In Depth Wedding Reportage – #1 Making Preparations

Hi and welcome to another blog post about wedding reportage!

This time I want to give you an in depth overview about making a wedding reportage.
I will start this series of articles with telling you how to prepare your wedding reportage.

Preparing a wedding reportage is lots of work in general. After you received a job from a client to shoot a wedding you will have enough time to contrive everything well because the client will send you a request well in advance, normally.

A wedding is a sequential procedure so you need to know when you have to be where. Ask the client for a timetable or a listing of all of the important happenings on that day. This timetable may change a lot until the wedding day, but it is very important to you to get an overview of that day as soon as possible because you have to plan everything well and you need chronological indications to arrange how long to stay for the preparations of the bride and the groom or how much time you will have to get from the church to the celebrating location etc. As soon as you got the final detailed timetable go into detail for your arrangements.

There are three main topics of a wedding day:

#1: Preparations of the bride and the groom
#2: The marriage ceremony
#3: The celebration

If you are doing a full day reportage you normally cover all of those three topics. That means to arrange each of this topics in detail.

Take a blank sheet and a pen and start with #1, the preparations.

Write down everything you can think of that has to do with the preparation of the bride and the groom – the location, the address, the time, the possible procedure, how to interact to create an easy atmosphere, the lighting (available light, flashguns or a studio flash with a softbox, on camera or off camera flash, gelling etc.), which lenses to use, the camera settings to stay flexible for unexpected happenings, how to transfer the mood and atmosphere during the preparation, important details to shoot and so on.
Of course you may not have a tangible knowledge about the scenery where the preparations will be, but go through the most possible situations and search a solution for each so that you are prepared for any situation and do not have to struggle with an unexpected situation like a room with a wooden ceiling or colored walls with mirrors on it etc. Also think of how to draw attention to those who are involved. Think of the light you want to create – backlight, sidelight, dead frontal etc.
Set a fixed amount of time for every stay. For example 60 min for the bride and 30 min for the groom.
Think of how to start, for example with an overview image of the scenery, than capturing the work of the make-up artist, capturing emotions of the bride, shoot the dress, shoot details etc.

You should also make you an own timetable with details about when you want to shoot what and whom – send it to the client.

The things you should think of for #2 and #3 are similar to the ones in #1. Just go through the procedure like in #1.

At least you need all addresses and phone numbers of the locations and the people who are involved like the witnesses to a marriage, the church, the priest, the bridal couple of course, the catering etc. Think of the tasks these folks have on that day and get in contact with them. Ask them for their purposes. Ask the priest for permission to shoot the marriage ceremony from the first row etc. Think of all possibilities and how these folks could help you to get the best images possible that document this special day in the (very) best way. So, this is a professional approach, of course. And it fits to my slogan: “Striving for the better picture everyday.”
While others are working sloppy and do not care about arranging everything well ahead but shooting straight ahead without a plan, I contrast from them because I care about a solid preparation to be prepared in the best way to be a step ahead of unexpected situations, to keep cool when it gets stressful so that I am still able to concentrate myself on the main things: Catching the Moment and make great images that match to the clients expectations.

The evening before you sally to the wedding it is time to pack your camera bag.

What you are taking with you depends on the effort you want to make.
For a standard reportage I am using a camera, f2.8 lenses from 11-200mm, tele-converters and a flashgun plus gels and filters.
If there are portraits to shoot you would also need a light-stand and a softbox or an umbrella, a reflector or so. If you plan to install a remote camera you would also need SuperClamps, a MagicArm and a wireless trigger. Lots of stuff you have to carry. An easy way to carry all that stuff is to use a trolley case for the big stuff and a camera bag like the Lowepro Stealth Reporter bag for your lenses, flash, camera.

After packing your bag, check your car: Oil, tire pressure, water. Clean/wash your car – The first impression counts!

Program your GPS with all locations in chronological order and print all routes, too.

