Tips for Capturing a Wedding Discreetly without being a Distraction

Discreet wedding photographer

Originally posted 2016-10-01 02:32:41.

I was asked recently by another photographer to write a post about one of the distinguishing features of my own particular shooting style. That is, how to capture a wedding discreetly, without being a distraction to the proceedings. I think we need to examine why this is important, as well as the factors which enable you to be discreet. I have been shooting weddings for nearly 25 years, and so I have managed to think this through a fair bit. Also with my corporate work I shoot on set while television shows are being shot and this also requires extreme discretion, where the slightest noise, or even your reflection in something shiny on the set can mean a reshoot.

Briefly the reasons why you want to be discreet and not a distraction are as follows.

  1. You capture people naturally thus getting better photos
  2. You enable the couple and guests to enjoy the wedding so they remember the wedding was fun, not the obnoxious photographer
  3. You don’t anger the pastors/priests which bites back the next time you are in the same venue.

In putting together this post I thought it best I contrast good and bad practices as many photographers learn by watching other photographers. I have encountered churches which had been burned by insensitive photographers in the past, and due to this now impose draconian policies restricting photographers. I can only hope these tips help budding photographers to help change the perception of our trade.

Now the secret to becoming a discreet photographer. The key is mind set. Mind set. Mind set!

Ask yourself, ” Why am I here?” “Who’s event is this?” “What are the requirements” These are basic and simple questions. At a wedding you are either the hired professional or the enthusiast.I will address these below.

If you are the enthusiast, the infamous Uncle Bob, ask yourself…why are you lugging your camera to the event? When I am a guest I LEAVE MY CAMERA AT HOME. And here is why. I am there to have fun, to eat drink, laugh and enjoy the moment and talk to my +1 or the people at my table. If I want to do a selphy I have my phone just like everyone else. I learned this lesson many years ago when I was first starting out. I wanted to “practice” at a wedding I was invited to. While shooting I was conscious of the hired photographer being cramped out by the other relatives who were all busy shooting. I realised I was adding nothing to this circus, so sat down and watched. I learned a lot. One of the key features that distinguish between a good photographer and a great one is if you are observant of what is going on around you.

annoying photographer uncle

And here we have the family friend, the “Uncle Bob”, blocking everyone’s view of the cake cutting. The video guy is also guilty here.

The other issue with Uncle Bobs is that they can get in the way of,  distract or slow down the professional. The above photo illustrates this. I wanted to trade my camera for a rocket launcher at this particular moment. I had been lined up anticipating the cake cutting when this fellow did an “Austin Powers” and jumped on stage.

If you are the Hired Professional: The key thing to remember is that it is the COUPLES and their families day first. You are of secondary importance. As painful as this is going to be, may I illustrate this?

Discreet wedding photographer

Beautiful. Wedding vows being made. Everyone can see.

annoying wedding photographer

Oops..there is a ring exchange in there somewhere.

annoying wedding photographer

And I think we have a kiss.

How would you feel if you had come to this wedding? I was not amused. I had known the boy since he was a young teen. Unfortunately this style is very common. Friends and family may have flown in from half way across the world, they came to see their friends or family get married. Not the backs and bums of photography and videography teams.

Another illustration below of why we need to think. We need to be discreet.  With the following photo set, TWO photography companies were hired. Believe it or not, this is common place with Malay weddings. The brides side hires a team, and the grooms side hires a team. Yes, it is much cheaper and better coordinated for one team to cover both sides however I don’t make the rules. In this wedding there were 3 in my team and 4-6 in the other. My guy is outside the window. We have been shooting together for nearly 15 years… so shoot very similarly. The team crowding around was censured to move back, as guests couldn’t see what was happening.  The problem with this team crowding  meant that both my other photographer, stationed in a mezzanine floor to the right, and myself, couldn’t get a clear shot due to the crowd. Not to worry as we act like a football team, playing using the whole room so to speak. This is another reason we can be discreet as we can hold back in various positions knowing one of us will get the required angle. The following close up shot of the bride was shot from the window photographers position. You don’t need to be in someone’s face to get great shots. annoying wedding photographer

The “mob” was asked to move out of the way. Note the photographer outside. He is part of my team.

