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Wedding photo equipment advice

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by danng83, Sep 3, 2012.

  1. danng83

    danng83 Mu-43 Rookie

    Jun 13, 2011
    Sydney, Australia
    Hi everyone,

    My sister and I are shooting a friend's wedding in January and would like your advice about what kind of equipment would be the most useful to have.
    At the moment, between us we have:
    • EP3
    • EPM1
    • Lumix 14mm 2.5
    • 2x Lumix 20mm 1.7
    • Olympus 45mm 1.8
    • 2x 14-42 olympus 14-42 IIR kit lenses
    • A circular polariser
    • 3 spare batteries

    The budget that I have is around $400. I was wondering if it would be worth upgrading a Lumix 20mm for a Pan-Leica 25mm 1.4 to allow for more creative freedom. I was also thinking of getting some ND filters. Any recommendations?

    Would it be worthwhile getting an external flash (the wedding and reception will be during the day)? Or perhaps even upgrading a camera to an OMD?

    Obviously, I have some budget constraints. What would be your advice?
  2. troll

    troll Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 25, 2012
    Short primes are pretty much useless for the most part, they're only needed in some low-light situations. You need zoom lenses, a normal and a telephoto. And definitely a flash for indoors shooting, although you'll need to learn how to use it.
    • Like Like x 2
  3. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Having been asked to "also" shoot my sister in laws wedding, I was awful glad she wasn't relying on my photos (having an experienced pro there).

    You definitely need a flash (really, several and the controller to fire them), and ideally a bracket to hold it off camera - and must be VERY proficient in how to use it.

    If you are desperate to buy a lens, I would recommend something longer so you can get tight head shots from the back of the church. To me, it is unacceptable for the photographer to be on the altar or just in front interfering with the guests' view.
  4. chlau

    chlau Mu-43 Regular

    May 13, 2011
    Get the flash. It's an absolute must-have. Use that on the body with the standard zoom and put a fast prime on the second body. You need to practice with the use of the flash because it'll definitely surprise you. You should be OK with this setup as long as you manage your expectations.
  5. GRID

    GRID Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 22, 2011
    But remember that flash isnt allowed everywhere, i´ve heard.
  6. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Short primes are NOT useless in wedding situations......

    Yes... you will need to be proficient with a flash. Get it off the camera!!! Tripod... if anything to keep the positioning consistent as you walk back and forth coaching the couple. MORE spare batteries and cards. Highly recommend bringing a laptop for initial examination of how the photos are coming out.

    Scope out the venue ahead of time, you will need to know a few things:

    * flash allowed? (alternatively, work with the venue, church?, to shoot after the ceremony... Most will allow it or even "stage" photos.)
    * High ceilings?
    * Mirrors (hate them can ruin photos without you even noticing)?
    * Color casts from the walls and ceilings?
    * Size of room?
    * Scope out areas for couple portraits.

    How large is the group? How is the reception area? etc. If the group is large, I highly recommend getting someone to help with candids. You can't possible be in more than one place at a time. Often that person is helpful too with the main ceremony.

    More importantly, you should practice with everything before heading into it.... Equipment choices is probably less than half of your worries... experience is the other half. Most common mistake I've seen happen... shoot all night long wide open on a very large aperture thinking its the silver bullet of low light. Only to find out that the DOF is so small that most of the photos are essentially out of focus. Learn to balance both exposures w/ flash.
    • Like Like x 3
  7. troll

    troll Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 25, 2012
    Although in general a lot of interesting shots are done with multiple light sources, it would be a mistake for a beginner to get all this equipment to shoot a wedding for the first time. Handling a single flash in such a dynamic situation is hard enough.. with light stands and multiple flashes he'll be floundering in all this extra equipment most of the time, and no one will have the patience to wait for him to finally stop messing around and get a shot.

    With $400 to spend I'd suggest buying a telephoto zoom like Oly 40-150 (Panasonic teles might be a better choice though with their OIS—more "future-proof") and a 3rd party ttl flash like Metz 50 with a stofen omni-bounce. Put 14-42 on one camera and 40-150 on the 2nd body. Whenever you need shallower DoF, switch from a zoom to 45/1.8.

