Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pre-Wedding Shoot with Olympus E-5

Over the weekend, I have had the opportunity to dive into a new territory that I have not stepped foot into before. It was a pre-wedding shoot assignment. I have covered many actual wedding day wedding assignment before, and I must say that I was rather excited and thrilled to try out something almost entirely different. Joey and Jess contacted me a couple of months back, after meeting them up for a drink session and working out our expectations from this photo-shoot session, we decided to make it happen this weekend. We all travelled to Malacca, and we shot at three different locations: St Paul’s Church, Puri Hotel and Kelebang Beach.

First time in Pre-Wedding Shoot

I have not had balls to explore pre-wedding photography before, mainly due to its controlled photography nature. Bearing strong resemblance to portraiture works and studio photography, the photographer must have strong ideas and conceptual layout in his mind on what he intended to accomplish at the end of the day. Based on the visualization of the end product, the photography may work his photographs from planning to real execution on field. I have not had much experience with any form of controlled photography before. All I have explored so far, macro photography, street photography, food and travel photography, even events and actual day wedding shoot were all simply “capturing what was there”. Pre-wedding is no longer just capturing images; it is about the overall presentation that needed lots and lots of creative ideas and expression.

Taking risks is part of growing in life, and this strongly applies to photography as well. Not having done a pre-wedding shoot before does not mean I could not do one, and the first step will always be the hardest step to take. Convincing myself that I should explore something new, and go full on giving all I can in this assignment was my first experience in shooting a pre-wedding. Tonnes of planning and preparation works were done beforehand, with my partner photographer and friend Frederick, and also the couple Joey and Jess themselves. We have lots of ideas we wanted to take out from our head and make happen on the field. We have concepts, story line involving past, present and then leading towards the future of the couple’s relationship, all laid out. There are so many pieces of puzzle to be put together, and shooting on the actual day on field itself was only one part of the whole process.

Interaction and maintaining it with the couple

What could go wrong on a pre-wedding shoot? Knowing this was my first time, I have anticipated many things that could have not gone smoothly. I find it imperative to keep an open interaction with the couple. Although I have not done that much model shooting before (well, there has been quite a craze in Malaysia on portrait shooting, no?) I did not find much trouble warming up the couple before the shoot, and get them in the mood. However, the real trick would be maintaining the momentum. There were times when distractions and obstacles may come in between the communication between the couple and the photographers, and being momentarily cut off, the couple would retract to their own world. Getting them back to where the momentum was again was not an easy task, and we had to start all over again. I certainly have a lot to improve in this, and I must train myself to establish a more engaging conversation with the couple throughout the shooting session, and able to communicate more effectively. This was really important to bring out the best of the couple, in terms of poses and facial expression. Obviously, a lot of work needed to be done on my part to improve on this.

Shooting Locations

We started the day off at St Paul’s church rather early in the morning to avoid human traffic. After all, the whole area was a lively tourist attraction, being on a weekend surely the place would be swarmed with vultures from God knows where, hence we had to be early. Another important aspect of shooting early would be having more flattering and beautiful morning lighting. Side lighting with a touch of golden ray is very favorable for any portraiture works, hence I wanted that badly. Knowing that morning sun only shines in a limited time, and people were flooding in fast to the tourist spot as morning slowly drains away, we had very limited time to work with. Nevertheless we did what we could.

We were a little bit unfortunate because the whole area of St Paul’s church was already booked for an event which would take place later of the day. Therefore, the area had a lot of stage set-up equipments lying around, mitigating a lot of good photo-opportunities, especially the areas within the building. Nonetheless, we moved pass beyond the lost opportunities and worked quickly on alternatives, finding locations around the church which turned out not too bad after all.

Sure enough approaching noon the place was already full of people, and shooting was near impossible. We moved on to our second shooting location in Puri Hotel, which was originally a Baba Nyonya house, maintaining a huge chunk of its authenticity and originality in terms of furnishing and overall interior design. We found a lot of great spots for shooting even just within the Puri Hotel, bringing out the traditional look, especially when the couple was dressed in matching traditional Chinese costumes. Shooting went on for a little longer here before we stopped for lunch, and the couple had a quick change of costumes and Jess re-touched up her make-up.

When it was already late afternoon, we drove about 15 minutes away to a nearby beach, where we had our last shooting session there. Sunset was not really breathtakingly beautiful, but the sky was clear. Towards the actual sunset time, the sun was actually hiding behind a patch of clouds which appeared conveniently at that particular location and time to block the dramatic sun away from us. We did what we could, and of course, the location with sand, water and open sky itself was sufficient to add drama to any shots, despite the sunset circumstance.