Discreet wedding photographer

And the discreet “outside the window” photographer gets the money shot

So how do I shoot? My personal philosophy dictates this: “I shoot every wedding as though it is my own”.

This means I take the photos as though I was paying for the best photographer I could hire, but also that I shoot in a style I would want my photographer to shoot i.e. discreetly so my relatives could view the wedding. This dictates many things. It dictates my thought process, dictates my shooting style, dictates how I speak to people. It dictates my equipment and it dictates my editing. In the following two photos you can see how I shoot. I use a 70-200 F2.8. I can zoom in tight without blocking anyone. Todays cameras have a monstrous number of mega pixels so I can easily crop in even further later in post. If I need to get in close I come in, crouch, then stand up and shoot, then crouch down again. So my first gear plug is get the right lens. A 70-200 F2.8 is ESSENTIAL gear for me.

Discreet wedding photographer

3 Photographers. Can’t see all of us can you? Discreet and all the guests can see the ceremony. That’s me in the back with a long telephoto lens.

Discreet wedding photographer

The right way for a photographer to be discreet. Standing well back, long telephoto. EVERYONE can see the wedding easily.

With regards to flash photography, fortunately in Malaysia it is allowed in churches. This is good because most have really badly thought out lighting schemes, mixing big sodium lamps with fluorescents and incandescents. Our eyes filter out the foul colours but digital captures every ugly colour cast. I use a multi-flash system for 2 reasons. Firstly I can control the light a lot better and that means give better quality images to my couples, and secondly, because my MAIN lighting is off camera I can turn my on camera flash way down in power as it is merely a fill flash. This makes it a lot more discreet than using one on camera flash to illuminate a big hall.

Last of all… shooting on a TV set. This is where mirrorless shines. I use a Fuji XT1 and XT2 to shoot in absolute silence. None of my Canon or Nikon DSLRs come close in their “silent” modes. Sometimes you need the right equipment.

So there it is. Have the right attitude. Consider why you are there. Try your best not to detract or distract from the main event. have the right gear and have fun.

Last of all an endorsement. I received this email yesterday from an American University I shot recently:

“Thank you for the photos. You are the best photographer I’ve ever known!
You captured the joy and inner strength of everyone!
Thanks again,
Jackie”
I definitely don’t claim to be the best photographer…but it certainly was a nice email to receive, and I owe it all to being discreet. Many of those I photographed didn’t even realize I had shot them.

A Bulgarian/Punjabi wedding dinner at the Perhentian Island Resort

The jetty at the Perhentian Island Resort

Originally posted 2015-03-23 15:38:42.

Recently I travelled up to Perhentian island off the east coast of Malaysia to cover a Bulgarian/Punjabi wedding. It was a pretty intense  5-6 hour trip as I ran from one wedding in KL to the airport for my flight, land travel then boat to get to the venue which was the Perhentian Island Resort. Within minutes of arrival I was able to set up my gear and get shooting the walk in for the sumptuous barbecue wedding dinner. There were a number of interesting Bulgarian traditions including the wedding bread dance, which features a loaf made by the mothers bride which is later fed to both the bride and groom. They also break the loaf over their heads which you will also see below.

It was very dark, yet one of the things you will notice is that the photos are not. One of the things I do is bring remote controlled lighting to all shoots as it makes a massive difference. One of the photographers jobs is to evaluate, modify and control the lighting of the images. There was almost no available light during the dinner, yet in the background of some of these photos you will be able to see my remote radio controlled strobes triggering away. With more wedding venues using the “new” green and purple LED lights to add to the mood I think more photographers will eventually gravitate to this system. Believe me, no one wants to look like Barnie the dinosaur. Using this system protects you.

