ATRAX PHOTO by Clifton Beard | Autumn Wedding

Autumn Wedding

November 02, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Back in October I shot a wedding in Bournemouth and for the second time used exclusively Fuji kit.


In a Peak Design Everyday Messenger 13 I had my X-T2 with 56mm f1.2, X-T1 with 23mm f1.4 and X-T-10 with 16mm f1.4 and later the 12mm f2.  In its original rectangular carry case I had one Profoto B1 light and in that case fitted a few extras like chargers, Nissin i40 and spare batteries for the flash.  A really nice, light and simple way to work a wedding.  I much prefer to work with multiple bodies and prime lenses, which is much easier that changing lenses and minimizes the risk of losing moments or dropping kit.  The smaller Fuji kit allows me to do so without breaking may back and struggling with a ton of gear....bravo.  


This bag is great, being light, with excellent folding dividers, useful accessory spaces and quick and easy magnetic clasp.  Peak also have some great strap and clip systems to allow easy working with multiple cameras, as I am just discovering.  It really is super quality gear that has been designed with real thought and a modular concept based on anchor loops that quickly connect to different straps and tripod/capture plates.



To simplify my workflow and retain options I shot RAW plus mono jpg files to each camera.  On the X-T2 with its 2 card slots I was able to configure slot 1 for RAW and slot 2 for jpg, a useful backup!


Here are a few observations on the day, the shooting process and the kit.


Firstly, I used Acros film simulation for the X-T2 mono jpg files.  When I first played with the camera and took some files I was not overly sold on Acros, but that has changed.  Acros does give a quite different rendering style to the existing mono modes that much more closely matches the rendering style of film.  The new "Grain" setting is on by default and I turned this off, which for me made the files more to my liking.  Having shot it a lot now I can instantly tell an Acros file from one shot with the normal mono modes.  There is a very subtle grain structure which varies across the different tones from shadows to highlights, rather than a one grain fits all processing style.  There is also a gentle and more subtle rendering of tonal change.  Having blown up some film scans to view at 100% to compare to the jpg files, the effect from the Fuji jpg files is incredibly similar.  For certain work Acros looks fantastic.  For other work, perhaps very gritty street scenes for example, I may still prefer the original mono style, but it's great to have a choice.


Normal black and white plus yellow filter


Acros plus yellow filter


Using all the cameras alongside each other made a few points very clear.  Overall the X-T2 files do have significantly more detail, but for wedding work, in all honesty, the 16mp sensors of the older cameras are more than adequate and I would just as happily use them.  By coincidence, the X-T1 had the 23mm f1.4 attached and this proved to be the most used focal length, so it did the lion's share of shooting. 


The X-T2 has a high ISO performance edge, but it is only a real issue towards the limits of the ISO range for wedding work.  The AF joystick control is a godsend when working fast and repositioning the focus point, so the older cameras felt at a significant disadvantage here.  The Focus performance of the X-T2 was definitely more assured, but all were adequately fast for this work.  Where I feel it may help, I switch to manual focus and use push button AF from the AF-L button to lock focus so I can shoot repeatedly without forcing the camera to AF before each shot.  Even the X-T2 failed to focus in any useful sense in the very dark dance area, but so would almost all cameras.  In this scenario I use manual zone focus anyway.  I often find that on the X-T1 I knock the metering mode dial onto the incorrect setting by accident when I adjust shutter speed.  I didn't have this issue on the X-T2.  


The main deal with the Fuji system is that it lets me get right in amongst the action, more like a guest than the photographer.  I can chat, laugh and just mix in while shooting, often holding the camera away from my face, which is critical to normal human communication.  This cannot be underestimated in value at weddings where the main thing is capturing the day as it unfolds naturally.  No-one showed a negative reaction to the cameras during the whole day....they are simply not intimidated, annoyed or put off by them.


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For most colour work I favour classic chrome for weddings and render this to the RAW file using a modified Lightroom process version as a preset.

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The only exception at this wedding was indoors when in the dance/reception area, the colours the bride had chosen rendered much better using Provia.  For the dance floor shots I favour getting in close and using the Samyang 12mm f2 zone-focused and the little Nissin i40 flash held up to one side on a TTL sync cord.  I set ambient exposure to set the scene by preserving some of the ambient light.  I also "drag the shutter" and use rear curtain sync some of the time, to get some motion blur.  I try to use an aperture of around f5.6 to get a decent depth of field and to render nice light stars from the disco lights.



