Shooting first wedding ... with a Nikon FM ...

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by grant h, Jan 14, 2007.

  1. I thought that would get your attention! No really, I am shooting a wedding
    with my Nikon FM. I was asked by a cousin (in-law) to shoot her wedding. I
    promptly declined. However she insisted that this small-town, small-family,
    low-budget, informal wedding was worthy of my amateur/beginner skills. She
    insists that photography by committee (her aunts and myself) will get the job
    done (she has low expectations). Between myself and the aunts, we will have
    my Nikon FM, a Canon Digital Rebel XT w/ a 18-55mm and a few Sony point and
    shoot 5MP digitals. Again, I have violently declined shooting, but she still
    insists for me shoot and have fun with my one year old hobby.

    My kit consists of a Nikon FM, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8, 70-210mm f/4 Series E, 28mm
    Series E, and a tripod. I plan to get a dedicated TTL bounce swivel flash.

    I have read many of the beginner threads on here about film selection,
    lighting, etc., however I would still like specific advise for a general plan
    of attack.

    They would like me to take some formal shots, so I plan to get into the church
    the week before to get familiar with the lighting and experiment with using my
    flash. I plan to use the 50mm and 160 to shoot the formals and then use the
    zoom with 800 in natural light (hopefully the church is not too dark for the
    zoom, I plan to remain in the back or off to the side and remain as un-noticed
    as possible). I am trying to get the aunt with the Digital Rebel to shoot
    many of the formal portraits as well. I will let the other aunts shoot the
    getting ready shots, as my wife is part of the bridal party. It is an early
    afternoon wedding in May. Standard church with small amounts of natural
    sunlight, mostly the florescent lighting in the church.

    Please comment on the approach ?

  2. I wouldn't be too concerned. I was a guest at a wedding a couple of weeks ago, and rather enjoyed the flexibility of being able to shoot how I wanted. I took a Leica M7 with 28, 50 and 90 lenses, and used only available light (not much of that in late December!) and b+w film. It's a different approach but just as valid. It's also a very different aesthetic - refreshingly different from digital, and one that I'm going to use a lot in the future.
    Make the most of the opportunity, and have fun with the FM. It's a great camera.
  3. I would suggest that you take the DRebel with you to the lighting session-- it will be invaluable in giving you feedback on your exposure with/without flash.

    I've only done a couple of weddings myself, using a DRebel. I think I could have done much better if (a) I had better knowledge of my flash, and (b) if I had loosened up a bit and waded into the masses (well, there were only 90 people, but more than I've ever shot before) instead of using the zoom so much. Remember that you're the official photographer; if you've had inhibitions about snapping people up close, as I have, lose them! You've got license to get the shot, because that day's all about getting the couple the best shots you can.

    Finally, for the ceremony, I'd suggest having two bodies around your neck if you're going to use the primes a lot. Try to get another FM for peanuts, and have the 50 on one and the 28 on the other. Be prepared to use the flash with that zoom; you can probably do without it with the 50/1.8... but that's what your lighting session is for! Good luck.
  4. The FM does not support TTL flash metering. You need a flash with an Auto (thrysisto) setting. The flash can be a model that can also do TTL, but not on your camera. I would never use 160 film indoors with only a shoe mount flash, ever... A good, pro portrait film is what I would use. There is no way I would throw away over a stop of speed when I was lighting with a shoe flash.
  5. What Bruce said.
    I saw this and my first thought was the FM won't support TTL. I also would recommend you get the flash up off the camera onto a bracket and use a cord to fire the flash. If you are using flash you won't need the tripod. Fact is, you probably won't have TIME to fuss with the tripod for most of the day.

    When things run late, the person who's time gets cut is the PHOTOGRAPHER. You have to do your formals before the ceremony (bride and family/women in the wedding party) at the bride's house, then formals after the ceremony but b4 the reception and, sometimes you can get the couple away during a lull in the reception to get a couple of shots if there is an outstanding sunset etc. Those times can become severely compromised when any part of the planning runs "overtime."

    If you have never shot a wedding b4 it might be wise to attend any rehearsal as well so YOU know the sequence of events, how the couple will be set up for the ceremony etc.

    BTW I shot with a Nikon FM for weddings right up to the end. All my sample albums were shot with an FM.

    I still use this very useful and solid camera and would use it to shoot weddings again if I still was in that business.
  6. I've shot a few weddings with the FM and a Vivitar 285, on a flash bracket. That combination will do very well. You can use the "auto" modes on the flash unit, or go completely manual. The FM does not support TTL flash. When shooting indoors, drag the shutter @ about 1/60'th.

