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Thread: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

  1. #1
    kaneohebud's Avatar
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    Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    I’m seeking some help on photographing some models in wedding gowns. This is a volunteer effort for a local charity. They will be publishing the photos in a few small newspapers.

    My experience has been primarily in wildlife and landscapes so dealing with the white dresses in natural light will be a new challenge. The shoot will be outdoors an hour before to a half hour after sunset.

    My equipment is a Canon 7D with a EF70-300 f/4-5.6L IS USM. The only lighting I have is a Canon Speedlite 430EX II.

    I would deeply appreciate any tips you can share.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 16th August 2011 at 01:26 AM.

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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Bud,

    My first concern would be my equipment. Is one camera going to be enough, do you have backup batteries? Do you have enough memory cards to hold your photos? Will the lenses you listed be adequate for the job?

    The next concern would be backgrounds for the shoot. Will they compete, complement or contrast your subjects. By the way,which is your primary subject is it the models or the dresses? Where will the sun be positioned in relationship to the models? Will you have time to scout out the area and perhaps use a stand in model?

    Just a few things to consider before you even get to portraiture.

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    kaneohebud's Avatar
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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Thanks for your quick reply John.

    Yes, I have back-ups of everything. Back-up camera, multiple memory cards, back-up (charged) batteries, tripods, bounce screens, etc.

    I will be doing a practice shoot with a stand-in model the day before at the same time as the shoot. The setting is tropical with the setting sun at my back, highlighting the models. Primary subjects are the dresses. I am sensitive to the tropical foliage to not have palm fronds coming out models' ears and the like. I have 20 years experience as a professional model so am comfortable with the the set-up.

    I'm mostly concerned with shutter speed and aperture thoughts to keep the brilliant whites from washing out the photos. With the lens I have to use (my EF28-135 is at Canon for warranty repair for lens creep) I doubt I'll get much bokeh but may be able to blur the background in post processing.

    If others more knowledgeable than I think it's wise, I could rent a better portrait lens just for this shoot. Looking for recommendations there too; remembering the 1.6 crop factor of the 7D.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 16th August 2011 at 01:27 AM.

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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Rent a fast lens, Bud. A 70-200mm f/2.8 would be enough. Better yet, couple it with a 24-70mm f/2.8 for awesome duo. For me I would stick with one f/stop to make every shot consistent, say f/4 or f/5.6 for the fast lens. Enable the "Highlight Tone Priority" on your Canon camera to prevent over-blowing your highlights. Sounds like a very challenging shoot for you. Good luck.

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    kaneohebud's Avatar
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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Thanks for the good advice, Jiro. I'm following it. I reserved the 70-200 f/2.8 IS and the 24-70 f/2.8 from the local lens rental place. I hate to go into a project without the proper tools. Thanks for the tips on f/ stop and HTP too. I'll post a picture or two if I like the results.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 16th August 2011 at 01:27 AM.

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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Since you are in it, rent a remote wireless flash triggering device so you have more creativity with your flash. It should be a combo or a transmitter/receiver so you can position your flash off camera. Remember the guide SAAF - SHUTTER controls the AMBIENT light, APERTURE controls the FLASH lighting. Don't forget to take a shot first with a gray card. That will set your white balance right. I'm already excited to see your shots.

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    kaneohebud's Avatar
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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    More good advice, thank you. I'll see if they have a remote flash trigger. I have a wireless remote shutter release but don't think it will trigger the 430EX II off camera. I'll check with them on that at the rental store. I have some gold/silver reflectors I can also use to bounce light to keep the models from staring directly into the sun.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 16th August 2011 at 01:27 AM.

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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Bud, ideal for wedding dresses is off cam flash where you can show the details of the dresses. It create that shadow which is ideal showing small details like the beads and seams. The on cam flash just don't cut it(flat images and no detail). I don't think you need fast lens since your in a controlled lighting situation. Your 70-300 lens should be okey as long you have space to move back.

    Ps. I think Jiro mention what I said already but hope this still help.

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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Quote Originally Posted by jiro View Post
    Enable the "Highlight Tone Priority" on your Canon camera to prevent over-blowing your highlights.
    Cool, I didn't know my camera did that
    Maybe I should read the manual again?

    I wish I had a store nearby where I could rent one of them fancy lenses

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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Quote Originally Posted by jiro View Post
    Don't forget to take a shot first with a gray card.
    Believe it or not, this is one of those occasions where it's not that important ... primarily because the models will be wearing a gigantic "grey card" (assuming that the wedding dresses are white)

    Enable the "Highlight Tone Priority" on your Canon camera to prevent over-blowing your highlights.
    Unfortunately, it doesn't do anything if one is shooting RAW.

