This week I’ve decided to add a segment to my blog with photo tips for my fellow wedding photographers out there. I love perusing other websites and photographer’s blogs for tips and information to improve my photography, and now it’s my turn to give a little back.
This weeks subject is Safe Shutter Speeds for Weddings. I frequently recruit new photographers who want to learn about wedding photography and who assist me at weddings where a 2nd shooter is not requested by the bride and groom. A pattern I’ve noticed recently among my shooters is the use of low shutter speeds in order to make up for “low light” or slow lenses.
Sometimes when photographers are shooting indoors or in areas with low light we are tempted to drop our shutter speeds to super low settings like 1/20s or 1/30s to compensate for the low light situation. These low speeds work when shooting landscapes (think: Ansel Adams) from a tripod, but when handholding our camera anything below 1/60s tends to create a blurring effect from camera shake.
And even if the photographer is able to mount the camera on a tripod for the shot and the subject is moving (even slow movement) there will still be blurring of the subject at shutter speeds below 1/60s. Of course there are always exceptions (think: nighttime light trail effect), but for weddings this would be rarely utilized.
Ultimately, none of us really wants to have to use a slow shutter speed like 1/20s or 1/30s when we’re hand holding a camera; so some other options to compensate for low light situations can be increasing your camera’s ISO setting or increasing the aperture (lower f-stop) to allow more light to strike the sensor. And if all else fails, bring out your external flash, which you’ll be using a lot anyway at most weddings!
Some time ago I was blessed to be chosen as the official wedding photographer for a traditional Indian wedding here in Austin, Texas. I say it was a blessing because it was something new and amazing for me to experience. As a westerner with a Judeo-Christian upbringing, I never had the opportunity to experience such an event while growing up in rural Texas. And it made me realize that no matter what culture sponsors a wedding, there is almost always a common feeling of love and commitment that can be felt between bride and groom and amongst the families.
The Indian Wedding that I photographed was held at a small Hindu Temple located just outside of Austin simply called Austin Hindu Temple. It is my understanding that many Indian weddings frequently last several days or longer, but the part that I photographed lasted only one day.
The ceremony that I photographed began with a special groom ceremony which started around 6 am in the morning at the Hindu Temple. It should be said that most of what I witnessed throughout the day was through observation only, since I don’t speak the language that was being used by the priests and facilitators during the wedding. And that wasn’t a big deal anyway, because as a photographer, my mind is always focused on the visual art and beauty which only the eye sees in a wedding – or at least what the vision of what I want the viewer to see.
The groom’s initial ceremony lasted around 1 hour and included burning incense, using various kinds of foods, leaves and other items for the ritual. The groom told me that he and the bride (who he doesn’t see before the primary ceremony, which comes later in the day) are required to fast for some time prior to the ceremony.
After the groom’s ceremony there was a break which followed with preparations for the primary ceremony, which was later held outdoors, beneath a tent. At this point the bride had begun her individual preparation for the ceremony which included several priests performing rituals including burning of incense, decorative fruits and leaves and other items (similar in some ways to the groom’s individual ceremony). At this point her hair and makeup were finished with a great dedication to detail. Her hands were covered in beautiful henna designs and she was surrounded by friends and family looking on during her individual ceremony.
After a few more rituals with the groom outside next to a fire pit and then with the groom beneath the main wedding tent, it was time for bride to be escorted out by her friends.
The main ceremony was unbelievably colorful. The bride and groom changed clothes from simple robes into amazingly colorful, decorative costumes. All the bride and groom’s family and friends gathered around the open air tent which was itself decorated with brightly colored flowers and other décor. The primary ceremony included priests reading and chanting from religious texts, burning of incense and other items, a fire ceremony, the bride and groom reading vows and promises to one another, friends and family offering gifts and more.
Although it was by far the longest wedding I’ve ever photographed (around 9 hours of consecutive shooting), it was a very rewarding and spiritual experience to be a part of such a wonderful day. I was glad to be a part of something so meaningful and beautiful for such a wonderful couple.
You can view the entire wedding on my old website Here!
My son has been chasing the cats under the couch. But they’re always too fast for him…and too clever.
It’s almost September, which means it’s time for the Austin Bridal Extravaganza, promoted by The Austin Wedding Guide. Just like last year, it will be held at the Palmer Event Center, off of Barton Springs Road near downtown Austin.
Last year my wife and I attended the Austin Bridal Extravaganza just for fun. There’s lots of free stuff and fun people to talk to. I think the thing we enjoyed the most was having our photo snapped in a photo booth – which can be a lot of fun on wedding day as well (imagine all your guests and you dressing up in costumes during your reception and snapping fun pics in a photo booth). Usually the photo booths will allow couples to snap photos for free – which means once you’re behind the curtain you can act silly and make faces, which are captured in one print.
