Ceremony & Reception question.

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by kelly_h|1, May 28, 2013.

  1. Hello!
    I just started shooting weddings and I seem to have a hard time shooting the wedding party walking down the aisle. Specially when they walk very fast! I seem to get a lot of out focus shots. How can I improve this? I REALLY appreciate the advice.
  2. Kelly,
    Several possible answers here.
    1. Talk to the bride and groom before the ceremony and suggest that they take their time walking down the aisle.
    2. You'll be standing at the back of the church and nobody will be looking at you, so if the bride and groom do look at you, put up a hand to say "Halt!" Usually they'll know this means they should stop for a sec so you can shoot. But you need to be ready to shoot! You can't have the bride and groom stopped in the aisle for 10 seconds while you fiddle with your camera.
    3. Spend more time mastering your camera's settings and practicing your shooting skills. Figure out how to turn on the continuous tracking feature of your camera's autofocus. Then make sure, as you're shooting, that your shutter speed is fast enough not just to prevent camera motion blur but also to freeze subject movement. To prevent camera motion blur (camera shake) the rough rule of thumb is to use a shutter speed equal to or faster than the reciprocal of the focal length; so if the focal length = 70mm, be sure to shoot at 1/70th sec or faster. But that's just taking care of camera shake. If the subject is moving, you have to take that into consideration, too. A couple walking at a normal speed toward you probably need at least 1/125th second shutter speed, if you've got the focus managed properly. They're coming right at you so the problem is really more that they're constantly moving the focal plane, and less that they're moving so fast. Unless of course they're doing cartwheels down the aisle.
    4. If you're allowed to use flash for this shot of the couple walking out, flash should help you freeze the shot.
    I generally shoot in manual mode, so I can set the shutter speed and aperture exactly the way they need to be and know that they'll stay that way; but I'll use Auto-ISO and allow the ISO to adjust so that I get a good exposure. But if you're uncertain, put it into shutter priority (the aperture is less important for this shot) or even P. Whatever works.
    But practice. The key thing is to nail the focus. I'll be honest, I don't usually have my camera on continuous autofocus with tracking enabled. My cameras all autofocus fast enough. If you're using spot focus, do not point the camera right at some nebulous part of the bride's gown or some flat black part of the groom's suit or tux. Remember the camera needs contrast to focus.
    I always talk to the folks in the wedding party at the rehearsal the night before, ask 'em to walk slowly (it's good advice anyway and a good wedding coordinator may say the same thing to them). I'll warn them about my "Halt" hand signal (although I've done it a lot to people who haven't been warned and it's pretty obvious what it means).
  3. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Hi, welcome.
    What Cameras and Lenses and Flash Units are you using?
  4. It would be beneficial if we know what camera/lens/flash you were using. But in the end, there is no one size fits all solution as these shots can be difficult to capture and the situation surrounding each shot is different. However, you are not alone! And this is what I might tell an assistant working for us:
    First, understand your camera's focusing system. To start, I would lock the focus on the center focus point as that is often the "best" focus point to use. I am not suggesting by any means that this is the best and only approach, but until you can nail down all the variable, it's a place to start.
    Next, if you have something like a good 50mm prime: use it. But don't use it wide open! And "good" is subjective. The Canon 50mm f/1.8 is NOT what I would consider a good lens to use here as it is known for hunting to focus in poor lighting conditions. On the whole though, prime lenses are a tad bit better in most regards, including focusing speeds and accuracy. Using a prime also gives you one less thing to worry about: zooming. Framing the perfect shot can sometimes get in the way of getting the shot and there isn't a lot of time during processionals or recessionals to mull over the perfect framing. Now before I am crucified by those using zoom lenses successfully, I am not suggesting that it can't be done. But again, I want to remove all obstacles and in very general terms, a prime is going to be better/easier/quicker.
    I might go on to explain to an assistant that the right gear is going to be very beneficial. If memory serves, when we still shot film we picked up a digital Rebel (the original DRebel) to "get-our-digital-feet-wet". We didn't use it as the main camera but I remember waiting for that thing to write a few images to the memory card just watching the processional go by! Maybe not the best example, but it is an example of how the gear matters. Wasn't it the original Fuji that would take 3 Raw images and then take 30-seconds to write them? In any case, focusing speed and accuracy can be very dependent upon the quality of the camera. There will be a difference between an entry level Rebel and a 5DMIII. Same with lenses. Same with a flash. And you need to know your gear. As example, are you using a flash that can utilize an external battery pack or no? If no, if you put a fresh set of batteries in your flash, how long, successively, can your flash fire? 5 pops? 10-pops? Now gauge whatever that number is against the number of people in your processional/recessional. And remember, the more power you want from the flash, the slower it will be. Shooting ISO 400 is very different than ISO 1600 (by two stops which would then require 4x more light from your flash for each pop all else being equal).
