Sunday, June 12, 2005

Wedding Photography on the edge

There are people who like my candid black and white candid wedding photography. I too like shooting people's wedding. However, the way I shoot weddings is often on the edge of what is possible and it takes a lot of effort for me to shoot a wedding.

What has always been the focus of my photography at weddings is the interactions between people. Not just between the wedding couple but also between the couple and their parents, between friends, between children playing. Black and white photography lets me focus on these interactions without the chaos of the surrounding colours becoming a distraction. To keep the mood of the surroundings I try to avoid using flash photography as much as possible.

With my intentions of capturing human interactions and creating romantic images, has dictated my choice of equipment and film. I use the contax Aria with prime lenses. My most used lens is the 35mm f1.4. Other lenses that I have are the 25mm f2.8, 50mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.4. I use Fuji neopan 400 rated at iso 250. This gives me a 2/3 stop over exposure.

I shoot a lot under artificial lighting indoors. At iso 250, I shoot many images at the shutter set at 1/30th of a second and the aperture set at f1.4. I have a very short depth of field and I am constantly focusing manually. I have to know what I want to focus on, and in candid photography this can be very difficult because this happens so quickly. I have tried using an autofocus camera which under low lighting conditions is actually more of a hinderance than help. It actually focuses on what I do not want it to or it spends to much time hunting for focus lock. I do not always get what I want in focus but I have a much better hit rate with myself in charge than autofocus.

Is the Zeiss lens important? Definitely. Normal lenses give an appearance of being sharp by having a high contrast. In the contrasty lighting conditions of weddings, a lot of information is lost in the highlight and shadow areas. Zeiss and Leica lenses are still able to pull the information out in these 2 areas.

Many diehard black and white film photographers use Kodak Tri-X, a high contrast, relatively grainy film. I do like Tri-X too but I find that faces tend to blow out. Neopan, although slightly flat, gives a nicer skin tone. As I do not like using flash, I started using TMZ 3200 for low light conditions. With overhead lighting, many of my clients faces were in the shadow and looked dark. There was also the issue of large grain. I have resorted to using a small metz flash set to f4.0. By using a shutter speed of 1/30 I am able to bring out some of the background while lighting the foreground. sometimes I use a shutter speed of 1/15 or even 1/8 and I get slow sync effects.

I have laid bare my photographic technique. There are comments that my photographs are soft. Which is a fair comment. When you spend most of your time shooting at f1.4 and 1/30, you will get soft images. However, if you catch important moments and frame them well, the moments are enchanced by the photographic technique.


kiampa said...

Hi Ngiap Heng,

Thank you for sharing that...that is really fascinating for me. I don't have the confidence to shoot candid shots at 1/30...1/60 would be the lowest I would possibly go at the moment for me. What you said about lenses is also very interesting for me - I have no idea what kind of build quality my Asahi prime lenses, they just seem 'good enough' to me :)

Technique is one thing, having the eye and the ability to empathise with your subjects is another thing altogether...I haven't tried using the Neopan film yet I brought to Sydney, I'm still in love with colour too much!!

kiampa said...

it's me again, thought you might find this interesting.

Wynx said...

Ngiap Heng,

After reading thru this entry...I must say it is nothing short of amazing...Shooting at 1/30, manual focus...Not easy...I know capturing candid wedding moments are never easy and not to mention you are manually focusing to capture your images!

lyn said...

hi ngiap heng

that was really informative and interesting to read :) i recently was tasked with shooting a friend's 50th birthday bash and the lighting was so low i ended up shooting at f1.4 at shutter speeds of 1/15 and 1/30. i similarly and stubbornly persisted in not using a flash and so the pictures came out soft. and i was very self-critical. but my friend was happy with the shots. she even gave each of her guests copies. perhaps at the end of the day thats the most important thing. like you said, techicals aside, its about being able to capture those candid moments, sometimes unexpected, sometimes intimate moments which evoke in the viewer emotion, reaction, empathy. and thats an art.