My last three posts have covered the wedding of Taylor and Kristi. I had envisaged that the story what stop with the ceremony, but as I was writing it, I realised that there was a fourth part. Namely how do you select and edit the images that she will present to the couple. This post specifically about that process as I hope it will be helpful to anybody who shoots a large number of images at an event.
Please note that this is my approach to culling and that other people have different techniques. I’m not saying that my way is any better than anybody else’s; it is just something that works for me.
It also based around the arrangement that we had with the couple for the delivery of images. The wedding was to be “unplugged” meaning that we were the only people there taking photos. We were also delivering the images electronically and then the couple would chose and print their own images. This meant that the couple were not involved in the selection process. Part of being unplugged though was a guarantee that we would deliver a “sneak-peak” set of images within a day so that the couple could share on social media.
As I mentioned in my previous post, we were using four cameras to cover the wedding so the first task was to download the images from each card, and then take a backup of it before the editing even started.
To download the cards I used the “get photos from camera” import option in Adobe Bridge. It was only after all cards had been transferred that I then switched to Adobe Lightroom and imported the RAW files into my wedding catalog. Doing this two step import resulted in all of the images being in the category of “Previous Import” in Lightroom. While it would have been possible to import directly from the card it would have meant that only the last card cards images fell into this category.
In total we had just under 3,000 images imported. Now to start the process of culling.
The first stage is to remove the absolute dud images that obviously have issues with them (such as way too dark, or out of focus). I do this quickly by scrolling through the images in the library and pressing the X key to indicate that the photo was rejected.
As we had promised to deliver the sneak peak on the day following the wedding, I was also on the look out for any stellar images that we could use in the sneak peaks. These were identified by giving them a rating of 2.
Once I had gone through all of the images I had about 200 rejected images that were then deleted, and around 30 images for the peak. I reduced that down to 26 which were then exported and delivered to the clients.
It was now time to cull the images and select those that would tell the story of the day. I created a set of keywords that would enable me to split the day into various activities and which would also be used in the export later on. These were then applied to all of the images.
The keywords were then used to filter all of the images, so that I was only concentrating on each section individually, rather then trying to handle the entire day in one go.
With documentary photography you are trying to tell the story of the day. I went through each of the keywords and rated them using the following scale:
3 stars – An image that was a good candidate for the final set 2 stars – A duplicate image not strong enough on its own 1 star – Not suitable for delivery
Lightroom has two shortcuts that let you quickly view multiple images. Highlighting two images in the grid and then pressing C will bring them up side by side. Highlight more images and pressing N brings them all up. You can then select each individual image and rate it by simply pressing the appropriate number on the keyboard.
In addition to the keyword filter I was also filtering on “unrated” which gave me a clear indications of the ones that I had not looked at yet.
After all of the images had been rated, I then set the filter to only show those with a 3-star rating. I would then look through how the story flowed and if I felt that an area was light I would go back to a 2-Stars and change the rating on some of them.
Equally if I felt that there were two many images telling the same part of the story then I would downgrade some of them.
This is exactly the same process that I use on any of my model shoots and it has worked well.
This is a somewhat longer post that usual and it covers the actual wedding day of Kristi and Taylor. Given that it covers over 12 hours of shooting I make no apology for its length. You can read about the pre-shoot and rehearsal sessions in the previous two posts.
The actual ceremony was taking part at 3:00pm but as we were providing a full documentary coverage my shooting started at 9:00am with the bridal party starting at the hair dressers. We then moved back to Kristi’s parent’s house for the rest of day.
My daughter Samantha was shooting the grooms preparation so she didn’t start shooting until around 12:30 at the couples house. We were both carrying two cameras. I had the G9 as the main camera for the ceremony and used my older Nikon D600 to shoot the earlier events. For the shots at the house I fitted a 50mm f1.4 lens as this enabled me to shoot without needing flash. This just meant that I had to zoom using my feet.
