A Yorkshire photographer’s guide to shooting weddings with fuji X-Series cameras
Wedding Photography with Fuji X-Series Cameras (v.2021)
Hello, here we are again! This is my summer 2021 update to my original HOW TO SHOOT WEDDINGS WITH FUJI. Quite a bit of this article is the same, primarily lenses, but the cameras have now changed! Gone is the X-T2, retired is the X-Pro2, and in come two new cameras…but which one’s I hear you say!? Well, find all that and so much more below.
As usual, I’m writing this in August 2021, therefore, it is as up-to-date as possible as of that date. Fuji keep releasing smaller, quicker cameras in their GFX line and like a moth to a flame I’m being drawn one ever so closer to that system. At the moment, however, I’ll just continue to covet the GFX 110mm f/2. This is another post on my How To series, you can find How To Shoot Weddings HERE and How To Choose Your Wedding Photographer HERE.
I’m going to take you through my Fuji gear and other useful tips. Like always though, if you have any questions please get in touch. You can find my on my Instagram.
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.
I only shoot Primes and I primarily favour a two camera set up (although sometimes it becomes 3), 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.
I shot my very first wedding on Fuji gear. And Kevin Mullins’ blog post helped me do it. In many ways this is an homage to Mullins and the work he’s done. I can’t thank him enough for the time he put into that post (having written my own versions now, I can thank him even more for the time he took!). Definitely check his post out. I still do things that he suggests, but I’ve also developed my own style of shooting: he uses back-button focus, I don’t; he shoots JPEGs, I don’t. This post is not a definitive look at using Fuji, and neither is it trying to be. I’m simply offering my take on how I’ve learnt to use Fuji cameras at weddings over the years. Hopefully by reading this and Mullins’ post, you’ll develop your own way of using Fuji and pass on what you’ve learnt in a few years too.
I hope this helps in some small way. Happy shooting!
My Current Fuji Cameras
So, as my previous blog post suggested, an update to my bag has happened! The X-T2 is gone and the X-Pro2 has been retired to the backup bag. And honestly, I couldn’t be happier! The new X-Trans IV sensor has impressed me so much even in the few weddings so far. I eventually decided on the T3 because I don’t shoot video therefore the updated X-T4 wasn’t that much of an upgrade (especially with the firmware updates). Also, practically speaking, the new battery of the X-T4 although much improved, made my entire collection of spare batteries redundant – something I wasn’t quite willing to go through, especially when the battery grip mitigates the new battery to a degree. I also would have liked the improved and bigger back-button focus button of the X-T4 (borrowed from the X-H1), but looks like I’ll have to wait for back-button focusing still!
The auto-focus is much improved – so much so that to start with I’m worried it’s not focusing at all because it’s so quick and quiet. The eye auto-focus is infinitely better, as well. To the point where it is actually usable. Although I don’t like that it tracks across the entire frame – I wish I could command it to only track within the zone I’ve selected. For a practical example of this, walking down the aisle I want it to track the people walking and leave the guests alone. Unfortunately, it tracks the guests as well, therefore, making it pretty unusable for me in crowded situations. If anyone knows how to lock the eye auto-focus to just the zone focus setting then please let me know. Obviously, it comes into its own when doing portraiture or something with less people.
As stated, I love the new sensor – I honestly didn’t think it would be that different but I was wrong!! The depth and tonality is exquisite.
I picked up two so I could harmonise my camera settings – something I struggled with in the past. One silver, one black. I must admit it hurt a little putting my tape over the silver body – it really is so beautiful.
