Sunday, January 02, 2011

First Wedding Assignment of the Year with Olympus E-5

The New Year day of this year, 2011, which was exactly 1.1.11, was regarded as an extremely auspicious day for weddings. I am sure many photographers out there, professionals and freelance (like myself) alike have been rather busy with photo-assignment. I had the privilege to cover an actual day wedding for a good friend’s sister, and what a great way to start the year 2011 !!

This was my first actual wedding day job that I have shot fully with Olympus E-5. I did not have much expectations, because my E-520 which I have constantly used as my workhorse for all my previous assignment have been very reliable and never has it failed me before. Knowing that Olympus E-5 is a giant step-up from the Olympus E-520, indeed I should be having fewer worries than before. I have always believed that any camera system can be a good one, if you put enough time and effort in getting to know it well and work with it efficiently.

I brought my usual gear combination out: the super wide angle 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, coupled with 50mm F2 Macro and the 40-150mm F3.5-4.5 tele lens. I used mostly only the 11-22mm and the 50mm which I interchange on the E-5 from time to time. I covered all the wide angle frames with the 11-22mm, which provided me extra width than usual for broader perspective, especially images taken from low angle. Macro lens which I have used extensively to capture details, as well as close up shots have always delivered crispy, sharp images. I also used the cheapo Olympus Flash FL-36R to fill in the light most of the time. That was all I brought in for my assignment, and I must say using them on Olympus E-5, it worked well with what I have had intended to accomplish in my mind.

The Wedding Ceremony was held at St Mary’s Cathedral at Jalan Raja, which was very near to Masjid Jamek. This is quite a grand cathedral, and the interior is just breathtakingly beautiful. The most challenging issue I had to face for the church wedding session was the time of the ceremony: it was held in the evening, at 6.00pm when the sunlight was almost non-existent and the ambient light coming in from the side windows of the cathedral did not provide good enough light source to adequately light up the interiors. The lighting horror did not stop here, the cathedral has tungsten light colour, and blending that with the dying daylight coming in from the window panels did not produce very pleasing results at all. The available surrounding light in the cathedral was very poor, unimaginably dim, and mixed of two different tones.

To overcome the lighting issues, I did the following settings/camera controls:

1) Use high ISO settings, combined with flash shooting. Typical ISO 1000 to 1250.

2) Slow Shutter Speed of 1/40s to 1/80s to drag the shutter, gathering more ambient light.

3) TTL-Flash at -0.3 to -1.0EV, depending on the varying distance from myself to my subjects (the further the subjects are from the camera, the higher EV value to be adopted).

4) Use of wide aperture: F2 on the macro lens, and F2.8 on the 11mm wide anlgle.

The combination of high ISO, slow shutter speed and wide aperture can gather more ambient light. The purpose of the flash was to gently illuminate the fore subjects, such as the skin of the bride and groom, not to use the flash as the main source of light, but just a touch of fill to adequately kiss the skin, making it “glow”. The flash output should blend well, and seamlessly with the background available light, and this set of combination was used to achieve as natural of a photograph as possible. I know I still have a few things to tweak there and here before perfection was possible, but I found the output to be quite pleasing. Olympus E-5 handled ISO1000-1250 very, very well, and there was almost no trace of chromatic noise, while the amount of detail captured was still awe-worthy. On my previous E-520, I capped the acceptable ISO to 400, but if I bumped up to ISO800 (the photographs came out still quite usable) the noise presence has started to become intrusive and loss of details and sharpness can be rather annoying. It was very comforting to have this much flexibility in E-5, especially working in such challenging lighting conditions.

Furthermore, I did find the E-5 to be able to handle mixed lighting, which consisted of three sources now, the daylight, the tungsten indoor lights and the output from my own external flash unit. I was afraid that there would be multiple tones of colours which could not be balanced up, producing ugly and uneven skin tones on the bride and groom. Thankfully this issue was handled by E-5 and the skin tone from the flash on Olympus was really pleasing to look at.

Besides the lighting issues, I also have restrictions to move around within the cathedral. Before the ceremony started, as I arrived in the cathedral, I was given stern warnings on what not to do throughout the service that evening. We were not allowed to move around too much especially when the ceremony was taking place. I had to squat down most of the time at the sides, because standing would have blocked the view of the congregation. Limited freedom to move around affected my overall flexibility when it comes to composition and variety of overall presentation.

