There are times I don’t even feel like a photographer – or that I feel like an endless amateur, forever learning even the most basic tenants of the art, the craft, the profession.
Last weekend, Christa and I photographed our first wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony, and for the occasion, we used our new f/1.8 Nikkor 85mm lens, which is practically designed for portraits. Our photos were, for the most part, perfect – save for one rookie error of mine that shows up in image after image.
The weather was less than cooperative – rain and clouds, with intermittent sun – and we had to respond accordingly with our cameras and choice of lenses. Since the ceremony was set to begin at 7:00, and actually did not begin until almost 7:30, we were constantly monitoring and adjusting for the dwindling, greenish natural light. To add to the complexity of the shoot, we were also making images inside a nearby house, where the wedding party got ready for the ceremony. So we were in and out of ever-changing lighting situations.
To lend some consistency to the proceedings, I set my ISO fairly high, at 800. (As did Christa, at my urging.) As usual, we shot in Aperture mode, making adjustments to fit the lighting environment. It began raining just as the bride began walking down the aisle, and as we shot the ceremony and took bridals and family portraits afterward, it rained the whole time. The miracle? In our finished images, you cannot tell that a single drop is falling.
The reception, dinner, bouquet-tossing and dances were all held in total darkness, around 9:00, illuminated only by Christmas-style lights strung from trees. We had to get these images, so, I shot with my trusty, go-to 35mm at f/1.8, the ISO jacked into the upper reaches of the stratosphere, and my exposure compensation meter set accordingly. It took an amazing amount of patience, but my camera did fire a couple of times, and I captured all of two usable images.
Later that night, I got looking at my images in Bridge, and I noticed an awful lot of noise in almost every frame. That was because I had my ISO set too high in lighting situations where it wasn’t needed. The actual ceremony photos turned out well – the noise isn’t quite as noticeable – but in many of the group shots, it is VERY noticeable. I tried reducing noise in Photoshop, but there was only so much I felt comfortable doing.
Today at work, I talked with a co-worker who does a lot of still photography and video, and he agreed that it’s a tightrope when you are responding to a variety of lighting situations, seemingly at once, and have little choice but to keep your settings as wide-open as possible. I went a little off the deep end. (Interestingly, Christa’s shots don’t seem to have the same noise levels.)
I’ve determined to be more careful of ISO and mindful of noise, and in fact, this afternoon, I shot some trial pix at a mini-session Christa had arranged. (I also used the Manual mode, adjusting my shutter speed and aperture settings almost with every shot.) I was very pleased with the results. With photography, it truly is a tight rope, and a game of chance. You have to pay attention to everything and make the correct adjustments. Damn rookie errors!