A Yorkshire photographer’s guide to shooting weddings with fujifilm and medium format film

Wedding Photography with FujiFilm and Medium Format Film 

Today I’m going to take you through most aspects of the wedding day showing you a selection of images and talking about how I photograph weddings. I hope this will be helpful for those thinking about photographing a wedding, but also those looking for a wedding photographer. This is another post on my How To series, you can find How To Shoot Weddings on Film HERE and How To Choose Your Wedding Photographer HERE

I’m going to take you through each part of the wedding day and talk about my gear and other useful tips. Like always though, if you have any questions please get in touch. You can find my on my Instagram.

Let’s talk GEAR! So gear is obviously an important aspect of shooting a wedding, you need to have tools that can do the job and you need to have complete faith in your ability to use those tool in A LOT of different environments. For the most part, my gear is set up to be light, unobtrusive, and exceptional quality. That’s why for my digital gear I trust Fujifilm’s X-Series range.

The X-Pro2 is probably my favourite camera ever. I love its form factor and its tactile dials. Because of this it fits perfectly with my film cameras. I won’t go into too much GEAR related talk here, because I plan on releasing another HOW TO blog post on that, but it’s fair to say that the images and colour rendition I get from the X-Trans sensor coupled with a fast Fujifilm Prime lens are nothing short of exceptional.

I only shoot on Primes and I primarily favour a two camera set up, one with a 35mm full frame equivalent (the Fuji 23mm f1.4) and an 85mm full frame equivalent (the Fuji 56mm f1.2). For an entire wedding day I don’t need to swap lenses unless there is a specific shot that requires a specialist lens; but more on them later.

Before getting into it I should mention the elephant size hole in the room: my film camera. I’ll be honest, it is neither light, unobtrusive, nor subtle; but it is the best in class wedding camera you can own. The Contax 645 paired with the Zeiss 80mm f2.0 is quite simply breathtaking. And you’ll see how I use it throughout the day below, starting with the details in the morning.

 

Details

Digital: 23mm + X-T2 & 56mm + X-Pro2

Film: Contax 645 + 80mm Zeiss

Extra: Fuji 35mm f1.4

Light: Natural Light + Shade

How I shoot details really depends on each wedding. I’m not a photographer who’ll obsess over a ring shot, but through talking with my couples I get an idea of what’s important for them. This might just be the dress or shoes. They may want family heirlooms photographed or their wedding invitations. Generally I prefer photographing the dress and shoes within an environmental context, helping to set a context and a bit more interest. Because this is how I start the day at most weddings there’s a bit more time and a relaxed atmosphere, this means I’ll generally shoot on film and digital. Depending on the space I’ll mostly use the 56mm lens on the digitals, but if space is limited then I’ll switch to the 35mm f1.4 (a 50mm full frame equivalent). If I do switch then I’ll usually carry on with that lens for the rest of the getting ready shots due to space constraints. I won’t use it after the getting ready though because, as it’s one of the oldest fuji lenses, I don’t trust the autofocus in dynamic environments.

 

Getting Ready

 

Digital: 23mm + X-T2 & 56mm + X-Pro2

Film: Contax 645 + 80mm Zeiss

Extra:

Light: Natural Light + Shade

With getting ready shots I favour BnW shots on the Contax 645 with Delta 3200 film. These shots can really help tell the story of the day and offer moments of real honest connection. I love photographing the final moments of the dress being done up, or even a small dress reveal to the family. It’s these emotional connections that provide not only amazing photographs, but moments to cherish. Generally I look for big bright windows as the main source of light and turn off the ambient overhead lighting. I’ll make sure these moments happen near beautiful window light and then let them play out. I don’t want to disrupt the moment.

 

Ceremony

Digital: 23mm + X-T2 & 56mm + X-Pro2

Film: I generally don’t shoot film during a ceremony

Extra:

Light: The lighting in the ceremony room

The ceremony is all about wide shots that set the scene coupled with close ups of emotions, both of the couple and the guests. It’s really easy to get hyper focused on those big moments or trying to capture everything in a scene. Don’t forget the little things, people holding hands, smiles, glances, because these help contextualise. Also, remember the couple will probably see none of this happening at the time – they’ll want to see the emotion on their guests’ faces.

