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Photography Question 
Kelly Barta

Wedding and Graduation Pictures

I am taking the pictures for a wedding in September (and one next summer) and recently I was asked to take graduation pictures for a friend. I own a Nikon N80 w/ a Tamron 28-300mm lens. I have a couple questions- please be patient!:)

For the wedding I will be taking indoor and outdoor pictures (the indoors won't be very well lit) and the grad. pics will be outdoors. OK, what should I use for film? I want to test everything out beforehand- any suggestions? I usually just use Kodak Max 400, but I want to try something else. I want them to look as professional as possible!! I know I need another flash- any help there? I'm very confident in my photo-taking abilities- I've done photo sessions with kids and engagement pictures, but nothing really 'formal'. I guess I just want to make the best out of what I have! Does anyone have any creative ideas for poses for both situations? Any advice would be wonderful!! Sorry for the bombardment of questions- I'm just excited to do this! Thanks!

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6/24/2003 11:58:52 AM

doug Nelson   Good choice of a camera. Please get a 50mm lens for it. It will handle 95% of your shots for these events. In a group shot when you don't have room stand back far enough to get them in, use the wide end of that zoom, as long as you don't place people near the very edges of the picture. The wide end of most zooms distorts badly at the edges.

Get a flash that sits off to the side of your camera on a bracket. This should prevent red-eye. Practice with this flash in indoor situations until you get it right. Your film? Kodak portra 160NC.

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6/24/2003 1:04:11 PM

Maynard  McKillen   Dear Kelly:
I can appreciate your excitement. As a starting point, you might clip candid and formal poses of wedding couples and groups out of both wedding magazines and photography magazines like Professional Photographer, Rangefinder, and Studio Photography and Design. Armed with these, perhaps placed in a binder, you can ask the bride and groom-to-be which poses appeal to them. The couple can also, in anticipation of your visit, clip images that appeal to them from various sources, and talk to their friends and relatives for photo ideas.

You show them some sample poses, they show you some photos they've found, perhaps along with a list of ideas they've collected from friends and relatives, and ta-da, you have something to talk about that everyone can see.

These days engaged couples have seen wedding photos that range from very formal, carefully posed images to seemingly spontaneous "Photojournalistic" images that may be taken with available light only. What does your couple want? If you put the two styles of photos at opposite ends of a line, the couple may point out where on line their interest lies. Do they want a larger number of more formal images, or a larger number of seemingly unposed (notice I keep saying "seemingly") images, or a 50/50 mix?

Knowing their interests will inform your choice of film and equipment.

The 50mm lens Doug suggested will get put to use for some of the available-light- only photojournalistic candids, the pictures you take when people don't even know you're shooting because you've been quiet and blended into the crowd. You may find these photos need a 400 or 800 ISO film if you shoot indoors or outside on an overcast day. You might even shoot a roll of 400 ISO black and white film, since black and white images of the wedding day are increasingly popular.
Doug's recommendation for color print film, Kodak Portra 160NC, is right on the money. Fuji has a comparable film, NPS-135-36. And just in case you take any photos under very diffuse lighting conditions, and maybe even add a diffusion filter, you might want to use a roll of 160 or 400 ISO VC film from Kodak, or the Fuji equivalent, NPC. These films have a bit more snap, or contrast (I use these terms imprecisely.), and may also work well with some shots taken using a star filter, which, like a diffusion filter, can lower image contrast.

You may get posing ideas by assembling images you like for that "idea" binder I mentioned earlier. As you can imagine, it's a challenge to describe a pose in words, but consider this. In the images you find, wedding or graduation, the ones that seem more dynamic or "pleasing" may be the ones where the subject is at a diagonal in the photo. That is, he or she may be leaning forward, backward or sideways slightly, or the camera may actually have been tilted.

Haven't said a thing about equipment yet!...

