I am not exactly a wedding photographer, but I would be lying if I said I have no experience in shooting wedding. I have been taking photography assignment sporadically, mainly to supplement my gear purchase funds (those gear money has got to come from somewhere), and a number of them are wedding shoots. I usually would advice people who ask me to shoot their weddings to hire "real" professional wedding photographers.
Nonetheless, when a friend, Khee Hwa asked me to cover his wedding, it was a different story! It was a chance of a lifetime to shoot such a wonderful friend's wedding, and it was my honor and privillege to be there covering that big moment of his life. I may not be able to deliver those incredible award winning shots, but I knew in my heart that I have had sufficient experience and knowledge not to screw up.
The wedding took place in Perth, Western Australia, thus me disappearing for one week away from Kuala Lumpur (and also this blog). The weather was not favorable, and it was cloudy even on the actual wedding day. The venue of the wedding was at a park by a river, and should the sky be blue the waters would have been blue as well. We have much to thank for because the heavy downpour only came immediately after the ceremony ended in the afternoon. The days remained cloudy and we decided to postpone our outdoor shoots 2 days later. It was not until my last day at Perth that the sky decided to clear up and we had a bright, beautiful day to do our outdoor portraiture shoots.
The wedding ceremony was simple, and elegantly beautiful. In this blog entry I am showing a quick preview of selected images from the wedding shoot. All these images are not final yet, and may be subjected to further post-processing I finished processing these images within an hour and more.
All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 or PEN E-PL5, and M.Zuiko lenses 12-50mm F3.5-6.3, 25mm F1.8 or 45mm F1.8 and Panasonic 14mm F2.5 lens. Flash FL-50R and FL-36R were used when necessary.
This was my first time going fully Micro Four Thirds on a wedding assignment, without carrying my old trusty E-5 and the Four Thirds DSLR lenses. More and more photographers are using Micro Four Thirds for photography professionally now, and one best example I can think of at the moment is Robin Schimko from Germany (read his amazing review of OM-D E-M1 here). He told me that he found the E-M1 to be good enough to perform and deliver for his wedding shoots, and surely confident to replace his D800. Having done this wedding shoot in Perth myself, I must agree with him, and there was not a moment I wished I was using a DSLR.
The most critical aspect when it comes to any sort of event photography, such as wedding shoot is autofocus capability of the camera and lenses. We all know how fast Olympus OM-D and PEN cameras are coupled with Olympus M.Zuiko native Micro Four Thirds lenses. Not only were they superbly and consistently fast, the focusing were dead on accurate, and any focusing misses was my own fault, as I cannot blame the camera at all. Shooting wedding is all about capturing the moments, and the last thing that you want is for your lens to hunt and hesitate while focusing, which could result in many losses of important photo opportunities. Not only is the AF speed of Olympus cameras fast, but the writing speed to the card is also fast, and the general operation of the camera did not slow down at all as you go from shot to shot. Though I do not shoot at burst sequential mode, I do fire my shots again and again in rapid succession. Both my E-M5 and E-PL5 coped very well and showed no signs of slowing down.
My camera setup was rather different than my usual. I have started to use TWO camera bodies. On the E-PL5 I mounted the Panasonic 14mm F2.5 for my wide angle coverage. While on the OM-D E-M5 I fitted the 45mm F1.8, and would change to the 25mm F1.8 if necessary. The reason of having 14mm and 45mm lenses on two different bodies is obvious: I can cover the two different perspectives, a wide coverage as well as a close up, tight frame at the same time without changing lenses. I also have two external flashes on standby, and mounted on both cameras when necessary (FL-50R and FL-36R). Additionally, the 12-50mm kit lens was always in the bag, just in case I needed to do a little macro shooting, for example the macro shot of the wedding rings, showing the inscriptions inside the ring reading the names of the newly weds. I have brought along tripods as well, acting as flash stands for shooting with flash off camera (for some cool strobist effects) as well as the camera for some slow shutter speed action. The long exposure was taken at night, shooting the portraits against the Perth city skyline.
A little bit more info on the night long exposure shooting, I actually used the Live Time mode on the E-PL5 and lighted the couple with LED lights (thanks to Fred, my partner photographer for supplying) so I actually knew exactly what was happening as the exposure was shown live to me through camera. This technique is also known as light painting. For those of you who do not know how Live Time or Live Bulb works, kindly see the example here. This Live Time tool was a life saver, and saved me tonnes of time setting up and doing trials. I adjusted the camera and decided on the exposure time on the fly, which was a convenience I needed to that I can pay more attention on the shoot, more than the gear settings and technicalities.
Knowing that Olympus OM-D E-M5 has native base ISO 200 and shutter speed limit of 1/4000sec, I might face difficulties using the F1.8 lenses wide open. I needed my shallow depth of field in the shots, but I cannot have my shots overblown in the highlights, especially with the bride's dress being all white. Therefore, the only logical method I had left, was to use an ND filter. I had a Neutral Density 8 (3 stops) filter to cut down the light into the lens, and with that additional 3 stops advantage I can safely shoot with the awesome M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8 lenses wide open. The best part about using Electronic Viewfinder and Live View was, what I saw through EVF or the screen was not dimmed down because of the ND filter, the camera automatically compensates for the loss of light and you can see everything very clearly. Seriously for those of you who still argue about superiority of optical viewfinder, you really have not tried shooting with electronic viewfinder extensively. It has proven to me again and again to be extremely useful, and superior than optical viewfinder.
For my external lighting source, I have brought along a cheap mini softbox (in the form of traditional strip light) to be attached on the external flash. The softbox was used especially to shoot portraits on location, to mimic some nice and cheap studio lighting. It also helps for Olympus Flash systems to have full remote control function with TTL on camera. There was no need to have separate radio wireless trigger and receiver units, I just used the OM-D's clip on flash unit to trigger the external flash units, set to RC mode of course.
In terms of image output? How can I not be pleased with Olympus life-like colors, the beautiful skin tones and amazingly detailed images.
Most importantly, I do not have to break my back when shooting! Advantage of Micro Four Thirds, smaller and lighter. No problem for me to shoot all day.
I know well enough that these images may never qualify for any "professional wedding photography" reviews, and far from being accepted as good enough. Shall I stop doing something just because I am not good enough? Of course not. Recognising that there is a need to improve will help me to strive further and push myself beyond my limits. There are so much more to learn, so much to improve on. We only have progress when we realize how far behind we are and having the need to "up the game".
There is no rush to do that, and I am doing it at my own pace and time. For now, shutter therapy is still the main thing that I live by, and I always believe that photography should be enjoyed, not to be stressed out about.
I hope you have enjoyed this short series of images from Khee Hwa and Ee Ling's wedding.
I leave you with a photo of me and my partner, Frederick Yap (do check out his work here). Oh yes, I put on full suit and tie for this shoot!
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