I initially posted this back in September and at the time a friend suggested that it might not be a good idea for me to boast that this was only my first wedding shoot, being that I was trying to gain new clients for additional weddings. Frightened of the prospect of losing potential new opportunities I hastily deleted the post. Well I thought about that decision for a while and decided, bullocks to that! I am proud of my work on my first ever wedding shoot and not afraid to mention it. I also wouldn't want folks thinking that this video was my best work after years of experience. It is what it is, so there. Needless to say I have since shot many more weddings, with each my technique getting better than the last. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
I had always thought about shooting wedding videos but for one reason or another just never got going, until now. I figured that shooting weddings would allow me an opportunity to improve my documentary style shooting technique and get to know a world of video production I had only heard stories about. With that in mind I let it be known in my social media networking circles that I was available as a shooter for wedding videos, and wouldn't you know it, shortly thereafter I was asked to help out as a second shooter on not one, but two weddings, back-to-back no less! I was not sure if I was just lucky or if someone in the heavens was looking out for me, but I jumped at the chance.
I knew I wouldn't have an assistant on these wedding assignments so I had to pack my gear accordingly. Having never shot a wedding before, I wasn't quite sure what to bring along with me but I did know I needed to pack as light as I could. I didn't want to be bogged down with too much equipment. I ended up taking two camera bodies, five lenses, camera cage, shotgun microphone, variable color temperature LED light, tripod, monopod, an electronic viewfinder, a bunch of spare batteries, and my assistant cameraman hip pouch. Well so much for packing light! One thing I learned early on as a professional photographer is to make sure to be prepared for disaster. I typically carry a spare camera body and zoom lens in case something terrible should happen to my primary camera. Events like weddings only happen once, and once they get started there's no time-out to get replacement parts at a store or rental house.
The equipment I ended up using for the wedding shown above was one Nikon D4 DSLR, 50mm f1.4 lens, 80-200mm f/2.8 lens, Wooden Camera DSLR cage, Kinotehnik LCDVFe EVF, Rode VideoMic Pro shotgun microphone, Manfrotto MVM500A monopod, and my AC pouch. Much less than I brought along.
The production company that hired me for the job told me that I'd be able to use the footage I shot for my reel, and although I was only a second shooter / B-roll shooter, I was able to piece together a little film that gives the overall feel of the entire wedding day. Rather than just choosing my best shots, I opted to choose the shots that best captured the feeling of the day.
The Nikon D4 is really quite a remarkable camera. When the D4 was first introduced back in 2011, it didn't really take off with the video community for a couple of reasons, first the price, it was nearly double that of the Canon 5D mkII and Nikon D800, second was the video image quality was a bit softer than that of the 5DmkII and D800. Since then firmware upgrades have vastly improved the video image sharpness of the D4. The D4 is able to shoot video in three different modes, it's primary FX mode in which it shoots video in what is considered "Full Frame (FF)" utilizing most of the 35mm sensor (35mm x 19.7mm), DX crop mode which is a 1.5x crop factor to FX (also closely matching what is considered Super-35 format in cinema cameras, and CX crop mode which is a 2.7x crop factor to FX. I find the video image sharpness of the D4 in FF mode and CX mode to be quite pleasing for many situations. I find the image sharpness while shooting in DX mode unacceptable for the types of videos that I shoot, therefore I only shoot in FX or CX mode. I am disappointed that DX mode doesn't produce better images because that prevents me from using any DX based lenses that I have. That is a shame as the DX lenses are smaller and lighter than the FX lenses. I've read online that many people think that the DX mode is flawed due to its lower resolution, but the truth is that Nikon only designed the DX mode in the D4 to capture 1280x720 rather than full HD of 1920x1080 as is in the FX mode. Why they did this is beyond me. I wish Nikon would change that in a future firmware upgrade but I am not holding my breath.
The reason I mention the bit about the various shooting modes is that when I combine shooting FX and CX crop mode, it in essence turn a 50mm 1.4 lens into two lenses. In addition to the 50mm in FX mode, it becomes a 135mm f1.4 while in CX mode, and my 80-200mm f/2.8 becomes a 216-540mm f2.8. Granted while in CX mode you loose the "Full Frame" aesthetic by cropping in on the image area, but it does add quite a bit of versatility to my lensing options.
I used the brand new Manfrotto MVM500A monopod with the newly designed 500 series fluid head. The monopod worked out very well except for a couple of issues. The most important issue was in stability while using a long lens. During the ceremony I was situated behind the audience, but still wanted to get some close-ups of the bride and groom. Switching the Nikon D4 to CX crop mode with the 80-200mm mounted gave me a 540mm lens so I could zoom right on in and get the closeups I wanted. Shooting close-ups with a 540mm lens while on a monopod leaves much to be desired. I found it very difficult to keep the camera steady at that focal length. I really wish I had my regular tripod handy as that would have been the way to go, unfortunately my tripod was with the rest of my gear and we were now out in the gardens, no time to switch. I had to make do with what I had. Next time I'll make sure to have regular sticks close by so when I need them it will be an easy switch. The second issue was that being that it was a monopod, only one leg, I could never put the camera down. I had to constantly balance the camera on the monopod, or very carefully place it on the ground which I did while on a brief meal break.
Overall I think my first wedding shoot went rather well, I captured some pretty nice shots and learned a bunch to make future shoots even better. Since then I have filmed several more weddings, each one adding lessons learned from the last. As it turns out, I rather enjoy filming weddings and hope to do many more!