A Yorkshire photographer’s guide to shooting weddings with fuji X-Series cameras
Wedding Photography with Fuji X-Series Cameras
I’m writing this in January 2021, depending on when you find this somethings might have changed. But I hope regardless of what Fuji camera you own you’ll find this in-depth guide useful.
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 version 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!
(Updated version for summer 2021 HERE)
My Current Fuji Cameras
In many ways it really doesn’t matter what modern digital camera you use. Every modern X-Series camera is at a level where it will get the job done. I still use the X-Pro2, instead of upgrading to the X-Pro3, simply because it is still an exceptional camera. I love it’s form factor, how it has a rangefinder inspired design, how the dials are tactile, and the X-Trans CMOS III sensor is still one of the best for colour rendition.
X-Pro2 with 56mm f/1.2
I pair the Pro2 with the SLR designed X-T2. And I’ll be honest, I’ve never really gotten on with this camera. It does its job perfectly well, and even has added features that the Pro2 doesn’t – especially when paired with the battery grip. But the SLR design just doesn’t work for me as well as the rangefinder. I find the rangefinder design suits my reportage style, I’m able to keep the camera away from my face and, therefore, my left eye is completely unobstructed to scan the scene whilst the camera is still raised to my eye. So, as 2021 progresses I will most likely retired the T2 to the back-up bag. And instead, I’ll look at the X-Pro3. The added speed of the T2 isn’t something I’ll miss. The Pro2 works well for the walking down the aisle shots or the confetti shots. Especially when paired with the newer, faster glass.
X-T2 + Battery Grip with 23mm f/1.4
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 newer X-Series cameras. In fact, that 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
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.
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.
Function Button Configuration
Fn1 – This allows me to change my AF-C configuration. I tend to find myself between configuration 1 & 2.
Fn2 – This allows me to put eye/face focus on. This is not something I’d typically use at a wedding with the X-Pro2. But it’s there just in case.
Fn3 – This is the Photometry. I tend to stay in spot as it gives me most control but if the lighting is constant then centre-weighted is often good for me.
Fn4 – Allows me to change my JPEG settings – useful if I want to switch what I’m seeing in the EVF
Fn5 – Allows me to toggle between Electronic + Mechanical shutter. Really important during the ceremony when I want to go completely silent. (Depending on the artificial lights though you must stay above 1/100th when in electronic shutter).
Fn6 – I can change my autofocus here – really important for walking down the aisle shots and confetti shots. I tend to switch to ZONE focusing for those moments and might even change the AF-C configuration.
R-Dial – This just allows me to check focus.
Function Button Configuration
Honestly, this is the part that really isn’t working for me by having two different camera designs. I can’t lay out the cameras exactly the same. It’s not a deal breaker but it is awkward at times, especially in fast moving moments of the day.
Fn1 – This button is never used for me, it’s in an awkward position in between two dials.
Fn2 – again eye/face focus.
Fn3 – AF Mode – again between single point and zone.
Fn4 – Toggle quickly between my custom JPEG settings.
Fn5 – AF-C settings. Again between 1 & 2.
Fn6 – Again switching between Electronic and Mechanical Shutter.
Dual Card Slots
Because the X-Pro2 and X-T2 have dual card slots they are both set up exactly the same way.
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 SanDisk.
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.
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). 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.
Fuji 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. With this in mind, PRO Neg. Std (NS) is my choice. This is a simulation based around skin tones for portraiture. I view my JPEGs like my film negative scans: I want them to get me a brilliant base that can be tweaked. Therefore, I opt for a lower contrasted JPEG because I know I can add contrast if desired. It’s much harder to take contrast out. For me, skin tones are sacrosanct (hence why I still shoot film).
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.
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. They 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 your 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.