cliché shot is the first dance, a shot that Matt
likes to make--lots of them. He will make 20-30
shots to get the one he likes. "I got pretty close
to an ambient light reading using the built-in Matrix
metering at 1/4 sec at f/5.6, then put the flash on
an extension cord and zoomed it so it only hits the
Photos © 2002, Mathew Staver, All Rights Reserved
In the fast moving world
of wedding photography, speed of delivery counts as much as style. In
1984, I contributed a chapter to Jack Curtis' book Wedding-Portrait
Photography World on the impact one-hour processing would have on fast
delivery of wedding proofs. The concept was delivering the once ubiquitous
proofs to the bride, groom, and families while excitement levels are
high to encourage more sales and higher profits. (That chapter was cut
from the book, although some of my photographs remain, but that's
another story.) With today's professional digital SLRs, photographers
can make a CD on the job, hand it to the happy couple, and have them
review their wedding images on a laptop while flying to their honeymoon.
So, while speedy delivery is still important, there's a lot more
to today's digital wedding photography. I asked two professionals
how they photograph weddings digitally and how it's affected the
way they work and shoot.
The Word From The Pros
Barry Staver (www.barrystaver.com)
has 30 years experience as a photojournalist for corporate and editorial
clients. He approaches wedding photography as a photo essayist, combining
photojournalism with family portraiture. "I have the ability to
see and photograph a wedding as though it were a photo essay for Life
magazine," Barry told me. His patient approach lets him stand
back and capture moments as they unfold; photographing everything from
close-up details of dresses and flowers, to faces filled with emotion.
"The ultimate wedding for me is when the bride wants a photo story
delivered as a one-of-a-kind coffee-table book. I like doing the design,
because I plan how the images will fit the layout as I make the photographs."
One classic wedding cliché is "Hands and Rings."
If this shot looks like a lot of hands, that's because
it is. "I count five," Barry told me. The ring
ceremony where they all--bride and groom and two sons
of the bride--received a similar ring. Outdoors the
weather was changing; it was cold and they were anxious
to get to the reception. "The shot was my idea,"
Barry said. "This is like the family group pictures
that will be important down the road... I did some pictures
with fill flash and some with natural light with a 14mm
Matt Staver (www.matthewstaver.com)
used a slightly different photojournalistic approach: "I try to
capture all the special moments, but like to be unobtrusive. I don't
want them to remember me, as much as having pictures that remind them
of what was really there," he said. During the wedding Matt does
"the standard kind of photographs you might expect but for the
rest of it, I just shoot what's happening." Nevertheless,
he prefers the real to the staged: "Every now and then you get
a DJ that tries to pose a cake cutting picture and it's awkward.
I let them cut the cake and feed it to themselves as they would normally
do." All of his weddings have been shot digitally except one:
"It was a pretty small wedding and they were freaked out because
they thought it would be hard to get prints, but they still haven't
ordered from the film I did shoot."
This is to me a quintessential Matt image--he's
at his best when there's little available light--with
a strong subject matter, but there's also, what I
call "grace notes," secondary subjects that
add to the overall composition that are the hallmark of
his work. Try placing your hand over the right-hand side
of the image, and it is just ordinary; take it away and
On The Job
Barry prefers digital weddings because they are "easier, more convenient,
provide accurate color balance, and more usable images are captured."
To him the "best part of digital capture is the ability to quickly
change white balance as the lighting changes; moving from inside to outdoors,
fluorescent light to tungsten no longer requires cumbersome and expensive
film changes or lens filters," he says.
Viewing the photograph in the camera's LCD lets you assess the result
immediately. It tells Barry that he's either got the image or needs
to "work it a bit more." Matt doesn't show them pictures
on the camera--although that might instill some confidence--because
it takes too long and "you just don't have the time."
If there is time, he will download some test frames to the laptop he always
takes to each wedding, if only to download images after the ceremony and
before the reception. One of the things Matt really likes about digital
capture is that "it's really easy to shoot a lot of pictures
and not worry about how much it costs to get a great picture."
This image was made in Winter Park, Colorado, at an outdoor
wedding on a holiday weekend. It was made after the wedding
ceremony was over. Like most of Barry's outdoor images
the white balance was set on Cloudy; it had been an overcast
day and it almost rained before the ceremony. The guests
had hiked back to their cars and he just hung out for a
while and stayed way back and used a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8
zoom and took several images. "It is totally candid
and unposed; if it were posed," he suggested, "you
probably would want to move them around a tiny bit just
to maybe capture both of them and not so much of the bride's
back." The couple loves the picture and the bride
used it as wallpaper on her work computer.
© 2002, Barry Staver, All Rights Reserved
Unlike Matt, who shoots lots
of frames on the job, Barry finds that "I don't necessarily
capture more images than from a film wedding, but end up with more usable
and saleable ones." When Matt photographs The First Dance, he makes
20-30 shots to get the one he likes. First, he does the traditional first
dance shot that wedding photographers have been making since Fox Talbot's
time. "Then I like to show how they are swept away in the moment,
and wait for them to kiss," he said. Matt uses a 14mm Nikon lens
for his action-filled, stylishly blurry first dance shots, with the camera's
ISO set at 640. There are always a bunch of pictures that don't
work because the light is difficult to place precisely, so he tests this
shot by using waiters walking through the scene. After three or four test
shots Matt gets the balance and exposure exactly the way he wants.