What a long, long day of shooting !!

Originality Issues

I have been warned, and lectured by a professional photographer and friend, David Chua about matters of originality, which is a dying trait in Malaysia. Wedding photography in Malaysia is in such a sorry state that the local photography works are nothing more than copy and paste from one another, and pulling some serious marketing plus branding stunts. All you have to do is being able to steal some ideas from other established photographers, and somehow incorporate it into your own works, and sell it. You do not have to be professional to claim that you are one. What matters more is how you convince people that you are one. David blatantly questioned us “Why must the veil fly?” and “Why must the shoes hang at really odd locations around the house?” Indeed, I found myself speechless as there were strong truths in his claims. Just whip out any local professional photographer’s portfolio page and you will certainly find veils flying and shoes hanging.

I admit, I have my own fair share of shoes flying and veil hanging. Oh wait, was it the other way around?

As much as I want to go all out against “doing what others have been doing” and have that stereo-typical looking portfolio that screams, “hey look, I am one of the many available wedding photography templates for you to choose from !!”, I have to start my photography journey somewhere. Some people are born with fantastic photography insight and gifts that you just give them one lousy camera and they can come up with all sorts of crazy amazing ideas and make wonderful images. I on the other hand, being brought up in a sad, cruel, sadistic engineering world where art is almost non-existent, believe me when I say originality and creativity do not happen very easily. I know it is a shame to copy, and it is painful when people compare your works with the ones you copy from, but allow me to look at this whole “photography style trending” from another perspective.

I do not make money (not enough to earn my bowl of staple rice anyway) out of photography just yet, and whatever assignment I take up, I dived into them with passion and pure interest. I want to do it, because I want to do it. I want to learn, I want to improve. During my meet with any couples, I would highlight to them instantaneously that I am not a professional, and I do not oversell myself. Yes, I do have shots that look like what some other professionals have done before. I am learning. I am growing, and certainly I am improving, each step I take, no matter how small. I will get there someday, but at the start of my journey, it is only natural to get impressed by a really good piece of photography work, and trying to do that with my own limited capabilities. The real question is how and where we go from there. My answer? To do better them the preceding photography works that inspired me in the first place. I do not know how, and what I would do to surpass the original work, but with my own hands and photography vision which is growing day by day, I will accomplish it.

First Assignment With Olympus E-5

This pre-wedding session was my first photography assignment that I have fully shot with my newly acquired Olympus E-5. I must say, using Olympus E-5 was quite a great experience. I brought almost all my gear out, 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 50mm F2.0 macro, 40-150mm F3.5-4.5, and the FL-36R external flash. My friend Frederick has another FL-36R therefore we could set up a quick 3 point lighting, with two FL-36R being fired wirelessly off-camera for a few of the shots as seen on this entry. On top of that, I have loaned 7-14mm F4 ultra wide angle lens from dear friend, Brandon.

I did not face any issues while shooting with E-5 on the field. Everything on the camera technical side of things went well smoothly, and I nailed the shots that I have visualized in my head most of the time. I did not use any SHG lenses such as 14-35mm F2 or 35-100mm F2, hence I did not suffer any weight issues. My current line-up of lenses are modestly sized with light-medium weight, hence handling was not a problem, even shooting for the whole day. I really welcome the much faster and more accurate auto-focus system on the E-5, and the joy of shooting with the tilt-and-swivel LCD screen live view.

That was my first experience: 1) Exploring pre-wedding shooting 2) Shooting with Olympus E-5 on an official assignment. I am taking a huge risk here, doing something I am not familiar with, and trying out new things. I shall learn from my mistakes, and find ways to improve in my future sessions. I have enjoyed myself tremendously shooting a pre-wedding, and I sure look forward for future assignment.

Please feel free to say something , I would love to hear what you have to share.


  1. hey, Robin, very very nice shots!
    Though I´m not an expert concerning wedding- or any special photography at all, I would suggest not to let the hands look like ugly monsterhands in the last shot...Nice effect for some occasions, but not for wedding :-).
    This is my only complaint, as to the rest, the pics are wonderful and I will practice, practice, practice to maybe sometimes come close to that!
    All the best from Germany (Hell freezes over here...)

