Jeff Ascough Interview July 2009

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by think27, Jul 19, 2009.

  1. Jeff Ascough has been a professional wedding photographer in the United Kingdom since 1989. He has covered over 1000 weddings with a documentary photography style. Ascough emphasizes capturing the moment without any prompting or interference and using available light. American Photo voted Ascough as one of the ten best wedding photographers in the world.

    He is also a Canon Ambassador and uses the Canon 5D Mark II’s due to the low light capabilities. Frank Van Riper in America’s Washington Post described Jeff as “A master at shooting by available light” and went on to describe his images as “…among the best I ever have seen – an absolute pleasure to see."
    This week - until Friday, Jeff will answer your questions.
    To familiarize yourself with Jeff and his work, you may want to read this first:
    We'd like 4 comments and then wait for Jeff to answer. So - if you see four - just hang in there and be ready to post later. We don't want too many questions at once.. The format is just like the one in the thread above. Feel free to go ahead and ask questions that were asked in the former thread as Jeff has changed a few things about the way he works...
  2. Jeff, recently on the board we had a discussion about staging events or orchestrating events to either save time, make for a better picture, or for our own aesthetic reasons. How do you feel about staging events (such as telling the bride and groom to kiss at the end of the aisle as the recessional, which was a given example) at weddings?
  3. Related to the question you think because you are NOT staging or orchestrating, then interesting things tend to happen during the time taken for traditional posed photos? Following the same idea, do you think because you not busy staging or orchestrating your mind is freed up to be more watchful and aware of what is going around you? To anticipate the shot (to be clear)?
    Thank you for your time to do this. I learned so much reading the previous interview.
  4. I absolutely enjoy your beautiful work! My question is about workflow. I've read on your blog and in various articles you have mentioned using adobe lightroom, apple aperture and phase one capture. Which processing and raw conversion software do you prefer now and why?
    Also would you summarize your work flow and do you batch process using your actions in photoshop at the end or do you individually use actions on each image?
  5. hey Jeff, big fan. :eek:)

    just wondered about what metering setting you typically use on your 5DmkII's, and whether you tend to purposefully overexpose a little [and recover highlights in post], or if you try to get the exposure pretty much bang on, or if you underexpose a little to keep more detail in the highlights, and then use fill light/exposure to lighten it up later. or does that depend on the situation for you?

    also, is there a magical lake of awesomeness that you found and take baths in? some of us would like to find it to see if we can get some leftover awesomeness to rub off on us. ;o)
  6. Thanks for the questions. There is a bit of a time difference to deal with, so forgive me if I appear a little late in replying.
    Betty & Lisa - I never tell my clients to do anything on the wedding day. I prefer to document what actually happens rather than what I think should happen. I also believe that once you give a couple some direction, they spend the rest of the day looking for more direction.
    In terms of picture aesthetic, that is down to my skills as a photographer and the way I see the world. I honestly don't believe a picture can be improved by interfering, because then the picture isn't a moment - it is a photographer's idea of what that moment should be.
    Having this approach forces you to look for images. Controlling the situation would take all of my concentration, and would prevent me from seeing other, possibly better images that could be happening around me.
    In terms of posed photographs, I usually cover six groups and a couple of bride and groom pictures. These are done right at the end of the drinks reception (cocktail hour) so the clients have the greatest amount of time with their guests, and I have the most time possible for taking my documentary images. The formal images take no longer than ten minutes to complete. I don't worry about missing images when taking the groups, because if I don't take them, they never happened.
    Rick - I currently use Apple's Aperture 2 for all my workflow, along with Photoshop CS4. Very briefly, I create a new project for each wedding and use Aperture to import my CF cards into that project. Inside that project I create two smart albums one which is marked 'picks' and one which is marked 'finished'. The 'picks' album is set to accept images of one star, and the 'finished' album is set to accept PSD files.
    When editing the images I go through each image and tag the images that I like with one star. I ignore the images I don't like. Aperture immediately puts the selected images into my 'picks' album. Once the editing is completed I open the 'picks' album and start working on the images. I do basic WB and density correction in Aperture and then open the image in CS4 directly from Aperture. I run my own set of Silver Actions on the image and save it. As Aperture creates a PSD when saving from Photoshop, the image is automatically placed in the 'finished' album. I then open the 'finished' album, renumber the images, and export them at the various sizes I need for the client, web etc. That's pretty much it.
    I use managed files, so that everything goes to one library and this is backed up in vaults in two different locations.
    David - metering is pretty straightforward. I use evaluative metering in AV mode for 90% of situations. I use the * button to lock the exposure and point the camera at a neutral part of the scene to avoid any hotspots. If the lighting is really tricky I'll switch over to spot metering and meter off the main subject (usually a face). I don't have the LCD review switched on so I'm not distracted by it. I don't worry too much about metering as the Canon is pretty good, and the 14 bit RAW files are so easy to do any minor exposure correction on.
    As for awesomeness...well I just take pictures that I like to take, and appeal to my eye. That's really my secret.
  7. Hi Jeff
    Do you ever under expose deliberately with the knowledge that you will up the exposure in PS later, like in very dark situations? For example: Your aperture is already set on f/1.2, your ISO set to 1600 (before the 5D MII came along) and the optimal shutter speed would be a 1/10th of a sec for correct exposure, but since you know that will cause too much blur you rather shoot at 1/30th of a sec to get a sharper image, but realising that you will have to correct the exposure in PS.
    Also related to very dark situations, what is the key to good focusing?
  8. Ben - No I don't ever do that. Deliberately underexposing an image just creates a lot of shadow noise, which gets worse as the iso increases. It is rare that I get in a situation on a wedding that demands 1/10th @ f1.2 at 1600 iso.
    In low light, contrast is the key to finding good focus. Either focus manually (which I do) or try and lock onto something in the same plane of focus as the subject, which has higher contrast.
  9. Hi Jeff,
    You've mentioned previously that you use Jorgensen Matted Albums exclusively. A few questions.
    What kind of paper do you use for the prints? Do you get a lab to do all the prints for you or do you print them yourself? matt and glossy papers? Any chance of seeing a full album of a single wedding to see how you go about doing the layout of the images. Even a low res version with your copyright watermark across all the pages would be nice to see.
    Thanks. Appreciate your sharing!
  10. Derrick - I'm happy to answer questions on shooting, philosophy, workflow etc; but I'm afraid product, business and marketing are out of bounds. Album layouts come under this category I'm afraid. I like to keep things very close to my chest when it comes to my product. Thanks for your understanding. I have a unique product and it won't stay unique if everyone can see it on here ;-)
    In answer to your question about paper, I have everything printed by a lab and always on glossy paper. I am a great fan of Jorgensen albums and have a great relationship with SWPM (UK distributors) and Gary Jorgensen. I don't use any other albums other than Jorgensen.
  11. With your new Canons, do you still shoot film? If so, what is your film workflow? Do you develop your own B&W? Scans or wet darkroom prints? Medium format or 35mm, and what films and/or cameras do you use? Thanks!
  12. John - I haven't shot a roll of film since April 2005.
    I moved totally to digital capture when is was apparent that it had reached the point where the quality (albeit different from film) was of a professional standard. It was also becoming increasingly difficult to find labs capable of printing b/w to the standard I expected.
  13. Jeff - thanks for taking the time to answer questions on here, much appreciated!
    I'd like to ask whether you've got any tips on how to develop & refine a personal style? As everyone's uncle seems to own a digital SLR these days it's obvious that creativity & artistic merit remain the true differentiators. So I'm curious whether you take any structured approach to developing these aspects of your work, or whether it's just something that's been more organic? I'd also be very interested in your approach to critiques of your photographs - do you seek constructive criticism to improve? If so, how do you choose the right critics?
    Thanks for any response!
  14. Are you sponsered by any of the vendors whose products you use?
  15. Jim - This is a good question, as I firmly believe that for a photographer to be successful they should develop their own style.
    If I look at the development of my own style, I've always been interested in light, geometry, and rhythm when it comes to photographs, rather than the content. I guess I am firmly in the Cartier-Bresson camp here, whereby the construction of the image is as important as the content. If we take James Nachtwey's images, many see the human condition, suffering, anger, depression, hatred, fear; I see lines, shapes, and the beauty of the construction of the picture. The content, while often harrowing, is largely irrelevant to me in terms of what excites my eye.
    This love of geometry is transposed over to my own work which just happens to be weddings. It could be commercial, portraiture, landscape; it doesn't matter what I'm photographing, as long as what gets me excited visually is present in my images. As my understanding of photography increases through experience, so my style develops naturally and I see work from 10 years ago not being as well constructed as my work from this year.
    I think it is important that a photographer finds the thing that turns them on visually in an image, and take that as their starting point. It's easier to be passionate about something you like, rather than something that people say you should like. You may find that colour is your thing, or movement, or contrast. It doesn't matter. Simply take that element and make it work for you. Don't be influenced by other wedding photographers, as you will end up developing a style based on what they like, rather than what you like. Then once you have taken your pictures, ask yourself if you like the image. That is all that matters. If you do, ask yourself why you like the image, and if it can be improved and how it could be improved. That's how you start to develop your style. Experience will ultimately add to that style, and that is a good thing.
    In terms of critique, I'm often reminded of Marco Pierre White's comments when he returned his three stars back to Michelin. He said something on the lines that the Michelin inspectors knew less about his food than he did, so what was the point of having them? I believe that to be the case with my work. I haven't had a critique for over ten years. When I did have a critique, the wedding photographers based that critique on their work and approach, often trying to shape my work into their mold.
    Critique can be good if it is constructive and comes from outside of the genre you are working in. If you seek critique from within wedding photography, often ego comes into play and negativity can often put people off. It is not easy to critique, and it is more valuable if that critique is impartial. For me, the biggest critic of my work is myself. As long as I am happy with it, then I care not what anyone else thinks about it.
  16. David - I'm not sure where this question is leading, but It is no secret I am an Ambassador for Canon. However, I was a Canon user long before I was asked to be an Ambassador.
    A few months before I was approached by Canon, two other companies tried to cut a deal with me over their latest cameras. I thought about it but I just wasn't happy enough with their products. So I passed and stayed with Canon. I felt Canon had the best product for me, and I was happy to forgo deals with others because I owed it to myself and my clients to use what I was happiest and most comfortable with.
    Over the years I have been offered all sorts of deals from all sorts of people, but I am just not interested in 90% of them. I only put my name to companies which I genuinely use, and who I am happy with. In most cases, I am happy simply to put my name to a product because it is a great product without any expectation or sponsorship. Jorgensen is a good example, Upstrap is another.
  17. Jeff, when you were given the wedding shoots to do (by your parents), did you resist that initial direction much, or at all?
    I ask becuse of the way you shoot with an eye for geometry and rhythm and wonder if you initially preferred working with architecture, et al.
  18. David - I didn't start resisting anything until 1992/1993. For the first couple of years of my career I was just excited to be a young guy taking pictures for a living. Once I started to understand what Cartier-Bresson was creating with his work, that's when a light bulb went off in my head and I moved forward in a new direction. It took me maybe three - four years before I really understood what it was to be a photographer. I wasn't really interested in architecture, it was always people that were my focus.
    My thoughts on geometry and rhythm relate more to the construction of an image rather than physical objects such as buildings. An image has a rhythm when the eye is able to relax and look around the image with ease. You know if you hear a piece of music and subconsciously you tap your feet, because your ears and brain are relaxed with that music? To me it is the same with pictures. If your eye can just wander round an image without any discord, and without you being aware of it happening, then that image has a rhythm to it. Geometry in terms of physical or implied lines, shapes, composition etc is important to create that rhythm.
  19. You posted earlier that "I don't worry about missing images when taking the groups, because if I don't take them, they never happened." Wow I wish I could get away with that. How do you educate your Bride and grooms to your style and what they should expect to get in the finished proofs when you are booking them.
  20. Hi Jeff, when I saw your work, I knew that you're the guy I'm looking for because after reading your blog posts I realised how similar our thoughts are.
    I have one question. Do you look for good lighting first and wait for something to happen or do you move around looking for an image?
  21. Richard - It is all about managing client expectations. I truly believe that a lot of photographers are actually frightened of their clients. If I'm shooting groups how on earth can I be somewhere else taking pictures? It's impossible. The clients know it is impossible, and if they want groups then I can't be taking other images. So if I don't see and take those images, they never existed. If you miss something minor, does it matter in the scheme of things. Will your clients be standing around taking notes of which pictures you took? No way!! They don't want to; they don't need to; and they should have confidence in what you are doing. The confidence comes from you, and how confident you are when dealing with them.
    As an aside, I think wedding photographers are getting all hung up on trying to shoot vast quantities of images in an attempt to instill confidence in their product. A good caterer will supply beautifully presented, great tasting food in small portions so that they don't overwhelm their clients. The smaller and more beautiful the portions, the more the bride will be prepared to pay. What a good caterer won't do is supply a huge plate of tasteless stodge, because a bride won't pay for it. Wedding photographers are becoming so hung up on quantity rather than quality that they are starting to produce great plates of stodge - mediocre images, with poor content and lots of them. Given the choice I truly believe that a client will always prefer 150-200 fabulous images over 2000 mediocre ones. The problem is photographers don't give them that option anymore, and the floodgates have opened.
    If you have to shoot that many images for your clients, when on earth do you find the time to actually look for pictures? You can't physically do it, simply because you are shooting everything that moves without thinking. On a twelve hour coverage I will supply less than 200 pictures. I have never, ever had a complaint from a client over the quantity of the images supplied. I have hundreds of testimonials about the quality of my images though.
    Then we come to post processing. It must take days to process a wedding with thousands of images. So when do you find time to market your business?
    Interesting anecdote. A few weeks ago I had a client visit me regarding her wedding. She'd seen a number of photographers who were all offering substantially more pictures than I was. I got a box of pictures out, opened it up and spread all the prints over the floor. I asked her how many images there were on the floor. "I've no idea but there are loads of them. It's quite overwhelming looking at them all." There were 150 images and she was overwhelmed with the quantity. So how do you think she would feel looking at 500 images, or even 1000 images. Needless to say she booked!! I educated her into why you don't need hundreds of pictures to tell the story of the day. You don't need second shooters, and that one photographer can work simply and effectively and get a great set of images for her.
    Yesterday I was doing a seminar with my good friend George Weir. I showed 45 photographers a complete wedding. After the slideshow finished, I asked them if there was anything missing from the coverage. All of them agreed that there wasn't anything missing. There were 148 images in the show. The point I'm trying to make is that once you get hung up on the idea that you have to capture everything, your mindset is all wrong for the great images out there that you should capture.
    My philosophy is to take one great image that tells the story of that part of the day, not 300 poor ones.
  22. Samuel - light direction first, and then look for elements within the scene that I can use to construct an image from.
  23. Hello Mr. Ascough,
    Thanks for taking the time to respond on this forum. I have a bunch of questions, primarily from the entries in your blog over the past several months. This is largely non-technical.
    1. In an interview with BIG Folio, you mentioned: "My favourite place to go is France. I love the light there, it has a magical quality to it. No wonder so many artists and painters were inspired by it. " Could you elaborate? What would you want for your ideal lighting conditions to exist? I know you refer to the "low angular light " that you get in winter, but the message isn't clear to me.