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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Hi Bud,

    Your biggest challenge is going to be using the light; that late in the day the colour temperature of the sunlight is probably going to be dropping, but a "naked" flash from your 430EX II is still going to be daylight balanced at 5500K - so the further into the shoot you get - using both light sources - the more issues you're likely to face with mixed temperature lighting.

    If you have assistant(s), I'd suggest getting a reflector - at least it'll reflect the same temperature light onto your subjects. The 430EX II on camera may be useful for a bit of fill light, but you need to be careful, as in addition to the mixed temperatures, it's also a very harsh lighting source, which don't produce flattering photos (especially in closeups). Something like a 1/4 or 1/2 cut CTO gel over the front of the flash may help as well, if you have time to source any.

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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Colin,
    Is there another way to shoot other than RAW
    I did a test after reading your comment about Highlight tonal priority, and my camera shows blown out portions of images on image playback (shooting rAW). Am I missing something?

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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Hi Brian,

    Quote Originally Posted by speedneeder View Post
    Is there another way to shoot other than RAW
    Yes, but in Bud's situation, I'd be wanting as bigger safety margin as possible, as it's likely he's going to be getting "higher than normal" ranges of contrast, in which case he's going to need to "dig deep" into the safety margin that the JPEG just doesn't have.

    I did a test after reading your comment about Highlight tonal priority, and my camera shows blown out portions of images on image playback (shooting rAW). Am I missing something?
    Image playback doesn't show the image from the captured RAW file - it only shows the image from the in-camera generated JPEG, so yes (if you want to do a quick test, put the camera into a B&W mode, and shoot RAW ... the image on the review screen will be B&W, but the RAW file will be full colour, as per always). About the only time the changes are carried through is when one uses DPP as ones preferred RAW conversion program; even then, the changes aren't applied to the RAW data - they're only included as metadata tags ... the difference is that DPP honours them whereas most other converters ignore all but the WB tag.

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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Ok I'm not sure what you just said, but when I review an image in color with the highlights thing turned on it shows blown out areas as blinking areas.

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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Quote Originally Posted by speedneeder View Post
    Ok I'm not sure what you just said, but when I review an image in color with the highlights thing turned on it shows blown out areas as blinking areas.
    Yes - that's the (blown) highlight alert feature -- that's different to HTP (Highlight Tone priority) though. Regardless though, if you shoot RAW or if you shoot JPG - what you see on the camera is ALWAYS a JPEG.

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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Believe it or not, this is one of those occasions where it's not that important ... primarily because the models will be wearing a gigantic "grey card" (assuming that the wedding dresses are white)
    It may not be important but given the circumstances I'd say it doesn't hurt to take one shot for reference. As what you have said, there could possibly a mix lighting coming from the natural light and flash so I think it would also help Bud in some small way. Change the venue and you change the color temp of the light source.

    "Enable the "Highlight Tone Priority" on your Canon camera to prevent over-blowing your highlights. "

    Unfortunately, it doesn't do anything if one is shooting RAW.
    You may be right on this one, Colin. I have David Ziser's book "Captured by the Light - The Essential Guide to Creating Extraordinary Wedding Photography" and I think David shoots JPEG 100% of the time. However, aside from the technical explanation regarding the camera's screen only showing a jpeg output of the captured data I had never had an issue with my antique Nikon D70 with the highlights ON and I am shooting RAW 100% of the time. Once I see blinkers on the shot I took, a reduction on the exposure would give me reliable results comparing these 2 successive shots when I opened them up in Lightroom. I am not so sure about Canon cameras but I am pretty sure that David Ziser is a Canon guy shooting with both a 5D Mk II and a 7D. I merely recommended his setup since I both have the video of the training and the book about shooting weddings. A full explanation and benefit for Canon shooters to activate this feature on the camera whether you are a RAW or pure JPEG shooter can be found in his book at pages 18 -25. Cheers.

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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Quote Originally Posted by jiro View Post
    It may not be important but given the circumstances I'd say it doesn't hurt to take one shot for reference. As what you have said, there could possibly a mix lighting coming from the natural light and flash so I think it would also help Bud in some small way. Change the venue and you change the color temp of the light source.
    Hi Willie,

    I don't disagree -- the BIG problem is though that 1 hour before sunset to 1/2 hour after, the colour temp will be changing by the minute (literally). In all seriousness, for white balancing, all that's needed is a spectrally neutral reference - the actual degree of reflection doesn't matter - so if it's a white wedding dress then that's pretty much as good as it gets.

