Day 107: A Very Scottish Wedding

This is the challenge which I’ve been most worried about.

I was the first person to be approached for photography after my cousin announced his engagement. It’s always an honour to be considered, because wedding photos probably have greater longevity than most other genres. I declined the principal role, as I think that it’s hard to enjoy a family wedding while coping with the pressures of principal photography, but I offered to supplement their professional’s work with some of my own.

Before I go into the details of the day and how the Tamron lens fared up, there’s a few things that I want to raise about the etiquette of attending as a guest, whilst also being a photographer.

I’ve always found that it’s best to let the hired photographers just get on with their own thing. There’s nothing worse than doing all the donkey work to set up a finely posed image, only to have someone jump in from the side, disrupt all of the eyelines and to try and grab their own shot. We all feel a sense of pride in getting our own images, but if they are going to be a carbon copy of someone else’s, I just won’t bother. So I don’t follow the pro’s while they’re doing the family photos. I’ll walk around getting some of the other details. Cakes, flowers, favours, that sort of thing. During the ceremony, I prefer to stay in my seat, or you end up with half a dozen photographers distracting from the main event.

It’s fairly standard with weddings for the photographers to leave after the first dances. This means that a lot of the social aspect wedding is left uncovered. This is when I like to go around with the camera. I love photographing receptions, as it’s often very difficult to capture the mood of it all. You’ve often got indoor, mixed colour lighting, with lots of short moments and fast movement. I’ve done evening shots with fireworks (because I’ve had a lot of experience shooting that sort of thing), and I’ve once been asked by the pros to get the first dance because the order of the evening was changed at the last minute. These sorts of things help you to network with other photographers, which is always a useful thing. If you can get it right, then everyone stays happy.

By making a conscious effort not to tread on the toes of the hired team, you add to the album without producing a copy of it. And here’s the thing: even if you decide to follow the pro around all day, you usually won’t get the goods. That’s because the couple splash out thousands on their photographs, so they want to help the professional. They don’t want them to fail. If it comes down to a shoot-out between the pro (who has to provide the album) and snap-happy Great Uncle Phil (whose end result is probably Facebook), guess who the bride’s going to side with? Let them get on with it so that they can get on with their party.

The wedding started shortly after three. It was foggy, there was snow on the ground, and held at Dundas Castle, in South Queensferry, Central Scotland. It was absolutely beautiful. This also meant that it was very dark, and I had very high ceilings to contend with.

By now, you probably have a pretty good idea of the sort of photos I was looking to take, and the challenges I would be facing. I have to say, I did not feel especially great about the Tamron while I was using it at the wedding. Largely, this was down to the venue and the specifics connected with the date. It’s also got a lot to do with the sorts of photos I like. I prefer to bounce flash so that it takes a natural appearance, and I like to mix it with the light that’s there. Direct flash would be an absolute last resort. And actually, it never came to that. 

I have to admit, I was pretty surprised when it came to processing the photos. I got far more successful shots from the Tamron 18-270 PZD than I anticipated. Every shot here has come from that lens, although others were used at other points during the day. High ISO’s very much came into play, even with a flash gun. If the room hadn’t been very narrow, I’d have had to give up (remember, I’m a guest, so no assistant with a softbox on a stick, and working from a distance). Fortunately, I don’t mind boosting the ISO on my camera, as it handles it pretty well. It’s no D3s (which I’m desperately craving a sponsor for), but it gets by. This was the saving grace.

It excelled at the close-up shots. In fact, I would say that for the details, it probably did a better job than my 70-200 would have, because the working distance was very comfortable. The reception was workable too, as the ceiling was about 50% closer than it had been in the chapel. The vibration control system also made it more useful in the low light, as long as nobody moved. I don’t think it would have been possible to shoot the wedding flash-free, or with a less capable sensor, but in truth this was the case for of all of my lenses.

I think that this is a point worth noting though. Camera technology is improving all of the time, and anyone who says it’s not the camera that matters probably hasn’t tried pushing their comfort zones. The newest models can take pictures in conditions where we actually struggle to see, and I’d expect that to trickle down to consumer models in the next couple of years. That’s going to reduce the impact of the Tamron’s only real weakness as an all-purpose lens: the slow maximum aperture. In most cases, I chose to use the wider end of the lens so that I could claw back a couple of stops. The VC helped further. There’s always going to be a place for the larger, faster lenses – due to certain optical benefits like bokeh; depth of field; ease of focus through a viewfinder, and general robustness – but in the coming years, I think that the playing field is gong to be levelled somewhat with regards to needing them because they are fast.

For truly professional shots, you’re going to need competent kit and methods, but you certainly can shoot a wedding in a guest capacity with this superzoom. In fact, it’s so small that I think it’s great to carry anyway as an emergency backup lens. If you know your adversaries, and pack a flashgun with plenty of batteries, then it could save your skin in a pinch. And if you like to travel lightweight, and want to use the Tamron 18-270 PZD for your own purposes at a family wedding, then you should do fine.

I’ll finish by saying that that groom reviewed all of the shots this morning, and couldn’t tell the pro-lens shots from the Tamron. What more can you ask for?

Photo data:

1. Nikon D300; Tamron 18-270mm PZD @ 18mm; ISO 800; F/3.5; 1/20s. VC on.

2. Nikon D300; Tamron 18-270mm PZD @ 42mm; ISO 800; F/4.8; 1/20s. VC on.

3. Nikon D300; Tamron 18-270mm PZD @ 85mm; ISO 800; F/5.6; 1/20s. VC on.

4. Nikon D300; Tamron 18-270mm PZD @ 82mm; ISO 800; F/5.6; 1/20s. VC on.

5. Nikon D300; Tamron 18-270mm PZD @ 27mm; ISO 800; F/7.1; 1/20s. VC on.

6. Nikon D300; Tamron 18-270mm PZD @ 85mm; ISO 1000; F/5.6; 1/30s. VC on.

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One response to “Day 107: A Very Scottish Wedding

  1. Super write up (apart from having two No2s in the technical list).
    Also wonderful pictures …….. I don’t think they will want mine now.

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