    2. You are now a pretty well known name, but in you talked about wedding photographers not being treated with respect in the same interview (where during meal time at a wedding, the "catereres had simply scraped all the finished plates from the guests onto this big platter, and gave it to us "). How did you cope with it during your initial years, now that you have almost 20 years under your belt?

    3. You have repeatedly mentioned that people were always the focus of your work. But, as a rule, you do not spend much time talking to them. But, to capture all their moods on their big day, you obviously need to feel for them. Do you have a strong sense of empathy towards people in general that keeps you going after people for so long?

    4. This one is about technique. You say that normally, you use two camera bodies, one with a 50mm lens and another with a 24mm lens, and that you prefer to stick to things that remain functional and minimal. Also, you put in some effort not to look like a photographer at a wedding so as to not cause people to stiffen up. How then do you manage to do it with two camera bodies displayed on your person?

    5. Do you photograph to show people how they actually were on that day or what they wished they were b dramatizing your images a bit?

    6. Now that you have made your actions avaliable to the public, aren't you bothered that the "Ascough Style" would not be exlcusive any more?

    Thanks for your time and answers.

  24. Hi Jeff, thanks so much for joining us today. I enjoy your work, it is inspirational to me. I have a lot to learn and much experience to gain. I am appreciative that you are willing to share with us.

    My question is how much of the standard fare as far as formals do you do or do you do them at all? If so what is your approach? (Families with bride and goom, wedding party etc.)
    Thanks again,
  25. Shashi - If you go to France you will know exactly what I mean. The light has a quality to it that we don't have in the UK. It could be weather, pollution, thermals, climate. I've no idea what causes it, but it is softer than UK light. I like low diffused angular light the best, as this gives direction to the light, and is easier to deal with. In the Autumn in the UK, the sun never gets very high in the sky and is often diffused by cloud. This is lovely lighting to work with.
    2. I just got on with it. I still do now. I'm only a well known name within wedding photography. The caterers at that wedding would never have heard of me. I just think it is bad how people treat photographers on the day.
    3. I am fascinated by people, and fascinated in particular by people on a wedding day. I do have a strong empathy with my clients, and I often get wrapped up in the emotions of the day. I guess I am quite perceptive to other people's behaviour.
    4. It has nothing to do having two (albeit small) cameras, but how you behave in front of people with those cameras. If you behave in a way that attracts attention to you, it doesn't matter if you have a tiny point and shoot, you will still be obtrusive. If you behave quietly and with respect, you can easily remain unobtrusive with four or five cameras, and people will not pay you any attention.
    5. I photograph my clients sympathetically, and honestly, but I will never shoot anything that is unflattering to them.
    6. I would like to think my style has more to do with my photography, rather than my actions!! A poor image run through my actions will still be a poor image. The actions have been designed in such a way as to allow photographers to develop their own look and style. They are tools rather than effects or magic bullets that will suddenly turn a photographer into me. I like to think of these actions in the same way as choosing a film stock and developer combination. The possibilities are endless once you get to know and use them. Photographers like Josef Isayo, Matt Gillis, Paul Gero and George Weir use my actions and their work looks nothing mine.
  26. Laura - some clients have 5-6 groups; some don't have any at all; and occasionally I cover up to ten groups on a wedding. The only criteria I have is that they shouldn't take any more than ten minutes to complete.
    Typically it will be immediate families, bride with bridesmaids, groom with groomsmen, that sort of thing. I try and avoid extended family groups and anything that logistically would present a problem. I always do a couple of bride and groom pictures which take a couple of minutes to do.
  27. Dear Jeff,
    With your current clientele involving beautiful celebrities, historic and spacious venues, and God on your side with the lighting - when was the last time you shot bridal preparation in a terraced house with bad decor, followed by a 1970s registry office and finger buffet at the Dog & Duck under strip lights? What advice do you have for making the most of visually challenging locations?
  28. Hi Jeff,
    many thanks for this great insight.

