Have you ever knocked on the door of the bride’s suite on the morning of her wedding, camera in hand, ready to go – only to find some guest already there with a better camera than you?
Well, this has actually happened to me on more than one occasion (which either says something about my gear or the confidence brides have in my abilities), but what happened this past weekend was unique.
Read on and I’ll share the story.
If you’re a pro wedding photographer, the guest-with-camera phenomenon is nothing new. There is always some budding wedding photog who has decided that today would be the perfect day to follow you around for the day and annoy the hell out of you.
I have several strategies for dealing with a guest-with-camera who has decided to latch onto my leg for the day…most involve making them carry as much of my stuff that I can get away with, and speaking to them with as much insider photographer jargon that I can think of – like “Hey VAL, do you think the thirty two hundred kelvin tungsten color cast from that lamp will affect the dynamic range of my rim lighting, or should I use a 0.6 ND to get down two stops so I can shoot at 1.4?”
But this guest-with-camera was different. This guy had a Canon 5D MkIII with a 24-70 f/2.8 AND a 70-200 f/2.8 AND a 580ex AND a really cool belt clip full of color correction gels.
I mean, I don’t have a complete set of color correction gels on my belt – WTF!
I should also add that he was dressed very nicely – not as nice as me, I am a pro and a three piece suit is my uniform – but dressing nicely is unheard of within the guest-with-camera crowd.
OK, so framing the dress in the mirror was actually my videographer’s idea – but I set up this shot. It involved putting a sheet over the ugly window air conditioner unit, pushing the dresser about two feet forward so it didn’t block the corner of the window, moving the TV so I could physically place my camera at the right angle, moving the lamp and end table that was in the corner…oh and actually putting the dress in the window and arranging the shoes, necklace box and necklace.
(1/125 sec at f/2.8, ISO 800, 24mm with an on camera flash in TTL -2/3 with the head zoomed out and pointed straight up…in case you were wondering.)
I’m not ashamed to admit that I locked the door to the other room where the guest-with-camera was shooting way too many photos of the girls getting their makeup done while I photographed this.
Next it was time to photograph the girls getting ready. At this point, the girls were about 45 minutes behind schedule due to a makeup malfunction, so the “getting in the dress” ritual took about 10 seconds.
Really, I have never seen a bride get in her dress and go out the door faster!
That is to say that I was not giving up prime position for this shot. I mean, I even made the bed in their room so that if it was reflected in the mirror, it would be neat and tidy.
(Exact same settings as the last photo.)
After the girls left in the limo, I went to find the guys. In a miracle that will never be explained, the guys were actually dressed and ready to go.
So I actually had about two minutes to set-up ye-olde hotel lobby groomsmen semi-gangsta shot.
(1/125 sec at f/2.8, ISO 1600, 35mm with an on camera flash in TTL -2/3 with the head zoomed out and pointed straight up.)
After the usual Grand Theft Auto race to the venue (I beat the guy’s limo by 15 minutes…oh ya) I had 15 minutes to grab a few of the glam photos of the bride and the girls that I missed at the hotel.
(1/125 sec at f2.8, ISO 1600, 35mm – natural light from a window to camera left.)
Next was the wedding ceremony. I would rather photograph an outdoor wedding ceremony every time over any dark, dingy church (with some obvious exceptions), but at 4:00 on a summer afternoon without a cloud in the sky…there is only so much you can do. The only thing I could think of was to add a 0.6 neutral density filter to help my flash out, and to use a polarizer. If I was going to be photographing blue skies, they better be damn blue!
(1/250 sec at f/3.5, ISO 200, 24mm with an on camera flash in manual at 1/1 with the head zoomed out and pointed straight ahead.)
Do you know what you don’t see in this photo? A guest-with-camera right in the middle of the isle. He’s in the photo (10 points if you can find him), but he was actually extremely courteous and asked me where it would be OK for him to shoot from (ie. anywhere except the middle of the isle…or in front of the bride and groom…or, well, pretty much anywhere that would disrupt the ceremony). Ya, amazing right?
After the ceremony, I did a few sets of the wedding party and then the bride and groom together. There wasn’t much shade, but we did manage to find a pretty nice spot beside the barn – and it was late enough in the day to get a little cow bell.
(1/125 sec at f/2.8, ISO 800, 24mm with a 0.6 neutral density and polarizing filter – natural light sun flare.)
Which brings me to my hero shot for the day. At this point, the bride and groom were pretty much toast. We were all hot and tired, but we had just enough time left to go down to the nice, cool, smelly and dingy wine cellar. I had the idea for this shot in my head since I had scouted out the location, and I knew that we would be going down there at some point.
But when we got there, I realized I only had one strobe with me.
I set up the shot anyway, figuring that it would still make a nice silhouette.
(1/250 sec at f/2.8, ISO 400, 50mm – strobe on a light stand behind the couple and to camera right in manual at about 1/16th with the head zoomed out and pointed back towards the camera.)
The silhouette shot was OK, but not really what I wanted. I was about to call it a day and send the bride and groom up to the bar when my guest-with-camera (who had been with us all day) volunteered to let me use HIS strobe!
For real – this happened. One photographer offered to help out another. Mind blown.
Luckily, I was using my Cactus V6 triggers which can be used to trigger both Canon and Nikon strobes – as opposed to my usual Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 / Flex TT5 setup – which is Nikon only. (Incidentally, since my initial review, the Cactus V6 triggers have found a permanent home in my camera bag – although they do still have a few quirks).
(1/250 sec at f/2.8, ISO 400, 50mm – strobe on a light stand behind the couple and to camera right in manual at about 1/16th with the head zoomed out and pointed back towards the camera. Another strobe at about 1/16th held high to camera right by guest-with-camera).
I love giving my clients photos like this because they are so unexpected. All they see is a dingy wine cellar – but when you pull off a really cool shot like this, the wow factor is incredible – so I was really happy that I was able to get the shot I wanted – with a little unexpected help from a guest-with-camera.
Have You Ever Had Another Photographer Help You Out?
Have you ever had another photographer offer to let you use their gear to get your shot?
Or is every photographer you have ever met a selfish, competitive jerk?
Leave a comment below and let us know!
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