X-T3 Silver + Battery Grip
X-T3 Black + Battery Grip
My Current Fuji Cameras
Aperture Control with Rear Command Dial
So this is a new set up I’ve been playing with and actually love. Most Fuji lenses have a designated aperture ring. I love it. But quite often the clicks between apertures get worn over time, meaning it’s quite easy to knock from one f/stop to another. And this can be annoying, obviously. So I’ve learnt that you can set the A function on your aperture ring to manual control via the command dials, instead of its usual Auto Aperture function. Therefore, setting the lens to A now allows me to control aperture via the rear command dial (or the front command dial if your hand sits better there). This means my aperture does not get accidentally knocked. And because I usually sit somewhere between wide open to f/2.8 if the aperture ring does get knocked to f/16, my viewfinder goes completely dark and i know to just bump it back into the A. And because the A has a hard stop it can only be knocked one way, therefore, halving the risk of accidents. It’s certainly not as fun as turning the aperture ring, but it is certainly more precise. I still leave the top shutter dial as is designed. But I’m sure if you wished you could set that to T and have control of the shutter via the rear/front command dial as well – for me, that’s verging too much back into the world of DSLRs.
XF 23MM F/1.4
Now truth be told, these are the real reasons I love Fuji: the glass! This lens stays on my camera all the way until the 1st dance. It is my go to for capturing the story of the day. It’s autofocus is fast and accurate, and it stops down to a shallow f/1.4 meaning even in the darkest rooms I can see in the dark. Set on AF-C, I love it for the confetti run.
X-Pro2 23mm f/1.2 @ ISO 200 f/1.2 1/8000th
XF 56MM F/1.2
Another legendary lens within the Fuji eco-system. It’s a lens that I was keen to grab as soon as I could. It’s the longest focal length I have at a wedding and it performs impeccably. Used in conjunction with the 23mm I have the whole wedding covered. Where the 23mm helps me set the scene or keep up with fast paced environments, the 56mm lets me peer into the emotions of the day without it feeling too distant and removed.
X-Pro2 56mm f/1.2 @ ISO 200 f/1.2 1/250th
It’s also just an exquisite portrait lens. The shallow depth of field at f/1.2 allows for some dream-like images that have soft skin tones and beautiful bokeh.
X-T2 56mm f/1.2 @ ISO 200 f/1.2 1/500th
XF 16MM F/1.4
Now for the hidden weapon. If not for the brilliance of the 23mm, this 16mm might be on my camera all day. Instead, it remains a specialised lens for large full group wedding photos and reception dance floor shots. It’s wide field of view, fast autofocus, and close focusing distance combine to make a dance floor master!! It goes on the camera for the 1st dance and then stays on for the rest of the evening. It allows me to get right in the middle of the chaotic dance floor and trust the focus when I don’t have time to, or literally can’t, have the camera to my eye.
X-T2 16mm f/1.4 @ ISO 800 f/1.4 1/80th +flash
X-T2 16mm f/1.4 @ ISO 800 f/4.0 1/4 +flash
The Back Up Gear
The X-T1 was the first camera that brought me into the X-Series ecosystem. I used it for personal work before deciding to migrate my professional work over to the X-Series cameras. With that in mind, I’ve never actually used it at a wedding. Luckily, as it’s my back up, I’ve never had to. Although, I’ve had 2nd shooters use it in the past and it works very well. As an older model just remember that the autofocus won’t be as snappy and the high ISO range won’t be as good (but it is still completely useable). With all that said, there are people who say the colour rendition of the 16mp X-Trans CMOS II sensor on the X-T1 is better than that of the X-Trans III sensor – although, I’d have to say the IV iteration is perhaps my favourite so far. In fact, the X-Trans II sensor has a rather favourable cult following – a little like the 12mp D700 sensor for Nikon shooters.
By the way, all the gear photos are shot on the X-T1 paired with the 35mm f/2.0 (except the X-T1 photo, obviously). And all are Fuji JPEGs (again, except for the X-T1 photo which is actually a RAW file).
X-T1 + Battery Grip with 35mm f/2.0
The Back Up Gear
One of my favourite cameras of all time – and probably the one that I would still reach for to shoot with. I love the rangefinder type design and the general ergonomics of the camera. I really thought long and hard about upgrading to two X-Pro3s as my workhorse cameras, but the X-T3 just ticked a few more boxes. If you want to check out more about how I set up the X-Pro2 you can find it HERE on my old blog.