With documentary photography you are there to capture the day as it unfolds. I do this by basically blending into the background as much as possible but always keep an eye out for things happening. You also need to have discussions with the bride as to whether there are items that are particular meaningful to them.
While the majority of time shooting at the houses was simply to capture what was happening, we both had a list of images that we wanted to take. While they represented things that would have happened anyway they were arranged so that we could get the best possible image.
It is also important to capture details of the day. This cane include personalised items such as the named clothes hangers.
Samantha was given the task of shooting the rings and so she had my macro lens with her. The shallow depth of field that the macro lens has does make these tricky shots to capture.
The whole day seem to move quite smoothly and by 2 o’clock everyone was ready and the cars had arrived. This gave me the opportunity to get some photos outside with the family and wedding party and not have to rush about it.
While the morning has been cloudy by this stage the cloud had started to break up and so I was dealing with bright sun. This presented some challenges in how to pose the group. When it was not possible, to angle them away from the sun I used the technique of getting them to close their eyes and then open them on my countdown. This meant that they weren’t squinting.
I headed off to the church just before them and positioned myself at the front as I had practised the night before. Samantha positioned herself at the rear so she could shoot as they came in and then down the aisle. She managed to capture Taylors look when she first saw Kristi.
In many ways shooting the ceremony is to most stressful part of the day especially as it is filled with single moments that you simply can’t recreate if you miss them. The two most important are the exchange of rings and the first kiss. Fortunately I was really pleased that we managed to capture them both.
At the end of the ceremony we had allowed a 15 minute gap in our shooting to give Kristi and Taylor time to greet the guests. This also let us have time to set up for the group photos.
I had asked them to prepare a list and then to have a wrangler to get the groups together. We started with the largest first and then moved down. This meant that people did not have to hang around.
The couple wanted a photo of everyone at the ceremony so I had brought my wide angle lens and a small ladder so I could get an elevated view. We then moved through the groups. For these I shot at a lower level with the camera on a tripod. For each group I would take about a dozen photos as this gave me plenty of scope should I need to do a “head swap” later in post.
As it turned out this was only needed on one image.
With a clear list and good organisation we were able to get through all of the group photos within the 15 minutes that we had allocated for part of the shoot. That meant we were well on time. It was a real luxury that everything was running to time as I have shot weddings where the time allocated for the photos has ended up being squeezed by other events running late.
We then got into the cars and headed off to Harcourt Park to shoot the first series of the formal photos. By this time the sun had come out quite strongly and so I was dealing with dappled light on a number of occasions. This meant that I had to do a little bit fix-up’s in post on the images.
While we were now dealing with a much larger party, the time spent on the pre-shoot, enabled us to move on quickly between the locations at the park and nail all the photos exactly as we had done on the visit the week before.
We then moved up to the gardens at Ashton Norwood where the reception was being held. The staff provided a basket of food and some drinks on our arrival, and as we were running well to time, we let the party relax and eat. Personally I do not like taking photos of people eating as the facial expressions are generally not that flattering.
When we started shooting we actually did some images that we had not tried the week before. I mounted the camera on top on a light stand which Samatha held up at full height and the I controlled the camera via the app on my phone. This let us bring in the circular garden not possible at a lower angle.
As it turned out it did not get selected for the category but I have no regrets as it was a fun shoot.
We then moved around the gardens and shot at all of the locations agreed the week before. The sun was getting lower in the sky by this time so for a number of images I used it behind the party and them used my flash to provide some fill.
We were working to a timeline for the day that was very generous and amount of time allocated for the photos. We needed to get them finished by 6:20pm so the couple could have a 10 minute break before they were scheduled to make their official entrance into the reception, via a stairway, at 6:30pm.
As it turned out we were finished the photos are 5:55pm and so the order was changed around so that they would make the entrance early and then have time to mix and mingle with the guests before everyone sat down to eat.