Finally, pack your clothing if you have to stay overnight. A suit/pantsuit for the wedding reportage, casual wear for the journey and a pajama to sleep well after an exhausting day of wedding reportage. ūüôā

Go to bed early¬†and do not eat spicy food the day before if you do not wish to spend 80% of the wedding day in the toilette! ūüėČ Finally, start your journey early enough to prevent traffic jams and have a solid breakfast before.

I hope that article helps you a bit to prepare your wedding reportage.

Next month I will post the 2nd article of this wedding reportage series that shows some “behind the lens” action.¬†


A 2nd Shooter Wedding Reportage

Hi and welcome to another Blog post!

This time it is about being a 2nd Shooter at a wedding reportage.

This was my first wedding reportage as a 2nd Shooter and it was absolutely exciting. Maybe you are asking yourself what the advantages of being a 2nd Shooter are. Well, there are lots: You gain experience of how you have to organize your reportage, how to handle time and communication with those who are involved or just to get an imagination of a wedding procedure, you also can assist and learn how to take portraits and group photos and you can give it a try to shoot a wedding without any stress and obligation – just shoot for yourself and get a feeling of shooting weddings and learn from the 1st Shooter. That is the sense of being a 2nd Shooter: Learn from the best.

In my case, I was an assistant of Kae Hall. Kae is a professional wedding photographer and she has a modern bright, clean and timeless shooting style. To me it was a pleasure to spent one day with her as a 2nd Shooter. Thanks Kae, I learned a lot about shooting weddings on that day!

Preparing the reportage

It was a 6 hour reportage that covered four parts:

#1: The preparation of the bride and the groom
#2: The ceremony
#3: The celebration location
#4: Bridal couple and group photos
The day before I packed my camera bag with the following gear:

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Nikon D3
–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Nikon D200 (Backup, Remote)
–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† 11-16/2.8
–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† 24-70/2.8
–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† 70-200/2.8
–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† 2x TC
–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Nikon SB-800 Speedlights
–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Gels
–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ND-Grad-Filter

I would say that this is the standard equipment for any reportage I do.
The Speedlights help me to get a clean and professional looking image quality. I always like to interconnect two Speedlights for better light quality and also half the recycle time.  The ND-Grad-Filter helps me to get rich in contrast when it is impossible to use Speedlights. Finally, gels give me the opportunity to stylize an image in terms of color. For example, a CTO helps me to create a warm light instead of a typical cool flashlight of 5000K.

On the next day I drove to Kae’s studio which is located in Alsfeld. Before we hit the road we get over the arrangement table that shows all stations that we would have to pass on that day.

#1: The preparation of the bride and the groom

At first we arrived at the bride to shoot the preparations.
As a male shooter you have to be very sensible here because there are moments where you should better leave the room ‚Äď for example when the bride gets dressed. I tell you that because maybe you are pore over your shooting so you would not recognize such moments. This would reflect discredit on you as a great photographer.

So, here are some shots from the bridal preparations. For every station there is set a certain time that is available to get all images that are needed. If there is time left you can use it for some more experimental stuff.

(Notice that every image I took is from the 2nd Shooter view! This perspective is very passive. The 1st Shooter perspective would be much more ‚Äúactive‚ÄĚ.)

Preparing the bride

In the image above I tried to give an overview of the preparation and to capture some emotions. You can see the bride’s dress in the background on the far left. In the foreground the make-up artist who concentrates on making up the bride well and the bride herself who seems to be engrossed in thought.

The bride’s dress in detail

Always use the natural available light. If there is a curtain in front of the window like here, it is your lucky day! Use it as a diffuser to create a very soft light. Here it creates a dreamy atmosphere in combination with the transparent and milky cloth of the dress.

The bride surrounded by her bridesmates

Preparing the bride

These are nice shots of the bridesmates that help the bride with her dress. For those I used a 11-16/2.8 to get an overview of the scenery in this small room. To push the light quality I used a Speedlight with a dome diffuser and a WB of 5000K to create a daylight quality. I bounced the light off the ceiling.

After shooting the preparation of the bride we drove to the next station the preparation of the groom.