  7. If the intended print size is larger than 8x10, I'd highly recommend shooting Porta 160NC,
    with a flash powerful enough to expose the slower film. Try to get the Portra-II line. From
    personal experience, as someone who prints by hand, the grain structure is much much
    finer than the older Portra emulsions. It's really a significant improvement if you can find
    the newer line.

    Have a SPARE flash. Last wedding I shot I had to make an emergency trip to the camera
    store because I only brought two flashes and the flash for the backup camera failed. If
    you're shooting with two cameras that are designed for modular flash, try to take three

    The VIvitar 283 or 285 are good flashes with auto-thyristor modes. Make sure you know
    how auto thryristor works, make sure the flash head isn't crooked when you're shooting
    (check this often), and when you're shooting a big group, open up a stop more than what
    the auto-thristor indicates. Also, if you're shooting a shot with elements in the flreground
    and background, set the flash on ull power and meter flash manually, or the flash will get
    confused and often expose the closer subject correctly, but severely underexpose the far-
    away subject.

    I'd agree that a digital is a valuable preview tool. I personallly prefer Polaroids, but a P-
    back for a 35 would cost a fortune, if they're even made for your 35mm SLR.

    I've heard that its better to check the histogram than the LCD image of your picture for
    proper exposure, but I've never shot a digital so I'll defer judgement in that arena to
    someone experienced with it.

    Oh, with film, overexpose 2/3 of a stop. Maybe go with a full stop if you're shooting the
    older Portra. Also, keep in mind that digital ISO isn't exactly the same as with film. The
    overexposure rule will expose the finer grains of the film, reducing graininess, and will
    save you whenever you would have underexposed normally.

    Oh, ,another thing. Make damned sure, often, that your flash synch speed is set right. I
    shot about 20 frames last wedding without it on and lost some otherwise good candids
    because of it. If you're above whatever the max synch is, the shutter won't be fully open
    when the flash goes off, and you'll get a severely underexposed part of the frame, usually
    at the edge. Test your camera's flash synch before the wedding, looking through the lens
    as you fire the flash to see if you can see the flash going off.

    Make sure to shoot VERTICALS, and have a bracket that can support swinging the flash
    over the top when you do shoot htem. Otherwise, you can get one of those twisty cords,
    like a phone cord, and you can hold the flash over the camera wiht your hand when you
    are shooting. Just don't shoot with the flash on the side when you're shooting verticals
    unless you want to have dramatic shadows to one side.

    Take more film/memory than you need. You can always use film/memory later, but if you
    run out, you'll feel foolish. Arive early, scout the locale in advance. Find a good lab, I
    personally would try to get OPTICAL proofs from your film, not 300DPI, but this is harder
    and harder to find, why I ended up buying my own minilab.

    Shoot some indoor shots with just available light for a warmer effect. It can look quite
    good and a lot of brides like this look.

    Oh, do NOT shoot 800 unless it is Portra-II, even then I'd highly recommend the 160, 400
    at most. You don't need 800 really. You can brace the camera against a rail in the church,
    or shoot on a tripod. Or even shoot with flash if you get the pastor's permission. Just
    don't be a paparazzi.

    POSING: Here are mistakes I made first starting out. Don't repeat them please ;-): Make
    sure the groomsmen's feet are together. Remind them constantly. Don't take pictures
    until they do. Keep bitching at them until they listen to you. It doesn't matter how unruly
    they are, get them standing properly, feet together, legs straight, toes slightly apart, and
    looking at the camera, if possible smiling. Bridesmaids are much much easier because
    they actually care, and have a higher tendency towards sobriety, at least before the
    reception. Have them stand with the back foot planted facingto the side, and the front
    foot planted in a "T-shape" facing forwards, towards you. MAKE SURE to take full lengths,
    then 3/4 lengths, and closeups, making sure everything is backed up on at least two
    cameras. Ignore people telling you your time limitations. SHowing up late to the
    reception doesn't actually matter. Remain cool adn take the pictures until you are satisfied
    you have taken evertyhgin. Make sure to vary posing. Be artsy and take different
    arrangements and groupings. Try things that aren't cliche. Do some "fun shots" liek the
    bridesmaids kissing the groom, groomsmen holding the bride, groomsmen picking the
    groom up as if they are about to throw him, etc, ect. Email me if you have any further
    questions about shooting film, or posing the wedding. I can send you some scanned
    sample pictures for a reference guide for you too if you wish.