    I often think many wedding photographers over rely on craft and technique to compensate for their inability to see a great moment. By contrast your work is inspirational in your ability to see perfect moments, I really see the parallels between your work and the documentary masters that you mention like Nachtwey.

    My question is - do you do any sort of mental preparation before or during a wedding to stay mentally sharp? When I shoot a wedding it's usually a long day. Have you got any tips on staying sharp and able to keep spotting those precious moments over adrenaline alone?
    Cheers and thanks for your great blog.
  29. Dear Jeff,
    Thanks so much for the workflow strategies. The next questions concerns album creation. Do you still use Yervant software and your album's software to design? Do you try to keep the original crop as much as possible on each of the images? Do you use a square or rectangular album format? Why do you make one photograph black and white and another color? And finally what do you think about when you start designing an album?
    Also would it be possible to see an example of one of your albums?
    And thanks, thanks, thanks for being so generous in sharing your knowledge.
  30. Jeff, do you provide any proofs of the album design or just the finished album?
    When picking the photos for the albuns spreads how do you handle those pictures of friends, and other guests?
    Aren't you afraid to miss someone important in the album?
    Could you please explain to us more of the practical side of choosing the photos for the album instead of letting the client?
  31. Hold on the questions now until Jeff answers.. Thanks guys
  32. Adam - last year!! The environment is ultimately a big part of the wedding story, so I don't try to hide it. Obviously I don't want it to distract from the images, but an environment can be used as part of the storytelling process. Part of what challenges me is getting images in situations where most photographers would give up.
  33. Duncan - great question. I don't do any mental preparation as in psyching myself up, but on the way to the wedding I do run over a few things in my head in terms of logisitics. I like to be very relaxed and open minded when I start a wedding. Once I start shooting, I make sure that I stay hydrated and take plenty of small five minute breaks. This allows me to keep shooting for 12 hours or more. Last year I also started to take my health a lot more seriously, and lost 10kg in weight. That probably made the single biggest difference to me in terms of being able to shoot for longer. My stamina increased as did my alertness.
  34. <p>Hi Jeff,<br><br>I really love your work, you're a very inspirational photographer. In lieu of attending one of your seminars I wondered if there were any books or DVDs focussed on wedding photography that you could recommend? <br><br>What would you consider are the core skills required to be an excellent wedding photographer?<br><br>Many thanks for taking time to answer questions here<p>