X-Pro2 with 23mm f/1.4
The Backup Lenses
XF 35MM F/2.0
This lens really is a back-up. It’s autofocus is quick and has good image quality but, at f/2.0, it’s just not quick enough to be a regular option at a fast paced wedding. The equivalent 50mm full frame field of view is one that I gravitate to but one that doesn’t pair as well with either the 23mm or the 56mm.
The Backup Lenses
XF 35MM F/1.4
Rather embarrassingly, I only picked this lens up because the 35mm f/2.0 went on a 6 month adventure with a touring punk band. Shooting gigs can be just as chaotic as weddings. Nevertheless, this lens is fantastic, if a bit quirky. Honestly, having just shot an intimate wedding with this lens (December 2020) I’m not sure it will be more than a back-up moving forward. The autofocus is just not where I’d like it to be for a ceremony environment. I do enjoy it for the getting ready shots where the 56mm might be a bit too tight for certain rooms. That slower paced, and less pressured, environment means I can take my time more and put up with the slower and less reliable autofocus. It is one of the original fuji lenses, so all things considered, it’s not surprisingly on the slow side. That being said, although I wouldn’t shoot a whole wedding with it again, the image quality is still beautiful. It obviously lets in more light than the smaller f/2.0 younger sibling, however, I’d only use that for aesthetic choices in portraiture. Like I said, the autofocus is slow at the best of times, so in low light – when the f/1.4 would be needed – I really wouldn’t trust the autofocus at all.
X-T2 35mm f/1.4 @ ISO 800 f/1.4 1/500th
Back Button Focusing
And why I don’t use it
Ok, here comes the more technical stuff. I learnt how to photograph on digital Nikon DSLRs using back button focusing. In fact, I sold my Nikon D750 not even a year into owning it so I could buy my Fuji gear. Naturally, I wanted my shooting experience to be as similar as possible moving forward, so I originally set my Fujis up for back button focus. Unfortunately, there is no designated button like on my D750. That’s ok though, there were customisable buttons on the back.
So I set up the AE-L to be my focusing button because that’s where my thumb ‘naturally’ sits on the camera. I shot a few weddings like this back in 2017 whilst working as a 2nd shooter for a successful local photographer. Now there were a number of problems. And let me be very clear from the outset: these are problems because of the way I like to set up the camera (subjective problem); and because, for me, the back button focus on the Fuji system is slower (objective problem). Let me discuss the latter first, as the former will take longer.
Shooting with back button focus decouples the focusing from the shutter. This means you can focus once and fire off a number of frames without the camera re-focusing. Obviously this is useful because once the focus is locked the camera won’t try and refocus for the next shot. This will speed up your shooting and, theoretically, help you get sharper shots. It’s also very useful for focusing and re-composing; you don’t need to keep moving your camera back to your subject to focus after each and every shot. However, in the wedding environment in 2017 I found the back button focus to be slower and, therefore, unreliable. Even now as I write this I wanted to make sure this was the case. So with my X-Pro2 I’ve flicked the focusing into manual (because this automatically de-couples the focus from the shutter), and whilst sat at my desk I’m doing a little speed test. It’s noticeably slower still: it hunts more and slowly racks focus compared to the shutter button.
Why don’t I subjectively like it? Well, I like the AE-L button (where my thumb ‘naturally’ falls) to be a designated Auto Exposure Lock. More often than not I shoot in manual ‘mode’. However, in fast paced environments with multiple lighting situations I will put the camera into Fuji’s version of Aperture Priority. Basically, I set my F Stop and set ISO and Shutter to A (automatic). But I want to be able to over-ride or choose my exposure still. This is where the AE-L is brilliant. Say you’re in a ceremony room lit by hard directional side light. The couple are basically in ‘shade’ but some of the guests are in hard sun light. Using the AE-L button I can move seamlessly from one lighting situation to the other, locking the exposure where I want it each time. Then when I let go of the AE-L button the camera will start metering again. This is a really fluid and dynamic way of using the camera’s excellent meter. And I prioritise this approach over the back button approach.