Portraits the following day were on a private beach. Only including a small sampling but it was a very nice shoot.

Regarding cameras, I am becoming more and more impressed with Fujifilms X-T1 camera system. I have never owned a camera that captures what I see as well as this camera does, and in doing so I now spend a lot less time editing than I do with my Nikons and Canons.

bulgarian wedding traditional bread dance malaysia

In Bulgarian weddings the brides mother traditionally makes a special loaf of bread

bulgarian wedding traditional bread dance malaysia

Two of the ladies dance with the special wedding bread

wedding perhentian island resort malaysia

Please take note of the remote controlled strobes in the background. I am one of the few wedding photographers who use these in Malaysia.

bulgarian wedding bread dance malaysia

Time to share a bite. Mum feeds the bride and groom

beautiful wedding cake perhentian island resort malaysia

The beautiful wedding cake

bulgarian wedding traditional bread dance malaysia

Breaking the bread by the bride and groom is another Bulgarian tradition

wedding barbecue perhentian island resort malaysia

Sumptuous wedding barbecue

bulgarian punjabi wedding barbecue banquet dinner at perhentian island resort malaysia

Party on

bulgarian wedding dance perhentian island resort malaysia

Traditional Bulgarian dancing

punjabi bhangra dance at wedding perhentian island resort malaysia

Everyone enjoyed the Bhangra

punjabi bhangra dance at wedding perhentian island resort malaysia

The dancing went on all night

cutting the wedding cake perhentian island resort malaysia

Time to cut the wedding cake

beautiful bulgarian bride wedding perhentian island resort malaysia

The beautiful bride

beach wedding portraits in perhentian island resort malaysia

Portraits on the beach

beach wedding portraits in perhentian island resort malaysiabeach wedding portraits in perhentian island resort malaysiatrash the dress wedding portraits at the perhentian island resort

After the portraits were done there was one sure fire way to cool off!

bulgarian bride wedding portraits on perhentian island malaysiacooling off with watermelon on a hot day at the perhentian island resort malaysia

Cooling off with watermelon on a hot day at the Perhentian Island Resort

perhentian island resort malaysia

Later in the evening I took this 30 second exposure of the Perhentian Island Resort

The jetty at the Perhentian Island Resort

The jetty at the Perhentian Island Resort

Indian Muslim Wedding in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

actual day wedding portrait indian muslim kuala lumpur malaysia grant corban

Originally posted 2014-12-27 02:18:49.

Indian Muslim weddings share a mix of several cultural heritages which are familiar to Muslims, Hindus and Sikh customs. Always very colourful and full of the festivities that I love to shoot. These photos cover the engagement, Sangeet, wedding and final wedding banquet at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in central Kuala Lumpur, right next to the KLCC.

I hope you love them!

wedding engagement indian muslim kuala lumpur malaysia grant corbanwedding engagement indian muslim kuala lumpur malaysia grant corbanwedding engagement indian muslim kuala lumpur malaysia grant corbanindian muslim sangeet kuala lumpur malaysia grant corbanindian muslim sangeet kuala lumpur malaysia grant corbanindian muslim sangeet kuala lumpur malaysia grant corbanindian muslim sangeet kuala lumpur malaysia grant corbanindian muslim sangeet kuala lumpur malaysia grant corbanindian muslim sangeet kuala lumpur malaysia grant corbanindian muslim sangeet kuala lumpur malaysia grant corbanindian muslim sangeet kuala lumpur malaysia grant corbanindian muslim sangeet kuala lumpur malaysia grant corbanindian muslim sangeet kuala lumpur malaysia grant corbanindian muslim sangeet kuala lumpur malaysia grant corbanindian muslim sangeet kuala lumpur malaysia grant corban

indian muslim sangeet kuala lumpur malaysia grant corban

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