    MODERATOR NOTE: Website link removed from forum thread as per policy.
  35. Hey Jeff, in all the years I've known your work you continue to be a re-affirmation of a classic, yet highly modern approach without resorting to fads to stand out. Your humanity sings out in a world fraught with superficial gimmicks.
    My question for you is about managing your own success.
    While I have been shooting weddings for some time now, it was not my profession. Now it is ... a bit late in life perhaps, but I went 100% last January after a long career in advertising.
    My difficulty is that to survive with enough weddings, I can't seem to land enough of them in my more documentary style ... and to survive must take on weddings with far more structured requirements that take me away from documenting what is really happening. If I try to manage client expectations by limiting the more structured images, they sign with someone else ... even reluctantly sometimes because they like my humanistic documentary approach more. Prior to going full time it didn't matter as my income was from elsewhere. Now it matters.
    Your thoughts?
  36. Hi Jeff,
    I'm a big fan of your work and have heard you speak at Focus On Imaging and attended your Wedding Photography seminar in July 2008.
    It seems the weddings you cover are mostly Christian weddings set in a church or beautiful location somewhere in the UK countryside. In my mind (correct me if I'm wrong), these weddings and locations lend themselves to your type of photography (or vice versa) in terms of the lighting and colour of most of the outfits. Have you ever covered a Hindu/Indian wedding? These are usually a lot more colourful and brash in terms of lighting and I would really be interested to see how your style would work with these weddings and am also interested in how you might approach this type of wedding.
    Regards, Mehul
  37. Rick - I haven't any album designs I'm willing to share on a public forum but I can answer your questions. I use Jorgensen Album Designer for all my albums now. The albums are predominantly square and I don't ever crop the image when it comes to the album design. The images are converted to b/w or colour depending on their content, and aren't converted for the sake of album design.
    The first thing I think about when starting an album design - a nice big mug of coffee ;-) Seriously, the flow of the pictures influences the design, so I just relax and see what images work best with others while keeping some sort of chronological order to the images.
  38. Fellipe - I supply the finished album. The clients can choose which pictures they don't want to go into it, but the design etc is mine. They simply see the images online, and let me know if they are happy with everything going in or do they want to take some out. Those images then make up the album.
  39. John - Marcus Bell has an excellent book on wedding photography, and some great DVD's. Joe Buissink has a great DVD called 'Defining the moment' which is well worth looking at.
    To be a good wedding photographer, you need to be able to be calm, patient, and respectful of the people you are photographing and the people around you. Being able to take great pictures helps too :)
  40. Hi Jeff, Just a quick one - do you use a third-party split prism focussing screen to aid focussing manually?
  41. Marc - I would think it has more to do with marketing than anything else. We market my business in a very deliberate way; it is all about the images. The albums, groups, packages etc are all largely irrelevent to my clients when they enquire. I believe that clients can either afford me, or they can't and that's the criteria for them. What they get for the money isn't the main factor. It is interesting that when a client enquires with a list of things they must have from their photography, I rarely get the wedding.
    Once you decide to focus solely on the images, then people book you for those images. We work in a very visual world now, and it is important to move people with your pictures, not what you are offering in terms of package, or anything else. It is all about the pictures.
    To get those pictures, the clients have to allow me to do my thing. I tell them this from the moment they enquire, and reinforce it throughout every time we speak to them and so on. That's how we manage their expectations. I've even given clients who want to restrict the way I work, the name of another photographer who would be able to help them, as I feel they will be a better fit.
  42. Mehul - I have covered weddings from various cultures throughout my career including Indian weddings. My approach is exactly the same as it would be for any other wedding. I will observe and document the day. The colours and lighting are simply part of the challenge.
    I will be honest and say that I don't get very many enquiries for Indian weddings these days. I get plenty of mixed culture weddings, but it's rare that I am contacted by a couple where they are both Indian. I would dearly love to do more of them, as they are really fun to photograph.
  43. John - I use the Canon EG-S screens in my 5DMKII's to aid manual focusing.
  44. Hi Jeff,
    can you share about the rare times when you have used a flash? What are the deciding factors that would lead you to using one? What do you look out for when you do use a flash (e.g. some people try to do it in such a way that it's not obvious from the image produced that a flash was used, etc). Any examples of images in which you have used a flash with some background on the thought process that went through your mind?
    Cheers, Derrick
  45. Derrick - I haven't used flash at a wedding since October 2008. The 5DMKII's high iso officially made flash redundant as far as my work is concerned. I find flash to be incredibly intrusive. The only time I ever used it was to either stop movement during the first dance in low light, or for the occasional formal image in low light where I needed more depth of field than the available light would give me.
  46. Jeff
    Av, right?
    Which metering system do you use and how realiable is it?
    Do you still shoot jpg only or you moved to raw?
    Thanks a lot!
  47. Thank you Jeff.
  48. Hi Jeff,
    Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts and knowledge here on this forum. I have been doing photography for some years now and I really really enjoy it. Just a couple of months ago I quit my safe job to persue a career in photography. One of the real turning points that got me one step closer to realising that I wanted to make a living of photography was during a wedding job last year when I was so incredibly lucky to get the chance to cover a big wedding in Sicily for a couple from London (the bride was half Italian). It turned out a great success and the couple was really satisfied with the book I made and with how I approached everything during the day. I asked my friend and photographer Daniel Mikkelsen to come with me as a second shooter. He among others covered the groom's preparations (while I covered the bride's preparations) prior to the ceremony. I understand that you work alone, but how do you sort out the logistics here, do you just prioritize where to go and what to cover? Especially with regard to the preparations when the couple is not together.
    I just want to say BIG thanks to you for your inspiration - I've seen your photos long before and it made me think that wedding photography really can be wonderful and not just "look at me now, bend slightly forward" extremely kind of boring work. So as you understand I am in the very early beginning of my professional photography career and I am curious to hear if you learned anything during your first years - things that you'd recommend other photographers to avoid doing, things that worked well etc. Did you just do what you liked to do and after that the snow ball just started to roll?
    I see a lot of questions here about albums etc, I am also concerned about that. I've done a couple of 12x12" albums using Moab Chinle with rag paper, however since photos come out with more impact on satin/glossy paper I also consider options in that area. I will certainly look into the Jorgensen albums since you recommend them so much. Do you do all the editing, printing and album-making yourself by the way or do you outsource some of this?
    Sorry for being a bit long here, just so excited about having you available here..thanks for your time!
    Best regards, Oistein
  49. Jeff--Your work is amazing.
    I like your philosophy of offering a complete album created by you and I understand your marketing helps your clients know why you work that way. Clearly you've earned the trust of your clients.
    As a documentary photographer just starting out in weddings, I was wondering if you worked that way from the beginning? I'd prefer to forego proofs and just provide a finished album and online gallery for additional print sales. But as I'm starting out, I'm finding couples want and expect a cd of images, proofs, etc.
    I'd like to explain to potential clients how I don't want to give them a disk of the images since then the prints they get made at the drugstore will not be up to my standards, and that really I've been telling stories in images for my whole career and the editing and design of the album is part of my job.
    I don't want you to get into proprietary information, but I am curious if you were able to work the way you currently do right from the start or if you had to move in that direction as your career advanced.
  50. Fellipe - AV correct. Evaluative metering, and spot metering when the light is tricky. All you can ask of any metering system is that it remains consistent. Pretty much most pro DSLRs are consistent in that department.
    I haven't shot jpeg for a couple of years now. I'm shooting RAW even on my p&s cameras.
  51. Hi Jeff,
    Can you give more details on your Aperture workflow please.
  52. Oistein - not only to you, but to everyone else that has made such nice comments about my work - thank you very much, I am truly humbled by the sentiment shown on here.
    To answer your questions; when working alone it is quite easy to cover bride and groom preparations as long as logistics allow. Most of the time I cover just the bride and then see the guys at church. In the UK, most of the time the grooms are quite happy to let the bride take the limelight, so it never has been an issue. I refuse to work with second shooters as the more people there are taking pictures, the more intrusive the coverage becomes, and the whole dynamic of the day changes. Second shooters are really a product of the digital age and the wedding photographer's obsession with recording anything that moves. When I started my career, photographers couldn't afford the film and processing costs that came with second shooters, so we learned to cover the wedding properly by ourselves.
