Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Shooting a Wedding with Sony

I think it is still a popular opinion that if you do shoot anything serious you would use either Nikon or Canon. You know, how people would regard any other camera brands as less than what a professional gear should be. I could go on and on about how Olympus and Sony can be just equally as capable, but this kind of discussion has become old and pointless, somehow. I have been shooting wedding as a freelance photographer for quite a while now, and I have very little complain with what the Olympus can do for me. It has never failed me, and my clients have all been happy so far. Nonetheless, I did acquire a new Sony Alpha A57 to add into my shooting gear, and for past weekend's wedding shoot, I decided to just bring the Sony, and leave the Olympus behind, for a change. Was the decision a sudden and unplanned one? Far from it, I have been shooting with the Sony A57 enough to know that I can confidently use it for a paid assignment. 

The following is my setup:
Main Body: Sony Alpha A57
Lenses: 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens, 35mm F1.8 and 50mm F1.8 (all Sony lenses)
Flash: Olympus FL-50R mounted via an ISO hot-shoe adapter, controlled fully manual
Back-up: Sony A350, 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 and Sunpak external flash

Quite a mediocre setup for a full on wedding job, don't you think? A Sony A57, an entry level DSLT (oh my, not even a DSLR) for a professional level job, and all budget-designed lenses, cheapest available from the Sony lenses. And using a KIT LENS for a shoot? I think some of the audience must have rolled their eyes looking at my rather toned down setup for the wedding shoot. I think most people would expect a wedding photographer to use multiple latest and most advanced full frame bodies, with those gigantic oversized lenses, with camera bags rivaling airport luggage in size and weight. 

The following are preliminary quick edits for preview purposes. But they are sufficient to illustrate what the above Sony gear setup can produce.
















Can the Sony cheap setup deliver? I firmly answer, YES. Was I happy with the results? Surely, yes. Did I prefer this setup over my Olympus? Unfortunately no. The reason was mainly due to my more capable Olympus Zuiko lenses, delivering much better image rendering on the whole, and also providing me with more flexibility. On the other hand, if I were using more capable and higher grade Sony or Minolta lenses, perhaps this conclusion would be different. I cannot make any further comments in this regard, until I really tested those better lenses on the Sony system in real life shooting. 

Everyone was complaining how the electronic viewfinder on the A57 was not good enough and of course the A77 and A99 offered much better resolution. I did not find this to be a limiting factor at all, and it did not hold me back in any way during my shooting. I must admit however, that the tilt and swivel location (hinge being at the bottom of the camera) was VERY inconvenient, as if I needed to twist and turn a few more times to get to the desired position. I much preferred my Olympus E-5's tilt and swivel screen, from the left side hinge position. That aside, the live view really opened up a whole lot of flexibility, and the fact that the live view AF was fast, I treasured this in helping me for more difficult angle compositions (in the first and last image, I used the tilt and swivel screen, for both high and low extreme angles). 

In terms of the amazing dynamic range, the A57 clearly wins. The last image of the newly weds outside the St Peter's church was taken under harsh afternoon sun. The dynamic range captured was very good. I managed to salvaged even more details in the highlight region in post-processing, saving the sky from being over-blown. Very impressive indeed. 

The decision of getting the Sony A57 was a good one. It was probably the best-value buy for an entry level budget camera with  interchange-able lens ability. 

Congratulations to dear friend Zachary Yap and beautiful wife Jovyn Ong on your marriage!! Zachary was there in my very beginning of exploration in street photography. We shot KL streets almost every weekend together for about a year, and he was also there when I was reviewing my first ever Olympus gear, the Olympus E-5! He has also taken a few photographs of me in action which I have used in this blog, and I have him to thank for such wonderful company and the kind encouragement for me to grow. The opportunity to shoot your wedding, Zachary was a much treasured one. Thanks mate, and I wish you and Jovyn nothing but all the best!!

47 comments:

  1. I don't mind if you are not happy with your setup, but I am happy with the results !... Hahaha!

    Big shout out to you again mate!