I positioned myself at the bottom of the stairs and Samantha shot across the room from a distance. There was a point half way down where light was flooding in from a large window and Samantha managed to capture them as they came through the light. The couple absolutely loved this image.
The stairway gave us the advantage to get some higher angled shots , and I also packed my wide angle Olympus lens so that I could capture the whole reception area. Normally windows behind the bridal table are a nightmare to shoot with and I had anticipated needed to use flash to capture images of the speech. As it turned out the sun was coming in through the high windows on the opposite side of room lighting the table from the front. This gave me workable light until much later in the evening when I had to resort to flash.
We shot through the speeches and then into the first dance. For the speeches I would generally shoot the speaker, while Samantha shot the reactions of the bridal party. For the first couple of dances I continued to shoot stills while Samantha set her camera into video mode and recorded them.
Shooting video was not part of the arrangement but we like to add a little bit extra and it was well received.
For the final shot of the evening I grabbed the couple and their unity candle and took a photo of them in the entrance way. This was only lit with the candles and a slow shutter speed. It replicated a shot that I had done at Kirsti’s sisters wedding that I knew she liked.
We got home around 10:30pm and my day was not over as I downloaded all of the cards into the computer and took a backup of them on a separate drive. That meant that I had three (and sometimes four) version of the same image before we started the edit.
I hope that you have enjoyed this series on the wedding. This was planned to be the final instalment in the posts. However in writing this post I realised that there will be a fourth post that quickly covers how I go out about culling and editing the images.
This is the second of three posts covering the wedding of Kristi & Taylor. In the first one I covered the pre-shoot and the next one will cover the actual day.
As with the pre-shoot I always try to attend the wedding rehearsal, which in most cases is held the day before the wedding. Again the reason for doing this is to make the wedding day run a lot smoother.
Firstly it is an opportunity to scope out the church and sort out how you and the second shooter can cover it. In this case, St Kilda’s church had side aisles so I knew that we could move from the front to the back quickly without being too obvious. Samantha (my second shooter) could also come up the side aisle opposite me, so that we could record both bride and groom at the same time. I have worked in smaller churches with only a central aisle and this can really restrict you.
Secondly, you can talk to the celebrant (or minister) about any restrictions that may in place. For example some ministers do not like photographers coming up onto the alter, while others don’t allow flash during the main parts of the ceremony. Knowing this ahead of time saves a lot of heartache on the big day. Fortunately Seth (who was the celebrant) was fairly relaxed and we were free to move as we liked.
Thirdly, and most importantly for the planning, attending the rehearsal enables you to know what is actually happening during the ceremony so that you can work out where to position yourself, and any other shooters.
While all weddings tend to follow a similar pattern, there are always individual elements to each. Because these are personalised, they are actually the most important to shoot well. In the case of Kristi & Taylor, their niece was being a flower girl but with a bubble gun, there were two readings from family members and they were doing a unity candle during the ceremony.
The final benefit of attending the rehearsal is that it gives you the opportunity to meet with the larger wedding party and get them comfortable being shot. I will also talk to the best man to find out if there is anything planned that as a surprise for the bride & groom. Again this is so we are prepared for it.
The rehearsal for Kristi and Taylor’s wedding was held on the Friday afternoon starting at 4:00pm. This had the added advantage that the light in the church was going to be much closer to what we could expect the next day. This let me get a white balance reading, as well as determining what settings I needed to dial in to catch the action.
In the other weddings I have shot, the rehearsal has been held in the evening, and so the light was completely different. This was a nice change as it enabled to me to see how much ambient light I would be dealing with.
While not part of a standard rehearsal, I will usually ask the bride and groom to practise putting the rings on each other. Again this makes for a smoother day.
With the pre-shoot and the rehearsal done, it was now time to go home, charge up all of the batteries, pack the bags and check that the times very consistent on all the cameras.