    Oh god, my first four years were so tough you wouldn't believe. No money, struggling to get my business off the ground, my wife earning a pittance and that money barely covering our bills. It was so tough. I think we turned our first profit around year five. A lot of photographers don't realise how tough it is to start a business, even with the help of the internet. The main thing that I learned was to learn from your mistakes. That's pretty much it; and I made lots of them. In fact I still make them on a regular basis. I also believe that each day is a new day and whatever happened yesterday is in the past, in fact the only point of looking back is to learn how to deal with tomorrow. Be prepared to go through and hell and back with your business. There will be incredible highs and depressing lows. Awkward clients. Problems that need solving on a daily basis and a lot of hard work. It ain't no picnic being a photographer.
    In terms of what I did; I simply stuck to my guns and decided that if I couldn't shoot in the style that I wanted, then I would go and do something else. By sticking to my style, I was able to improve my skills as I wasn't distracted by other styles. I've always wanted to master my style, and if you give me another 20 years and I'll be somewhere close to mastering it.
    All printing and album construction is outsourced. It takes up way too much time which isn't productive.
  53. Noah - the way I work now has been a product of many years of trial and error. Some years I lost money because I didn't get my product right. The problem with weddings is that people book so far in advance, and by the time you realise you got the product wrong, the year is booked out so you can't change it. We always work two years in advance now. So to answer your question, no it hasn't always been like it is now.
  54. John - I've already outlined it in an early post.
  55. Hi Jeff,
    I would like to ask about a reading list. I know you look to photographers outside wedding photography, and I must admit apart from only a few outstanding individuals (yourself and George included), I haven't found too much inspiration within the wedding photography field.
    I know of your favourites such as Cartier-Bresson, McCurry, Alex Webb etc from you seminar this week and other writings - I would like to ask if you have some suggestions as to what work you think would be worth studying so that I can learn from some of the greats you may have looked to over the years. I guess I'm asking if you'd share some book titles from books written by the photographers that either inspired you visually or educated your philosophy/attitude to your style and approach.
    And I'd like to add that it's a breath of fresh air that you aren't dumbing down into business talk and sharing all your work here - its a precious resource and I fully understand why you keep it close to your chest. Perhaps that's a big lesson you've taught me already.
  56. Hi Josh - you could always look at AP....there is a wealth of info in that mag :-D
    My current favourite books in no particular order;
    James Nachtwey - Inferno
    Elliot Erwitt - Snaps
    Cartier-Bresson - The man, the image and the world
    Eugene Richards - The fat baby
    Salgado - Africa
    Antonin Kratochvil - Incognito
    Steve McCurry - The unguarded moment
    Alex Webb - Istanbul
    Don McCullin - In England (off to see the exhibition with George Weir tomorrow!!)
  57. Thank you Mr.Ascough , for your time in answering our questions, it is greatly appreciated.
    My question refers to available light. I'm still somewhat new to wedding photography and as of yet almost all have been outdoors. I believe in using flash as fill, but I would much rather use "God given light" . how do you capture such great images without a lot of blur and grain with given light in low light areas? I allow for some motion in my images, but sometimes there is a great amount that is just simply not acceptable to my own standards.
  58. Tatjanna - Low light is not a problem if you consider three things;
    1) Noise has more to do with poor exposure than the light level. A perfectly exposed low light image at high iso will have very low noise. So exposure has to be spot on.
    2) As long as the subject doesn't move, you can get away with really slow shutter speeds. I regularly shoot at 1/15th and 1/8th sec hand held. It is a question of bracing the camera correctly and learning to breathe properly when shooting at low speeds. You aren't going to have much success with fast moving subjects in really low light, although the latest cameras will help you, so I try to avoid them.
    3) Fast prime lenses require less work to control than zooms or telephotos. My slowest lens is f1.4, so combine that with iso 6400 and an ability to hand hold down to 1/8th sec, there isn't any situation that I have come across where I have struggled to get images without having to resort to flash. I used to shoot with Leica cameras at iso 320 and f1 lenses, so these days it's so much easier to get great images in low light.
  59. Hello Jeff. I have been enjoying reading all of your comments above! Thanks for thorough replies. My question is do you provide engagement photos for your clients and if so how do you conduct your engagement photo sessions?
  60. First off, I just want to say that that I absolutely adore your work, landscapes included. Thanks for reading and answering all these questions Mr. Ascough! Here are a few questions about focus for you:
    1) A common complaint concerning the 5D2 is the autofocus as compared to Canon's 1 series cameras. You previously used the Canon 1ds3. Do you experience a noticeable difference, especially with your usage of large apertures in very low light?
    2) Do you still use your ST-E2 to assist in focusing in very low light as you described in your 2007 Q&A?
    3) What focus point(s) do you use? Does it change depending on the situation and conditions?
  61. Hi Jeff,
    I am another admirer of your work. :) I read in a post above that you primarily use a 50mm and a 24mm on your 5D Mk II's. I also shoot with a 5D Mk II and also a 40D. I have a variety of fast primes and 2.8 zooms. I'm still working on defining my style and trying different things any ways of doing them to see what I like best.
    I find I use the 70-200 2.8 IS quite a bit during the ceremony to get close up photos without having to get too close to the front (in trying to be unobtrusive). I was wondering how you approached your focal lengths. Do you also have a long prime you use or do you get close during the ceremony?
    I think I bring too many lenses with me. (I have everything covered in both L primes and zooms from 15mm to 200mm and as mentioned have full frame and 1.6 crop bodies) - and I usually bring it all - and carry quite a bit of it on me all day (boy, my back aches). Could you outline your lenses of choice with regards to focal length and how you apply them.
    Thank you in advance. Linda
  62. Danzel - No I don't. TBH I've never seen the point of doing them. I think I have been asked once in five or six years to do a session.
  63. Joseph - Ahh that old chestnut. In terms of AF using the center point, the MKII is a match and I would say is marginally superior to the 1DsMKIII. Looking at the other peripheral points, the 1DsMKIII is superior as it has more horizontal/vertical points than then 5DII. When I first got the 5DMKII pre-production camera back in November last year, I was blown away by its focus accuracy in low light with the center point.
    2) No I don't. I prefer to manually focus as it's less intrusive.
    3) Center and I manually focus quite a lot
  64. Linda - I basically take four lenses with me when shooting. 50 1.2L, 24 1.4LII, 85 f1.2LII, 35 f1,4L. The 24 and 50 are my main lenses. The 35 is used primarily as a spare if anything goes wrong with the 50 or 24. The 85 is only used when I can't get close enough to the subject. If I know I'm going to be inside a big church, I'll swap the 85 for a 135 f2L just so I don't have to intrude on the service.
    I also have a 16-35 f2.8LII in the car, and sometimes if I know I'm going to be shooting in decent light all day, I'll use this instead of the 24 and 35, so that I can take one less lens with me.
  65. Hello Jeff,
    <p>As has been restated many times here, and rightly so, your work is truly inspirational. You are indeed a living legacy in the world of wedding photography.
    <p>My question is, do you ever use a hand-held light meter or do you rely solely on the 5D2's metering plus your own experience?
  66. I don't use a handheld meter at all these days. I prefer to use the in camera metering. Although at my seminar with George Weir over the weekend, he extolled the virtues of using a spot meter, so I might try that. Interestingly, I always used spot metering with film, and I still have a Pentax Digital Spotmeter somewhere, so you never know ;-)
  67. Thanks very much, Jeff. I suspected so, but always good to ask :) Someone stole my trusty Sekonic L-358 a few months ago and I've been using my in-camera metering ever since ;-)
    <p>And here's an unrelated question: Do you shoot anything apart from weddings on a regular basis (whether commercial or otherwise)? Do you find that your style of shooting weddings is influenced by or influences the other genres in which you photograph?
  68. Thanks a lot for your answer to my previous question, Jeff. Just wondering - do you never bring any flash kit or portable studio lamps (e.g. Elinchrom Ranger RX etc) with you? I mean, do you always go for using available light or do you have a back up option? Another question - do you find the pixel size of the 5DII too big for most of your purposes (I remember that a lot of wedding photographers considered 1DsIII as over-kill when it was marketed a couple of years ago). Do you often sell enlarged prints to your customers, therefore being happy with more pixels? Do you have any opinions on Hasselblad (e.g. H3D-31) or other medium format digital cameras' place in wedding photography? I understand that you don't fire away thousands of shots on a wedding and I guess medium format could be in your bag to obtain the highest quality possible?
  69. Thanks for answering my question, Mr. Ascough. Here are some more:

    Concerning straps, I know you have said you are a big fan of the upstrap.