So, my advice on back button focusing if it’s a must for you, do your own testing. The Fuji cameras are customisable and you should make full use of that. Find what works best for you. For example, if I still wanted back button focus as well as AE-L I’d have to make my AE-L button a press for on and a press for off. That way I can then let go of the button to move my thumb across to the AF-L button. Of course, even as I write this it all just sounds so fiddly! I could always just put the cameras into Manual Focus which decouples the focus from the shutter and use the AF-L button as a pre-focus. But for me, I’ve found a way that works. My set up is all about speed, I can move the camera faster than I can move my thumb from button to button. That being said, I know the XH1 introduced a more ‘traditional’ button for back button focus, and that it’s also on the XT4 – so maybe, one day, I’ll have back-button focus on my Fuji camera set up.
With the new X-T3s I’ve set my AF-L button to be in continuous focusing mode. That means, if I do want to use back-button focus I switch my camera into M on the front little dial and have full continuous auto-focus decoupled from the shutter. However, I’m still just not sure it’s as responsive as the shutter. I tested it tracking a moving car on my first wedding with the X-T3s and I missed focus quite a bit during the tracking. I think the main problem is this: I just do not have confidence in it; and if I don’t have confidence, I don’t trust it; and then I get in my own way by over thinking. So for now, I’ll be sticking with what I’ve learnt to do.
Function Button Configuration
Honestly, this is the best part about having two identical cameras.
Fn1 – This button is never used for me, it’s in an awkward position in between two dials. But it’s set to White Balance.
Fn2 – eye/face focus (so much better on the X-T3!).
Fn3 – Switching between Electronic and Mechanical Shutter.
Fn4 – Toggle quickly between my custom JPEG settings.
Fn5 – AF Mode – between single point and zone.
Fn6 – Anti-Flicker
Dual Card Slots
Because X-T3 have dual card slots they are both set up exactly the same way. Although what I have found is because of the slight bump in MegaPixels my card management system is a little stretched. Before I could easily shoot an entire wedding onto a 32GB card. Unfortunately, I’ve lost space for over 200 RAW images with the increase in MegaPixels. That is a lot of photo space lost. And it basically means I will be changing cards on at least one of the cameras – usually the 23mm camera -if not both cameras. So, moving forward I’ll be investing in a few more 64GB cards to help mitigate this.
Slot 1 is my RAW card. I shoot Compressed RAW because it’s possible without any loss of quality to save a lot of space on the card. The card is a 32GB ExtremePro II SanDisk (image shows a I card but these are actually the backups now).
Slot 2 is my JPEG back-up. This card actually needs to be bigger than the Compressed RAW card, otherwise it will run out sooner. In here I use a 64GB Extreme SanDisk.
I’ve never had any issues with buffering with this configuration. And it’s nice to know that you have a 2nd back-up card slot that has some exquisite Fuji JEPGs on it just in case.
Because I back the JPEG card up when I get back from a wedding, I format both cards before a new wedding.
In SAVE DATA SETTING I set it to RAW/JPEG and I then set the camera up to record Fine + RAW in IMAGE QUALITY, whilst RAW RECORDING is set to Compressed.
I won’t lie, the battery life on the fujis is terrible for shooting weddings. I have three batteries for each camera and I will usually use them all on a full 12 hour day. Plus I carry extra batteries as well for back up. The EVF will take a lot of the juice so I make sure to do a little bit of power management throughout the day. I’ll also typically charge 2 or 3 batteries during the Wedding Breakfast. Again, this just gives me a buffer in case anything goes wrong. Generally, if you have time to put some batteries on charge do it! But what you sacrifice in length of charge, you obviously make up in weight. And I honestly don’t mind carrying around a few more batteries compared to the weight of two DSLRs. This is another reason why the X-T3 won the battle of the upgrade – that vertical grip with 3 batteries is a life saver.
(and how to use it like a Pro!)
Wait, come back!