I am not afraid to admit that I love photographing weddings. I know that they are incredible stressful events, where you really do not have the opportunity to reset if you miss shots. They are also days filled with such happiness that the main characters in them just glow.
The wedding of Taylor and Kristi took part in Upper Hutt on December 19. We delivered the photos this week and so it is mow time that I can share them with my readers.
I had photographed Kristi’s sister’s wedding back in January 2015, so I was delighted when they reached out to me to again record the day. As with the earlier wedding we provided them with a full day of both formal and documentary style photography.
I am therefore going to cover the wedding in three posts. This one covers the pre-shoot and then the next two will cover the rehearsal and the actual day.
One of the things that I try to insist on with all of my wedding couples is that we do a pre-shoot a week before the event. If at all possible we also try to do it around the same time as the actual photos will be taken.
The pre-shoot has a number of benefits all designed to make the wedding day run a lot smoother. Firstly it is an opportunity to allow the bride and groom to get comfortable being shot by me. You can see how they react to instructions and gain insights on how to best direct them on the day.
The second advantage of the pre-shoot is that it enables you to try out locations and poses without having the time limitations of the actual day. The reason that I try to hold it at roughly the same time as the actual shoot is that generally wedding photos are taken outside. Shooting at roughly the same time and location gives me advance warning of where the light would be coming from and any issues that I might face.
At the initial consult with Kristi and Taylor we had discussed a number of possible locations for the formal. These included Harcourt Park and the gardens surrounding the reception venue at Kaitoke. As the park was on the way to the reception venue I knew that it would work in terms of timing.
Now I like to be prepared as I find that this enables you to portray confidence. So in the weeks before the shoot my wife and I went to both locations and mapped out a number possibilities to try. Thus meant that the pre-shoot also ran smoothly as we moved from location to location.
The other advantage of shooting at a location you plan to use is that it gives you time to work out what is the best way to move around it, and see any issues that you might face. The reality is that on the day it is very easy to get so caught up in the shoot that these can be missed. The walk from the tree (above) to the gate (below) was fairly downhill across grass and the area around the gate was a little muddy. This was fine when Kirsti was in jeans but would be an issue on the day. So that determined that we would shoot the date images first as the cars could drop them off right by it.
The gate actually separates the park from a camping ground and the road is actually on private land. Therefore I needed to get permission, however that was easily given.
We then moved up the reception location and again moved through the various areas that I had sped out earlier.
In total we spent about two hours going through the areas that I had scoped, which was time really well spent. It enabled be to know what gear that I needed to bring and while the light was different to actual day, it prepared me.
The wedding of Pamela and Pete took part over Easter weekend. Shooting their wedding was done as a favour for Olyvia (who had modeled for me at the Great Trentham Collaboration). Olyvia was Pamela’s youngest daughter and she had described as being an older bride.
The wedding and reception were to take part in a community hall in Paraparaumu. As is my practise I went to the venue the week before at roughly the same time, to ascertain what it looked like and what lighting conditions were. The venue was very plain and I knew that lighting would be an issue. Also there really was no attractive place for the photos. Forunately the beach was a stones throw away so that location was chosen.
The week before the wedding the remains of Cyclone Debbie hit the country with high winds and torrential rain. While overcast shies are great for wedding photos hurrican force winds and driving rain were not.
The night before the wedding that was exactly what persisted through out the night. Fortunately by morning the wind abated. We still packed the studio lights in case we had to shoot inside.
As it turned out that was not required and in fact we had the opposite issue of too much light outside. Inside the venue was a different matter. While the ceremony was taking place in a different place than I thought it might, there was no way to shoot in their without using flash. As a general rule I dont shoot flash at the ceremony.
As it turned out using flash caused an issue with the Auto ISO function on the camera and rather than helping it actually worked against images. Between the second shooter and myself we managed to get enough images to satisfy the bride and groom but not for our standards.
As is normal at weddings getting everyone togther for the groups shots at times resembled “herding cats” but we managed to get it done and then the formals at the beach went well.