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6/24/2003 2:44:35 PM

Arlene    I also have s similar problem. I have a Nikon N65 same lens, a Tamron 28-300. I shoot a lot of pictures with the subject under a tree or under a gazebo or a pavilion. I am going to get a 50 mm lens as you suggested and a flash with a mount. But how can I get the pictures under these objects to come out nice? The outside is sunny but under there is darker. I have taken some and they either come out dark or whit faced and blurry. I use the Auto mode, but am learning how to use the manual mode now. Any help would be great. thanks

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6/24/2003 9:33:16 PM

Kelly Barta   Maynard and Doug,
Thank you! Both were a great help so far! About a 50mm lens - I have a manual camera that takes decent pictures with a 50 mm lens on it, do you think I should bring both? Or just get the 50 mm lens for my Nikon? Hmmm...thank you for the ideas on the poses - that's a great idea. ok, so should I use the 160 ISO just indoors or can I use that outdoors? Well, anyhow, thanks again for your advice!

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6/25/2003 9:23:35 AM

doug Nelson   Bring both. It's the lens that makes the photo, and your 50 is your better lens. This way, you'll have another camera as a backup.

Forgot: always use a lens shade. Go on eBay and get one for each lens or get a generic one at a photo store.

Arlene, when people are in shade, base your exposure on that shady area, don't let background light or sky freak your light meter.

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6/25/2003 11:32:51 AM

Kelly Barta   Will do, Doug! I plan to bring both cameras... maybe by then I'll buy a 50mm for my Nikon, and I'll still bring both! I have a lens shade (hood?) for my Nikon - I have to get one for my manual! Thanks again!!

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6/25/2003 6:29:31 PM

Maynard  McKillen   Dear Kelly:
You may want to read responses that John Lind and I made to a wedding question posted at this site by Karrie on 6/18/03.

Here are a few ideas for poses and images:
1) A photo of the ringbearer's hands holding the pillow that bears the rings.
2) A photo of the flower girl peeking out from behind the bride or a bridesmaid, or peeking out from between the balusters of a stairwell or landing.
3) A photo of the parents reacting to the toasts.
4) A closeup photo of the rings resting in a flower from the bride's bouquet. This may require better macro focus capability than your Tamron lens has, so you might borrow/rent a macro lens or buy high quality close-up diopters.
5) A close up of their hands as the bride and groom hold hands and "walk away" from the camera. the background is out of focus. Soft lighting helps this image.
6) If the bride has a dress that laces up the back, or has other details meant to be noticed, have her stand with her back at a 45 degee angle to the camera. She can turn her head toward the camera for some shots, or turn it in profile. Her bouquet, held in one or both hands, can help this image. Soft lighting also helps.
7) In a variation of #6, you can have the bride turn her back to the camera. The groom stands in front of her (from camera viewpoint, he is mostly hidden by her), and puts his arms aound her waist. The photo, composed vertically, shows his hands and some of the dress. To soften the image and lend a dreamy quality, you can drape the veil between the camera and the groom's hands.
8) In open shade in the park, have the bride and groom face each other, his hands on her waist, her hands on his shoulders. Shoot over her shoulder to get his reactions as he looks at her, and vice versa. You may need a stepladder to shoot over his shoulder.
9)If the bride has a long train, have her sit in a chair with arms and lean on one of them. Bridesmaids hold the train up behind her, making it a backdrop, and you position the camera slightly above her eye level and shoot down. Place the chair near a large window, but out of direct sunlight, so you have a diffuse light source. Have the bride try different head tilts and expressions.

Your work is like that of a surgeon, editor or butcher: remove things no longer wanted or needed.

Plan, practice, research, practice, read, practice, revise, practice, practice, practice...

Oh, have fun...

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6/26/2003 10:48:05 AM

Arlene    Hey Kelly... Do you have a light meter on your Nikon? If so, where the heck is it? I have lots of people tell me to check my light before I shoot to be sure it is ok, and to check different spots at a wedding outdoors to get the best light, but how?