I’m a fan of working with the ambient light, the couple chose the venue for a reason and I want to give them images that reflect this. Of course, as a photographer I want lots of big windows illuminating the room with warm even lighting. But I also want my couples to remember how the room smelt, how cold or warm it was, and that ambience can only be achieved through working with what is there. That’s why I favour fast primes that can see in the dark. It’s also why my loud Contax 645 is not an appropriate tool for most ceremonies.

 

Confetti 

Digital: 23mm + X-T2 & 56mm + X-Pro2

Light: Natural Light + Shade

Not every couple chooses to have confetti and not every confetti shot goes to plan! But generally I favour the 23mm lens to get nice and close to the couple. Often I’ll start a little wider and then walk towards them before moving backwards with them directly in front of me. This allows one lens to capture pretty much everything you need: a wide setting the scene, the moments in between, and the final close ups. I’ll often say to the couple, take your time, look at your guests and make eye contact, and don’t be afraid to make an impromptu stop for a little kiss (or a big kiss). The confetti is often chaotic and you have to be ready to move with the fast paced and dynamic environment – there are no 2nd chances. Put your camera on continuous autofocus and burst mode and strap yourself in for a LOT of confetti heading your way!

 

Reception Details

Digital: 23mm + X-T2 & 56mm + X-Pro2

Film: Contax 645 + 80mm Zeiss

Extra:

Light: Natural Light + Shade

Once again in the slower part of the day this is where the Contax 645 comes into its own! I will make sure to get a collection of establishing shots with the 23mm and the Contax 645 before moving in to get tighter close ups with the Contax 645 and 56mm. This is where film can bring a dreamy painterly aesthetic to the images. It’s also where having a Medium Format lens with a shallow f2.0 aperture becomes distinctly unique. Using that shallow depth of field I let the background turn into a textured painting. 

 

 Bridal Party + Family

Digital: 23mm + X-T2 & 56mm + X-Pro2

Film: Contax 645 + 80mm Zeiss

Extra:

Light: Shade

This is where your pre-planning comes into play. You have a list of exactly who the couple want photos with and it’s your job to get through this list as quickly, but also as stress free, as possible. So find some shade, or a backlit location if shade isn’t possible, and go down your list ticking them off as you go. I like the main two people in the wedding party to have the list also, this means more people working towards the same goal. It also means people who might know the people on the list can be tasked with finding them. It’s just a little trick I use to engage the wedding party more and to have more people to help.

Guests will likely wander off at this point, so the more people helping gather everyone the better. There is also a chance guests will want extra group photos; at this point, I politely ask them to wait until the official list is done. By that point they’ve usually wandered off and forgotten anyway. You’ll also come across guests with cameras at this point. At times we’ll have taken a minute or two setting up the group shot only for a well meaning quest to jump in front of me and try and grab a photo. This usually happens because I enjoy taking group shots with the 56mm (85mm equivalent) and I have to move backwards to get a full body shot. Whenever this happens, and it will quite often, just be friendly and smile; don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill, just politely remind them that you need space to get the shots you need.

Technically, like I said, I will use the 56mm for both full body and close up shots when possible.  If there’s not enough space then I’ll use the 23mm for the full body and a 35mm for the close ups. I’ll always get a full body and a close up of each shot.

Remember, this is often the most energy sapping moment of the day for the couple; the adrenaline of the ceremony will begin to ease and the realisation that they have to be happy and smiley in each photograph will set in. Again, pre-planning is key. Help them mitigate the stress by guiding them to an appropriate amount of group photos. I will always advise my couples to have no more than 10. Even 10 can take an hour at times, depending on the location. This is where your personality really has to shine through. Remember, you’re creating memories, not just photographs. 

 

Couple Portraits

Digital: 23mm + X-T2 & 56mm + X-Pro2

Film: Contax 645 + 80mm Zeiss

Extra:

Light: Natural Light + Shade

This is the first time they will spend a moment alone as a married couple. How amazing is it that we get to photograph that moment! It also gives them 20-30 mins to relax, to be themselves, and to take stock of the chaotic blur they just went through. I love this time because it’s a time of calm. It’s a time to breathe. Often this will just be a walk around the venue, stopping at pre-determined spots (again, the importance of pre-planning both before and on the day), and trying to capture an authentic representation of these two people in love.

In photographic terms, think of your wide establishing shots with the 23mm, medium shots (I prefer the 56mm for this), and then your close ups. The Contax 645 can do all three, but I adore the close ups the most. Film gives the skin a softness which is so flattering. I’m not one to pose the couple too much, and when I do I mostly ask them to interact with each other in that pose. 