Some wedding photojournalists dislike photographing family groups, but
often several generations gather for the event, and Barry's experience
has taught him how important these images are. "Those family portraits
are important. I use only as much direction as needed for a particular
group, then work quickly. People tense up and get antsy if they have to
stand around in a group for more than a few seconds. I try to capture
as much of a `candid' group as you can, but it's still
a group shot." His lighting is set before they arrive, allowing
the groups to be moved in and out quickly. Barry coaxes and schmoozes
with the people, getting them to relax, all the while looking for the
little things that ruin photographs: Someone in the back row trying to
hide behind another person's head, flies open, flowers held too
high. Something as simple as shifting weight from both feet to one, putting
a hand in a pocket can make a big difference in the final image. "I've
gotten everything from outbursts of laughter to tears to hugs to as they
gaze into one another's eyes."
Where Matt excels is in elevating wedding cliché
images to, dare I say it, art. For the classic photograph
of the bride and her father walking down the aisle, Matt
is lying on his stomach in the organ balcony behind the
altar; "I never use a tripod," he confessed.
This is not a lucky shot of another photographer's
flash illuminating the bride and her father, but, like much
of Matt's work, was carefully planned. He guessed
what exposure the other photographer had his camera set
at (F8, Matt had already asked and the guy was using ISO
800 film), set the camera on manual and the
24-85mm zoom lens at f/10 and got the corresponding shutter
speed--around 1 sec handheld--at ISO 125.
What's In Their Camera
Barry's main wedding camera is a Nikon D1X, and he keeps Nikon F5
and N90s film cameras as back-up. By the time you read this he'll
have another D1X in his bag. His most used lenses include the Nikon 14mm
f/2.8, 24-85mm f/2.8-4 zoom, 80-200mm f/2.8 zoom, and 300mm f/4. For lighting,
Barry uses a Nikon SB-28DX on-camera flash for fill and candid interiors,
often attached to the Nikon SC-17 cord, enabling the flash to be raised
up in ceiling bounce mode or using a white reflective card for direct
fill. He uses Dyna-Lites for family portraits at the wedding.
Matt uses Nikon D1X with a Nikon F5 as a back-up, mostly because of the
expense of purchasing another D1X. His favorite is the 14mm because he
likes to get in close on candid pictures and doesn't want anyone
in front of him. He also uses the 24-85mm zoom for general images and
the 80-200mm f/2.8 for ceremony shots. Almost all of his pictures use
some kind of flash, except for the ceremony shots. For on-camera flash
he uses the Nikon SB-28DX and for the posed pictures a Dyna-Lite lighting
kit with two or three lights, depending on the size of the group and the
For available light and fill flash candids, Matt's most commonly
used ISO setting is 640 and 125-200 when there's plenty of light.
Most of the time, Barry keeps his ISO set at 500 or 640 because he "doesn't
see any noise difference between lower ISO settings." Matt agrees,
"I like to shoot things available light when possible and most weddings
are low-light situations. Under these conditions, I think digital photos
look better and cleaner than ultrahigh speed film." Matt's
standard complement of memory cards are three 256MB, two 160MB, and one
128MB card. "I run around a lot," he told me, "and generally
have three sets of batteries--the one I'm shooting on and one
on charge and another in reserve."
Matt's white balance settings when shooting flash, are the camera's
standard electronic flash setting. With available light shots, he uses
a white wall or whatever to custom balance the light setting. "You'll
go into a place and figure out what kind of lighting it is and try some
of the settings and fine-tune it from there." Barry keeps his D1X
set on "Cloudy" because he likes the warm look of it. "That's
what I like about digital capture," he told me, "you can switch
white balance and ISO settings back and forth almost instantly and I don't
have to be carrying a bag of different kinds of film [or filters]."
This looks like a "People" magazine shot, which
Barry has shot for more than 20 years. "There was
a little kid just sleeping in the corner while everyone
was eating and drinking," he told me. "I made
a few close-ups of just him and turned around and looked
back at the room and it was even better. I like to look
for those kind of quiet moments. I used a little fill flash
because you need that little bit of `pop' inside."
This was made with the 14mm lens and was cropped to get
rid of some dead space on the right; the 14mm lens gives
the effective focal length of 21mm on the D1X.
© 2002, Barry Staver, All Rights Reserved
The Client Gets What?
As far as what gets delivered to the client: Barry offers several options
for clients with different price points, including images on a CD, no
digital work-up and no guarantee as to final print quality; contact sheets
(either digital as PDF files or hard copy 8.5x11s made in Adobe Photoshop)
so they can order prints a la carte; or designing and providing a complete
photo essay in a coffee-table book.
"Most clients just want CDs, because some of them want to print
the pictures themselves," Matt told me. "Some of them don't
feel comfortable making the prints themselves and I give them contact
sheets and they pick the ones they want, although some clients can select
the images they want from the CD." Depending on the client and how
computer savvy they might be, Matt delivers two or three CDs of images.
No albums at all.
fax: (908) 686-6682
fax: (631) 547-0299