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Wedding photography in New York City

Sunday, June 19, 2011
New York City provides some of the most interesting place to photograph. Where ever you go there will be a wedding photographer using the amazing natural background of New York City as part of their technique. The choices of a blurred background with a wide aperture, motion blur with a slow shutter speed are the decisions a photographer makes when thinking of camera technique. During this tutorial you should be asking yourself "what is my style?" and how do I achieve that with exposure settings:

What type of shutter speed do I need for the image? How much of the background needs to be sharp or not sharp? Does the light dictate my exposure settings?

My photographic style leans towards blurred movement in my photos if something is moving and backgrounds that are thrown out of focus. The camera technique I use the most are wide apertures and moderate shutter speeds which freeze some movement but let other movement blur. Below are photo examples with different exposure settings to give the beginning photographer food for thought in these respects. I tries to explain why i made the decisions in regards to aperture and shutter speed choices which best matched the lighting situations.
Here is the famous Times Square in New York City with two wonderful people on their wedding day at dusk.

It almost feels otherworldly because of the out of focus and moving background. A slow shutter speed, wide aperture and some good timing makes this a more special photo. The slow shutter speed - 1/50th of a sec gives the speeding taxi cabs their blurred movement. With a Nikon 35-70mm F/2.8 lens the far background is thrown out of focus with a moderate F/5 aperture setting. A SB-600 flash on manual at 1/2 pointed at a 45 degree angle toward the subjects gives a nice soft light with just enough punch to post process to taste.

Times Square Wedding

This next shot was rather treacherous to obtain. On a rocking boat the three of us went out to the bow and did some photography while the captain tried to keep us pointed at the Statue of Liberty. It was a fun image to get and I wish there was an assistant to hold a light which would have helped balance the background sunlight with the exposure like the previous image. The post processing is rather stylized because of the lighting issue. I used a Fuji S5 -  F/11 @ 1/250. The fast shutter speed insured that I was not going to get motion blur. While the F/11 aperture with a DX lens set at 17mm (which is equal to a 25.5mm angle of view on a FX camera) gave me a deep field of view capturing some detail in Lady Liberty.

Statue of Liberty Wedding

And finally. a photo from Central Park in January. It was cold and yes it was fun. The snow was so bright at midday that I had to set the shutter speed at 1/6400 of a sec. and my usual wide aperture of F/4.5 to keep the background out of focus. The shutter speed was set very fast not to freeze the movement, 1/125th sec. would have done that trick, but to get a proper exposure in such a bright scene. I didn't want the background to be super sharp with a deep depth of field so I had to use this exposure combination.

Central Park Wedding

Understanding your camera is the path to creating your own photographic style. The language of photography is shutter speed and aperture size. The technique of throwing the background out of focus or getting sharp depth of field is up to your creative desires.
Shutter speed is a matter of knowing what setting you need for what situations. It is all about movement and being able to judge how fast something is moving then knowing the proper shutter speed needed to photograph the subject is what separates good photographers from great ones.
This tutorial gave you three examples:
  • Slow shutter speed with blurred background
  • Fast shutter speed to eliminate movement along with a small aperture to get deep depth of field
  • Fast shutter speed and moderate aperture because the day was so bright so the conditions dictated my exposure settings.
A nice natural light wedding photography slide show from my portfolio.


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