The second episode of the little series about my experiences shooting my first wedding as designated photographer (read part 1 about taking the formal wedding portraits) is about documenting the ceremony in church.
Shooting a wedding ceremony has its own challenges. First and foremost it is the simple fact that everything happens exactly once. If you miss a moment or screw up the shot, you won’t get another chance. That made me think a lot about what gear and settings to use. I knew there would be no time to experiment during the live ceremony and I had to decide on the basic settings beforehand.
The week prior to the wedding I took Big Boy to the church and used him as life size model for some test shots. Pretty quickly I decided on using the mZuiko 12-100mm F/4 on the Olympus OM-D E-M1X and the mZuiko 17mm F/1.2 on the Olympus PEN-F. I used the zoom for the close-ups of the couple while sitting stationary in their chairs in front of the altar. For everything else I used the superb 17mm F/1.2. The lens is fast enough to shoot at rather low ISO and with still fast enough shutter speeds to freeze any motion of the couple walking down the aisle. Also, the image quality is so good it allows for ample cropping and still getting photographs good enough for large prints.
The test shots in the church a week prior to the wedding really paid off. I was sure I get good results with the settings used so I could focus on composition and documenting the event.
Another part of my preparations was to clarify with the bridal couple what images they wanted to get from the ceremony and to explain my approach. That I wanted to sit on the side of the apse, shooting their walk down the aisle from the front, and also the ceremony itself from my position in front and to the side of them. Essentially I was sitting in front next to the priest, with whom I clarified my role as designated photographer and my plans beforehand as well. I also made clear I would not use flash and shoot in silent mode on both camera bodies, using the electronic shutter of my Olympus cams, being as unobtrusive as possible.
The ceremony went by in a breeze. After shooting the wide angle shots of the couple walking down the aisle and the congregation sitting behind them in the old village church, I focused on taking some portraits and detail shots capturing the emotions of the moment. Big Boy had my old Nikon D7100 and took a few shots from up the balcony, The Significant Other documented the ceremony from the viewpoint of the congregation with her iPhone.
As with the formal portraits, also to capture the ceremony I decided against using a flash and relying solely on available light and my fast lenses. Using a flash in church would be way too intrusive and thus essentially is a no go.
Moreover, I feel the atmosphere is much better captured working with the soft light in the church. Feedback from the audience and the bridal couple was that no one really paid attention to me shooting from the apse. Not even when I occasionally left my chair to show some frontal images of the couple while they were sitting in their chairs, trying to capture the ambience of the room behind them.
When the ceremony was finished, during the last choral, I left my place in the apse to head towards the door. From there I could photograph the newlyweds walking down the aisle, following the children dropping rose petals to the ground.
Even though I did not know what would be happening outside the church doors upon the exit of the bridal couple, I knew there would be something I needed to make sure I had to capture.
Dialing down the ISO and switching to P-Mode, I retreated through the open doors to capture the couple passing the flag parade of a group of soccer referees that were waiting on front of the church. This was a special surprise to the bride and groom who are refs themselves (our godchild even has FIFA status and is refereeing international women’s matches).
Then came a big surprise for everyone (also to the designated photographer). The groom had organized a horse-drawn carriage to take the freshly married couple from the church to the location of the wedding reception.
Good for me was knowing the area, as it is close to where we live. I had Big Boy driving the car, heading the procession of cars following the carriage and using road bends to take photographs. Then we took a different road and and waited ahead for some images of the passing carriage. Don’t they look like a veritable royal couple?
After successfully shooting the formal wedding portraits, also photographing the ceremony in church went very well. After determining the settings I needed to dial in during my prior test shooting with Big Boy, it was more a matter of documenting the decisive moments, something I’m totally comfortable with from my Street Photography. I managed to produce some beautiful photographs, that captured the emotions of the moment. And put some big smiles on the faces of the happy couple when they got to see them.
Stay tuned for the last part of this mini series about wedding photography with images and my experiences from the party.
Wish you a great Tuesday!