreeing to ALL the 8 points. It almost felt like I was the one saying those things !! So refreshing to find a similar perspective on photography in another great photographer.
Now, the question is, are you a commercial photographer, or a photo-enthusiast?
I heard from some friends who told me that they have read from a certain source over the internet lamenting how Malaysian photographers, at some point of their career, or in common cases, the most portion of their practise would gravitate towards wedding photography. I find this especially true, for portrait and people lovers, and to the extent that there are those who hate people but find themselves forcing by will to love what they hate. Local wedding photography market for freelancers has become so fierce that every single vulture on the planet who owns a DSLR can proclaim himself as a wedding photographer, disregard his capabilities. This is the commercial world after all, and typical Malaysian clients would go for even an offer with RM50 cheaper, without paying much attention to what they will be expecting.
I would be lying to you if I tell you that, I love wedding photography. Nonetheless, I can tell you that, I do love people, and I do love portraits. You may not see so much of my portraiture works here in this blog, mainly because I lack the talent to scoop for models to, well, to some degraded sense of purpose: become my experiment. If I do chance upon an invitation to a model shooting, I would take it, and explore what possibilities lying there. Recently I find myself gravitating towards weddings too. It is not rare to find friends, colleagues or family members getting married surrounding me, and since I have somehow oozed out a little too much photography aura than I originally comfortably intended, they instantaneously thought that, hey, Robin loves photography, he uses huge cameras, then he must be able to do good wedding !! I do not know how I should convince you otherwise, and that loving photography does not equate being good at wedding photography, but since the pull towards wedding was so strong I thought to myself, hey, why not give it a try? This is new water for me, but hey, if I never dip my feet into it, I will never learn how to swim. Yes, I do not know how to swim, if you are curious enough to ask that.
On recent occasions, after several wedding actual day sessions, and dinners, I have come to a stern conclusion; wedding photography is an entirely different game.
The latest session I was involved in was with a group of forumers from mychiaroscuro.net, and we had a little outing to shoot a couple’s pre wedding shots. This was my very first pre-wedding shoot, and to be shockingly honest with you guys, I totally had no idea on what to do, and what to expect from a pre-wedding sessions. Yes, I can spend hours and hours on the internet scooping for sample photographs, but when it actually happened, what I have visualized in my head was not really what I can picture happening with the couple. It also did not help that the other forumers with me during that session were relatively new to this game, thus resulting in a experimentation sort of photography manner, with lots and lots of trial and error attempts. We were very fortunate to have a very understanding and sporting couple, who did not pressure us but just let us do our job.
After all, we were all there to learn, and the most important component, frequently overlooked in any sort of photography, is to enjoy and have fun in doing it!!
There were many concepts and ideas being thrown into that experimental session, but I could only make a few of them work to my style of camera works. I have these things laid out in my mind as expectations and guidelines for this session:
1) Simplicity and Minimalism – I intend mostly plain backgrounds.
2) Lots and lots of natural lighting – cloudy sort of soft lighting
3) Poses to emphasis on intimacy and togetherness – relaxed, easy going loving poses but showing much closeness between the couple.
4) Facial expressions to exhibit extreme happiness – very important!! This is the tone and energy in the photos.
5) Greenery – Lots and lots of green lush environmental friendly background
Out of all the five points being laid out here, I could not achieve point 2 and point 5. The location chosen was in one of the buildings in Putrajaya, with ample space and open roof. It was my frist time there, and I did not know beforehand how the location looks like. I guess one of the tips I have learned from more advanced photographers, is to always know your location, and know them well before the shoot. The venue is not bad actually, it spans lots of creative options, but it worked against me.
Considering point 2, I wanted lots and lots of natural lighting, but the light that peered through the roof merely touched the couple at all, and I find myself using the flash most of the time to fill in the inadequate lighting. My limited option of lenses (no I do not have an F/1.4 dammit) prohibited me from gathering the minimal lighting available, and flash has rendered very hopelessly terrible ugly looking skin tones, such horror that I was tempted to convert all my pictures to black and white. Further to that, noting on point 5, there was not enough green to cover the whole background, and since it was partially indoors, I could not get the near high-key (very very bright, dreamy background) with lots of greenery as I have pictured in my mind.
As much as I have complained, I did what I can to improvise, and put my concentration in working out the other three points as much as I could.