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  2. Very impressive indeed considering you are not using your usual olympus gear ... The compositions and and facial expressions captured are lovely and conveys the complicity between the newly wedded. So Robin, when's your turn for tying the knot...(joke)?

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    1. Thanks Johan!! Whichever gear we use, compositions and capturing moments are not affected, those must come from the photographer, not gear!
      My turn? Not anytime soon I am afraid haha

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  3. Robin, same for me, my set up for wedding or regullar shot i use eos 600D + 18-135mm and the cheapo 50mm f1.8, but for detail like makeup and candid shot, i use pen e-pl5+20mm f1.7 and 45mm f1.8. But like u said, gear not always guarantee that you're shot will be good, i just found my self that if the gear bring the good mood, that time you will bring amazing shot :) and that little pen, really give me that good mood ... :) not afraid shot side by side with my friend new gear eos 6D lol

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    1. Glad to hear that you are taking the Olympus out for a real wedding shoot! I did use the E-PL5 for a full wedding shoot, and found it to deliver very well too.
      We should not be afraid to shoot with our gear, we should be proud and happy about our weapon of choice!

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  4. Donald W Leitzel5/14/2013 08:58:00 PM

    Robin

    Gear is only a small portion of getting a great shot. It's still up to the photographer to capture the moment. The camera is only a tool.

    You get good shots because you know your gears limitations, and are skilled enough to compensate. The photographers eye is still the most important element.

    Keep up the excellent work.

    Don

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Don !! I am still not that confident when it comes to wedding photography. Lots and lots to learn and catch up on. Surely putting my best into it.

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  5. Robin,

    You said that your gear was a low budget camera and lenses but you get nice wedding photos with good composition.

    Albert Einstein : "Simplicity means the achievement of maximum effect with minimum means."

    paul tirajoh

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  6. Okay, I love the last picture. Like really really love it, it looks so magnificent!

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  7. Great job. Just proves it's not the camera!

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  8. Great job. Just proves it's not the camera!

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  9. I think the second but last shot is (the most) awesome!

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  10. Leave it to you to make an ordinary stairwell look good ;-) Love the rings shot.

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    1. Hey Libby, couldn't resist, the stairs looked so tempting. Thanks for the kind words!

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  11. Hi Robin,

    My experience at shooting wedding is very limited ... however, you did a fantastic job ! Congrats!

    gilles

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    1. Hey Gilles,
      Thanks for the kind comments!

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  12. Excellent work - funny, Sony would've been my other choice if I didn't go Olympus because it was cheaper than Nikon ;)
    Not that I'm shooting a wedding anytime soon (too amateur for that!) but I did agree to help a friend to do engagement photos...your photos are giving me inspirations on composition and couple posing :)

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    1. Glad that my photos here can be helpful to you.
      Sony was probably not a good choice back then with limited opens choices but things are slowly improving!

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  13. Radiant bride and brilliant photos. You've caught the spirit!

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    1. Thanks reverend! Still have lots to improve on!

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  14. Hi there...this is wat im waiting for..the wedding shot speacially frm u..like d tone & composition..like d story that u want to tell us frm d pic..salute to u robin..really nice pic frm ur new gear..i agreed with ur stmnt..no matter wat gear that we hold..d important is we must know how to setup d gear..know d basic about photography..know d realtionship between d iso,aprture,xposure,shutter speed ,white balance & composition..as i still in learning proses..really2 want to say this..THNX ROBIN TO BE FRIEND WITH ME..ITS NICE TO KNOWING U..LOT OF KNOWLEDGE I CAN GET FRM U..REALLY APPREACIATE IT..
    *hadi nik*

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    1. Hello Hadi Nick,
      No problem, thanks for being my friend too!! I merely shared my limited knowledge and photos, still have a lot to learn and discover in photography!

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  15. Nice photo's!
    Doesn't matter you use Olympus or Sony, your photos encourage me to keep using my E-5.
    And let me know still I have to learn a lot of things.