Preparing the groom

Finally, it is important to give an overview of the location in the beginning and than go into detail. Take images of the preparation and always look out for some interesting details and if there is some time left try some experimental stuff. You can also arrange some of your photos – just ask for permission to put the scenery in proper light.

#2: The ceremony

After the preparations we went to the church in a village nearby. It is important to arrive there before the bridal couple does. When you arrive, also take an overview image of the location/church. Maybe you can shoot the arrival of the bride in a special car or something like that.

The arrival of the bridal couple

I made this image before the bridal couple entered the church. Here you can easily capture great emotions of both.
For this image I used the ND-Grad-Filter to darken the sky to accentuate the drama of the moment – “The big step”.

The ceremony

During the ceremony it maybe not allowed to take pictures all the time, but only at special moments. Sometimes you also may not have the go to shoot in front of the altar. For these situations I like to rig up a remote camera. Here it was not possible to install one so we had to shoot from the far end of the church. To get closer I used the 70-200/2.8 plus a 2x TC. That extended the focal length to a maximum of 400/5.6. I activated the VR and set an ISO of 5000 for this image.

Potential remote camera view in front of the altar

This is an example for a potential remote camera view in front of the altar when it is impossible to get there on yourself because of disturbing the ceremony too much.

After the ceremony

After the ceremony the tension falls off the bridal couple and it is time to celebrate. Right after the marriage there will be also the congratulation which is very hard to capture because of the hubbub. It is impossible to capture every congratulation to the bridal couple so concentrate on the most important persons only.

#3: The celebration location

After the church marriage the next station was the ceremony location.
Capture the arrival of the bridal couple and take an overview image of the location. Important happenings here are the oration(s), the first cut of the cake and so on. Just watch out for great moments and details.

The ceremony location

Cutting the cake

#4: Bridal couple and group photos

Finally, we proceeded to the couple and group shots.
Here it is important to find an interesting and easy positioning. You should prepare this before the shot so you surely know how the image should look in the end.

The bridal couple

It is also good to make a final shot that closes the reportage in a nice way. Therefor I used the following shot where everyone flew heart-shaped balloons and attached the best wishes to them.

Best wishes

Well, that is it. My first wedding reportage as a 2nd Shooter. It was a lot of fun and I am very excited of my own upcoming wedding reportage as a 1st shooter in July. ūüôā

Hope this was fun to read and you got an impression of shooting a wedding. I really hope so.


Unser kleines Dorf-Jahrhunderthochwasser

Manchmal muss man schnell reagieren und das ist oft nicht einfach, erst recht nicht, wenn man selbst betroffen ist.
Bei mir liegt die Kamera generell griffbereit auf dem Tisch, so auch am 05.06.2011. Wir hatten zuvor ein kr√§ftiges Gewitter mit Blitzeinschl√§gen im Umkreis von unter 300 Metern. Irgendwann fiel dann erwartungsgem√§√ü auch der Strom aus. Als verw√∂hntes Kind der Generation Y weiss man zwar noch etwas unterhaltsames in Zeiten ohne Internet anzufangen, aber weil ich so unendlich m√ľde war, hab ich mich schlafen gelegt.
Inmitten grausamster Tr√§ume wurde ich pl√∂tzlich von Rufen geweckt: “Im Dorf ist Hochwasser, alles √ľberflutet, das musst du fotografieren!”
In diesem Moment bin ich von den √ľblichen kleineren Wasserstr√∂men ausgegangen, die von den Kan√§len nicht mehr kompensiert werden k√∂nnen. Deshalb hab ich mich erstmal gem√ľtlich angezogen und bin anschlie√üend zum K√ľchenfenster gegangen (ich residiere im 2. OG), um einen Blick nach drau√üen zu werfen. In diesem Moment wusste ich nicht, ob ich nicht doch noch in den F√§ngen eines Albtraums war – eine noch nie dagewesene Wassermasse hatte sich den Weg √ľber anliegende Felder vor unserem Grundst√ľck gebahnt. Es sah so aus, als w√ľrden wir am Mississippi leben und ich br√§uchte nur einige Schritte zu gehen, um mein aus angeschwemmten Holzst√§mmen gebautes Holzflo√ü ins Wasser zu schieben, um die genialen Abendteuer des Tom Sawyer und Huckleberry Finn zu durchleben. Der pure Wahnsinn – in diesem Augenblick zumindest.

