This "Spray and Pray" is one of the loudest thumping of war drums I've ever heard yet. It's an idea that one of the top ten tips to being a wedding photographer is to set your camera on "Program" mode, shoot a lot and hope something comes out of it.
Here is a fantastic opening for the true professional photographer to really increase the professional divide. Here is how to educate what a real photographer does in capturing a moment, on the fly, making rapid decisions while catching the moment.
On the left is an image I took at a wedding I shot as a guest for our longtime assistant, Lauren. On the right is an image David Jay shot at Stacy B. Shy's wedding. David Jay is the photographic guru promoting the "Spray and Pray" method. David was named one of the top ten photographers in the world by PDN Magazine.
My image is on the left, DJ's is on the right. His was shot RAW, mine was shot JPG.
Here are the steps to get an unposed image like I did on the left. The image on left was resized, but otherwise STRAIGHT FROM THE CAMERA and not modified in any way.
1) Choose your lens - During sunset, I knew that I would get some beautiful photos of the guests in the elegant lighting. It wouldn't make sense to shoot that with a wide angle lens, because I'd just get a big room with a lot of shadows cutting across. So I selected a long, fast telephoto lens for this series.
2) Move your feet so you are at the perfect angle - I had to select the guests that were perfectly lit at the angle that would look more striking. If I moved to the right, the shot would be backlit, with the skin tones going murky, just like the "Spray and Pray" example above. If I move to the left, I'd get people turning away from the sunset to avoid squinting. So I hovered from left to right until I had people perfectly rim-lit.
2) Wait for the moment the lighting was perfect on this bridesmaid. Her hand touching her shoulder looked very elegant. Once I locked my focus sensor on her eyeball and tickled my aperture wheel until it was wide open, I waited for this expression. It was gone in a fleeting second, and nailing moments keeps you sharp. It keeps your eyes OPEN, while "Spray and Pray" can actually be done with automated cameras with eyes closed.
3) Lock Focus and Exposure - Program selects the focus point for you. Even if your camera has face detection, it doesn't have eyeball detection. So to be safe, the camera will increase depth of field by shutting aperture down, but you'd lose that beautifully soft, selective focus look. I locked my focus point in the settings to the centre spot, then focused on her eyeball and the used focus lock to freeze the lens from whirring. Having set the camera to Focus Lock = Exposure Lock, I was now ready for her expression to soften and then grab that shot.
4) Open your radar to anticipate the moment - professional photojournalists have what I call a "radar". Since the time between you seeing an obstacle and stepping on your brake at 60mph is 180 feet (pedestrian is dead before you think to hit the brakes), similarly a wedding is going at 175 miles per hour. You have to know when the peak moment is going to happen and click the shutter in anticipation of the moment. By the time you "see" the moment, if you react with your trigger finger, you'll miss it. That's the huge difference between a fantastic photographer and the average one. The ability to squeeze the trigger when you feel the smile start to break.
I've always suggested to my friends (and formerly my clients) to ask any photographer they are interviewing to see one wedding from start to finish. This will speak volumes about what you will expect.
I've put the online galleries from Stacy B. Shy from her wedding from my buddy the "Spray and Pray" lecturer, (who charged $6,000) and me shooting my friend's wedding well as a guest.
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