    And, if possible, visit the places you'll be shooting at before the wedding. You'd better get your shots worked out well before the actual event comes cause there'll be LOTS of other stuff to think about at the wedding and there'll be no time for you to think much about composition and placing people in right spots.. you need to have the "placing" already thought out before the day comes so that all your attention will be on posing, catching the right expressions and so on.
  8. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    IMO, $400 isnt enough to get what is needed (leaving aside the experience issue) if you are the main wedding photographer. She should hire a pro, and have you serve as backup for candids.

    You will still need a flash - on bracket or just off camera - and/or bounceable and diffuser. You also need battery backup and quick recycle time. Probably an FL600R. That doesnt balance well on an EPM1. It is OK on an EP3. You could use a 300R on the EPM1, but have lots of batteries ready, as it only takes 2 AAA, and the recycle time isnt bad with fresh batteries. Start up time from cold, though, isnt great.

    If you stick with the lenses you have, again as the secondary photog, I would mount one 14mm on one body and the 45mm on the other. Snipe with the 45 and use the 14 for group shots.

    Why do you need ND filters for a January wedding? Is it outside in the snow? If its inside, you will not need ND filters. Or a CPL for that matter.
  9. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oh yes... I forgot to mention (as WT21 already said)..

    Option #1
    Try REALLY hard to get out of the commitment. Get them to hire a professional.

    Option #2
    Try REALLY hard to explain to them your limits and set their expectations as low as reasonably possible.
  10. SnapDuck

    SnapDuck Mu-43 Regular

    May 13, 2012
    N. California
    For the wedding service photos, you will need to be located far enough away from the bride/groom so that you are not interfering with the ceremony. The only way you can do this is with a medium to long zoom lens. The 14-42mm zoom you own might work, but it does seem to be on the short side. The last wedding I shot I used a 50-200mm and an FL50 flash.

    Considering your budget, I suggest that you consider the Olympus 40-150mm, or Lumix 45-200mm, or Lumix 45-175mm and purchase a strong flash unit such as the FL-600R. For the flash unit you will definitely want a diffuser to soften the flash output. If you buy this stuff used, then the cost will be around $600.
  11. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    I don't have any useful advice for wedding photography but with that kind of budget, I would strongly consider renting instead of buying. You could rent one or more lenses or other photo equipment for that budget - assuming your primary concern is the photo results versus ending up with a new lens at the end of the deal. You could easily rent some top shelf lenses like the Panasonic 12-35mm (and/or 35-100 if it's available by then) or Olympus 75mm and stay under budget.
    • Like Like x 2
    • Agree Agree x 1
  12. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    X2 on renting the gear; if it's a paying gig you can deduct the rental fee from taxes.

    Also - Check with the facility to see what the backup plan in case there is a last minute change of venue.

    Two years ago I was shooting a wedding in a lovely outdoor spot. Two hours before the event there was a deluge and the event was moved indoors. I had previously insisted on seeing the 'backup' site and thus had the gear and plan to make the move indoors at hand. Even if it is an indoors shoot, things can happen that force a last minute change (power failure, roof leaking, the list is endless). If something can go wrong it will, and at the worst possible moment. Have a backup plan in mind.

    Have a spare everything; the only irreplaceable item is the bride. (Grooms are known to be highly interchangeable, much like lenses...).

    Most importantly - relax and have fun. If you're not making a ton of money, or if your not having fun (or both!) then you have left the path of wisdom.


  13. alans

    alans Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 28, 2010
    As several people have already said, consider backing out and letting a pro do the job.

    That said, let's see what we have to go on.

    1.An afternoon wedding in January. Unless you're in the lower hemisphere(and you might be) by 4-5 pm you are going to be out of light.

    2.Ceremony and reception location. Unknown factors. What kind of lighting, windows etc do these sites have that will benefit available light?

    3.Size of wedding. Is it a small, intimate group that will allow close shooting or a huge mega-church that will not allow you close to the altar?

    4.Do you or they have a schedule, shot list, back-up plan for bad weather, equipment failure, etc.

    5.Rental is a great idea that will save you some money and get you more gear but if you are not familiar with the gear, it could be a loss.

