Hi Steve,

I have got a couple of questions for you, one is more of a question of curiosity and the other is a technical question.

1.  I was best man at a wedding this week.  The groom had sent me screeds of information about the wedding beforehand and amongst what he sent was the photographer’s name.  I checked him out online and his work was really good.  I was looking forward to watching him work and of course was a little curious about what gear he used.  So you can imagine my surprise when he turned up with just two bodies, a Nikon D300 and a Nikon D70.  The D300 is a nice piece of kit.  The D70 is a perfectly competent camera for an amateur or keen enthusiast but I just would not have thought it to be a pro’s choice.  What surprised me even more was that the two lenses he had were Nikon zooms, and no, we’re not talking the very nice 24 – 70 here, but something else. They seemed to be in the 20 – 100 or so range but I don’t know for sure what lenses they were – but sure, not the 24 – 70 which is distinctive by its size.  After the wedding I went back to the guy’s site and looked at his photographs and when I paid really close attention, it seems to be this guy is a bit of a Photoshop guru.  So, my question here is….what do you make of this guy’s gear and how much of a part in the whole equation does Photoshop play for a pro?
 

2.  I read on a forum recently that some of the ISO settings in my camera are not real, but processed and I should avoid using them as they are essentially made up with the camera “faking” the ISO.  It was said that 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 and 6400 were real, but those in between ISOs – which I use a lot, like 2000, 2500, 4000 and 5000 –produce an image with less dynamic range.  I personally have not noticed this but that is not to say that it is not the case.  Do you have any thoughts on this?

 

Cheers

Stick

 

Hi Stick -

These are some great questions!

Question 1:  This is an interesting question.  I remember after my first two years of shooting weddings I was a guest at a friends wedding and the photographer who charged 4x more than my rates showed up with a cheap Olympus E3 and low end flash.  The pictures were terrible.. but in his market he was considered inexpensive and had all the work he could handle.

Wedding photography is one of the first areas an amateur takes on professionally, yet it should be the last.  They buy a $500 DSLR, a few business cards, and advertise themselves as wedding photographers.  Some become successful, but most barely get by and end up leaving the market.  In truth, wedding photography is one of the most challenging assignments I've ever had for a variety of technical reasons.  Thai weddings are the absolute most difficult, which is why Thai photographers don't do them.. or won't do them live.  I might be the only person in Bangkok willing to photograph a wedding live.

With all that said, if using decent lighting, or shooting outdoors in good light, it's entirely possible to shoot a nice wedding with low-end equipment.  In fact, most wedding photographers out there do just that.

Where the differences become apparent between gear is when specific requests are made such as a "no-flash" wedding where fast lenses and good bodies are mandatory.  Did you know that over 90% or the famous Canon 200mm F1.8L lenses went to Korean photographers during the "wedding boom" where couples would spend a small fortune on their weddings?  They all wanted the best quality, low light, etc.. and would pay 10,000-20,000 USD's for the service.. so Canon ended up shipping most of these great lenses to S. Korea where the demand for them was..  It's where I got mine.. :)

Also, having great gear doesn't mean you can shoot great weddings.  Like I said, weddings (done properly) take the most skill and present the most challenges to a photographer of any other genre I can think of.

Photoshop.  Let me preface this by saying 'real pros' want to do as little post processing as possible.  Post processing takes time and time is money, so why spend time post processing if you don't need to?  If you're lacking in skills you'll be spending lots of time post processing just to make your work acceptable.  Many use heavy handed Photoshop techniques that fool many into thinking the pictures are good, but they're really a type of mask. 

With that said post processing is very important in any kind of photography, but wedding photography tends to see a lot of it.  Most couples looking for a wedding photographer are young and not a good judge at all of quality photography.. and often go for gimmicks and cheap Photoshop tricks.  This was a source of constant surprise to me during my time shooting weddings in the states.  If the couple were paying the bills themselves they'd look for the cheapest regardless, but when the parents were paying they'd obligate the parents to huge fees to get gimmicky looks.  And with that said, there are an awful lot of Photoshop plug-ins that provide these effects popular with weddings and those who can't do.. buy plug-ins.. As you know plug-ins for Photoshop automate certain "looks" and "themes" and even a novice can use then with five minutes of instruction.

Okay, with ALL that said weddings are more about marketing, and knowing your market, than photography skills.  I've said this many times before about professional photography, it's 90% business skills and 5% photography skills and 5% luck..  With weddings it more like 98% business skills.  Impulse buying, pleas to emotions, various people paying, etc.. all add to the minefield of wedding photography.

 

Question 2:  This depends on the camera.  I can tell you from personal testing that ISO 50 (you can enabled "extended ISO's for ISO 50) on our Canon's produces slightly less image quality overall than ISO 100.  Many people initially thought ISO 50 would provide lower noise than ISO 100.  It doesn't.  Your cameras "native ISO" (with Canon's this is ISO 100, and Nikon's ISO 200) will provide the best image quality.  The in betweens.. I just don't know.  I'll watch for more information on this question and get back to you.  I can tell you this, most pros will only use 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, etc.. because pros think in "stops" and it makes things easier.  The only people using the in betweens are those using "Auto ISO" in the newer bodies or P or green box mode in old or new cameras..  I'll keep an eye out for this information and bring it up next time I talk to my CPS (Canon Professional Services) representative.  I caution everyone to not put much stock to what they read on the web unless it's from very reliable sources, and repeated on other reliable sources.

Steve

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