    Thanks !
    Yama

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    1. Thanks Yama for the kind words. Photography is a never-ending learning process!

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  16. Hi Robin:
    Ultimately to the client it is all comes down to: do they like the photos! Was the emotional content of images great, did you capture and compose beautiful photos, meaningful moments of the day? I say yes!
    Technique and experience trumps equipment, and you made your choice of equipment deliver. Some clients ask about equipment, some leave it up to photographer, especially who they trust or who have good reputation to deliver great photos. Mind you, there are advantages to certain choices in equipment, but the client is looking at how the image makes them feel about the memories of the day.
    This is my feeling about taking wedding photos for over more than 9 years in business.
    Nice work, Robin!
    Adrian from Toronto

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    1. Hi Adrian,
      Thanks for the kind words! The clients were happy with what they saw so far (just quick previews).
      Indeed experience and techniques are rather important, and also the photographer's artistic sense. I still have a lot to learn and improve on, but so far I want to believe I am heading to the right direction.
      Thanks again for your encouragement and support!

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  17. Hi Robin, I've been playing with my Olympus wired flashes on my NEX6 and was wondering how you set things up yourself for the Oly flash on the Sony gear. For the NEX6 I am still experimenting. Interestinly they used an ISO standard hot shoe! So, my F36R fits right in!! So I am basically using M mode on the camera to set aperature (say F5.6) and speed (say 1/125th) and ISO (say ISO 800) so that I am approximately 1 stop underexposed (plus or minus). Then I use the flash in fractions, like 1/8, 1/2 etc. to give enough light to fill in the missing 1 stop of light. Obviously the fraction of full flash that is used will depend on the height of the ceiling/walls (I like to bounce) and distance to the subject. Anyway, for me this is a work in progress, as I have been used to using my OM-D and the TTL feature when using the Oly flash.

    I'm an interested in your set up for this mixed brand shooting. (Subject for a blog post???? hint-hint)

    Regards, Peter

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    1. Hey Peter!
      When I was shooting with the Olympus flash, there was ceiling available, and the light was rather constant (with not much changes or uneven lighting). Hence I set the flash for ceiling direct bounce. I did not remember the exact settings, but it must have been somewhere between ISO400-800, aperture set to open to the widest (F1.8). I then used the GN control on the FL-50R, usually it fell in the zone of 1/32th or 1/64th power.
      I still need some experimentation and proper getting used to controlling manual flash, as I have blogged all these while I have only used the convenience of TTL control.

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  18. Top notch work, as usual, Robin. You captured not only technically excellent pictures but also the mood, the lovely bride and groom, and the ambiance. The B/W shot where they enter the church is priceless in terms of ambiance. The radiant bride, the happy faces and genuine smiles: a wonderful moment and memory.

    I'd say you did one heck of a job, and the fact that you didn't tote around heavy full-frame D4's with giant lenses doesn't make one iota of difference. As has been proven once again. The client is happy, the results lovely, what more to wish for?

    My congrats to the lovely newly wed couple, and to you as well for another brilliantly accomplished mission.

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    1. Thanks Andre!!
      Indeed, mission accomplished, and now gotta move on to the next level! must keep learning and growing.

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  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  20. Quite simply, I love your style! No apologies required - great work yet again Robin!

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  21. I love your work.. I try to explain to folks it's the creativity of the photographer.. I think people are ingrained with the concept that one must have that huge DSLR with a super large lens. I have the Nikon D600, but recently purchased the OM-D and I'm amazed w/the micro 4/3rd capability..

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    1. Hello James,
      Thanks for the kind words. glad to find that you have discovered the joy of using micro 4/3 system!

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  22. Robin

    Since you are doing weddings check out this blog.

    http://laurencekim.com/

    He has some interesting comments.

    PaulB

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    1. Robin

      I forgot to add, Laurence is a wedding photographer from Seattle that has moved to Boston. Some of his blog posts relate directly to shooting weddings.

      PaulB

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  24. Robin,

    excellent work. More post like this and maybe people will spend less time pinning for better gear to go out to shoot more :-)

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