    1) Do you also use handstraps?

    2) Do you use battery grips?

    3) Concerning carrying and using your two 5D2's, do you have a camera on each shoulder? Or do you only keep one camera at hand at a given moment with the other in your satchel?

    If you do keep both cameras out, do you arrange the cameras in a cross patten across your chest or do you just keep one on each shoulder?

    Thanks again for humoring my silly questions, but it's the little details and nuances that I always want to ask and talk about haha
  70. it


    Jeff. I see you have a new set of silver actions. I've been using your previous set for a couple of years, so I'm wondering if these are a replacement, or an addition to your previous set?
    Also, do you run everything through PS, or can you get acceptable colour images right out of Aperture?
  71. Hold off on questions please until Jeff has a chance to answer.
  72. First of all thanks for this interesting insite to your work Jeff.

    Everyone seems to be asking technical and equipment questions but is was wondering, because of your very high reputation of being one of the top wedding photographers in the world, would you say it adds more pressure on you to get all the images a client would expect, taking into account your reputation, I would find it a bit daunting to carry that responsibility to each wedding I went to.

    Cheers Terry.
  73. Hello Jeff,
    I like very much your style.
    I would like to know ...
    1) how much time do you spend at home of the bride?
    2) sometimes you are asked the video?
    3) if there is also the videoperatore, they somehow hamper your work.
    4) What is your approach with a couple that comes from you for the first time?
    5) How many photos in album deliver? that percentage and a color and B & W?
    thanks for your responses to my questions
    I apologize for my English
  74. Mark - No I don't shoot anything other than weddings. I do some documentary and landscape stuff for me, but that's it.
  75. Mark - Sorry didn't reply the second part of your question. My work is inluenced mainly by documentary and street photography.
  76. Oistein - No I don't bring any flash kit to weddings any more. I think I have a 550 EX flash in my car somewhere, but I'm not sure if there are any batteries in it. I always use available light.
    I think that I can never have enough pixels, especially as I shoot a lot of wide angles. The more pixels means more information and a smoother tonal range, and this is a godsend for wide angle images. In the past, because of the pixel count, a wide angle image that contained a lot of information would end up looking crunchy in the fine detail areas, now they don't. Also the more pixels that we have available, the more we can do to the file without it breaking up.
    I have no interest in medium format digital photography. The cameras are just too big and clumsy and suffer from poor high iso and slow lenses.
  77. Joseph - No I don't use handstraps or battery grips. I carry both cameras on my body, sometimes one around my neck and the other on my shoulder. Sometimes both on one shoulder. Sometimes one on each shoulder. It depends on what I'm doing at the time. The straps are set at different lengths so that the cameras hang at different heights. This prevents them from bashing into each other.
  78. Ian - the Silver actions are more of an upgrade than a replacement for the old actions. There are several actions which are designed to make use of CS4's new functions.
    I use Aperture to get a basic colour/density correction, and then drop the images into PS and use the actions to convert to b/w etc via my actions. Then they come back into Aperture for a final tweak if required. I have to say that I rarely have to do much in Aperture to get a decent image. Maybe an autolevels adjustment, and possibly a tweak in white balance. That's about it.
  79. Jeff, I wondered if you would elaborate on your statement " I would think it has more to do with marketing than anything else. We market my business in a very deliberate way; it is all about the images." In what way do you do you market in a deliberate way: Bridal Magazines?
    And thanks for being so generous and simply straightforward and such a great artist.
  80. Terry - On a wedding day, I'm very confident and completely focused behind the camera, so I don't think about status or opinions or anything else. All that I think about is finding images.
    If I'm completely honest I find all this 'best in the world' stuff a little embarassing sometimes. Obviously it's nice to be called that, and for people to appreciate what I do, and obviously the PR is good; but at the end of the day my clients just want good pictures and that is always my primary objective.
  81. Francesco - I spend a minimum of 1 hour with the bride before the wedding. I'm not sure what you are asking about video, but I have clauses in my contract that give me priority over video when it comes to position and authority.
    Number of pictures varies depending on the coverage, but on average an eight hour wedding would result in around 150 images with approx 60-70% being b/w.
  82. Rick - Business/marketing isn't something I'm happy to discuss on an open forum, except to say everything I do in my business is based on the images that I produce. They are the most important thing to me, and I make sure clients are aware that they are getting something special in terms of photography when they look at me.
  83. Hi Jeff,
    Very interesting reading your comments here. I occasionally browse your website and blog for inspiration - which is always a pleasure.
    Something I have been trying to get my head around is when does photography become art, if at all. So many photographers talk about their "art" when very often it is just middle of the road stuff, and sometimes even less. I have no issue with top photographers - whose work clearly stands out as being amazing - possibly calling their photgraphy art. I think it is a term often thrown about in the spirit of sounding posh and for marketing purposes, more so, in my opinion, by our friends across the pond. I guess some day I will put to bed my opinion on this, but any thoughts from you would be much appreciated. Thanks.
  84. Hi Jeff. Are you big on images being absolutely crisp sharp, especially when taken at low light situations? Or are you a bit more lenient in that regard? I find that if I look at my images that are taken in low light at say f/1.4 that they seem softer than I would expect, but I don't see anything else in the picture being sharper, so I assume that my focusing was correct. Is this just a common "problem" with wider apertures, or has it got to do with the fact that my lenses are not calibrated to my camera?
  85. Hi Jeff,
    Thanks for sharing your insights here.
    I'm wondering where you see stills and video convergence fitting into your future as a wedding photographer and wedding photography in general. Will you remain a stills photographer, or can you see yourself shooting video footage too for couples?
  86. Jeff:
    When you use the 135/2 during the service, do you use a tripod at all, or do you only brace the camera yourself?
    You mention shooting at 1/15 and 1/8th. Which focal lengths? How did you learn your technique? I'm always looking for ways to increase the number of keepers at slow shutter speeds. :)
  87. Hi Jeff,
    I was wondering if you could take us through your thought process when you enter a space for the first time - particularly if you're unfamiliar with the space...What do you look for in terms of analyzing the light sources? How does that analysis influence your decision(s) to create a desired image during the wedding? I'm especially curious to know how it might influence how/if you plan to be in specific places during specific parts of the wedding/reception.
    Add me to the chorus of accolades here, I very much enjoy looking at your work and appreciate the time you're putting into this forum. Cheers.
  88. I have been a big fan of your work and your blog since I watched "Masters of Wedding Photography". Your images are stunning. It's great that you kindly spend your time sharing and educating us.
    Just a few questions here.
    1. Do you usually shoot in continuous shooting mode with 2-3 exposures at a time?
    2. What are you looking for in an image when you are choosing it for an album?
    3. I have been photographing for a few years. Shooting wedding in a photojournalistic style is my dream. According to your experience, what do you think it is crucial for a rookie to be succeeded in this field?
    Thanks for sharing. Really appreciate that.
    Best Regards,
  89. Please read the instructions above before posting. No more questions now until Jeff returns... ;-) Thanks.
  90. David - I think if we apply a creative process to anything then that could be construed as art, and certainly photography falls into that category. Is describing yourself as an 'artist' when you basically shoot documentary wedding pictures a little pretentious? Maybe. But then again maybe it depends on the calibre of the photographer. I don't know.
  91. Ben - My following comments are a generalisation, and not directed at you personally. This is one of my pet rants, so be warned!!
    I'm afraid one of the problems with digital photography is that people have become so anal about sharpness, to the point of it dominating everything else. Seeing an image at 100% on a 30" monitor is not living in the real world. The amount of wasted hours of rubbish spoken about sharpness across the internet is bizarre. Maybe if people got out from behind their keyboards, and took pictures instead of whining about them, they would understand that sharpness is not just about a lens.
    Admittedly, the current crop of sensors have immense resolving power, which will show up flaws in lens design especially at wide apertures. However, in the real world of prints and correct viewing distances, I doubt if anyone would argue that today's cameras and lenses are just incredible tools, capable of producing amazing results.
    Compare what we use now to what Cartier-Bresson had throughout his career. Or Capa, Winogrand, Brassai, Eve Arnold etc. We have never had it so good, and yet all we seem to do is moan about sharpness. Why?
    I was at a Don McCullin exhibition yesterday with my good friend George Weir. A lot of DM's images were 'soft' compared to what we try and strive for now. Did this softness make any difference to the power of the image? Not at all. Look at Capa's work; camera shake, out of focus images etc. and yet he is one if the most important war photographers of the 20th century. A lot of Cartier-Bresson's work is 'soft' but again who cares?? I don't. It's irrelevent unless you are simply looking at sharpness as a way of adding perceived visual value to your images. If as a wedding photographer you must have critical sharpness, and critical exposure, and critical flash exposure, etc then maybe you are missing the point of photography? Maybe you are missing the whole concept of what makes a picture? In my mind all that stuff simply distracts from finding images.
    In the real world of prints, an image that looked soft on a screen at 100% will look beautifully crisp and sharp at 10x7, so what is the issue?
  92. Amen, that's exactly what I was hoping to hear...I'm a happy man now :)
  93. Roger - video. Seen it. Tried it. Didn't like it.
    It's a distraction. To do it correctly, you need a tripod which draws attention. Pointing a camera in someones face for several seconds is intruding; that's why a lot of my clients don't have video at the wedding. The clients that do want video will hire a videographer that can do it properly. The amount of time you need to spend editing video is prohibitive, and not cost effective.
    I think in terms of wedding photography, it is a passing fad that will probably die it's death in the mainstream in a year or so. It's largely unworkable for the majority of people. Furthermore, videographers have access to the same cameras as we do, and that is more of a problem. They can now take stills as easily as we do, and they have seen a potential gap in the market. I personally think that as photographers we would be better off spending our time working on our skills so that we can always create a demand for our stills work, which will always be ahead of anything that a videographer can do.
    Great photography will always have more power and presence than video, so why water down what we are doing just because we have the tools to do video?? You have to remember that adding vid to a DSLR was a result of news agencies wanting that facility. It didn't come from the wedding industry.
  94. Hi Jeff,
    big thanks for answering our questions!!!
    I was wondering if you use the full res of the 5DII? Do you downsize the files for editing or do you use the whole 21MP over the entire workflow?
  95. Hey Jeff,
    What are your favorite lenses that you have used. You mentioned that for your wedding shoots that you usually carry the 50mm and 24mm but I am thinking of those lenses in the past that you just loved...
  96. Hi Jeff,
    I am a big fan of your work which I came across after reading a blog on The Online Photographer site titled “Weddings with a telephoto”. I really like your style and can really connect with your photos, your subject’s reaction seem so natural. I am fascinated to know how you manage to stay so unobtrusive when shooting most of your weddings on 24mm or 50mm.
    I also wanted to pick up on something you mentioned earlier “I never tell my clients to do anything on the wedding day. I prefer to document what actually happens rather than what I think should happen.” Does this go as far as not to ask them to “hold a pose” or “look to the right a little bit” when you are composing a shot? Also you must come across some couples that can’t cope without direction – what do you do to handle them and how do you manage clients expectations before a wedding i.e. telling that you will be only their taking pictures, not offering any direction and only allow 10 minutes for group photos?
    Finally, I promise, have you ever had a CF card (or in the days of film) fail on you? If so what did you do?
  97. Eric - I don't use a tripod at all, so everything is hand held. I tend to use 24 at 1/8th sec, and I'm happy to use a 50mm at 1/15th sec. The trick is to make your body as compact and stable as possible. So arms and elbows in, and press the camera hard against your face. Then watch your breathing so that you don't jerk the camera. I don't actually breath at all when I'm about to shoot around those shutter speeds.
  98. Kieran - I normally go into an environment and look for the dominant light source first. That will dictate a lot of what I do. If that environment has a lot of structure in terms of lines and shapes, then my second thing will be to position myself so that I can utilise both the structure and the light. That will give me a framework to shoot in. If the environment doesn't have a lot of structure, then I will concentrate on the light primarily as this can give structure to an image all by itself.
    This all happens very quickly, maybe one or two seconds and I'm good to go. I can normally way up where I want to be just by looking around a room.
  99. Piyavudh - I shoot in single shot and each press of the shutter is deliberate. I don't burst shoot. It may take three or four presses of the shutter to get the image that I want.
    I don't look for anything specific regarding album pictures, but I always look for three things when it comes to my images. Good lighting, good composition and good storytelling. To my mind, a good image will contain two of these elements, and outstanding image will contain all three.
    Shooting journalistically is the hardest style of wedding photography. Many people think it is just a case of pointing and shooting. It isn't. It takes years of experience, and an eye for a picture. If you are starting up, you need to practice and study. Learn about light direction - don't just go for the flash gun as you won't learn anything with that thing. Look how light direction affects the mood of an image; learn about quality of light and how that can enhance your pictures. Go out and shoot pictures; analyze them and see why they work or don't work. Decide what you could have done better. Stick to one or two lenses and get used to them, so that you don't have to even think about which lens you will use to take the image that you have in your mind's eye.
    I am still learning now, all the time. My head is constantly in books, exhibitions, stuff on TV anything to with photography I'm absorbing. I practice all the time. Practice, practice, practice. If I come back from a wedding and decide that something could have been done better in terms of the actual picture taking process, I'm like a dog with a bone until I have worked it out and practiced it so that it is second nature the next time I go to shoot.
    Above all you should develop your own style. Don't go with the latest fad or fashion because that's what everyone else does. You need to stand out from the crowd. The only way you can do this is to have a look to your pictures that defines what you do. That is so important, and you should be working your way to that point.
  100. Ben - Full resolution files for all my workflow.
  101. Hi Jeff, thank you for an inspiring seminar on Sunday. I came away with a new outlook towards wedding photography and am looking forward to trying out some new ideas on Saturday.