    ~Karl Borowski
  8. I've used a Nikon FM (still have it) to shoot weddings. Should be fine. Use a low contrast, pro neg film such as Portra. If it were me, I'd use Porta 400NC for the whole thing except for the ceremony/no flash. If you can use flash for the ceremony (not the processionals/recessionals, but the ceremony itself), then 400 only. Use the 50mm for formals, and not a 160mm for the close ups, but somewhere around 80-105mm would be good. Use a tripod with the zoom during the ceremony. Read up on shooting during the "quiet moments".

    As everyone has said, no TTL for the FM. Get a used Vivitar 285 or Sunpak 383. Get a bracket if you want. It isn't a necessity, but your verticals will be better if you don't have side shadows. Unless you have lots of time to practice, I advise against a modifier--it takes time and practice to use one effectively, which is harder with film, since the results aren't instantaneous. The Vivitar 285 does not zoom automatically. If it were me, I'd leave it on the wide setting so you don't have to worry about changing zoom angles all the time--you have enough to worry about at weddings. Do practice enough to know how your flash reacts. My 285 tends to underexpose, which is not good with negative film. I fool it by setting a lower ISO than I'm actually using. You can do this with the film, too--as Karl mentioned, +2/3 is useful, so if using 400NC, set the ISO on the camera to 250.

    I recommend you stick to one film and mind what you are doing, rather than several films and ISOs (save for the 800 during the ceremony) and camera bodies. Read up on dragging the shutter but be conservative since you won't get to evaluate on the spot. Don't bother dealing with the fluorescent issue--negative film can handle it and you will hopefully be relying mostly on your flash so color temperature will be fine. When I shot Portra 400NC, I never filtered for fluorescent.

    Research and understand zone focus. You will need it during the reception, and stick to the 50mm and 28mm during the reception, trying zone focus with a slow zoom is very painful.
  9. Sorry for the double post. If a certain forum moderator could delete the one. . .

    I don't want to scare you away from 400 either. It depends on the sizes of the final prints.
    Ask if the B&G want anything bigger thann 8x10. Hell, nowadays people sometimes go all
    5x7. If that is the case, then 400 is fine. I only recommend shooting 160 for big groups
    that you think you'll need enlarged past 8x10. If you have a bright enough flash, and you
    do need those big prints, I think it'd be easier to shoot all 160 with a single roll of 400 for
    the church.

    I agree with Nadine, keep it simple. If you can shoot all 400 as opposed to 400 and 800,
    then shoot all 400.

    I've had good luck with no flash 1/60 @ F2.8 with a 2 1/4 TLR, with a 50mm, you could
    probably shoot 1/125 at 2, even better. Unless you anticipate being unable to get up
    close to the couple during the ceremony (which would necessitate the slower zoom) I
    wouldn't add the 800 to the arsenal. You could get stuck with a half roll that you either
    shoot in a venue you don't need it in or rewind and waste.

    Even with just 160 in the 35mm "candid camera" and 400 in my two medium formats, I
    still occasionally make a mistake and forget to change the flash setting between the two
    films, so save yourself as much hastle as possible.

    Even with just one film, with a manual camera, constantly check and double check your F-
    stops and shutter speeds. I can't stress it enough.

  10. Listen to Nadine. She knows what she's talking about. 400NC is a great film with a lot of
    lattitude for exposure and color balance. I haven't read this whole thread, but I'd also
    recommend getting a second film body rather than shooting with film and digital. Keep it
    simple. Another FM or even better, an FM2, can be found dirt cheap these days and they are
    still terrific cameras. Put your 50mm on one camera and the 28mm on the other or
    something like that... a 35mm and 85mm would be my choices.
  11. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I ditto some points already made:

    have a second film body, like what you have (ie stick with one medium)

    have two flashes (the same preferably) and note Nikon FM limitation mentioned previously.

    35mm and 50mm and 85mm would be my choice, which you sort of have: using the 28 watch out for distortion in group shots on the end, no people with fat arms please.

    only one film type. (except note below)

    know the location, plan your expected viewpoints and be aware of any local rules (flash, ceremony protocol etc)

    You seem to have been given a lot of latitude from your `clients` so if you are into it: wind up one body with B&W and one with colour. And shoot in your own style whilst ensuring you take the traditional `must have` shots.

    Be brave and push your own artistic talent.


  12. I realized that the "160" you were referring to was ISO 160--I would use 400 instead. As long as you don't underexpose, it should be fine for enlargements--maybe even up to 11x14. It's when you underexpose that the film/prints seem grainy. Also, you might want to look up what Nikon SB flash model was around when the FM came out. It would probably be a good flash to get for it--SB28 (?).
  13. Thank you for all of the replies!

