All photos by Sun-Dance Photography
A close friend asks you to photograph
her wedding--you accept the challenge. But how do you go about shooting
such an important event? For those who have considered adding wedding photography
to their realm of expertise, we interviewed one of the owners of a popular wedding
and portrait studio, sun-dance photography, located in Ventura, California.
Blendi Reynolds has--along with her partner, Jeanne Tanner--operated
sun-dance photography for about eight years. They've documented weddings
all over California, and have even traveled throughout the U.S. and internationally
to photograph couples on their special day.
Black-and-white is a popular film choice with couples.
"We never thought it would
get this big," Reynolds says of the studio's success. She credits
the sun-dance photographers' ability to capture moments of true emotion
on a couple's wedding day. They embrace creativity and eschew the more-traditional
posed photos found in many wedding albums. "Candid, photojournalistic
photography is our style," she comments. Apparently, this approach--coupled
with great customer service--has worked well for them. They currently employ
11 additional photographers, and typically photograph 10--15 weddings on
Gear Up for Weddings
"An important basic for anybody interested in getting into this field
is a professional camera body, whether it's Canon, Minolta, Nikon, or
another brand," advises Reynolds. At sun-dance photography, they shoot
most images with 35mm cameras, rather than medium-format, which has traditionally
been the wedding photographer's format of choice. She also emphasizes
the importance of fast lenses. She recommends 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.2, and a
28--105mm f/2.8 zoom ("a good workhorse"). She also uses an
80--200mm f/2.8 Image Stabilizing lens for close-ups when she has to maintain
a distance from her subjects, and a 14mm fisheye lens for interesting effects.
Reynolds' lenses range from a 14mm fisheye to a 300mm f/2.8 telephoto,
and she usually takes 6--10 lenses on wedding shoots. "You're
never better than your equipment, so invest in good camera gear--don't
sun-dance offers the bride and groom a choice between film and digital imaging,
and surprisingly, "98% of our customers choose film when they see the
difference," Reynolds contends. The studio offers a choice of any combination
of color, black-and-white, sepia-toned, infrared, or transparency film that's
cross-processed for unique color effects. They don't often use flash,
but prefer utilizing softer, more-natural light when shooting weddings. (Many
churches also prohibit flash photography.) When working under natural lighting
conditions, their preferred films are 1600-speed color and 3200-speed black-and-white.
"The studio uses primarily Kodak films, including Portra ISO 800,"
adds Reynolds. She says that they always shoot twice the amount of film they
need at a typical wedding. "About 16--20 rolls is the average for
a four-hour wedding package."
images are the hallmark of sun-dance photography.
details are important in a wedding album.
Storytelling Wedding Photography
"You must listen to the bride and discuss what she wants ahead of time,"
Reynolds says. sun-dance photographers usually go over the wedding photo details
about a month before the big day. "We basically get a timeline from the
bride and groom, and find out what shots they want." They work within
the couple's itinerary, she says, "but we still go with the flow,
because the wedding day never seems to go as planned."
"The clients have individual requirements, but basically, we try to stay
unobtrusive and out of sight. We don't direct the bride and groom."
If the couple wants posed shots, sun-dance will accommodate them, she says.
But most couples see the creative photos on sun-dance photography's Website,
and generally want those types of images for their own wedding albums. And,
although sun-dance does a lot of online bookings, "Most customers come
from word-of-mouth referrals."
Most couples who approach sun-dance want candid photos, but sometimes their
parents seek more-posed group pictures. However, the trend towards photojournalistic
wedding coverage doesn't seem to be waning, according to Reynolds. The
studio's goal is to cover the entire event, and to be spontaneous, she
The most important shots are generally the bride coming down the aisle, the
exchange of rings, the kiss (after being pronounced "man and wife"),
and the family's emotions, she declares. "You must constantly be
on your toes--there's so much to shoot." At the reception,
couples usually want their first dance documented. "We always capture
those traditional moments," she says, "but candidly." The
photographers utilize various photo angles, like shooting down on a scene from
a second floor, or lying on the ground, shooting up. "We're everywhere,"
Reynolds asserts. "You must be open-minded each time you shoot a wedding.
The people are new at each event, and often-photographed venues are decorated
differently each time. We have no set rules."
Zooming in on hands and feet makes for powerful images.