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Guest at a Wedding

The other day, I was blessed and honored to have been able to attend the wedding of a long time friend as a guest. As I got ready for the wedding, I gave thought to what photo gear I should bring. I almost opted for a smaller, lighter compact camera, but chose my "workhorse" SLR instead. I still wanted to go light so I chose a small messenger bag, brought a flash and only one extra lens. I carried a 17mm - 55mm and a 28mm - 75mm lens for the day.

It was a small wedding held out on the sands of a local California beach. I knew a lot of shots could potentially be backlit putting people in shadows so I set up my camera appropriately, a bit overexposed is okay. We got to the seating early and had the pick of the litter so I thought carefully about position what would provide the best shots. As usual, there was a center aisle with "action spot" at the end in front of a leaf decorated arch. Very nice. I tried a chair on the left side, but shots there would have put more of the land-side (beach, houses, etc.) in the background. Instead I chose the right side which put more ocean and clear sky in the frame. I sat in an aisle seat and chose a distance that wasn't too far or too close for the lenses I brought. I took a few test shots while people were seating themselves and confirmed that my camera settings were good.

After awhile, the hired pro photographer for the wedding arrived and started getting establishing shots: the arch, the chairs, people greeting each other, etc. She knew what she was doing. Not wanting to "work" the scene in her space, I sat and enjoyed the moments and didn't shoot much. The wedding began and the wedding party began to make their way to the altar. The pro photog nimbly moved around and got the important shots as they got into place. The cell phones and pocket cameras came out as everyone strived to capture the event as it unfolded. As I took my photos, I realized I was at a slight disadvantage, I was in a seat and not moving around the venue as I would if I were the hired gun for the day. I was also keenly aware of her positioning and consciously made an effort to stay out of her shots (i.e. leaning way out over the aisle with her behind me as she shot the couple; bad). If she was behind me, or if I was in the shot myself, I put my camera down, smiled and tried to blend in and look like just another happy guest (which I was), not some undercover pro photog trying to get my shots. This was her day to shoot. 

Surprisingly, I was able to get some really nice shots during the ceremony, all this without (hopefully) being in the way of the pro and messing up her shots. One of the keys was to pay attention to the event as it progressed. What were the key images that would help tell the story. The father next to his son, the flower girls standing in a line, the pastor talking to the couple and of course "The Kiss"! As each event happened, I anticipated it and had my camera poised. 

My setup for the ceremony: 28mm - 75mm 2.8 lens. Camera set to Manual, ISO 200, back button center focus on AI servo set to low speed continuous frames. 

Below, is The Kiss shot edited and unedited for comparison. 

Sonny PortacioComment