    And my final piece of advice: be prepared and keep your wits about you. I know a lot of brides tell us that they want a picture of the groom as they are coming down the aisle. I would then ask them which shot is more important to everyone: you coming down the aisle or the groom. Because as a single photography, there is a very good chance I can't get both (for a variety of reasons). So managing expectations always is always beneficial.
  5. The best trick for shooting in a low-light church is to focus on something stationary, like the flowers at the end of a pew... lock focus and then wait for the couple to step in-line with the flowers. Since you have already locked focus, the shot will be instant and they won't be able to step out of focus.
  6. Kelly, processionals can be a bit tricky. The walk can be long or short, it can be staged too close together, or not. The walking speed can vary widely, and even if you tell them to take their time, they often won't.
    I had some difficulty with this when I first started ... and processionals made me very nervous. I tried using manual focus on a set area, and that didn't always work because some subjects got to the point before the previous one had passed me. I tried a prime lens and that didn't work when things got hurried because I had no where to back up.
    So I worked on a way to be consistent.
    Now I use a 24-70 Zoom so I can quickly adjust to changing subject distances; set the camera to Manual exposure and the flash on TTL, adjust the ISO to allow for an aperture set to f/4 or 5.6 for a bit of DOF, and test the exposure while guests are being seated.
    AF is done with the center, more sensitive square. I NEVER, EVER use continuous focus, something our late moderator Nadine Ohara also advised against ... instead, I follow the subject with half taps of the shutter button (or assigned rear AF button if you use that technique), and when they are framed correctly, I press the shutter all the way for the shot. This works because by following them toward you, the lens then has a very short throw to achieve focus, so it is virtually instantaneous.
    Now, I rarely if ever miss.
  7. remember the movie matrix. at first the robots or whatever you want to call them were to fast but after much practice the whole thing slowed down in the main characters head. processionals are like that. even the fastest processional is slow compared to many other things, even if they are walking fast they are just walking. photographing anything moving faster than walking helps, practice on them.
    little league baseball at night. kid after kid running from home to first good focusing practice. kids running around your yard. want to make it more of a pressure situation go to a high school football game when two guys twice your size wearing pads are bearing down on you get that shot. After that processional will be easy.
  8. Switch to manual focus, and pre focus like the old days. I would never trust these auto focus systems in dim light to nail it.
  9. Kelly -
    1) Switch your camera to C - Continuous Autofocus - not Single.
    2) Talk the attendants before the ceremony. Tell them that they control the pace - stop or pause until they see that you have gotten a photo of them. NOTE: This will not work if they are doing a dance or something odd walking in.
  10. Pre-focus on a person thats about 5 or so seats back. Set the flash to manual as well. I have a pretty powerful flash unit so my setting is 1/2 power. If you shoot at full power with a nikon or canon flash unit the images will still look very good. In RAW this is a very easy correction; if needed. This is to achieve a full length shot.

    Although I've only done this a few times during many years of photography I've slowly held my hand up, without anyone knowing this except the mother, father, grandparent, whomever is walking down with the bride, to slow down just a shade. The hand placement is below your shoulders, not way above your head while jumping all over the place! Another poor joke!

    This can also add to the odds of them looking at your camera with their eyes looking at you and not drifting.

    Added I usually tell the people, bridesmaids to go a bit slow and enjoy the walk to stardom.

    Prefocusing and having your flash set on manual will surely add to the odds, pretty close to 100 percent.

    Since a flash can stop movement around a 30th of a second you will pick up a lot of the background as Marc showed above.

    I know that others set there cameras to auto focus. This also works very well. I prefer pre-focusing. Once the couple hits that mark bang, you've got the shot.

    Nice shot Marc.
  11. I just noticed Booray said pretty much the same thing. My settings are usually around F 5.6.
  12. AI servo, 1/200+ sec shutter speed, whatever ISO it takes to get that.
    As an ugly substitute to a fast enough shutter speed, add eTTL flash with second curtain sync.
    I am always amazed when people use/suggest super small apertures for these dark places like churches. I use f/1.6-f/2.2 for processionals most of the time unless I'm forced to use f/2.8 because that's as wide as the 70-200 goes.

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