    I think I am going to "punt" on the formals and let the aunt with the Digital Rebel get those shots. I don't really want to put anymore money into my kit, as I am saving up for a digital system of my own (Nikon D80, 18-200mm). So at this point, I don't think I am going to pick up another FM body or a flash reguardless of the relatively small cost.

    I will shoot what I can (before the ceremony as a secondary shooter) with my 50mm with Portra 400 and hopefully the 70-210mm zoom with what available light I have with some ISO 800 during the ceremony. I plan to steakout my shooting vantage points during the rehearsal and would like to find a nice spot in the back or off to the side to setup my tripod. With both families being very small and a limited number of friends attending, I may be able to find an empty pew relatively close.

    The bride just wants basic pictures to record the event. The couple has been together forever and has a two year old together (so the wedding at this point is a formailty). The ceremony will be small, short, and sweet.

    Thanks again for the advice!
  14. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I echo the above regarding film: the extra stop and a bit with 400ISO you will most likely use.


    Update: I am back to being a co-primary shooter with other family members shooting with Sony 5MP 3x optical zoom digital point-and-shoot.

    Review of my equipment:

    Nikon FM
    Nikon Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8 lens
    Nikon Lens Series E 28mm 1:2.8
    Nikon Lens Series E 70-210mm Zoom 1:4 (constant)
    Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 flash unit
    Swing/rotating flash bracket for vertical shots
    Kodak Portra 400NC

    We will be shooting formals up front (by the alter) in the church before the wedding. The bride/wedding coordinator (my mother-in-law) have provided almost 100 different poses that include formals before, procession, ceremony, recession, outside, and indoor reception shots.

    The wedding is at 3:30 PM in a small-rural town in Indiana. The weather is supposed to be Mostly Cloudy with a High of 75 deg F, winds SE at 10 mph, chance of precip 10%, UV index of 7 (high).

    I have just recently got my Vivitar 285 flash unit and I haven't got to play with it much. I am a little nervous about exposure for the formals. I plan to use my 50mm lens for the formals with the Portra 400NC.

    I have tried to cipher through the advice above, but I would like a clear cut strategy approach. Particularly with the FLASH settings for the formal portraits.

    I have been instructed to shoot from the back of the church during the ceremony, as the team of aunts will take shots up front with their Digital P&S(s) and Digital Rebel. The church is pretty small (I did not get a chance to go there yet, but will get to go to the rehersal), so if I may use the flash, reaching out upto 60 feet with it may be reasonable. I may just shoot available light, but I am concerned with the Portra 400 and my 70-210mm f/4 zoom.

    There is also the issue of PUSHING the Portra 400. I have never "pushed" film before and would like to hear more about this and the actuall procedure. Nadine suggest setting the ISO to 250 on the camera. When I go to get the film developed, do I tell them I pushed 400 to 250? Also, can I push the film even if I don't use the flash all the time?

    Other than that, I note to:

    - Over expose +2/3
    - Shoot vertical shots (note the rotating flash bracket above)
    - Will shoot some available light indoors for "warming effect"
    - FM max synch speed is 1/125th
    - 50mm & 28mm (watch distortion on group shots) for reception
    - Shooting all 400 (set ISO to 250 on camera?)
    - Drag shutter at 1/60th

    Anything else?

    I will be practicing b/t now and Saturday and plan to shoot several rolls w/ cheap 1-hr developing just to get an idea before the big day.

    I am excited and I feel that I can wow (in a good way) the bride and our family. I am comfortable with available light, just nervous about the flash, over-exposing, and pushing film.

    Thanks for the help, advice, and encouragement!

    NADINE feel free to chime in (PLEASE).

  16. The most important thing to note is how to properly use your flash. Practice, practice, practice. When should you be over/under-exposing with flash? Also, using a diffuser and swivelling the flash to bounce it off certain areas might be necessary. Borrow/rent a DSLR if you can-- will speed up your practices considerably.

    Re pushing, remember that ISO400 is simply a speed that Portra is recommended to be shot at-- you can shoot it at any speed, but will have to deal with the consequences later in development. Even if you use a flash, you're still shooting the film at a slower speed than advertised. Shoot the weddings at ISO250, then just tell your developer to process it 2/3rds of a stop slower. Some places may not do it because they don't know how to fiddle the machine to ISO250 when your film says ISO400 ;). Every place that I've asked to push my film has charged me extra, usually $1.

    Re available light, remember that while you may be able to get down as slow as, say, 1/50 with a 50mm lens, that only corresponds to stationary subjects-- movement needs at least 1/90 to be stopped properly. At least, that's the convention-- you may want movement in some photos. Be prepared to use a monopod/tripod if you've got to use an SLR in available light-- practice mounting your camera, as this will slow you down.

    Good luck.

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