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6/26/2003 6:52:24 PM

Kelly Barta   Arlene,
I have a Nikon N80, you said you had a Nikon N65 so I don't know what you have for metering. Check this link out:

It talks about the N80's different metering systems - maybe yours has them - not sure. Maybe I'm not even telling you the right thing! Hope it helps! Neat site though. Maybe someone else has better advice than me!

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6/26/2003 7:36:22 PM

Kelly Barta   Maynard- Thank you SO much for your in-depth help! Those are great ideas that I'm going to have fun trying out! Cool close-up ideas- I love to do close-ups!! Thanks for suggesting John Lind's site- boy that's a good resource (thanks John!). I can't thank you enough- it means a lot that someone I don't even know would take the time to type all you did. I really appreciate it. Never thought of a stepladder... I'M SO EXCITED!!!! I'm going to go do more research!!! Thanks again!!!

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6/26/2003 7:42:46 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
If you haven't found the other wedding posting, visit my wedding survival guide.

While we're revealing some of our "trade secrets," here are a few special shots I've used:

(a) Variation on one of Maynard's except it's the back of the groom with the bride's arms draped up over his shoulders. Top of frame is base of groom's neck. Arms are crossed left over right with bouquet in right hand so the ring can be seen on the left hand. This one often works as a horizontal close-up with bottom of picture above the groom's waist. BTW, I often shoot both Maynard's version of the groom's hands vertical and this one horizontal.

(b) Bride sitting on steps leading up to altar area. Legs are arranged somewhat like the "cheerleader" pose under the dress. The train is wrapped around to the front and draped over the steps. Bride holds her bouquet; bridesmaids' flowers and flower girls' baskets are arranged in a semicircle on the train like a small garden.

(c) Best man dragging groom up the steps to altar area by the hands; rest of groomsmen behind him pushing, shoulders into his back. Helps if you can get the groom to look at the camera with a "terrified" expression. Variation: can be done outside on the steps leading up to the side door of the church if the foreground and background are decent.

(d) Bride with childen (flower girls and ring bearers). Seat the bride as in (b) above (without all the bridesmaids flower) and position the children around her, also seated on the steps. If there's a particularly small child, take the free hand not holding the bouquet and have her wrap it around the child. Watch for just tips of fingers showing and veil getting in the way (walk up and pull it back behind her if necessary). Seating them reduces the height difference between her and the children, and makes for "warm" pose.

For groom portraiture by himself, get a copy of GQ and look at how they pose men. Notice that arms and legs are positioned with sharp, prominent angles at elbows and knees (if they're bent). Keep men with straight lines and sharper angles. OTOH, use soft curves with women such as the general "S" shape found in the "cheerleader" pose and avoid sharper angles with arms and legs. Last, but not least, as you compose the shot through the viewfinder, do a scan for objects around the altar area sticking straight out the top of a person's head and shift slightly to either hide it or get it to one side or another. If candles are still lit and their flames are showing between or above people, I recommend extinguishing them. They can create distracting, small "hot spots" in the photograph.

A matter of personal taste and style:

I will NOT let men clasp their hands together in front of themselves in a standing pose! To me, it looks like they're hiding a broken zipper . . . and it disconnects them from the rest if it's a grouping. Nor do I let anyone standing directly face the camera; they're always turned at least slightly. For single person portraits, a woman's far shoulder can start to disappear a little behind her neck, but I don't turn a man that far and keep his far shoulder a little more visible. For partial (other than full length) shots, I also do not put the bottom edge of the frame at a joint (waist, knee or ankle) or across a woman's bustline. I put the bottom frame edge at midpoints between them somewhere. With older people, watch for double chins forming if a head is dipped too much. Many women in particular find this very objectionable. Again, these are things of personal taste and style.