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As for flash.  The little Nissin i40 is a great TTL unit for direct flash.  I do find it lacks the power to do good bounce flash in the same way as My Nikon SB900.  I therefore ordered a new Nissin i60, which does have the power and can be triggered and controlled fully off the camera by a commander unit.  Unfortunately it arrived a few days after the wedding.


I also took my one serviceable Profoto B1 and used it outdoors to add a bit of pop and catchlights to the group shots.  Whatever anyone may say about TTL, in my opinion it is marvellous and you notice just how good it is in lighting like I had to work in that day.  The brightness level was constantly all over the place due to drifting cloud of varying density and sunny bursts, so exposures constantly needed changing.  With Fuji my only current option is manual and it worked until the light got too up and down, at which point I stopped using it as it was affecting the flow of the shoot.


I am not a big fan of group shots in general as a photographer, because they lack spontaneity and feel a bit like running a production line, but I do understand why clients want them and am more than ok with doing them, if they do want them.  The main recipe for success seems to be using any ushers to help organise and ready people, working fast so people don't get bored and stare away or talk, and catching them before they have taken on too much alcohol!



A few more from the day.

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I know people will argue all day that a full frame sensor will give better IQ because it gathers more light.  In theory that is true, all else being equal.  However, even disregarding the other advantages of mirrorless cameras, there is more at play in the real world of shooting a wedding, than tech specs would suggest.  Issues such as focus dependability, off centre lens performance and usable depth of field all affect the actual exposure settings it is practical to use.  I have used and still have the option to use, a full-frame DSLR setup for weddings, offering 36mp of truly excellent IQ, but now choose not to.  In terms of IQ alone why is this?


In terms of IQ do the Fuji cameras deliver the goods?  Sometimes we have to take a step back and consider how the images are going to be used and the output sizes required.  I won't argue that given perfect conditions, my Nikon D800 will produce amazing images that can be output very large indeed.  Most clients view their images on a computer screen, post them on social media and have some printed in a photo book and for the wall.  Images shot on the 16mp Fuji sensor will print to 16 inches at 300dpi, so you can put your nose on the paper to see every grain of detail, even at that print size. This rises to 20 inches from the 24mp sensor. For more distant viewing and using interpolation, much bigger wall prints can successfully be made.  This is just fine. 


We also have to remember that output will be affected by the need to use higher ISO values, where we introduce noise, lose dynamic range and colour.  Thus the way the camera deals with noise, dynamic range and preserves colour become very important.  I feel that the Fuji sensors and the X-trans array can benefit detail and rendering in certain types of shooting, to push them closer to full frame performance.  They already have more dynamic range than the sensors of a certain major DSLR producer, which is a big deal when dealing with deep shadows.  The noise is random and pleasing and not the hideous banding I have seen from some more expensive cameras.  Other equivalence factors come to play too.  For example, due to my absolute confidence in the accuracy of the Fuji hybrid AF system and IQ of the lenses, I will happily shoot in low light at f1.2, f1.4, f2 etc.  My lens is therefore admitting a lot of light to the sensor.  On a  DSLR system, the tiny depth of field rendered at f1.4 may not be desirable, lens performance is not always satisfactory and the accuracy of the focus can be frustrating to say the least, especially using off-centre points.  This means it can be wise to stop down a bit, thus equalising or often losing any light gathering advantage compared to the Fuji system.  For me I can get the subject isolation and depth of field I wish from the Fuji system and do not feel I am missing anything significant.  That is my opinion based on how I shoot but others may feel differently.


Post-shoot workflow is a big deal too.  While I always shoot RAW only on any DSLRs, I find the lush jpg output of the Fuji cameras to be wholly suitable for the final image.  I shoot in mono jpg together with RAW, so this gives me the option to do colour versions later.  I have developed simple presets for both the mono images and RAW files, which really speeds up my workflow.  Big win. 


An interesting moment in this wedding concerning camera performance manifested itself as I was having my usual chat with the registrar to make sure I knew any rules she had for the photographer's conduct.  She stated that one of her pet hates was noisy camera shutters as she had experienced some weddings where it disrupted the ceremony significantly and one venue where the sound really echoed in the otherwise silent building.  She was amazed when I told her that I switch all my Fuji focal plane shutter cameras to electronic shutter during the ceremony and I demonstrated it to her by asking her if she noticed I had just taken a photograph of her.  She was definitely sold on the idea!  It really does take some stress off the photographer, not having to feel that guilt each time the shutter snaps!


So in simple terms, IQ is plenty good enough and the advantages in size, weight, handling, subject reaction and communication seal the deal.


This experience reinforced my belief that shooting weddings with the Fuji system is technically and practically right for me.


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