    I just wanted to clarify something – am I right in thinking that you don’t particularly care about capturing guests and that your focus is very much on the bride and groom, parents and bridal party etc?

    If that’s the case, I am just wondering two things. Firstly, I suppose I’m interested in why you don’t feel any pressure or obligation to photograph as many different people as possible? And secondly, how you manage the couple’s expectations that many of their guests will not appear in their photographs?

    I think the reason we can usually avoid a lot of groups is because our clients know we will photograph guests more naturally. However, I think if this wasn’t the case, then our clients would end up requesting more formals to make sure more people were included! So just wondering how you deal with this?

    Many thanks, Oliver.
  102. Shawn - I've always loved 50mm lenses. My Leica Noctilux was my absolute favourite. The Canon 50mm f1.4 was ok but I broke three of them, so I used a 35 f1.4L for a long time instead. When the 50 f1.2L came onto the scene, I was able to get back to the 50 and that has been my fave lens for ages now. My first L lens I bought was the 28-70 f2.8L and that was the lens I cut my teeth on, I had a tear in my eye when I sold it last year.
  103. Rob - being unobtrusive is simply a state of mind and a way of behaving. I wrote a whole peice on my blog about it which was highlighted on the online photographer. This pretty much explains everything.
    I never, ever tell the clients to look this way, or hold a pose or a moment. If I do that, I'm influencing the day and I don't want to do that. It then becomes my vision of how I think the wedding should look, rather than a true representation of the day. Most, if not all, of my clients come to me because they don't want direction on the day, so there aren't any client expectations to manage as such. We get an occasional enquiry that will state that they want a lot of staged pictures so we tend to pass them onto other photographers who will be a better fit for them.
    The only problem I have had with a CF card was a Lexar card that screwed up last year. It wasn't on a wedding though, just some landscape stuff. I change my cards every year and always buy Sandisk. I currently use 4GB Extreme IV.
  104. Hi Jeff, You say that you do a few portraits with the couple, but also that you don't provide any direction during the day. Is this one bit of the day where you might provide some direction such as 'walk along the path, be yourself, do whatever feels natural'? Or would you not even do that?
    Also, as a lot of venues have fairly harsh overhead lighting I know that 'raccoon eyes' can be a problem. Do you have any particular strategies for coping with this such as picking a moment when your subject looks up a little so that the overheads provide some fill?
    Thank you so much for contributing so openly in this thread, it has been a fascinating read and given me much food for thought for how I approach weddings in the future. I do hope that you might be able to make it up to Scotland for a seminar sometime, if not I will certainly be making the effort to come down to Lancashire.
  105. Oliver - that is correct. My main focus is on the couple and the closest people to them - bridal party, parents etc,
    It is impossible to shoot everyone at the wedding without the coverage resorting to nothing more than snaps of guests, which the guests themselves are more than capable of doing. I'm not offering a complete, shoot everything that moves coverage; I'm offering more than that, and in order for me to get the images which my clients book me for, I can't be concerned with shooting hundreds of pictures of guests. I don't show lots of guests pictures, not in my sample albums or on my website. I don't know the relationship with the guests that the client has, and it would be impossible for me to ascertain that relationship.
    If a client wants a flavour for the quantity and types of guest at the wedding, then I will often incorporate a lot of scene setting images with lots of guests in those shots. If a client wants to see everyone at the wedding, then we suggest a big group of everyone. Obviously there will be times when the guests interact with the bride and groom and then they will be in the pictures, but I will never take a wedding on where the client expects me to go and shoot everyone at the wedding, because that client is after nothing more than a record of who was there on the day, and I believe my skills are worth more than that.
  106. John - Yes I pose the people for group pictures and bride and groom images. I just get them to get together very naturally and quickly.
    Overhead lighting isn't an issue normally but if it is very direct, then like you say I will often wait for a moment when the lighting works with the subject. If it is a group of people, then I will often look for the bodies creating fill light if they have light clothes on, or subtractive light to create shape if they have dark clothes on. In any lighting situation there are always points where the light is soft and usually shaded, and I try to work in those areas. Even harsh downlighters will have an area right next to the main beam of light where the light is even and soft.
  107. Jeff - As so many of us have already stated, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions about something that we share a passion in.
    My question has to do with capturing the moment with the proper lighting, composition, and story-telling. I have practiced the techniques that you have taught using only single shot mode, and clicking the shutter button at the right moment, and I must admit that it has really helped me see the image in my mind well before I see it on my computer screen; however, if the lighting and composition isn't exactly what you desire, but there is a rare moment to catch something in the story-telling that is a one-time shot, will you go ahead and capture that moment in hopes that you can improve the image in post-processing?
  108. Brian - I don't ever think that I can fix anything in photoshop. I think it was Joe Buissink that said "You can't polish a turd." A bad picture fixed in photoshop is still a bad picture; and getting into the mindest of fixing an image after the act is a bad place to be.
    If the image has decent light and storytelling, or storytelling and composition then that's fine. If it has just one element, then that's not so good unless that element is so strong that it can make the image stand out on it's own. So that one-time shot needs to be pretty special for me to accept it.
  109. First I want to thank you for taking the time to answer questions from people on this thread and I think your advice is very valuable and clear. Your work is a testament to a unique approach to wedding photographer that I think everyone can learn from.
    Jeff, there has been much heated debate on this forum about jpeg vs Raw. Can you address your thoughts on this subject for us?
  110. Mary - I don't think it matters what you use, as long as you are happy using it. I've shot jpeg in the past and now I choose to shoot RAW. Some of my peers still prefer to shoot jpeg. In an ideal world I would still shoot jpeg but RAW gives me some latitude for error, and that is important especially with b/w work.
    To me, even though jpeg requires more discipline in actual shooting, that can be a very good thing. Jpeg also speeds up camera operation and post processing quite significantly. You don't need as much storage, and everything just works more efficiently with jpeg.
    However, I use RAW because I can see the benefits of highlight and shadow recovery. Being able to pull highlight detail back, and open up shadows was important to my b/w work, and that is the deciding factor.
    In terms of quality of output, I doubt that anyone on this board would be able to see the difference between an image taken on jpeg and on RAW. I often scratch my head as to why people get so protective of the format they shoot in. Does it really matter?
    If I was a traditional wedding photographer, studio portrait photographer, or I was able to guarantee the lighting situation, then I would shoot jpeg without hesitation. I've often wondered about shooting jpeg + RAW and just going to the RAW files when I need some extra latitude, but that would just complicate my workflow, which is why I haven't done it.
    RAW software is getting better and faster but I still find it a PITA sometimes. I would save several hours in PP by shooting jpeg, but RAW just gives me that margin for any error and that is the pay off.
  111. Jeff, you mentioned you don't use battery grip. Why? For better grip reasons? (like being able to handheld slower speeds) For making the camera smaller and being less intrusive?
  112. Fellipe - I have small hands and find the battery grip to be uncomfortable for long periods. It also makes the camera significantly heavier and bigger.
  113. Jeff, I have admired your work for a long time, thank you for sharing your work and your insights with us!
    I notice that you don't concern yourself with details as much as many of the popular wedding photographers in the US do. Is this a personal style choice or due to the cultural differences in the weddings over in England?
  114. Hi Jeff,
    I'll echo Michael's question on detail shots and add that shots of the wedding rings in creative settings are all the rage in the U.S. I enjoy these myself, but I'm not sure that I'd like to get a macro lens for this sort of thing alone.
    It sounds like probably not, but do you use a macro lens for this or any other purpose on even an occasional basis? And if not, do you prefer one of your other primary lenses for any detail shots you might take? It's a minor question, but you've answered all my major ones already! Thanks so much!
  115. Jeff, you and your work are definitely an inspiration, and your responses have been both helpful and informative. Do you ever use filters, hoods, or other accesories in your work or do you find these to be burdening/intrusive as well?
  116. Michael - I do them, but I don't show them and I don't like them. I don't think they add anything to a coverage. I would prefer to shoot them as part of a moment where perhaps they aren't the most significant thing in the shot, but it isn't always possible to do this.
  117. Laura - I don't own a macro. I never have done. I tend to use a 24mm for close ups or an 85mm and come back a bit to get the detail images.
  118. Jameel - I don't use filters as they significantly degrade the image, especially in low light. I don't tend to use hoods unless I'm outside in full sun, as they get in the way and make the lenses look really intimidating.
  119. Hi Jeff,
    Thanks for taking the time to share your hard-won knowledge. Your words and thoughts are helping me get through some of the challenges of improving my craft.
    One question about location research - when you started out how much time would you take to scout a location before an event to familiarize yourself with layout, light opportunities etc. Do you make a mental map (or paper one) of where you think the light and activity will be best throughout the day to help with positioning?
    It seems like your technique requires keen instinct plus a whole lot of research to enable you to work so quickly and efficiently to find the shots you find.
    Thanks again for the insights,
  120. Jeff, thanks again for all your answers. Can you talk about how your decision making process works as far as which images are finished in color? Do you know when you are shooting, or decide later? What's your criteria for choosing color? This was easier for me when I shot film, but now I can second guess myself.
  121. Andrew - I used to scout locations when I shot traditional work, but that's some fifteen years ago now. I never scout a location these days. I'll find out where the locations are and the best way of getting to them, but I won't walk about looking for the best places to take pictures. It's up to my clients where they decide to go on the day; and wherever they are, that's where I'll take the pictures, even if there is a stunning location right around the corner.
  122. Michael - It was easier for me with film too ;-)
    I don't tend to think about it too much, because I haven't got to make a decision as to which camera I need to put to my eye, I just look for pictures. This is a good thing in one respect because you can just concentrate on the image; but on the other hand it can lead to second guessing as you mentioned. With film we made the decision before pressing the shutter and that was that, we didn't even think about it.
    What I have noticed is that I could easily keep all my images in colour these days, because colour is the most exciting thing for me at the moment, and I'm constantly working out colours in my head when shooting. The 5DII really helps here because I can get great looking colour in really low light; something which I couldn't get with film, or previous generations of DSLRs.
    So I tend to start off looking for the strongest colour images, in terms of colour harmony and rhythm of the image, and keep these as colour. Then I'll look for those images which have a strong sense of line and geometry and look at these in b/w. The rest of the images will then be looked at in terms of flow through the wedding. I tend to know which images will look best in b/w or colour so it's quite an easy process.
  123. Jeff, given the previous comments about the number of images captured at a wedding and the desire to offer quality images vs. larger quantities, do you limit the amount of media cards or shots you take per day? I started with digital, but recall paying for film up front for a class in high school :). Do you deliberately control the number of images you capture in some way, or is the aforementioned 1,000 or so shots just representative of what you regularly and comfortably come away from days with?