Remember I have mentioned before on how well E-5 worked with the 50mm macro? I also understand how everyone negated the improvements I have stated, because my macro shots at the butterfly park were all taken outdoors, with good lighting and lots of contrast. This time, I was shooting the 50mm on E-5 in a lighting situation that if I did not use the flash, with the setting combination of ISO1000, 1/60s, F2 would have yielded an underexposed result. Yes, the lighting condition was that bad, I somehow did wish the cathedral to be brighter, but don’t we all? The focusing of the 50mm worked flawlessly. I did have some misses there and here, but that was mostly my own fault. There was NOT once I found any hunting issue with this lens, and I understand a lot of people complained how the lens can suddenly hunt and hesitate to focus in dim light. Sometimes, it even gave up. This issue was certainly solved on the E-5, and one of the world’s sharpest lenses, the 50mm F2 ‘s potential can be further maximized. However, do take note that the 50mm was not lightning fast, it was fast enough.

Working with the 11-22mm was a charm. Click to capture was almost no-lag all the time. There was almost no waiting time, but that was usually the case with wide angle lenses. I found the combination of 11-22mm and 50mm to work very well, covering from 11mm wide angle which is more than sufficient for some wide perspective exaggeration, and the 50mm to cover middle tele range, and macro if I need to. In addition to that, the 50mm is a good portrait lens, shooting at F2 can create very desirable bokeh. Both lenses have wide apertures (11mm at F2.8, and 50mm at F2) hence they really helped a lot in gathering the ambient light.

Did I find the extra weight and bulk of the E-5 to hamper my movement and overall camera handling? I did wish that the camera was smaller and lighter. I have gotten used to E-5 and I can shoot the entire day with it without breaking my neck and wrists, but as always, it is more comfortable to work with a system with less heft and size.

For the first job in 2011, it went really well, and I am very thankful for that. I am very glad to have E-5 with me now, and I know as much as I loved and still think the E-520 is a capable camera (it is a lot more powerful than what most people give it credit for) , I must admit that E-5 is an entirely different beast. There is so much more that E-5 can do, and it really excites me on the future possibilities that I will explore with it.

Special thanks to my partner for the assignment, Frederick Yap, and also to the newly wed, Jonathan and Josephine for having us as your official photographers for your big day. I thoroughly enjoyed myself capturing the beautiful moments, and there was just so much happiness and love pouring out from everyone throughout the day !!


  1. Hhmm... Although it is not as superior as E-5, have you ever thought of using your E-520 as second body for such assignment?

  2. Hey Chong,
    E-520 will be the back-up body, but I am more comfortable moving around with single body. Having two bodies strapped on my not so small body size (literally) will hinder my movements/agility.

  3. The E5 certainly couldn't have come at a better time. With a better body, your safety margin has been increased greatly and you can now explore technical areas which were previously limited by your E520.

    Pictures were really clean, crazily wide dynamic range, especially when coupled with flash, exposures were spot on.

    Awesome stuffs.

    Here's to more wedding jobs! Haha!

  4. lovely photos despite poor lighting bro.. and the church.. wow!! classic!

  5. Wow - awesome job and photos. Congrats Robin, this is the work of a master!

    and all the best wishes to the newly-wed couple as well,

  6. Hey Jasonmumbles,
    Thanks mate !! Really appreciate that. I was quite excited to see what this E-5 could do as well, luckily it did not disappoint. Yeah I know there is only so much E-520 can do, I think it deserves a good rest after all the torture sessions LOL.

    Hey cyril,
    Thanks mate !! The church indeed is classic !!

    Hi Wolfgang,
    Thanks for the compliments !! I appreciate it.

  7. Great job!
    Thank you for posting your settings (ISO, f, etc). Your experiences and photos have really helped me along; I have friends that ask me to take casual photos quite a bit, so your blog gives me a big boost.

    Keep up the awesome work and have a happy (prosperous, photographic) New Year!

  8. hello yerttle,
    Thanks for the compliments. You can also check the exif data which I left intact on all the photographs. It is my pleasure to share my experience with my readers. Do feel free to provide some feedback.


  10. Hey Kerry,
    Thanks for the compliments !! Simplicity works best.

  11. Great pictures!!! I wish i could also do those shots on a wedding event...Mr. Robin as you said your main source of light is not on the flash..are you using a flash diffuser..sorry for my novice question.

  12. hey anonymous,
    thanks for the compliments!! I use the cheap third party omni-bounce diffuser cap on the flash at all times, sorry I did not include that info in the blog entry.

  13. may i know what white balance setting you used when shooting with flash?

  14. hello Brook,
    I used Auto White Balance at all times. I did perform very slight color correction during my post processing, to get rid of the warm colour cast. I left slight hint of the colour cast to preserve the natural overall feel of the ambience.