The size of your lens…

BigLensIt has been a considerable amount of time since I last blogged anything photographic. In truth, I have been somewhat busy with other aspects of my life but I have still been active photographically. I am presently processing the photos from a recent local wedding and loving the little pearls of random beauty that I have managed to capture. It is always a risky thing as you cannot always tell exactly how well the images will turn out. Sure, you can preview photos these days on the camera, but these small LCD screens are hardly adequate to give a true indication, so there is still a risk. My rule of thumb is to take 3 to six times more photos than I think I will actually need, across two cameras, to ensure that I get as much as possible. So far this rule has done me well. Now, here comes the gripe session…

Yet I occasionally hear of unfortunate “horror” stories of other people’s experiences with photographers, especially with weddings. Take today for instance. While attending a family Christmas gathering, the queries in to what I do and am doing crop up. I then get the tale of a wedding photographic disaster.

Three things about the story stuck out to me;

  1. Preference was made to pay a relatively new and family associated photographer, after having already made arrangements for an established photographer.
  2. The disturbingly inflated cost charged by the photographer.
  3. The apparent use of one camera and one super-sized lens.

Now, I have no particular beef with having a novice photographer, nor a relation taking the photos. This just seems to be the common theme that often goes hand-in-hand with bad experiences. In this case, having already made arrangements with another photographer, and then deciding to give the job to a potentially inexperienced person, to me this is a risky choice, but occasionally this choice pays off so I give this the benefit of the doubt. It is a very thin line however, or so it seems. You also run the risk of upsetting the initial photographer depending on how it may have been handled and that may have future repercussions.

On the charged price, which was over 3 thousand, this to me seems excessive. I am fully aware that there are companies that offer full packages including Photographers, processing, photo-books, canvas and standard prints, studio shoots, etc. For such packages, it makes sense that the charges would be so very high. When it is a single photographer, doing nothing but taking photos… even for 8 hours photographic time… To me it just seems over inflated.

Then we get to the camera and lens. What is it with the use of large, unwieldy lenses at a wedding? The comment made by the story teller was rather intriguing. The larger lens gave them (the Bride/Groom and Guests) a sense that the photographer “must know what they are doing.” It seem that the lens has oddly phallic connotations in a way; larger equipment equates to better experience. I have seen many a photographer walking out of the Registry office in the city, lumbered by a DSLR on the tip of some massive lens that looks more appropriate in a stadium at a sporting event somewhere. What is wrong with a decent quality 18-135mm lens? You are shooting intimate moments with people, up close. I find that I prefer to be moving quickly and battling with a lens that looks more like the turret on a tank does not strike me as congenial to that idea. Then add a flash in to the mix and you have something which will probably stunt your growth in the next hour or two. Remember that the photographer maybe wearing this thing for several hours in a row, without respite.

The Married CouplePersonally, I prefer to use two cameras. One with a ranged focal point, such as the one I mention above, and a Prime lens on the other, like a 50mm. I love my 50mm. It allows me to take far more shots without the need to a flash than any other. I capture those wonderful fleeting moments between people without worrying about recharge cycles or exposure compensations, plus the increased depth of field finds that strong sense of intimacy and heightens it further. Admittedly, a very shallow depth of field can make it hard to get your ideal focus point, but with practice, you can easily develop techniques to overcome this. These are just two of the lenses I have to choose from. This may sound like a lot of equipment and as such defeats the purpose of not using a single camera with a large lens, except when you take in to account that with two cameras, the weight is distributed to either side of you, and you are only ever picking up one camera at a time, at less than half the weight of the single super lens alone.

Now, it is the issue with the single camera and lens that most upsets me in this far too repeated tale. With any photographer, even a well established and experienced one, there is always a chance that things will go wrong for them and the wedding couple. Sometimes things do happen. However, relying on only one camera and one large, weighty, and let’s face it, inappropriate lens to get the job done is a set-up for failure. You need a backup and a variety of options to help increase your chances for success. I only have two cameras and about 6 lenses at present. In the new year, I plan to see that expand to include a new camera and maybe a new macro lens. I also need to invest in new flashes, such as ring flashes, or flash diffusers to compliment the Gary Fong Collapsible I currently have. Diversity, backups and appropriate use of hardware to me is a key aspect to a good wedding photographic shoot. They other key aspects are a good sense of timing, and artistic eye, and some really good people skills.


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