The reception was the usual busy affair however by this time the sun was low enough that it was actually coming inside of the building so we didn’t have to solely use flash.
In 2009 the Camera Club I belong to ran a regional conference where the main speaker and workshop sessions were on “trash the dress” which was an American concept of shooting a bride where you didn’t worry about the dress. In preparing for this the club bought a large number of dresses on Trade Me, and since that event they had sat in bags at a former club member’s house.
In late November she contacted current members and asked that we collect them or else they were going to the tip. As no one else wanted them I offered to give them a home. It made quite a sight having 13 dresses airing in the line.
Brittany (styled by Zaria and makeup by Matty)
I contacted Donna from Voda Model Management to see if we could arrange to use them in a shoot and she suggested that we could do something with them. Furthermore she said that Zaria Portion (Ghost Train Design) could use the material and stylise a shoot.
This was all arranged to happen in the week after Christmas, and in the end it turned out to be a large scale event with three photographers, two makeup artists, one stylist and four models.
Because of peoples availability the models were made up one after another so all photographers shot the same model at the same time. It was quite interesting to see how different people would use the same model and location but come up with different concepts.
The shoot had originally been planned to take part at Kaitoke Regional park which is just north of Upper Hutt. It gave us a great variety of locations including some small streams that would enable to dresses to out in water while ensuring that the model was safe.
Unfortunately for us this park is very popular and the weather between Christmas and New Year was stunning resulting in the park being very crowded. After both Donna and I visited the park on the two days before the shoot it became obvious that it would be practically impossible to actually shoot there. So at the last minute the shoot was changed to Percy’s Reserve in Lower Hutt.
This location still gave us a number of different environments, however it lacked the running water that I was looking for. Brittany did agree to go into a small stream at the back of the duck pond. We have a number of great photos of her expression as she waded through the mud to get to the position we wanted.
For the final image I wanted something quite different and so the whole crew moved down to the Hutt River, so that Jess could get into it. By the time we got to this shot it was around 6:00pm but the sun was still very bright in the sky.
I had fun on the day, but every time I shoot outside it makes me appreciate how much easier it is to shoot in the studio.
One of the best things you can hear when you deliver images to a client (especially a wedding couple) is when the bride says that she loves all of the photo and that they were exactly what they wanted.
That was Chloe’s reaction when we delivered their wedding photos last week. The wedding happened on January 24 but with their honeymoon and then the death of grandmother the actual delivery of the images was a week later than originally planned.
As we were recording the whole day, the shoot involved my wife (Vicky) and daughter (Samantha). Samantha was officially second shooter but as she hasn’t got her licence yet needed her mum to run her between locations.
Final preparation was done the night before with chips formatted, all batteries fully charged and the clocks in each camera synched as this would make it easier to work through the shots later especially in the church.
For the day I stayed with the groom and Samantha stayed with the bride. It is quite amusing when you look through the images and see how long each side takes to get ready.
We knew from the rehearsal that the church was very small and shooting angles would be tight. Having three shooters did leave us with an advantage that I could cover the front, Samantha shot from the back, and Vicky stayed outside. That way we had all of the areas covered.
The ceremony went without a hitch and we managed to capture all of the important elements (first look, kiss, rings etc.), exactly as they happened, rather than resorting to faking the shot later.
As a guest you would not have said that the weather could not have been better as it was clear blue sky without a single cloud and warm. As a photographer I was wishing for the cloud because I knew that the moment we moved outside we were going to face issues with the light.
The family group shots had been planned to occur on a small grassed area outside of the church and we had positioned a car there to ensure that it didn’t end up being used for parking. While it normally would have been a perfect location, the light was creating such strong panda eyes and squinting that we moved everyone to the shade of a hedge.