 

Portraits

Digital: 23mm + X-T2 & 56mm + X-Pro2

Film: Contax 645 + 80mm Zeiss

Extra:

Light: Natural Light + Shade + Back light

This is my favourite part of the day, I just love shooting portraits. And I think bringing my experience of portraiture into a wedding day is a real asset. Give someone an image of themselves that radiates character and emotion. My absolute favourite is a backlit veil shot with the Contax 645. There’s a dreamy, otherworldliness to the images.  I know veils aren’t as popular now but it’s also a great opportunity to incorporate the bouquet into a more environmental shot.

Again, think about incorporating wide, medium, and close shots. Be creative as well, only show specific features in the close ups – you may have already done something similar with the getting ready shots but now’s a good time to really help express the emotion of the day through powerful images.

 

Speeches

Digital: 23mm + X-T2 & 56mm + X-Pro2

Film: I’ll mostly shoot this digitally, due to the fast paced nature and the usual low light.

Extra:

Light: Natural Light + Flash (if absolutely necessary)

Now is the time to focus in on moments of emotion. Use your telephoto (my 56mm will be more than enough usually) to pick out emotional reactions. Don’t forget the guests as well. And use your wider lenses (23mm) to create establishing shots. I also find it useful to vary the height of my camera – honestly, I use eye level height far too often – shots from table height looking up can be extremely effective, especially at the top table. I often find myself over shooting at this point, sometimes speeches can go on for a very long time and I don’t want to miss a moment. But truthfully, work on crafting a narrative with your photos instead of just photographing everything that happens. I find it especially useful to think of the wedding album at this point – work backwards from the album to your photos. This helps me pre-visualise the images I want and the type of narrative I want to tell. Again, don’t be afraid to get in close with your wider lenses. Telephoto shots can look aesthetically pleasing with blurred backgrounds and isolated subjects, but nothing puts the viewer into the moment quite like a 23mm. Again, this can be where low angles work best, especially if you are at or below the eye level of those in the photograph.

Remember to move around covering the entire scene. I’ll also use this time to try and get as many images of the guests’ reactions as possible. It’s a good way of documenting who was there. 

 

Cake Cutting & 1st Dance

Digital: 16mm + X-T2 & 56mm + X-Pro2

Film: Contax 645 + 80mm Zeiss

Extra: On-Camera Flash

Light: Natural Light + On-Camera Flash

This is the point of the day where I’ll switch out my 23mm and opt for the 16mm instead. I do this not because of the wider field of view, although on a dance floor this certainly helps, but because of the snappy autofocus and the insanely close focus of the 16mm. That close focus distance on a dance floor is vital, it means the camera doesn’t ‘hunt’ for focus as much, and you can wield the camera in a more ‘freestyle’ way. Usually this means above my head or at arms length.

My 16mm will have on-camera flash, again only to be used if necessary. Quite often it is during the cake cutting. But I also like the soft nature of a slow shutter during the dancing. This is quite often why the Contax 645 will be loaded with a BnW film without a flash.

 

 

Reception

 

Digital: 16mm + X-T2 

Film: Only if there’s still some of the roll left over from the 1st dance

Extra: On-Camera Flash

Light: Natural Light + On-Camera Flash

Here you’ll mostly find me with one camera and a 16mm lens in the middle of the dance floor. I won’t even bother being a ‘sniper’ with a telephoto from the sides. There are times like the ceremony where telephoto lenses are a necessary option, but the dance floor just is not one of those times for me. Everything will mostly be shot with the 16mm, again making use of the fast aperture and the close focusing distance. I want my couples to feel the reception, to be right there in the moment. There’s a claustrophobia to my reception images, mostly because I’m right in the middle of the action at all times.

Technically, I’ll use a combination of bounce flash but also direct flash. With the latter I use a slow shutter speed to ‘drag’ the shutter. This is how you create the light leaks. The actual shutter speed will vary depending on the location but 1/8th is often a good place to start. Press the shutter and move the camera in the direction you want the leaks. I find a slight rotation of the camera works well. The direct flash will freeze the people in motion whilst the lights behind will ‘leak’ across the frame. It gives your images a momentum, a movement, and I enjoy capturing the energy of the dance floor this way. 

Above all else, get close.

 

 

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