    These are just a few things that come to mind and there are potentially more that may be important concerns. Sorry, but seeing that you are concerned about filters make me think that you might be off target for this.

    Still, IMO two good shooters could do a small wedding under the right conditions with the gear you list and do it very well.

  14. LeoS

    LeoS Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 6, 2012
    Are there any other photographers for the wedding?
    Did you/your sister offer to do the gig for the bride?
  15. Exposed

    Exposed Mu-43 Regular Subscribing Member

    Apr 13, 2011
    Central Washington State
    Randy dawson
    My first paying wedding was over 32 years ago. I had never done a wedding before this. I did my research, talked with people, looked at photos from other wedding photographers then shot the wedding using a 645 medium format camera that I had never used. I listened to the couple as to what they wanted and went about my work. The couple was happy with what I did. Today, I use Nikon gear and for the most part, use a D300, 18-70 kit lens and an sb-800 flash. I carry backup gear, double and triple everything.

    I have used my Olympus epl-2 with kit lens as a backup on weddings and found I was not happy with the way it performed, a bit to slow all around. I do not know much about the cameras you have but I would be ready for some missed shots.

    If you can get a flash and one lens in the 12-50 range, I would use that and forget about trying to change lenses. Or, 2 bodies with different lenses if you feel good about that. I like one body with a lens that covers a large range.

    I still shoot weddings today and still like the one lens idea. Trying to carry 2 bodies all day just wares a person out, not to mention the confusion you may have in trying to decide what to use.

    Hope this helps.

    • Like Like x 1
  16. chlau

    chlau Mu-43 Regular

    May 13, 2011
    Just a bit more to add:

    If you're the principal shooter n inexperienced, the money is best spent on batteries and SD cards. Make sure these are charged/formatted and tested to be so. Keep new n novel equipment to the minimum and use what you know. Hence two bodies with the 14-42 on one and a fast prime (45/1.8 ) on the other, so you can keep lens changing to a minimum. The only equipment that's a real game changer is a flash but you'll need a bit of practice and experience to make that work for you.

    The couple is (often) less interested in creativity and more so on whether critical moments are captured at the peak of the action (eg groom kissing bride after vows) so you're going to get hell if you fumble there. Also they'll love candids so the longer end of a lens would be in much use (eg dad having an emo moment). This is the reason why some advise you to tell the couple to hire a pro. Being a secondary shooter will free you from the pressure of missing moments and let you concentrate on shooting creatively.
  17. danng83

    danng83 Mu-43 Rookie

    Jun 13, 2011
    Sydney, Australia
    Thanks so much for all your replies. It is very helpful advice. Just to clarify the situation:
    I'm located in Sydney, Australia so there should be good light till around 7pm since it's in the middle of summer. The wedding will be in the morning at 10 and reception in the afternoon at around 1pm.
    The wedding is for a couple of college students so they have quite a restricted budget. My sister and I offered to help out shooting photos with the expectation that we aren't professionals but just to take some pics of their special day. I don't think they have very high expectations from us.
    I also have a friend with a canon 60D and a couple of lenses. Do you guys think it's better to go with that as the primary system instead?
    I was initially planning to do most of the photography without flash but I think the advice for using a flash is good.
    I can always decide not to go ahead and they can try and find someone else.

    Thanks for your advice again.
  18. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    It is never a good idea to take an unfamiliar camera into an important shoot, at least without a dependable backup.
  19. Paul Amyes

    Paul Amyes Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 27, 2011
    Hobart, Tasmania
    I'd rather go on assignment to a war zone than do a wedding. :smile:

    Seriously persuade your friend to hire a photographer and then offer to shoot casually as well. You really need to be confident of a variety of technical aspects and etiquet to do justice to a wedding. As a pro who has done his fair share I have to say it can be a nerve racking business if things don't go as scripted ie sudden changes due to inclemnet weather or limited access to venues etc. Good friends are extremely valuable and it is great that your friend has asked you and your sister to cover their big day, but let a pro do the hard grunt work and then you can enjoy yourselves while shooting supplementary shots and you all stay friends.

  20. chezznut

    chezznut Mu-43 Rookie

    Apr 6, 2010
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