Question about Nikon Cameras

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I was somehow roped into shooting a friend's night wedding this weekend, even though my photography "expertise" is entirely limited to shooting in natural light. I am a total amateur (and my friend knows this - I have told her over and over she's taking a big risk). So anyway, I've rented a flash and bracket and am looking for any/all the cram-style tips you can give me for programming the flash (it's a Nikon speedlight SB-800 on a D70) and the camera for best use. Thanks :)

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  • annemiet Dec 13, 2008

    Thank you so much for your response, jcdill! As the bride's friend, I was able to go to the rehearsal last night and worked with the light as best as I could. What I think I'm realizing is that my camera body, which doesn't have a full-sized light sensor, is limiting to a certain extent - side by side with my dad's Canon D5 using the same settings I'm getting darker photos with MUCH more noise and blur. That said, the results weren't terrible, and in the end, I'm sure my friend will get some reasonably good photos (at the right price) and I will have gained a lot of valuable experience.

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First, you MUST practice with the flash before you shoot the wedding. If at all possible arrive 2-3 hours before the ceremony with a friend/model to pose for you so you can practice with the settings until you understand what will and will not work.

Use manual exposure settings (e.g. 1/60th at f5.6) on the camera, and let the flash work in automatic mode to provide the light needed to shoot with the manual settings. Don't try to use flash on subjects further than about 10-15 feet as it won't provide enough light to go that distance - light falls off according to the "square of the distance", so the amount of light you have at 10 feet is 1/4th the light you have at 5 feet (rather than 1/2 the light like you might think). Practice with your model to learn how far your model can be before the flash falls off too much. To shoot at the greatest distance, open the aperture (e.g. f2.8). You can use a smaller aperture only when your subjects are fairly close.

I can't give you exact settings for your flash on a Nikon as I'm a Canon shooter. Look in your camera manual and the flash manual for iTTL.

Do NOT try to shoot in aperture priority. The camera will use a very slow shutter (appropriate for that aperture) to gather the background light, and the flash will provide "flash fill" and you will get motion blur from your hand-holding the camera and from the subjects moving during the long exposure.

Most ministers don't allow flash photography during the actual ceremony, so you need to shoot in available light during the ceremony. Normally you can use flash during the procession to/from the altar, but once the bride reaches the altar you need to stop using flash. If the ceremony is in a dark location (dark church) this can be very VERY difficult. You need fast glass, an f2.8 (or faster) lens for this and will need to shoot at the highest ISO your camera offers. You may want to return to the rental place to rent a fast lens if you don't have one already.

Obviously you need to stay ahead of the action. This means you need to get into the aisle near the end of the service and shoot the kiss from that location, and then shoot the couple as they proceed down the aisle after the ceremony.

If at all possible, take posed photos BEFORE the ceremony. Try to have a 1-hour window to take these photos that ends 1-hour before the ceremony starts. If you can't take the posed photos before the ceremony, try to limit the after-ceremony photos to just a few groups - some photos of bride and groom, with the whole wedding party, with the bride's family, the groom's family, and everyone (all family members and wedding party). Take 3 or more shots of each group so you can swap in eyes or faces if someone looks great in one shot and someone else looks great in a different shot.

Good luck!


Posted on Dec 12, 2008

  • jcdill
    jcdill Dec 13, 2008

    The Canon D5 has much better low-light shooting capabilities. If you can borrow/use that camera you will get better results.

    Make sure you shoot in RAW. You can do a lot in the post-processing to improve the noise but ONLY if you shoot in RAW.



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