Every forumers there got their chance to direct the models, and when I find my turn, I quickly moved them against a plain, textured concrete retaining wall, where there was generous amount of natural sunlight. I placed the background of the wall close to them, and directed the poses while maintaining them as relaxed as they can. This was the only place where I got most of the shots that I can say I am happy with. Simple, yet it shows expressions with strong enough impact. There is still plenty to work on the variety of poses, compositions and angles, but of course, I shall look into that for the future sessions.
Being the first time, I do think that the results did not come out too bad at all. Plenty of rooms for improvement, and plenty of many, many alternatives and styles to explore. The reward in wedding photography itself, is the sight of such immense joy and pure happiness that the couple shared.
Having the opportunity to capture, and freeze that moment with my camera, I do think that it is a great privilege.
Side Note: For the first time, simplyROBIN is featuring a guest blogger. Everyone, say hi to a fellow friend-photographer-blogger, Brandon Eu !! Lets all fly to Melbourne for a few minutes. Cheers.
Being Australia's retail and fashion capital, Melbourne has much to offer for Melbourne Spring Fashion Week (MSFW) 2009. It features Australia's best designers, labels, styles and retailers in and around Melbourne. Knowing how much the readers of robinwong.blogspot.com love hot chicks, I've decided to feature a summary of the this auspicious event here.
My favourite Olympus kit for fashion includes the Olympus E-3 with a HLD-4 battery grip, FL-50 flash and Zuiko f2 glass. Most of the images here utilised the Zuiko 35-100mm f2 lens, which is a fantastic piece of glass.
Myer featured an action packed fashion parade, that I really had trouble keeping up with. Nonetheless, the styles are pretty contemporary and appeal to fashion-conscious Australian consumers.
Australians are generally a beach-loving culture in during spring / summer. They love a tan, unlike most Malaysians who generally prefer to keep their skin fair and stay indoors.
What made this event sucessful was the participation of former Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins, who also happens to be the face of Australian department store Myer.
Although the video lights were sufficient to illuminate the models, autofocussing the 35-100 was a pain as a result of a mistake I made in the E-3 AF settings. Hence, a lot of shots weren't perfectly sharp.
Did Ms Hawkins just wave at me? ;)
It appears that large sunnies (cermin mata lalat ) are back in fashion for summer.
A ZD 14-35 is useful if you need a standard zoom to showcase the models' clothes.
All in all a very successful event. I would have got better shots if I didn't need to wrestle with other photographers on the podium, but I'll leave this story to another day!
Fashion at Altitude runway parades / GPO / 2 Sept
I managed to sneak my way into the GPO even though all the press passes were exhausted. Arriving early and having a big gun does help, you see ;)
This purple outfit could be worn to the races, where women dress in elegant dresses and hats to be admired by the crowds. Oh yes, I forgot to mention there's lots of betting and drinking involved, but its all in the name of a good, exciting sport.
Regarding lighting, it wasn't so ideal this time because the video lights were placed too far away from the models. Hence I had to resort to bounce flash to bring out more tone definition on the models.
If you're thinking of hiring a wedding gown in Australia, do think twice. Most of my friends just bring over a dress from Malaysia and return it once they're done. Its cheaper that way.
Cruise into Summer Fashion Show / QV Square / 4 Sept
Queen Victoria Village [QV] took Melburnians on a glamorous journey into a a world reminiscent of a sophisticated Mediterranean seaside with 3 Cruise into Summer Fashion shows.
It helps to have beautiful presenters before the fashion show starts. This lovely lady is from Channel 9.
I like Melbourne models compared to Malaysian ones because they are confident, and show simple, elegant poses that are pleasing to the eye. Some Malaysian models just look weird when they pose, probably due to a lack of experience.
An elegant blue dress with floral patterns. One of my favourites during this fashion parade.
A large brimmed black and white hat paired with a matching 2 piece dress for the races.
She looks like she's wearing a dress straight out of a Power Rangers movie. Not everyone's suited for this, I reckon.
Three models had some fun posing for a photographer from the Herald Sun.
You can see that they're loving it :)
This post is mean to illustrate that ''kaca mata lalat'' doesn't fit the look of some guys, models included.
A nice shiny head band does make a difference :) Fashion by Frat House.
I was fortunate to have a lot of keepers during this show, due to the fact that I was sitting down, and feeling a lot more composed to auto focus the 35-100 correctly. Plus the fact that a relatively high shutter speed of 1/200 secs were used, so the risk of blurring is minimal (if the models are stationary). These last two dresses are featured by MNG.
I hope this loooong post has been beneficial to introduce you to some aspects of fashion shows in Melbourne. Please do leave a comment if you've any thoughts (and if you'd like us to continue this 'blog exchange'.