Shooting Wedding Photography With Olympus OM-D System

This is not a new topic here, I have written about doing weddings with Olympus OM-D several times, and the most recent one was on Ming Thein's  site (article here).  I shared my techniques and experience in shooting weddings previously. This time, with an accompanying video, I want to tackle the sufficiency of Micro Four Thirds system, especially the Olympus OM-D when it comes to weddings. Typical technical limitations brought up in popular discussions include dynamic range, high ISO noise and AF reliability. I personally have seen some amazing work by other photographers who shoot weddings with OM-D system, and I have been dabbling with wedding photography for several years now.



The popular complain is definitely about not having sufficient shallow depth of field effect. Those comparing to full frame system will be quick to point out that the smaller sensor size used in OM-D cameras will achieve twice as much depth of field. While this statement is true, I also must say that having too much blur is not necessarily a good thing. Though Olympus OM-D can't blur the background as easily as full frame system, I have found myself stopping down the aperture and not shoot wide open to get more depth of field. Sometimes you just need more in focus (eg group shots, or images with more than one person). There should not be an issue with getting shallow depth of field now, with Olympus having the trio F1.2 PRO prime lenses, an assortment of fast F1.8 primes. Even shooting with the 40-150mm F2.8 PRO, zooming into telephoto range can give you amazing subject isolation. I have found the F1.8, and especially the F1.2 lenses to provide more than sufficient background bluring that I need.

Also high in the list of concerns are high ISO noise and dynamic range of the image output from Olympus OM-D. It is true that much physically larger sensor can result in wider dynamic range and better high ISO noise ceiling, I have not found the OM-D inadequate in any situation. In fact, with the availability of F1.8 and F1.2 lenses, in combination with the powerful image stabilization built in, I rarely find myself shooting anything above ISO1600. Yes, in very rare occasions I do need to bump up to maybe ISO3200 or 6400, even so, if I am careful with my exposure and not do crazy things (like underexposing intentionally) I can get away with very usable results. Clean high ISO images is not everything, having massive dynamic range won't being  your photography to the next level. When it comes  to wedding photography, even if there are traces of high ISO noise, even if there is blownouts in the highlights, as long as the precious moment is elegantly captured, that is still a great photograph. It is the story, the emotion and the expression in the photograph that matter more.


I particularly love the fact that my gear that I am carrying with me weighs so little. Weddings in Malaysia can be gruesome to photographers, they start as early as 5am and end close to midnight sometimes. It is practically a full day shoot, carrying much lighter and smaller system is a godsent. Also, having smaller shoulder bag that I use helps me maneuver and run around more effectively. I may need to dash over to the next room when something is happening there, would be troublesome to do so with larger and heavier setup. The ability to move around freely and react better guarantee me higher keepers. Everything in the bag, including the bag itself weigh less than 5Kg. 

I can fit the following items:
E-M1 Mark II (main body)
E-M1 (backup body)
7-14mm F2.8 PRO
12-40mm F2.8 PRO
25mm F1.2 PRO
45mm F1.8
FL-50R
FL-36R
Plethora of SD cards, spare batteries both for cameras and flashes.
Situational items:
40-150mm F2.8 PRO
(Even if I add on another lens, say the 40-150mm F2.8 PRO, the bag would still about 5kg or slightly more.)
Tripod


Are you a wedding photographer? Do you use Micro Four Thirds system? I want to hear your story!


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7 comments:

  1. Yes, yes, yes! 💙

    As you know, I'm a relative beginner and just photograph for "shutter therapy", but I have been asked to shoot a couple of big charitable events and photos for a community cafe, in the past year, and I've had no problems using M43, even in low light and no flash. (If anything, to me, noise adds to atmosphere if the image itself is good, and exposed "correctly".)

    OK, M43 is not going to be as good as medium format (as even FF "is crap" in comparison with MF 😁), but the issue, for me, is "acceptable quality" and, even then, it's simply excellent, rather than outstanding, to my eye.

    It seems that most of the gear reviews and talk on the internet is based on "lab conditions" or pixel-peeping which is, even to most photographers, barely visible to the naked eye, at normal viewing distance.* But also, to those (non-photographers) attending the event, they think they are excellent, and know they are way better than any taken on their smartphone. (It's interesting that smartphone reviewers often show amazing images - but only those which will bring the best out of such a poor and tiny sensor - and mostly seem to conveniently forget to pixel-peep those images. 🤣)

    I follow a couple of what I consider amazing photographers who occasionally show out of focus, noisy, motion-blurry, under-/over-exposed images (because they were spontaneous photos and their settings were "wrong" as it all happened too fast) which are jaw-dropping in their composition, story, emotion, and moment (as with Cartier-Bresson).

    It seems to me, when it comes to fine art portrait, automotive, product, or real estate photography, for example, then noise, colour accuracy, and dynamic range are of the essence (where I would use the best I could afford, if that was my thing), but in "normal conditions" - weddings, parties, corporate events, landscape, wildlife, etc., it's all in the image itself, and "technical imperfections" seem to become invisible in proportion to the amount the image grabs you and draws you in.

    For example, I saw a YT video once which showed an amazing image of a parakeet taken with M43. The eye was completely sharp. However, he then points out the feathers and the background, which are actually quite noisy - if you're looking at it from 6 inches away - yet you don't notice it, as your mind psychologically takes in the whole, the gestalt.)

    Frankly, when I watch photography forums, it seems to be more about peer pressure - egos, ostentation, snobbery, and inferiority complexes - than Photography, and no wonder they're angry, as I can't see how you can possibly enjoy photography with all that baggage...

    * School of Photography YT channel had images printed professionally for an exhibition, 1m in size, from a Canon 5D MkIII and an Oly EM1 Mk II, and the printer himself could not tell the difference.

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    Replies
    1. Hey Paul,
      Thanks for the comment and thanks for sharing your experience. Glad that the Micro Four Thirds system worked well for you for your shoots, even though you were not the primary shooters. You are absolutely right about having debates and arguments based on technical specs and comparisons, the real life shooting scenario is often different. the large print of 5D vs E-M1 was not a new thing, we did those in photography trade shows here in Malaysia and 50% of the crowd guessed the prints wrong. I guess in actual practical applications. Micro Four Thirds has come a long way, and is more than adequate for most photographers, even the very demanding ones. But one crucial factor remains - being more compact. I really cannot imagine myself carrying the load three times more of what I am carrying now. If you are not doing anything strenuous that is fine, but for wedding photography, or event shooting, we have to run all over the place. In Malaysia we can't just leave our bags unattended, theft is a very common thing. Being able to carry everything with me and not feeling the heft is a huge advantage! That itself outweighs all the better high ISO results or dynamic range that bigger system provide.

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