Ok, I don’t always use Auto ISO. This is mostly because I shoot manually 90% of the time. But, when set up properly and intentionally, it can be a useful weapon. Generally I try and shoot at or below an 800 ISO – this is because I read an article about digital ISO having a truer colour profile up to 800 (I can’t find the article I read on this unfortunately). This is not because of digital noise. I edit all my photos to match my film images, therefore, all my images will be edited with grain. Digital noise is by no means as pretty as film grain, in fact it’s often down right ugly. However, because I’m matching actual film profiles that have ASAs of 400/800/3200, I don’t prioritise clean images above anything else. For example, I prioritise authentic ambiance over clean images. This means that my flash will remain off my camera as much as possible. Because of this I use fast primes, but that will only get you so far in certain situations; especially on the smaller X-Trans sensory that simply ‘sees’ less light than a 35mm sensor or my medium format negative. Therefore, the ISO is a weapon that should be utilised. Mostly because the high ISO performance of these modern digital cameras is exceptional.
But where would I use auto ISO? Well, imagine a situation where you need a specific aperture and shutter speed. This situation could involve you shooting wide open, or needing to shoot at f/4 to have some depth of field. Now imagine you have moving people – which is pretty much every scenario at a wedding. Or, because of modern LED lighting, you need to stay at a shutter speed of 1/100th or above to stop totally destructive banding on your images (this is mostly an issue during the wedding breakfast/speeches – but could technically be anywhere inside lit by LED bulbs). Although with the X-T3 now we do have an anti flicker setting. So, you’re wide open, at your minimum shutter speed available, and you have changeable lighting. You could use your exposure compensation dial. But you could also have your auto ISO set up for maximum and minimum values. This means that with your ISO set to A (auto) the camera will use the minimum ISO available for the correct exposure, and if your scene needs more light it will raise the ISO accordingly. You are, therefore, free to stay focused on the scene in front of you – your most important settings dialled in and unchanging, but with the camera using auto ISO like an added auto exposure compensation. It is a really effective way of utilising the highly intelligent machine you’ve paid a lot of money for.
Now, with the X-T3 I have three different Auto ISO settings – each one going up incrementally. That means, at Auto ISO 1 the camera won’t go above 800 – obviously brilliant limiting the ISO in this way, just to give you flexibility whilst maintaining colour rendition. Auto ISO 2 is 6400, and Auto ISO 3 is 3200. I pick the number based on the given situation. It means the camera can help me in fast paced changeable lighting environments, but I also retain control of HOW the camera is helping me.
Fuji X-T3 Film Simulation Settings
This is where ‘taste’ or aesthetic comes into play. I shoot my weddings in RAW and edit these files in Capture One (more on this below). For that reason my JPEG settings aren’t as important. However, they are my backup images. So I need them to look a certain way just in case. Fuji X Weekly‘s blog is such a thorough resource for fuji recipes – and with the new X-Trans IV sensor I’ve found one that I absolutely love! It’s based on Kodak Vision 250D motion picture stock. Obviously, with shooting weddings I don’t want my JPEGs to be too far out there, so this is a beautiful cinematic compromise.
Truthfully, from a purely technical level, I’d set my JPEGs to ACROS Red with strong contrast. This would be my ideal way to view a wedding through the EVF. I enjoy seeing in BnW, it helps focus my eye on composition and light. But, that would mean all my backup JPEGs are BnW. Now, I don’t have a problem shooting BnW only weddings, but not every couple who books me wants only BnW. And I just don’t want to take any risks with my backup files.
Also, because of these recipes I’ve started to shoot at ISO 640 as my base ISO to then shoot in DR400 (you have to be over x-amount of ISO to unlock the DR400). I just love the look this gives from the sensor – honestly, my RAW files look exquisite. And because I know I’m putting grain into my final images anyway, I’m not too fussed about always shooting at the lowest base ISO possible. Again, it comes down to individual preference and artistic style. And I guess if I wanted the cleanest most digital looking files I’d be shooting Sony anyway. But I don’t, and I’m not.
