Friday, December 18, 2009

Weddings, Existing Light, and Authenticity

So, I fell *way* behind in my 2009 wedding blog postings! I photographed many great weddings in 2009, so I thought I should finally put up some of my favorites from the 2009 wedding season...:-).

Before I do that, however, I wanted to mention that I'm really looking forward to the 2010 wedding season. Why? Well, I sold off a bunch of my camera equipment in order to purchase two new pieces of equipment for 2010:
  1. The new $5000 Canon 1D Mark IV digital SLR camera, which promises to be the best low-light professional digital camera Canon has *ever* made
  2. A Canon 35mm f/1.4L of the best quality, low light lenses Canon has ever made
You may be noticing a theme here: Michael is really interested in camera equipment that takes great photos in low lighting. Yes!

I've gotten *much* better at using flash photography than when I started photographing weddings 4 years ago. I've also gotten quite good at using remote flashes in dark reception halls. This is all well and good and as it should be for a professional wedding photographer. The thing is, I still prefer making photos in existing light when possible.

"Existing light" is the lighting the wedding participants are actually experiencing at the ceremony and reception. When I go and trigger a flash--either one attached to the camera or a remote flash not attached to the camera--I am altering the lighting and changing the ambience or "atmosphere", or whatever you want to call it. Also, those bright lights going off in people's faces is quite likely altering their behavior.

Here, I think, we encounter a philosophical question: Is the goal of wedding photography to capture things as "authentically" as possible? Or is the goal to make things as easily seen as possible? I should note that the goal of making the event and the people involved look as good as possible isn't exclusive to either of these. This latter goal may, in fact, require a mixed bag of lighting techniques, including simply using existing light.

To be totally honest, I'm usually trying for either authenticity or beauty, and am quite happy when I accomplish both simultaneously. With the exception of a short portrait session I sometimes do with the wedding couple on their wedding day, I very seldom go that extra step toward beauty (or "eye candy") over authenticity and stage a bunch of shots where I'm dictating poses, actions, and lighting. This is not the way of wedding photojournalism and I am, in fact, primarily photojournalistic in my approach.

A camera like the Canon 1D Mark IV combined with a lens like the Canon 35mm f/1.4L gives the photographer the ability to capture images regardless of lighting conditions or movement in the image. This is Canon's fastest focusing camera (the 1D series has always been a top-choice of sports photographers) with the highest light sensitivity of any camera made. Sure, I will still have a flash attached to it; but *using* that flash will become much more of an option than with any previous camera.

The light at the church or reception hall--or the lack thereof--will cease to be the overriding determinant of the lighting techniques I must use to capture photos. This camera plus the large aperture of the 35mm f/1.4L lens will keep lighting options open and let my sense of authenticity and/or artistry lead the way instead...:-).

Now for those 2009 Wedding Photos...

Okay, so I ended up with a *bunch* of choices from the first wedding I looked at from early in the year! I'll have to follow-up this post with a few more in order to cover more of my 2009 weddings...:p. By the way, thanks Rachel and Stephen...:-).

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