  2. Yep, hands are too big due to the lens distortion. But there are many other problems. I don't like these photos at all. Robin, please go back to what you do with such skill - artistic street photography. :)

  3. Hi Robin, I'm sure people could point out all sorts of flaws... but on the other hand, how do you get better if everyone just tells you they're either great, or you suck at that? You learn from experimenting and making mistakes. Sure you might get a great photo here or there, but understanding what makes it great is how you can continue to get positive results.

    I kinda disagree with your "don't copy" statement to an extent. I was told by a professor that a good way to learn is to find something you like, copy it till you are able to do it yourself and make it your own, eventually you will add your own creativity to it :) I think it's the same with music... every band has others that influenced it, I believe it's the same way with photography. Find what you like, and make it better than the original!

  4. Hi SvenReinhold,
    Thanks so much for the compliments and tips as well. In contradictory to that I purposely added the exaggerated perspective to distort the hands. nonetheless, I do realize it is not everyone's cup of tea. I shall think twice again before doing this in the future. Thanks a lot for the comment I really appreciate it. Don't underestimate yourself, I do think you are doing very well in photography. I love what I see on your blog.

    Hi Bartosz,
    That effect was intended in the first place. Or else I would have just used a normal lens.
    I explore all sorts of photography genre. I may not be stellar at either genre, but through time I will improve.

    Hey Kjsdesign,
    I agree that only through comments and feedback that we can grow. That is the main reason I blog, and posted my photography blog here, as a platform for people to channel their thoughts and feedback.
    I think copying to learn is ok. That was my argument actually, I mentioned that in contradictory to artists' struggle for originality, I still copy to learn. However, as we progress further, we have to break away from following trends and styles which do not belong to us.

  5. Those pre-wedding shots are gorgeous.

    Personally, I don't thing I will ever have the balls to venture into wedding photography. To begin with I am terrible with staged photo (I never know how and where people should poses) and I don't know how I would cope with the pressure of such assignment.

    As I said, I love those photos of yours but, for some reason, my favorite one is the stairs shot. Great composition and unusual idea.

    Keep doing honor to the E-5


  6. Hey Martin,
    Thank you so much for such kind comments !! I can totally relate to how you feel about fearing the unknown. I too, felt very reluctant to pick up pre-wedding assignment, though I have done many actual day wedding jobs.
    Nonetheless, venturing into something new and taking risk are important for me to move forward. I have so much more to learn and discover, and photography is a never-ending journey.

  7. I guess photography style will overlap one another somehow before it evolves from there on to become something unique to be claimed as your own (style).

  8. Hey Chong,
    Yeap, that is so true. I am still far from being able to claim anything on my own !!

  9. Robin Thanks for the photos. These are really nice shot for the first assignment. Like Robin said it is not an easy task to take pre wedding photos as the communication are important to get the right pose and also the harsh weather.

    As the actual couple model for the pre wedding photos, we are suppose to create a love story and our focus is the hand and proposal ring. That's why there is big hand on the photos; correct me if I am wrong Robin. Thanks again.

  10. Hi Joey,
    Thanks for the compliments. We are still working out on the final arrangements, hence what you see here is only a preview. Frederick's part will be combined with mine and we will furnish it into a story-line based series.
    Will keep you posted on the progress.

  11. Joey, the intention of showing big hands is clear and it works very well for me e.g. in the shot where the hands are in focus and the couple is the "Bokeh"! It doesn´t work in the last shot, sorry, that one is ugly...As for the rest I repeat they are great pics, especially the stair, the through-the-window and the beach silhouettes!

  12. Hi Sven,
    I thank you for your kind comment, and this is the main reason why I blog and share my photography work, to gain feedback and useful tips from a more experienced photographer, such as yourself. Any thoughts and response will be greatly beneficial in my journey in photography.
    I will keep the excessive perspective exaggeration to the minimum next time, and think twice before using it.
    Thanks for your compliments too, this was my first time on pre-wedding shoot, hence I still have a lot to learn !!

  13. Hey Sven,
    No offence and I think feedback and comments will improve ourselves. I believe everyone learn everyday from mistake and experience gained.

    BTW I am not an experience photographer. We are just a couple in the photos :-) BRAVO all passionate photographer. Cheers

  14. lens distortion on portrait face should be avoid....just my 0.00002 cents

  15. As much as I appreciate open feedback, commenting anonymously should be avoided. This is not my 0.00002 cents, but this is a firm suggestion so I can take you and what you say seriously.