Thursday, April 17, 2008

The photography favor.

*This is a rant. I have no professional photography background, so I know nothing about anything. I don't know whether the bride and groom were happy with the photos taken, so everything below is just my opinion if I was in their shoes. I'm sure everything was done with the best of intentions, but sometimes intentions aren't enough (for me anyway)*


In early January me and DaNece attended my cousin John's wedding.

Just like any other wedding you attend, there was a a photographer (with assistant) running all over the place snapping pictures with a DSLR, downloading pictures to a laptop, then running around some more.


I noticed a few things that struck me as odd about the whole setup (confused stares at the camera screen, odd choices of position, no flash diffuser or reflector, etc) so asked around a little bit and found out that they were friends of the family who were doing the wedding shoot as a gift to the bride and groom (and were not professional photographers). And I thought to myself - "Wow, what a great gift. That is a lot of work."


Now, here is the problem with owning a digital slr camera. At some point, one of your friends will see you hulking around that big ol' lens and camera, and they will think "OOoooh, I didn't know they were a photographer." Then it will happen. They will ask you to take the photographs for some event that they are having. And because you are a good friend you will feel obligated to say yes. And if they are a close friend, you will probably do it for close to free.


This in and of itself isn't a bad thing. Especially if it is their kid's 7th birthday, or maybe their band playing a gig at the local bar. If you have never done pro photography you can work your way up the food chain, and if your shots don't turn out very good at these kinds of events, they will be disappointed, but life will go on.


But if it is their wedding? Put the brakes on saying yes for a moment, and seriously consider whether you are up for it. Is your equipment up to snuff to photograph what may be the most important day in this couple's relationship? Are you confident that you can not only take quality pictures, but also dedicate the time that it will take to process and present them to the bridal party? And be honest. It is better to tell your friend that you don't think you are really qualified for it than it is to give them pictures that don't make them happy.


If you doubt your abilities at all, talk to them earnestly about it. Then determine if you can realistically meet THEIR expectations. Do they want classic wedding pictures, or are they looking for more artistic photos?


Do they want to approve proofs, and have you print them? Do they want an online web gallery for their family members to look at? If so, do you have the knowledge and the ability to handle all the details of getting these things done?


After the wedding I relayed a request to see the photographer's pictures of the wedding, and if they didn't mind, I would put them up on my Flickr page to show family members that weren't in attendance. Finally (three months later) my mom hands me two CDs with pictures. I copy them all to my computer and give them a look through.


When I opened up lightroom and imported all the photos I was shocked. "Surely, these are not the final pictures. No photographer (whether professional or otherwise) would give this quality of images to their friends" I thought. I sincerely hope that I am right, and that the bride and groom were given a slideshow of the 'keeper' images to pick from for printing. I hope that they got to "ooh and aah" over the classic black and white images with the splashes of color in them. I hope that they got to see some great macro shots of their rings, or the detail in the bride's dress. I hope these things, because if I had received these two Wal-Mart branded discs from the friend/photographer after MY wedding, I would be very disappointed.


The photographer, armed with a Nikon D-50 camera, and (I believe) an SB-600 flash turned out a few decent shots. But of the 260 photos that I downloaded I could only call 83 keepers (and some of those I normally wouldn't keep at all, except for the fact that there were no better shots with THOSE people in them). Of those 83 exposures, there wasn't one shot that didn't need to be fixed or corrected in some way. There were a couple of problems that stood out, even to my novice photography mind.


Firing the flash directly at people (bad boo-boo). Seriously? You can make a bounce card / diffuser with a piece of copy paper or milk jug!



How about using ISO1600, and still getting DARK photos (Thanks, now when I try to fix it, there is unbelievable noise in the image)? He had a monopod, but no tripod that I saw.... a tripod would have totally fixed this by allowing him to use a slower shutter speed.



What about framing your shots to include that pretty trash bin and the water pitcher in the image? You don't even have to buy anything additional to fix this. Just zoom in (or stand closer). At the very least crop this out before putting it on disc.



So after about six or seven hours of sorting, cropping, correcting, reviewing, and additional tweaking, I finally got some images that I feel good about hosting for the family. I even converted some of the really dark images to B&W so that I could brighten them without getting funky colors.


See all the photos.


After all this work, I can say that I have found yet another reason to be glad about picking the G9 over a DSLR; I don't think anybody will be asking me to shoot their wedding anytime in the near future.


If you do get stuck photographing a special event though, check out tips like these. They might just save your tushie, and make everybody happier in the end.


melissa said...

good rant. and thanks for the links, I can use them for tips.

I couldn't agree more about the wedding thing - hire someone you can trust and if you're that friend, don't say yes. I mean, seriously. if my wedding photos looked like that, I'd be a bit upset. :\

Chickenbells said...

The fixes look really good! I tell you, I had a friend photo my wedding and he did a great job (lucky me...talented him) Of course, I no longer have that album...

Anywho...I am looking forward to checking out the links...I can always use good photo help.

TomboCheck said...

Glad you guys dig the links. I especially liked the better bounce card link. Now i just have to get a real flash. :)

Brandy Y. said...

I can't agree more with this!
I have been asked to do 4 or 5 weddings...just because I take pics of people. That in no way qualifies me to take pics of weddings. I have turned all of them down. You can't redo wedding pics. I don't want that on my shoulders!!

That was great of you to go through them and find some good ones and edit them.

TomboCheck said...

Brandy - Good to see a flickr friend on the blog! :) Thanks for stopping in.

It's just one of those things... show someone a big camera, and you are suddenly the PRO photog that they know.

I think the hardest part of shooting a wedding would be to get the candid shots without getting in the way. The standard shots shouldn't be too hard so long as you know how to work the camera (all the settings, how to use the flash, how much shutter lag to expect, etc) and can get people to pose and have fun. But getting people to act like you aren't there, so you can take the really cutesy pics? That's what I would have trouble with.