Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Using technology to make different stylistic choice

The A99ii is a very impressive camera, lots of pixels, good ISO and nice AF.
My recent client was really impressed at the photos I was able to pull of a crowd in a corporate lecture, sitting mostly in the dark.
I was using two remote flashes, using my latest favorite style of having a backlight and a side backlight to light people.

The dynamic range of the A99ii allows me to pull of this shots in a dark huge room.
Then again, that is probably the style I would use with the original A99. Sometimes incremental changes can make a good technique in to a terrific technique.
However, current Sony cameras are not just nice cameras, like the A900 was, with nice warm colors and good lenses. They also allow you to do things otherwise almost impossible in other cameras.
The eye auto focus is a good example. While hardly as good an implementation as in the latest e-mount mirrorless cameras, it still allows you to create a unique style of photography that I tried for the first time for this event, but it might be relevant for weddings.
Having good ISO (set to auto) for event photography means I can allow myself to shoot with a fast shutter and an aperture of 4.0-5.6 when shooting groups of people talking. I mostly use the great Zeiss 50mm 1.4  lens for that, knowing I'll get sharp and pleasant photos where people will not look all of a sudden wider if they stand at the edge of the frame as happens with most wider lenses.

This way I don't have to worry about people being out of focus or blurry hands when people talk with their hands or make a sharp movement for any reason.
However, that limits you to a very specific style of photography. I did use this "safe" style for a while and then I got bored with it and decided to experiment with Eye-AF and the aperture set at 1.4. As this lens is phenomenal I knew my photos would still be sharp where focused, especially with the lower ISO.

As you can see this way of shooting goes a long way to create a blurred background in situations where you have to think quickly and still hit the perfect focus. I hope to use this style in an upcoming wedding when I come back from my upcoming vacation.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Tips for Weddings and other major events

I am still evaluating my brand new A99ii, but thought it was a good time to stop with all the technical information and give some of my tips to doing weddings. These tips can also be useful in other events or photography genres.

1. Arrive an hour before the event starts. Yes, you are not getting paid for it, but that doesn't matter in the long run. It's good to have time to plug in your batteries, get a feel of the venue, catch some extra behind the scenes photos. I will probably repeat this but I always try to give my clients some extras. I know that the money doesn't matter as much as repeat clients and clients who will give you good reviews and recommend you to their friends and family.
2. Dress sharply! It makes feel better and on many occasions I shared shirts, jackets and more with my male clients. In general, I try to feel less like a caterer (I know some photographers dress like that) and more like a party guest. I try to be close to my clients and get excited for them on their special day. Also , my last groom forgot to pack his dress shirt, so that definitely saved the day.

I love this photo of a cute couple and my own jacket :)

3.  Know things about your clients, ask them about their hobbies, what they like to do in their spare time, what is their job, etc. You never know when that will come in handy.
4. Tell your clients to do everything slowly, especially ring exchanges and cutting of cake, but also the walk down the isle. Politicians know this, they pose for ever and ever, shaking hands for a couple of minutes, Your bride and groom will probably not know this and being nervous will probably do things on overdrive unless told in advance.

5. Make sure there's enough time for posed shots, in a nice location. Tell them if they just want to do it in the hotel parking lot, or the ugly park nearby, they might regret it.

6. Never argue with the client. If they want a little more photo manipulation, do it. If they say there are not enough photos of anything, even if it's not your fault, agree and try to fix it as much as you can. Sometimes out of focus photos can be salvaged, photos can be cropped to fit a person and you should definitely get the videographer's info, as you might use a photo-shopped video still of some obscure aunt that you might have missed, to save the day.
7. Photoshop is your friend. As a photographer I do wish all my photos were perfect. However, they are not, especially in group photos, where sometimes a person would blink, look aside or lose an adorable smile. Young children and babies are notorious for doing their own thing while everybody else is obediently smiling at the camera. A lot of the times I combine parts of different photos of the same shot.
8. That said you should always strive to make the group photos better. Always make sure that people are looking at the camera. You would be surprised at how many times, even grownups who know what they are there for will stand there with all their friends and family and just look aside, looking lost at thought. I typically just look at the people before putting my eyes on the viewfinder or LCD and make sure everybody realizes what they should be doing.
9. Even if you are testing some people's patience, try to take most photos at different aperture and exposures if possible. I set my aperture at 4 for most shots, cranking it to 5.6 when I have a group of people. Sure, some shots of a single person, or two people when one is out of focus could look very nice at 2.8 or even 1.4 and the shallow depth of field style has been proven quite popular, but I always try to take backup photos at more closed aperture, because there is nothing more annoying than a good shot that is somewhat out of focus, or a shot of more than one person where someone is out of focus.
10. Have fun! Any job in my mind is not worth doing if you don't enjoy it, if you don't like it. Sure, holding a camera and running around might be stressful, even painful at times. The only way in my mind to justify such a vocation is not only liking the results but also enjoying the process, being with people, talking to people, experiencing emotions together with people you don't know and finding the uniqueness in each person. 
11. Talk to your clients about alcohol consumption. It's okay if they want to get hammered on their special day but I would recommend to lay off the booze until after the formals or any other posed photos. It makes it incredibly difficult for people to follow even the simplest instruction when they are intoxicated, especially trying to get a lot of people to stand without casting shadows on each other and looking at a camera. Also, some people, especially men gets flustered and their faces turn purple or red. Some people make faces that are decidedly not photogenic.