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Wedding Photojournalism and Portrait Photography by Ben Eden

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A discussion on wedding and portrait photography-related topics


Hi Ben, Are you still using Leica M7 for weddings?

Hi Gary: I actually prefer to use M6's and am considering the Leica MP. I haven't felt the need to switch to the M7 so far. The M7 in fact has little advantage to offer for my style of photography: First, I don't need the increased precision of the computer-controlled shutter as I use negative film for most of my documentary work and all of my wedding and portrait assignments.

Second, I don't find the current Leica flash TTL metering concept superior to what my Metz flashes, in fact any decent flash unit, can do on their own. I can see how what, quite unfortunately, as far as I am concerned, amounts to semi-spot TTL metering could be helpful in some specific applications. For my purposes, it is not very useful, however. (Matrix TTL Flash and auto exposure metering would be another story altogether, that would make the Leica M7 a significant improvement in my eyes.)

The M7 introduces potential sources of reliability issues, as it is not a mechanical camera anymore. I do like the improved viewfinder, however, and am considering having my cameras upgraded, when I find the time.

The Herefordshire Leica guru Malcolm Taylor, who is servicing my gear, also showed me an alternative solution to the pesky viewfinder patch blocking problem, inherent in the later M-camera viewfinder design. It is an invention / modification of Malcolm's own. Unfortunately I haven't had the opportunity so far to compare both viewfinders side by side.

I currently use an old Nikon FM system and I am on the verge of going from amateur to professional. The Leica looks like a great system, even in this age of digital. I will want to use natural lighting too.

You will find my take on digital vs. film at the top of my client FAQ page.

Using the M6 on an image that has a lot of fine detail, such as baby hair or fine fabric, do you feel comfortable enlarging a 35 mm negative to 8x10, or even 11x14? I only use film (no digital for now) and I am considering purchasing an M7 for photographing (in a photojournalistic way) babies. My other option is to get a medium format system, but I really do not want all the bulk, plus the medium format (for me at least) does not work too well when hand held and I don't think it would work well in low light situations. Regards, Gary Wolfe, Sacramento, California

Yes, I do feel comfortable enlarging to 10x15" or even beyond. My favorite exhibition size is 14x21" - and 35mm film is no impediment here. Two things to keep in mind here:

First, subject movement is inherent to documentary / photojournalistic portraiture. As you mention yourself, the added resolution of a medium format camera would mostly go wasted anyway.

Second, one always has to evaluate image resolution together with the size / normal viewing distance of the actual print. A wall print made from a negative that yielded a tack-sharp postcard-sized photograph will, at it's normal viewing distance, appear sharp as well.

While most if not all of us photographers do scrutinize large images at closer distances, it really is akin to viewing a 4x5" print under a strong loupe or a microscope - a technical exercise that has precious little to do with the esthetic merits of the actual photographic image. Best, BE

Hello Ben, I'm impressed that wedding photography can be taken to such a level as working internationally. My name is Claude, I've been a wedding photographer for 12 years in Australia. I love what I do and have a great reputation in the industry here. Recently I decided to travel and take my work abroad. I was in London recently, and returned to Australia a week ago to shoot weddings.

Ben, do you have any words of advice on working internationally? I would love to have met you over a beer, while in the UK, my next trip is not till next year. Cheers mate....... Claude from Australia,

Hi Claude: This is a question I get asked quite often. You may want to start with showing your existing portfolio to your fellow Australians that go abroad for a destination wedding - and many do. If they are impressed with your photography - that's the key - they might consider "taking you along" with them. My own experience was different, though: International clients started approaching me after having somehow seen my documentary projects on the internet. This is in fact how I became involved in wedding photography. Let me know when you're back in London. Best, BE

Hi Ben , I'm an Israeli photographer that accidentally entered your website wanting to share my honest appreciation to your wonderful work! It isn't so common finding such talent and professionalism in our field... So it was truly a wonderful experience coming across your work. Is it o.k to ask about your rates? ( just out of interest...) With a lot of appreciation, Noomi Yogev, Israel

Dear Noomi, Thanks for the accolades. There's nothing wrong with you asking about my rates. In fact, I much prefer it to what seems to happen all the time: Wedding photographers that email me posing as potential clients and making up stories. That is unprofessional and just wastes my time. As to your rates request, please make it a bit more specific - are you interested in wedding, reportage, documentary projects, editorial photography, etc. I will be happy to answer. Regards, BE

Dear Ben, congratulations for your wonderful wedding work. I do really adore this "one-camera-one-lens" approach. Your work is so much different from the "industry's standard". (I'm trying to cut down my equipment for my weddings as well - currently I'm carrying 2xCanon 1D + flashes and ALL (yes, sad!) lenses) For my personal work, I have begun to work only with one body one lens (either 24 (results in a 31) or 35 (results in a 46) mm) and no flash) This "change ISO after every shot" comes in quite handy for this approach. I do agree that this M6/7 thingy is smaller/lighter but how do you handle fast changing light? Frank Nürnberger,

Thanks, Frank. To answer your question: Fast changing light can indeed be a challenge. What I do is continuously check/adjust exposure as I move around, trying to predict light changes, even before actually composing a shot. This has become a habit (admittedly out of necessity) that I've adapted from my street photography. (It's really nothing new, I found it - surprise - well described in one of the Bresson and/or Doisneau biographies.)

Now, another factor to consider is that negative film - both color and black & white - has a wide exposure lattitude. This is perfect for the huge contrast range in wedding photography - think white wedding dress and charcoal tuxedo - compounded with, as you mention it, quite unpredictable light. As you may be already doing, with digital I would strongly suggest photographing in RAW mode only, even if it means increasing mobile storage requirements and processing time/effort considerably. -BE


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