    You may be right on this one, Colin. I have David Ziser's book "Captured by the Light - The Essential Guide to Creating Extraordinary Wedding Photography" and I think David shoots JPEG 100% of the time.
    He used to, but now he shoots RAW (he finally saw the light!)

    I should add that David likes to shoot a lot of twilight shots (as do I) -- and (unfortunately) the key to good results is having avalable "kick-ass" lighting ... none of which Bud is going to have access to, nor time to learn even if he does ... so I suspect it's going to be a difficult assignment.

    However, aside from the technical explanation regarding the camera's screen only showing a jpeg output of the captured data I had never had an issue with my antique Nikon D70 with the highlights ON and I am shooting RAW 100% of the time. Once I see blinkers on the shot I took, a reduction on the exposure would give me reliable results comparing these 2 successive shots when I opened them up in Lightroom. I am not so sure about Canon cameras but I am pretty sure that David Ziser is a Canon guy shooting with both a 5D Mk II and a 7D. I merely recommended his setup since I both have the video of the training and the book about shooting weddings. A full explanation and benefit for Canon shooters to activate this feature on the camera whether you are a RAW or pure JPEG shooter can be found in his book at pages 18 -25. Cheers.
    I tend to use the blinkies as an indicator of over-exposure too (even when shooting RAW), but as I mentioned to Brian, having HTP on or off doesn't have any bearing on the RAW data that's captured ... it's just that RAW has about a 2 stop safety margin on highlights anyway (assuming a normal range of colour temperatures). About all HTP mode does on a Canon when one is shooting RAW is disable ISO 100 capability.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 16th August 2011 at 03:03 AM.

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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    What? Disable iso 100 capability? I'll have to check but I'm pretty sure that's what i did my 'test' at!

    I'm thinking the blinkies would be helpful for detecting over exposures when shooting RAW, though perhaps being slightly blown is recoverable? I will have to do some more tests tomorrow...

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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Quote Originally Posted by speedneeder View Post
    What? Disable iso 100 capability? I'll have to check but I'm pretty sure that's what i did my 'test' at!
    Hi Brian,

    I'm not sure if you're talking about the highlight alert, or Highlight Tone Priority (they're not particularly related). You can use the highlight alert feature at any ISO, but HTP disables base ISO (and expanded ISOs), unless Canon have made a change recently and not told me!


    I'm thinking the blinkies would be helpful for detecting over exposures when shooting RAW, though perhaps being slightly blown is recoverable? I will have to do some more tests tomorrow...
    Yes - quite correct, but again, nothing to do with Highlight Tone Priority.

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    Re: Shooting wedding dresses - need help

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    He used to, but now he shoots RAW (he finally saw the light!)
    Hahaha! All the while I thought he'd really stick on shooting only Jpegs. Just kidding.

    I should add that David likes to shoot a lot of twilight shots (as do I) -- and (unfortunately) the key to good results is having avalable "kick-ass" lighting ... none of which Bud is going to have access to, nor time to learn even if he does ... so I suspect it's going to be a difficult assignment.
    I think this has been the norm nowadays. Killing the ambient light by 1 - 1.5 stops and then light the subject with the flash and some kickers. For me, If I would be given this assignment I would choose a big indoor venue with lots of window lights and good, big space. I would use natural light as my main and then use an extra flash for rim lighting. I can change the way the window lights hits the subject by simply changing my position and the orientation of the model. A big white reflector would then give me the fill lights that I need to open up the shadow areas. I don't have any problems with the background since a wide aperture will blur it out for me. To be more creative, I could reverse the scene and use the big window light as my rim lighting and use a big reflector or a softbox as my main light. Since the assignment is to showcase the wedding gowns, I don't think it is too critical to use too many different locations hence my idea of sticking to one venue and just be creative on the shots. Another very good option would be to book a church with very good facade then use the interior for some dramatic shots. Limiting the venue would be the trick here so he can concentrate more on his concept and artistic shots.

    Here's a screen capture from a book that I have. This featured an image made by Jeff and Julia Woods using window light. The lighting was subtle but very artistic to my taste.

    Shooting wedding dresses - need help
    Last edited by jiro; 16th August 2011 at 04:27 AM.

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