The location of the formals offered no such shade and so I had work with using the sun at the couples back (with fill flash) or shading them in some way using a diffusion panel. During the practise shoot my wife had been very concerned about the safety of everyone shooting so close to a main road and certainly on the day in question the cars were all travelling at 60kph. As it turned out on once you put a girl in a white wedding dress and surround her with bridesmaids the cars all slow down for a closer look, and in fact at one point the traffic stopped completely to let me get the shots. Chloe was having a great time acknowledging the toots she was getting as the cars and trucks went by.
The formals ran perfectly to time and we delivered the couple to the reception at exactly the agreed time which really surprised the management there as they were used to photographers running late.
Vicky had gone straight from the church to the reception and had photographed the venue before the guests had a chance to play with it. With the reception we tried to shoot the main elements. During the speeches I concentrated on the speaker while Samantha photographed reactions.
Once all the formalities were over we gathered on the dance floor for the first dance which started out traditional and morphed into something completely different.
We ended the day around 10.00pm and headed home. Once I cleared the cards to the computer there was 1915 photos to worth through. They were taken into Lightroom and before anything else was done to them a backup was taken on a removable drive.
The next morning I did a very quick selection and chose 16 images that provided a snapshot of the day. These were given a quick edit and sent to the couple so that they could post on Facebook.
It was a really long day, but very enjoyable. With the planning that had been done everything went pretty much t
I am always amazed when I hear about wedding photographers who simply show up on the day and are very inflexible in the timeframe that they will cover.
Now I will admit that we do not photograph that many weddings a year and we certainly don’t shoot the ones we do solely for the money. As such I am willing to give as much effort in order to ensure the couple get the best service on the day. And for a wedding that starts with attending the rehearsal.
For the wedding of Hayden & Chloe the rehearsal happened on February 22 and as with most rehearsals I have attended it was a fun and happy event. Unlike the nerves that will kick in on the big day the rehearsal is often very relaxed. For me these are the main reasons why it is important to attend the rehearsal:
It give you an opportunity to meet and discuss your requirements with the person performing the service, and to get agreement on such things as the use of flash, where you can and can’t go. Better to find this out two days before the event than 20 minutes before.
If they are present it also lets you talk with the videographer so that you can determine the best angles for both of you.
It gives you a real opportunity to view the venue and work out the best angles for shooting that will both give you the images you want but at the same time not block key people from seeing the events. It also lets you work out where you and your second shooter will stand.
It give you the opportunity to see what the plan of the service will be so that you can ensure adequate coverage.
It lets you play with settings in the camera when if you fail to get a clear shot it really does not matter.
From this rehearsal I realised that it was going to be very tight at the alter and realistically the best angles for many of the activities would be from the rear which meant that my second shooter would take care of those. The Minister made no unreasonable demands, and video guys were very co-operative. We did have an issue with one camera not giving us the best results so that ended up being used outside the church only.
Next weekend we are shooting the wedding of Chloe & Hayden which is being held in a small church in Pauatahanui and in planning for it I met with the bride & groom and carried out a small pre-shoot with them starting at the church and then moving onto some of the locations that i have planned to use for the formals.
Now some photographers refer to this as an engagement shoot but personally I clearly state that it is a pre-shoot, because I believe that they are fundamentally different.
To me an engagement shoot happens as soon as the contract to do the wedding has been signed which may many months before the wedding. The purpose is solely to allow the photographer and couple to get comfortable with each other. as such the location is irrelevant.
A pre-shoot has a similar goal to enable a rapport to be established between the couple and the photographer plus to plan for the actual shots on the day. When I book a pre-shoot I try to arrange it for a location close to the where we will be shooting on the day and if possible shoot at the same time. That lets me determine where the light is coming from and what issues I am likely to run into.
It is also a good opportunity to try out poses with the couple, and to see whether they like the locations your are thinking about. It is also a great opportunity to sort out transport issues on the day, rather than when you have a large wedding party in tow.
The shots below are a selection from the pre-shoot and in captions I have outlined what the situation I was looking for.