  124. Jameel - I don't limit the number of images I take, and I take way more memory than I will ever actually need. I just turn up and see where the shooting takes me. I don't have a set minimum number of images that I have to take, and don't have a maximum either. I couldn't work like that anymore. If I don't take an image for ten minutes, it's not a problem; and if I need to shoot a lot of images quickly, that isn't a problem either.
  125. Hi again, Jeff. Thanks for the macro answer.
    To clarify your answer to Jameel's filter question, you don't use UV filters as lens protection either? Do these degrade image quality? Thanks again!
  126. Hi Jeff,
    I have to say that more than the pictures you produce, I do admire your work ethic and whether you are trying to do this or not, I do appreciate you using your position of power to maintain a standard in photography and to keep it an art form rather than a stack 'em high, sell 'em cheap digital casualty (quality vs quantity, content vs computer analysed camera sharpness, etc). I have but 3 slightly left-field questions:
    1. If you were not doing photography, what do you think you would do and why?
    2. What non-photographic gadget/item do you most love that you own and what gadget/item would you most like to own? (If you say iPhone like a number of other people I know, I will lay my head on my table and cry!)
    3. What 3 things (more if you want) would you LIKE (rather than predict) for the photography sector in the future?
  127. Laura - No I don't use anything on the lens. If you get in a situation where there is spotlighting present, the light can bounce off the filter and create ghost reflections.
  128. Angus - 1. I'd be a criminal psychologist. It's what I wanted to do before photography came along. I've always been fascinated by the human mind.
    2. Non-photo prepared to lay your head on the table and cry ;-) The gadget I'd most like to own...Nespresso TK70 coffee maker.
    3. Wow this is a tough question. I'd like to see a system like they have in parts of Europe whereby photographers have to undergo an apprenticeship for three years with another professional, before they are let loose on the general public, and photographers have to be registered before they can work.
    I really would like to see album companies that profess to deal with the professional market, actually deal with the pro market and not just anyone with a camera and cheque book.
    I'd like to see pro wedding photographers charge properly for their work, so that we can all benefit.
    Ultimately I would like the world to see the wedding photographer in the same light as fashion photographers, photojournalists and so on, and not the genre of photography that most other genres consider to be beneath them. Some of us are making in roads, but the whole industry needs to wake up.
    There are too many photographers selling a false dream to others, just to make money out of them and it sucks. I'd like to see that stop. I would also like to see an end to the 'rockstar' mentality that proliferates the industry. This must be the only genre of photography where we worship others in one breath, and spit venom at them in the next. For this industry to have any credibility, we need to start thinking about what is important - great images, at a good price, and lots of happy clients.
  129. Jeff, great images and an excellent style.
    I know it's about the photographer's eye, but your
    equipment purchases are quite relevant to a question I have.
    To my knowledge, here's the kit you've gone through in the last 4 years:
    3 Leica M7's
    2 Canon 1D MkII N's
    2 replacement ditto
    2 1Ds MkII
    2 1Ds MkIII
    1 Leica M8
    and now
    2 Canon 5D MkII's
    At one time, you swore that all that was needed was two zoom lenses and
    a dual card body as the essential tools for all wedding cameras. Now they're not ?
    On the software front, it's been iView, Photoshop, Lightroom, Photo
    Mechanic, Capture One and now Aperture 2.
    Now my question, do you think an aspiring wedding photographer needs to go
    through this level of switching over four years to become familiar with
    what's available on the market and learn his trade? Or would you starting
    today go straight to your current kit and cut out the recommendations of the
  130. Jameel - you must have been deleting your double post same time as I was actually deleting the entire thing and now you have a blank... I guess I delted the other one.. sorry
  131. Mary, here's a copy of Jameel's message:
    Jeff would you comment on the increasingly popularized practice of delivering
    digital files to clients? I recognize some view this practice as a way of
    discharging the responsibility for storage and maintenance of images whereas
    others position it as a sales tactic. Is it something that truly bears
    consideration or is it just another function of proper management of client
    I really appreciate the 'likes' list. Well said.
  132. It's alright. I was actually trying to figure out how to delete the post, and didn't know how. Thanks for the copy and paste Fellipe.
  133. Jim - Wow I didn't know people kept a running inventory on me - do you write this stuff down somewhere??
    For the record, and I've mentioned it several times in the past, a budding photographer should stick with one lens and one body and get used to those before running a huge amount of debt on stuff they may not use. I started with one body and a 28-70 and that served me well for many years. You don't need more than a couple of bodies and a couple of lenses to do this job well. My back up kit is just that, a couple of zooms and a dual card body.
    If I was starting my business today, and funds were available I would buy a couple of 5DMKII's, a 24-70L, and a fast prime. That's all you need. It's only when you get some experience and money under your belt that you can start looking at other options in terms of equipment as you refine your style. Good photographers continually assess where they want to be, what you are seeing with me is a continual development of a very experienced way of working and a constant refinement of my style. I swapped out of the zoom as it was making me lazy. I moved to 5DMKII's because of the high iso. As a result my images have improved.
    In terms of software, as you get more experienced and do more work, you will find yourself looking for solutions to problems - in my case the problem has always been efficiency. I'm always looking for ways to streamline everything, hence the culmination of software over the years. To start off with, Photoshop CS4 is all you really need, as it has a browser, RAW convertor and image editor all in one.
  134. Thanks - Fellipe
    Thanks Jeff - Loved your answer on Raw vs Jpeg - Trust me that I will refer people back to this thread when yet another argument ensues...
  135. Jameel - The unfortunate state of affairs is that client's want digital files. I can understand this in terms of archiving their wedding pictures, but not to produce their own albums. I blame the proliferation of shoot and burn operators, but hey it's here now and it won't go away so let's just accept it and move on. People will write paragraphs of stuff on the ethics of giving files, but like I said it won't change anything. We sell them, and if I'm honest, I'm quite happy to sell them because the clients already have their album; so my integrity, in terms of what I have produced for them, remains intact.
  136. Mr. Ascough - I remember you mentioning the importance of subdued lighting when editing pictures. Forgive me if I'm remembering incorrectly, but why exactly is that important?
    Also in regards to editing pictures, do you have any rituals? Sit down with your favorite drink, dog at your feet, indie music blasting in your headphones? Complete silence and utterly concentrated? One long session? Separated steps with a break in between?
    Thank you!
  137. Jeff, thank you for doing this! I have three questions for you:
    How do you handle stopping motion during dancing in low light? Is the high ISO capability of your cameras sufficient for this? I tend to not use a wide open aperture due to the subject moving while dancing, which of course results in slower shutter speeds. I'd like to try shooting dancing without flash and I'd appreciate any insight you have.
    You prefer using small cameras. Do you think rangefinders offer a real advantage here? If a digital rangefinder was ever made that produced images with a quality that satisfied you, would you use it for weddings?
    Do you ever have to handle parents of your clients complaining to you because they expect more "traditional" coverage? Do you have any advice for answering their objections?
    Thank you for your time!
  138. Joseph - In order to correctly assess colour balance and density, you need to work in a subdued lighting environment which is ideally colour managed. The monitor should be the brightest thing in that environment. If you edit in a bright environment, usually brightness and contrast of the image is affected as you compensate for the light hitting the screen.
    I tend to pretty much try and do all the selecting in one session (15-20 mins) and then have a five minute break, then get stuck into the actual editing. I try and break every hour for a few mins to allow my eyes to readjust. I will then go back over the last few pics that I did before the break to make sure fatigue in my eyes didn't make me do something to the images that I didn't want.
    I don't have any ritual as such, but I usually like some peace and quiet away from the phones.
  139. Aaron - The iso capability of the 5DII along with apertures of 1.2 that are available to me usually means I can achieve at least 1/60th sec shutter speed, which is normally ample for a first dance. Prior to the 5DII I would have used flash to stop the motion. I also try to shoot when the couple are lit by other lighting such as that coming off the stage, or from the disco.
    Rangefinders are the ultimate camera for me. If someone produced a small, compact, full frame rangefinder with image quality and high iso like the 5DII, then I would certainly consider it. Unfortunately, that camera is still the stuff of dreams.
    No. I don't deal with the parents when it comes to the coverage, even if they are paying the bill. So if they do complain, they do it to the bride and groom, and I rarely get to hear about it.
  140. Jeff, thanks again for your time. I've found this Q&A session very beneficial and enjoyable.
    With the 5DII, do you normally set the ISO manually and change it as the lighting conditions change? What's the maximum acceptable high ISO for you? Thanks!
  141. Derrick - ISO is always set manually to either 800, 1600, 3200, or 6400 depending on the light conditions. I have shot 12800 iso and this is acceptable in certain lighting conditions.
  142. Jeff, on average, what are the sizes of prints that you use in album? if you go you can take a look at my site, I'm love to hear your opinion on my photos, I accept any criticism and / or advice.
  143. Before this exercise is finished, I'd simply like to add that not only are your images extraordinary and inspiring in so many ways, but you have a captivating writing style as well. You are able to express techniques, lessons, stories, openness, honesty, insight, strategy, emotion, irony in a way that makes the learning both straightforward while at the same time engaging and just plain fun.
    I, for one, am so grateful for your contributions to this forum and grateful to for helping me to find you.
    Consider me a new fan.
    (I tried not to gush. Honest.)
  144. Jeff,
    I picked up the canon g10 a few weeks back to have a point and shoot for family stuff. It's really a beast of a camera albeight in a different way from an slr. How would you set it up for street photography? Do you have any tips for using the 16-35 2.8L lens, I just feel lke I don't really have a great handle on the wides. I use the 24-70L a lot, but feel limited by the 16-35 largely because I'm fairly uncomfortable taking anything but scapes with it. I know it is the choice of many photojournalists, but I feel a lot better getting in the mix with a 50 1.4. Tell me what you think technique wise to help make that lens grow on me a little.
    Best, Nate
  145. Lisa - thanks so much. I actually blushed :)
  146. Nate - I set mine up the same as Gary, but I've got a Voigtlander viewfinder on mine. I also set the focus to manual and focus on 2 metres. So that everything is pretty much sharp from front to back, so I don't need to focus.
    Regarding the 16-35, you need to be in pretty close to get the best from this lens. Have a look at James Nachtwey's work. A lot of his stuff is done on the 16-35. If you can get hold of a copy of 'War Photographer' on DVD, that's perhaps the best schooling for using the 16-35 (or 17-35 in the case of Jim on the DVD).
  147. Ok guys it's Friday evening over here, and I've got to get everything sorted out for tomorrow's wedding. So I just want to say that it's been a blast doing this interview this week, and I've thoroughly enjoyed the questions. Some of them challenged me, which is great, and some really made me think.
    Thanks to you all for the kind comments, and also for the interest in my work.
    I'll be popping in on over the coming months, so you won't get rid of me that easily ;-)
  148. Thanks for sharing Jeff, you are the man :) You are one of only two wedding photographers that I follow on a continual basis and you continue to inspire me all the time. As Lisa also said, you are a master at writing in a very informative and straight manner and I get excited when I see a new long post on your blog whenever I visit.
  149. Thanks Jeff!!

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