Usually there’s a fashion show as well. When you enter you’ll be given a bag to collect information from vendors. Your bag will likely include “bridal bucks”, which you can use toward discounted pricing with participating vendors at the extravaganza. There are definitely great deals to be had on the big day and what better way to meet face to face with so many wedding vendors in one day!
Bridal Extravaganza 2010 boasts more than 200 wedding vendors, games, prizes and more. According to the official website, there’s even an area called the “groom’s corner” where grooms-to-be can relax on plush couches and watch tv. If you’re having a hard time convincing your groom to come along to the Extravaganza you might use that little tidbit about couches and tv as a carrot for him! J
Date: Sunday, September 12th, 2010
Time: Noon – 5 pm
Location: Palmer Event Center, 900 Barton Springs Rd., Austin, Texas
Admission: $14/person – Purchase here.
Did you know that there is an outdoor wedding chapel in Austin that is free?! Yes, I said free!
It’s called Chapel Dulcinea and it’s located about 20 miles south of downtown Austin on the way to Wimberley, Texas. It’s a beautiful (but small), open-air wedding chapel that is open to the public for usage. It’s architecture style can be described as southwestern adobe style, like you might see at a 1800s mission church somewhere in the Southwestern United States. It overlooks rolling hill country scrub brush and a wide open skyline. Chapel Dulcinea is a part of the Wizard Academy which describes itself as “a non-profit organization teaching the communication arts.”
One of the first weddings I ever photographed was at Chapel Dulcinea, so it is a place that has some personal significance and meaning in my life. There’s something very spiritual about the open nature and architecture of the chapel itself as soft breezes pass through the columns atop the Texas hill where it sits. Being there makes you feel like you are taking a trip back in time to some old Texas village, where life was slower and simpler.
Chapel Dulcinea at the Wizard Academy also offers a free outdoor pavilion, the ability to rent chairs and tables, indoor reception facilities for rent and a large, wide open campus which is all on private property and secluded. There is ample parking and facility staff are always onsite during business hours.
Is your wedding date available at Chapel Dulcinea? See their website for more details about registration and to determine if your wedding date is available on the Chapel Dulcinea Calendar.
This is a shot that I took while sitting in my car in the shade waiting for a wedding to start in Central Austin. It’s not unusual to see the high temperature in Central Texas during August to be recorded as high as 105 F. Working in Texas in the summertime is no joke…notice the temperature gauge at the bottom left – a scorching 103F!
This morning I awoke from another wedding nightmare. Perhaps brides have nightmares about dress malfunctions and grooms dream that they are losing their freedom, but wedding photographers have dreams of equipment malfunction – which is the worst thing that can happen to a photographer.
I’ll set up the dream: It’s a balmy summer afternoon and I photograph a vivacious blonde bride and her robust, biker groom at a church that doesn’t exist. Everything goes well. Then we all climb into automobiles and travel to the reception location. When we arrive it’s much darker (perhaps evening or night) and time passes quickly. Everyone is seated around a big table (including myself, which I would never do in real life) and we’re imbibing and eating and having a great time. As the meal is finished the groom stands and announces that he and his bride will soon make their grand exit and everyone prepares. I panic. I realize that during all the fun and excitement I’ve forgotten that I’m the official photographer for the event and my batteries are not charged. I quickly load my flash with 4 AA batteries, but to no avail – They’re dead. The room is dimly lit and the shutter won’t move in such a dark environment, at least not without a tripod -which is akin to bringing a knife to a gunfight!
As the menacing groom escorts his bride out he gives me a menacing look, as if to say, “I know your batteries are dead because your flash is not popping”!
….and then I am awake and wondering why I’m having a nightmare about something that has never happened and will never happen. But how can I be sure this bad situation will never come to pass? Preparation – it’s the only way to fly.
The day before a big event, like a wedding, I charge up dozens of batteries for my cameras, flashes and other equipment. I follow a check list for everything I do, kind of like a pilot or an astronaut would follow a mission checklist when they prepare to fly an aircraft. 1. Do this. Check. 2. Do that. Check… You get the idea.
Having photographed dozens of weddings, I’ve never had a major incident like what happened in my nightmare. Some people might say that I’ve been lucky. When I was in high school one of my athletic coaches, a gruff, stocky old man who played NFL Football before the use of helmets (that’s my theory anyway) used to say that luck was when “preparation meets opportunity.” I like to think that he was 100% correct. That’s why I use a checklist to prepare for weddings. Besides, I can’t afford to just be lucky. I have to take every step possible to make sure that I am prepared to capture every great moment from a wedding, quickly and seamlessly.