Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Heads-Up Wednesday: No Photos In Westminster Abbey & The Analysis Of A Wedding Shoot - Part 1

Good Morning Everybody,
We had a great second day in London, walking about 10 miles up, down, and around just taking in the city. One BIG disappointment though was getting to Westminster Abbey and being told that no pictures were allowed. It seem the place is, get this copyrighted! Go figure, 500,000 visitors from around the world walking through history and a "No Photos, please." policy in force. In any event, it was a wonderful experience to walk through 1000 years of history.

A good friend of mine from England and I always used to discuss the different aspects of our respective countries. I made a comment about how old our buildings were in the US. His reply back to me was, "The paint wasn't even dry on most of your buildings in the US." It was his second remark that has remained with me the most through the years. He said, "You tear down your history after a few hundred years, we live in ours for 1000's of years." Food for thought.

Anyway, we still had a great time. Today is the BIG day - our play, "Imagine This" opens this evening and we are fired up to see it. I'll give you the low down tomorrow. And one last note, LaDawn is going to blog this week's trip over at Dave and LaDawn on the Road - here is the link. Give it a peek if you like. Anyway, it's time to get to it, so on with "The Analysis Of A Wedding Shoot." Enjoy!

The Analysis of a Wedding Shoot
Okay everybody, this has been the top question on this Skribit Widget in the right column for quite awhile now garnering 528 votes - "Any chance of a down-loadable shot list and pre-wedding gear checklist? That would be awesome!" So today is the big day as I answer this question as best as I can. Here is my problem – the original article went over 5500 words long! I’m going to break it into a series of posts over the next few weeks. I don’t want you to think you are reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, you know.

Today I'm discussing the studio preparation I to go through the day before the wedding. And I'll also walk you through what I'm thinking as I shoot the wedding over the entire period of the day. So let's get to it.

Studio preparation for a wedding
1 -- The very first step, for me, is the pull the client file. I do this step Monday or Tuesday during the week of the wedding. I review all the pertinent information about the wedding, times, locations and review any additional notes I have made or that my staff had made about the affair. After reviewing all the pertinent details about the event, I contact the bride, and review and confirm these details with her.

I always ask is there anything else I need to know. Are there any special family or friends that are going to be coming in from out of town that we want to be sure to photograph? Are there any changes that may have taken place since we last discussed the wedding? In his conversation with the bride and sometimes with her mother too, I’ve got all the details I need. At this time I also fine tune the timeline of the event as well.

2 -- Now let's get to the gear setup. We work as a three-person team when photographing an event. I’m the main shooter and work with an assistant who carries the gear bag and lighting gear and anything else I might need for the day.

My assistant is also my lighting assistant whose most important role is to not only read my mind but most importantly to get that off-camera flash in the right position 110% of the time.

The third member of the team assists with moving gear around and setting up any lighting gear we need at the wedding reception. But their primary role has evolved into becoming a second shooter on the job. It's the third team member’s responsibility to see and shoot the peripheral happenings around the main event. This is done at their discretion and also with some direction from me. That means I've got two gear bags to set up before we leave.

3 -- I've covered, fairly thoroughly, over the past several weeks in my Gear Bag Friday posts, what’s in my gear bag. My second gear bag is an abbreviated version of the first. Both cases, by the way are Lowepro Pro Roller 1 cases - my favs for years. What's important to me is that the gear itself is in top-notch shape - lenses polished and cleaned, batteries charged, flashcards cleared, sensors clean, and cameras time synced. Any flashcards still not in my camera case from the week before are verified as backed up before they are wiped clean and formatted for the weekend's big event.

4 -- The next step is to get the batteries charged. I charge all my Quantum flash system batteries and all my camera batteries the day before the event. We carry three Quantum batteries with us. Two turbo 2x2 batteries which are fairly high capacity and can really go the distance for most of a single event. I also use the Quantum SC Turbo battery, which is a very light weight battery but with lower capacity. My assistants appreciate the lighter weight battery at the reception. So basically we have more than enough batteries and battery reserve to get us through any type of event.

5 -- We take four cameras with us to an event. My own gear bag includes two Canon 40D's along with the array of lenses I've been discussing in Our Gear Bag Friday series. The second gear bag contains the 5D which gets very little usage and a Canon 30D. Each camera has its own battery and one backup battery with charger that keeps us going should we need to change batteries during the day. I found, that even with our heavy shooting, that we really don't change batteries very much during the shoot. I attribute that to the higher ISO’s at which we shoot, meaning much less power dumped each time the flash fires.
5a. Cameras are also time synced the day of the wedding too. This makes things easy during the Lightroom sort. Thought I had that covered. Thanks, Tom - see comments below.

6 -- I charge the flash batteries up on the day of the wedding. I'm still using the Eveready Ni-Cads that I purchased a couple of years ago and they continue to do just fine. The only problem I found is that they don't continue to hold their charge all that long when charged the day before.
Yes, I know about the other batteries that hold the charge over much longer period of time, but frankly, I've never gotten around to buying them. Charging the batteries on the day of the event has them in peak condition and easily lets us finish the event without running low on battery power. But, just for backup I do carry the NiCad battery charger with me to the event. These chargers can charge four AA NiCad’s in about 15 minutes. I'm generally only shooting with one flash at a time which gives me two spare sets of NiCad's still in my gear bag.

7—Lighting gear also needs to be checked out. I’m still using my trusty old White Lightnings. I always pack two in the lighting gear bag along with all the necessary stands and 50 foot extension cords. We really only use one of these lights on the job, but it's always smart to be prepared with back-up gear. The lighting bag is called, affectionately by my assistants, the “Death Bag” because it seems to have more “stuff” in it than we will ever could need and always weighs a ton ....maybe two tons.

That pretty much wraps what we take to a wedding. It seems like a lot of stuff, but I have to admit, I’m from the old school of thought that always says, “Be prepared for anything that can happen, because it usually does."

Next week in Part II of this series, I review the next segment of exactly how we cover a wedding from the first exposure to the last good-bye.

On that note, gang, I’m calling it a wrap for today. I hear Big Ben in the distance saying it’s time to see some sights. See everybody tomorrow for Business day Thursday: Looking the Part at a Wedding. See ya’ then, -David


  1. Enjoy your time in London David. There's plenty of great places to shoot, make sure you visit borough market on the southbank (not only for photography but for the food! Try a venison burger) and soho (best in the evening when it comes alive).

  2. David,

    We discovered this spring on a trip to Rome that the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is also copyrighted... by a Japanese TV station! Crazy.

    Enjoy London!

  3. Great series. I'm looking forward to going through these. Thanks again, Dave.

  4. As always very nice blog entry. I'd like to comment on two things please. 1) England has a much "newer" platform then we do due to the raids in the 40's and most had to be rebuild. I disagree with the gent that told you this. and....
    2) Part of your "Pre" workflow should include syncing your clocks to the second so when Importing images into one file they are timed perfectly.

  5. I love your blog! Thank you so much for this educational information! I'm taking notes!!!

    Kelly Newport

  6. David,
    Why do you shoot so little with the 5D?

  7. Hey David,
    I respect your work very much. Well worded talent goes far in the journalism career. Keep up the good work, so far I've clearly understood and followed up with your writings and I just want to throw some kudos at you, very good to hear people putting their mind to words the clear way :)
    Anyways, until the next time I run across your page, c ya' ciao!