Nachdem ich mir die Augen gerieben hatte und um die Realität dieses Ereignisses  wusste, hab ich in windeseile mein Equipment zusammengerafft und bin aus dem Haus gerannt.
Es war bereits 21:00 Uhr durch und die D√§mmerung in vollem Gange, deswegen hatte ich die Bef√ľrchtung, dass ich nicht schnell genug √ľberall vor Ort sein k√∂nnte, um noch mit einigerma√üen gutem Licht zu fotografieren. Ich entschied mich f√ľr die Verwendung eines ND-Grad Filters, um die Szenerie entsprechend hell ablichten zu k√∂nnen, ohne einen ausgewei√üten Himmel zu bekommen, der die Dramatik der Situation hervorragend betonen sollte – wolkenverhangen, d√ľster.
Ein Nikon SB-800 war nat√ľrlich auch Pflichtbestandteil, sollte es f√ľr die Dokumentation diverser Rettungsma√ünahmen der Feuerwehr und Anwohner schon zu dunkel sein – was es definitiv sein w√ľrde, bis ich ankommen w√ľrde.
Nachdem ich die Haust√ľr ge√∂ffnet hatte, entgegnete mir ein stechender Geruch aus Heiz√∂l, G√ľlle und Gummi. Die Nebelschwaden √ľber dem Wasser verst√§rkten den grauenhaften Eindruck. Das Wasser hatte Heiz√∂lkeller geflutet und Heiz√∂l ausgeschwemmt. Die Folgen f√ľr die Natur waren mir in diesem Moment auch allgegenw√§rtig …

Als ich im Dorf ankam wurde mir bewusst, dass ich keinen gro√üartigen Spielraum haben w√ľrde. Das Wasser umgab uns hier, so dass ein Durchkommen in andere Ortsteile nicht m√∂glich war (Verdammt, h√§tte ich doch nur dieses grandiose Tom Sawyer Flo√ü gehabt …).

Mein Vater und ich liefen, nachdem im Dorf eh kein Durchkommen war, in Richtung Wald, um evtl. einen anderweitigen Ausweg aus dem Dorf zu finden. Was wir √ľber die ganze Strecke hin vorfanden war – wie sollte es anders sein: Wasser. Selbst ein verwirrter Autofahrer, der dringend in die Stadt musste, kam uns in seinem 5er BMW entgegen – nicht gerade der bevorzugte Wagen f√ľr abendliche Gel√§ndefahrten in einem Hochwassergebiet. Kleiner Spa√ü. Es gab kein Entkommen, wir waren vom Wasser umschlossen. Punktum.

Als wir gegen 23 Uhr wieder im Dorf ankamen, waren die Aufräumarbeiten bereits in vollem Gange. Einige Feuerwehren der umgebenen Ortschaften hatten mit Hilfe von Pumpen den Wasserspiegel soweit absenken können, dass ihre Fahrzeuge das Wasser passieren konnten.

Pumpen liefen √ľberall. Und das noch bis sp√§t in die Nacht. Gegen 3.00 Uhr fr√ľh verstummten sie schlie√ülich und entlie√üen die betroffenen Anwohner in eine d√ľstere, schw√ľle und nach Diesel riechend, stille Nacht. Ihr Schlaf d√ľrfte wohl alles andere als geruhsam gewesen sein, an diesem historischen Tag im Juni 2011.

F√ľr mich hatte dieser Abend allerdings auch etwas Gutes zur Folge: Ich habe meine ersten Fotos an die dpa verkauft und kam an den Tagen danach kaummehr aus dem Durchsuchen nach meinen Bildern in den Medien heraus – plus: unser Dorf war jetzt medial etwas bekannter.
Das zeigt mal wieder, wie nahe Freud und Leid im Leben beisammen liegen.