Blog – Has Digital ruined Wedding Photography?

A shot straight after her make up. Kodak Tri-X, Leica 90mm Summicron

A shot straight after her make up.
Kodak Tri-X, Leica 90mm Summicron

I have been asked many times by a number of wanna-be-wedding-photographers. Unlike many, I love to share my knowledge and experience to those who truly wants to know and learn. I have been shooting weddings for almost 7 years and 2 years of practice before I started charging my first wedding. I know exactly how difficult it is to get industry information or to be an apprentice of some professional photographers. One thing is that most pros worry that you may steal his customers away one day.BP_10_D&SP_WEDDING  242

The fact is that this ‘worry’ is very true and especially so in this modern digital era when a lot of starters have ‘big’ cameras claim that they are professionals. What I would say is that the golden days of wedding photography may be gone, forever. I started my wedding photography when I was still using traditional 35mm negatives. I never used 120 format because it was too slow for my type of work – documenting weddings. Back in those days, all I needed was the ability to read light, compose and understanding of my subjects and the environment. There was almost no post processing because negatives were developed in a lab and all I needed to do was pushing or pulling. Everything was natural and, simple.

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With the emergence of digital photography, manipulations and enhancements become a day to day routines for photographers. It matters little if you are a fundamentalist because if you are a RAW shooter like most pros, then post processing is inevitable. A bit of contrast, colour temperature, sharpness adjustment, dodge or burn… these are just the normal stuff to do when you get back to your desk. Then you noticed something distracting in the background or a very annoying spot on the subject’s face, you would fix it by default. With film, there’s nothing to hide unless you are going studio and started air bushing stuff out which would be a daunting yet expensive task. The best bet would be a very talented makeup artist that could ‘hide’ most the imperfections of your bride and groom and utilised lightings and angle of shots to hide the rest. But in the old days, we had to choose our shots very carefully, background, position, lighting angle… etc. Now with digital, although relevant and important still, post work can certainly ‘fix’ a lot of stuff.

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Then it comes with quantity versus quality. I used to shoot around 7 to 8 rolls of 36 a wedding and in some cases, 12 rolls. That was it. I had to consider every exposure very very carefully and I would rarely do continuous shots unless it’s a critical moment. Now, I see many ‘machine-gun’ photographers just take pictures continuous throughout the day. That’s like 3-4000 photos per wedding! Yes, I must admit if you are shooting that many frames, there odd to be ‘some’ very nice shots. However, this, at least to me, shows the immaturity of today’s photographers. They rather minimise the risk of not getting the shots by shooting absolutely bonkers! When I had only 10 rolls in my bag, I had to wait for the perfect moment patiently. Yes, from the 10 rolls, I might select about 40-50 pictures for the clients to choose for their albums. Now, it seems every photographer is giving their clients 400-500 pictures. Is it good or bad? I don’t know. To customers, it all seems better ‘value’ but I wouldn’t consider all those numbers mean anything. In the end, the bride and groom may only choose around 20 to be included in the album. The rest is simply there for a record with minimum value to them. Why? Because most of them will look just like the uncles or cousins snaps on the day.

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Mind you, with the ease of digital, I must add, that even some average photographer or amateurs can get great results with some automations with newer type cameras. Digital has pushed the entire envelop further. In order to make your photo stands out, you need to be creative. Taking extreme composition that no one would take, tone the final pictures so that none of the ‘art filters’ can manipulate the same effect but most importantly, get the perfect moment. I guess the latter was still true to the pros. We know when to click the shutter buttons.

Fuji Reala 100

Fuji Reala 100

However, because of all these conveniences and technology advancements, Mr Bob can take reasonable photos. Even some beginners with creative eyes yet lack of technical competency can take good photos because the cameras are so easy to use these days. So wedding pros are facing enormous amount of pressure and competition. At least in UK, up and coming photographers, and often cheap, are coming like a big tsunami. ‘Free’ friends and relatives are also being asked to photograph weddings. Because it’s digital, anyone can buy a digital system with minimal cost. Despite what the press said about ‘horrible’ wedding pictures taken by some inexperience or lemon photographers, it doesn’t stop anyone choosing them. Don’t get me wrong though, some are genuinely good and creative but this is what today’s pros are facing. Since the recession started a few years back, many pros that I had known had left the industry because no one would consider their charge is value for money. Instead, they paid some one next to nothing to shoot their weddings. Finally, what a lot of people haven’t considered is that pro makes money from photographing people. It’s the time and effort that they put in each and every wedding, on top of that, their expensive equipment, which will eventually wear out and needing replacing. I still haven’t mentioned insurance and other professional membership fees. We are all working people too and we don’t just ‘turn up’ and ‘stand around taking photos’. Each wedding surely warrants at least 3 weeks of solid post processing work!

Sigma Wedding

So as much as I enjoy and embrace digital photography, I can’t help but to treasure those golden day memories. Now we have to work much hard to maintain our positions. Social interactivity plays a big part and now not only photographers have to take pictures and process them, they also have to blog them, tweet them and Facebook them. Pretty much what I do these days. These are all extra efforts that a photographer has to input. Whether you like it or not, this is the only way forward, to adapt to newer generations. Technologies are moving quicker than before, we were spoiled by the golden days for a while and now we need to get up and reinvent ourselves as the ‘modern’ photographer. Digital HASN’T ruined wedding photography. Digital has changed wedding photography. For those who adapt to it will move forward.

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Have a good day!

Jimmy

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