If you can, get some friends (couples) to serve as victims, errrr models, to practice this with so you can get accustomed to posing people. Then compose it the same pose from full length to very tight head/shoulders through the viewfinder and even if you don't burn film doing it, imagine what you're seeing as a photograph. Watch for little details; this takes some practice to become efficient at quickly scanning a grouping looking for little things out of place. Might not seem like much when you're there in person, but they often become much more prominent in a photograph. I don't use a tripod (some do) as I've found it too restrictive with composition and too time consuming to move and adjust.

Most important of all, PLAN how you will cover this event and DON'T underestimate how much film and batteries you will need for it.

Good Luck!

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6/26/2003 8:39:18 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  Darn! Left out a "ring" composition I've used before . . .

If there's a church bulletin printed for the wedding, snag one. The bride's and groom's names are almost always printed at the top of the left page inside. Fold it open so that page is showing and lay it on a fabric upholstered chair or carpet. Then get both rings. Place the man's on it first, just below the names and the woman's leaning on the side of it. Position yourself at the bottom of the page and turn the camera vertical. Then place critical focus on the bride's/groom's names and shoot a closeup of the page at about a 45 degree angle. The names will be in sharpest focus, the rings, if they're just below the names should be in acceptable focus, and all the printing below the rings should be a soft, illegible blur. If you can get really close (with a macro) you can turn the camera horizontal and put the bottom edge of the frame slightly below the rings. I cannot get close enough to do this with the lens I use; its close-up helical only allows about 1:5 magnification.

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6/26/2003 8:50:53 PM

Kelly Barta   John,
Thank you very very much for the tips! All of these ideas are very neat and creative- I can just picture them in my head as I read your descriptions! I can't wait to scrape up some more funds to buy more lens- especially a nice macro (I love to take nature shots- I'm a country girl!). My lens I have right now is a Tamron aspherical XR LD 28-300mm 1:3.5-6.3 Macro. It works for what I do, but I can't wait to expand! As for my victims to practice on- I have a few in mind already! Thanks once again- my questions were answered very thouroughly, but I still actually have one more question about a flash: what do you recommend for a brand and what model with my Nikon n80 and the lens mentioned above? I'm really not sure which kind to buy--I love natural lighting but I realize I need a good flash for this kind of job. Any suggestions? Thanks everyone again- you've all been such a great help!!!

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6/26/2003 10:19:16 PM

Gregg Vieregge   Portra 400 NC for the wedding action and ceremony and Portra 160NC for the portraits is a good choice. I would suggest the Nikon 80DX speedlight for your N80. It's really the digital flash for the Fuji S2 pro but is compatible with all Nikons. When you switch to digital Nikon cameras you'll already have the flash. Go to search on the web and type in wedding photographer. Go to the galleries of various studios and start gazing. Visual examples are easier to remember than typed ones.

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7/1/2003 5:31:06 AM

Kathy    I just came from my brother's wedding last week. The biggest response I got to a pose I asked them for was, while still in their wedding finery, facing each other and blowing bubble gum bubbles. It doesn't all have to be serious.

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7/7/2003 4:03:56 PM

Shellie Raney
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/28/2003
  A great idea for a reception pose, is when the gater is happening. have the groom on his knees before the bride with his head under the brides dress so that all you see is the grooms back & back side stemming out from the brides dress.
Another good shot is if available a short sidewall, have the groom lay along the top of the wall. One knee proped up with a hand upon his knee. Place the bridesmaid below him looking up at him & bridesmaids behind him looking down at him all thrusting their boquets at him. Also the flowergirl could be stepping up to give a kiss on the cheek.
Another idea I have done is with the groom & ring bearer. Have them kneel at an alter as if praying with the groom's arm draped over the shoulders of the ring bearer & take the picture from behind.
Out doors I have placed the ring bearer in a low fork of a tree casually sitting with the flower girl holding out her hand & her basket or flowers to ring bearer him reaching as if to help her up onto the branch beside him. Shot is usually taken from the backside of the flower girl with the ring bearer facing the camera, alot of altering can be done her, as I have used Bride & Groom instead as well.

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8/15/2003 8:58:54 PM

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