Editing RAW Files
I use Capture One as my editing software. I started with Lightroom and in many ways I still would prefer to edit in Lightroom, but Capture One renders Fuji RAW files so much better. I mean, so much better. They even have a designated Fujifilm version, if all you shoot is Fuji!! I can’t, in all good conscience, recommend Lightroom for Fuji RAW files. The amount of ghosting and artefacts is appalling. I can’t stress this enough, especially if you’re investing in the GFX line of Fuji cameras!! Capture One came out of medium format digital photography, it is designed for large digital images, and even though I miss the ease of certain Lightroom tools (although now with version 21 the list is ever decreasing), the quality of Capture One’s rendering is just objectively better. Obviously, this blog is about Fuji. I can’t comment on other camera brand files.
Another hotly contested topic. For me, this is quite simple though. I shoot film and I want my digital images to match. With this in mind, Mastin Labs is my go to choice for presets. Thankfully they’re now rolling out their amazing presets for Capture One Styles. Kirk Mastin and his team have put together an unrivalled authentic film selection of presets/styles. I’ve been using them now for two years (before which I used my own presets). Their whole tag line is based around beautiful uncomplicated edits. The workflow is mostly adjusting exposure and white balance. Of course, these presets/styles can be tweaked and saved as your own individual version if you’re not wanting to emulate an exact film stock.
My packs of choice are Ilford Original and Portra Pushed. But I also have Adventure Everyday because of Tri-X. Gold 200 and Ektar are also useful for lifestyle shoots or wedding details. Using Capture One Styles has an added bonus of better contrast and grain. I never liked how the Lightroom presets bumped the contrast slider all the way up into the 90s. I’d always end up adjusting this. But with Capture One, Mastin’s styles seem to have better control of the contrast. At least to me.
Below is an example of Delta 3200 film and Mastin Labs Delta 3200 preset.
Contax 645 + Ilford Delta 3200 shot @ ASA 1000 f/2.0
Mastin Labs Ilford Delta 3200
A Final Note
‘We didn’t even notice you!’
If I had a pound for every well doer who said to me the tired old myth, ‘they just don’t look professional’, or ‘you’d look more professional with this…’ I’d be a very rich man. I’ve encountered many well meaning guests with their Canon 5ds and 70-200 f/2.8s looking at me oddly. Even this year I was told: ‘oh, we thought you were just a friend with a camera’. And I absolutely love it!! I want to be the friend. I want to be the fly on the wall who can walk around unnoticed and get amazing reactions. The Fuji cameras make me unthreatening. And this is vital for the type of photography I enjoy shooting. I want guest’s and couple’s guards to be down, to be comfortable, to not even notice the camera. Hence why all my equipment has black gaffers tape all over it to hide those bright obvious logos. I want to carry a small black box that doesn’t scream: ‘beware, photographer on the loose!’. Because, and here’s the dirty secret, no matter what gear you own or use, YOU are the professional, not your gear.
As a professional we choose the relevant tools for the job. Our cameras are our tools. Choose ones which work for you and the job you are fulfilling. For example, I shoot only prime lenses, primarily on two focal distances (35mm & 85mm). This means that all my photos from every single wedding I shoot have a specific look! The look of images either shot on a 35mm or an 85mm lens. Instantly there is consistency to my work and my style. There are zero images in my portfolio shot at 40mm or 65mm. Each wedding is told through the tools I have chosen, and because I’ve chosen my tools carefully and purposefully, my tools work for me. My tools may not work for you.
In fact, I implore you to find out what works for you. Experiment, find a style and a way of shooting that is you! At the start of this blog I linked Kevin Mullins’ amazing post on how he shoots with Fuji. Here it is again if you haven’t seen it. Read it, see what he does as well. Then change it to fit your personality and your style. Mullins was a huge inspiration for me starting out in the industry shooting Fuji. But I shoot differently now to when I started. I have my cameras set up differently to how he suggests. Not because he’s wrong, but because I’m not Mullins.
Don’t fall into the gear trap of ‘this is what professionals use’. That tag line is useful for people selling gear, and yes, that’s where I heard it being used on me. Professionals use whatever they choose, because they’re the professional, not their gear. Not once have I ever wished I had a different camera brand or missed a photo because I shoot Fuji. And not once has a couple questioned me as a professional because I shoot Fuji. There are a plethora of tools out there, find ones which work for you.