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Thread: Advice and wisdom

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    Advice and wisdom

    Hi All,

    I know I have asked a similar question regarding the R system but I wanted see people's view of using M7's or M6's as my pro bodies. I have an M8 and have considered moving to shooting on two bodies but also wanted to consider a return to film. There are many factors driving this review and I wanted to see what all the very experienced photographer here thought of the best option:

    I want to use this system for my wedding and portrait business:
    Option 1: Use my D3's and M8

    Option 2: Use D3's for fasting moving subjects and times of the coverage and use two M7's with BW and Colour film

    Option 3: Only M8's

    Option 4: M8 and M7?

    I know they are more choices but I want to see what you all think. Also any recommendation of film's would be great also. Lastly and not to ask too many questions is the M7 a much better choice over the M6 as there is quite a price difference and I see the main feature for the M7 is the AE??

    Thanks for your advice and comments.

    regards

    Rodney

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    I would first decide on digital verse film.

    My concern about using both would be the different looks they provide. You can find some good posts on going film only and the workflow it dictates . Generally the pluses of film for weddings tend to be in a unique and highly sought after rendering. I usually describe this as "timeless" . Improvements in services now provide development, proofing and high res scans for $25/roll.

    Digital has the advantage of immediate feedback and fast turnaround . Lower out of pocket costs to the photographer . And it can be argued an improved image but this is subjective to say the least.

    IMHO you should decide if you want film or digital first and do not confuse the equipment selection process.

    The second major decision is will you use two different systems on one assignment. A wedding is a collection of photographs that capture an event( a time , a place , a moment).It is very difficult to merge images from two systems into a cohesive collection. When I shoot two systems , I make an effort to adjust the post processing to make the images look similar. This could be a debate in itself....but I want my D3 images to look similar to the M8 . There was a good thread on this on the LUF with a preset for D3 as M8.

    The third decision is D3 verse M8 (if you decide on digital). The following are gross generalizations and there are examples of successful wedding photographers showing other alternatives:

    1. The D3 has far superior capabilities for use of flash of all types. This maybe a requirement if you have an evening wedding . You can achieve much of this with the M8 but with much greater effort and skill.

    2. The D3 has much extended high ISO capabilities making available light possible where the M8 would not be suitable.

    3. Provided you have enough light, I find the M8 far superior for capturing the moment and feel I could do a better job shooting with fast wide angles and short telephotos on two M8 bodies. I would not shoot with M8s if I wasn t confident and totally familiar with there operation. Rangefinders are different and I think more difficult to get right.

    Whatever solution you choose ....you should be very familiar with and shoot regularly . Pick film or digital,Nikon or Leica M and work to make the system a part of you. You need to focus on getting the images and not the latest fill flash settings ...

    You should here some alternative viewpoints as this forum has many accomplished wedding photographers.

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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    For what it's worth, and NOT from a wedding shooter but as a photog who's been on the customer's side -- and seeing as it appears you have at least one D3 and given the options you've listed I'd opt for a kit of:

    1. One+ D3s: Equip with a couple of the new G zooms and maybe the 85/1.4 for fast-moving AF action, especially in low light (and/or where flash control would be required). Gets that core set of shots, art aside, that will make up the bulk of the couples package. Art's nice, but.....

    Digital, reliable, fast AF, amazing low-light performance, good res, nice zoom and prime glass (and likely to get better - 35/1.4 & 135/1.8 AFS ???), dual card system for safeties sake, easy rental access and fast repair turn-around time if something goes amiss.

    Consider it the less glamorous production-line part of the process. Can always supplement with ZF or CV glass on one body when you can take a breath and get some more artsy, 'signature shots'.
    -------
    2. Plus an M8: - very low-key, amazing glass, nice in low light (to a reasonable degree where no mirror shake can accommodate the body's lower ISO threshold). Nice for periods (planning sessions, bride/groom prep, etc) - when everyone is tense/nervous as hell and a nice small discrete camera sans flash can keep everyone relaxed and allow you to float around 'unseen'.

    Allows you to discretely express your creative side more yet still retain the benefits of digital vs film capture. Play HCB as a fly on the wall recording the ' back story' as it were. I would tend to think as a wedding photog the two greatest compliments would be "s/he really captured what we did/thought/felt like/went thru that day - and you never knew s/he was there" - oh, and that you didn't cost too much ;>
    --------

    3. And (why not?) an Mx in a tertiary role - play with film for non-critical shots, shares lenses with the M8 AND allows access to wider FL range with 1 lens: a 21mm allows you access to 21mm (Mx) and 28mm (M8 crop) with only one expenditure. Dead nuts reliable, nice backup, battery lasts forever, very accurate (and simple) metering, even quieter than M8 (no motorized re-cock). Would be interesting with say the WATE or Zeiss 15/2.8 for ultrawide use when the opportunity presented itself. Of all the M lenses I've had the fortune to play with, I'd have to say the WATE (used up close and personal) and Noctilux left the most lasting impressions.

    If you can live without AE, the M6 (or earlier) offer some nice $$ savings, but having used a borrowed M7 for some time, the ability to 'set & forget' and focus solely on DoF in moments when reaction time matters is sweet.

    The downside is that a nice scanner (ideally w/multi-sampling) would be required (my Nikon 5000 with auto slide feeder delivered great results). Everyone has their own love/hate list re: films, but one of my best for detail and sweet scanning was Kodak 160NC. Did find that some films scanned better with some software vs. others. My best results with the 160 were (oddly enough) from the OEM Nikon software vs. Silverfast. Would also have to accommodate the processing and scanning/PP time into your workflow and delivery time frame.

    Anyway, feeling verbose this morning, so take the preceding with a grain of salt. Sure you'll get some experienced wedding photogs chipping in over the next couple of days. Interested to see how you move fwd.
    Last edited by robmac; 28th November 2008 at 06:04.

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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    I am not a pro but use a D3 and M8 and like the combo quit a lot.
    The M8 for unobstrusive, sharp, detailed, clear images up to 640 ISO.
    The D3 if things have to be fast, if light is low and higher ISO is needed.
    I sold my M7 and dont use M6 any more.
    I like the flexibility of digital (ISO correction very fast without changing a film, great high ISO, etc etc) I once brought a digital and a film camera for a vacation trip, used both, but didnt like to mix the results with different workflow etc. IMO beter to concentrate on one thing.

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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    Well first off this one is maybe one of the better questions asked on this forum. Now let me say right off the bat i love the M8 and it has great capabilities but also some real limitations for Pro use. Now i have been here and done that and please believe me I am not on any ego trip when i say this. But put any camera in my hands and i will make it work just like any other experienced Pro BUT and i mean BUT it is not always the most elegant solution. Now as a commercial shooter i must say i maybe one of the handful of folks that ONLY used a M8 for awhile there. Question is did it work or not in the Pro world as the only camera . The answer is a simple yes and no. It has limitations that you just cannot get around. Speed is one of them and RF limitations is another with use of longer lenses and such and i won't get into this very long dialogue on it but truth be told it worked but not enough to be the ONLY system for commercial work and i will include weddings in here too. I do them on occasion and actually shot a wedding with M8 only too but. So yes it can be done and i actually did a bang up job doing a wedding with it but i don't completely recommend it unless you got a lot of experience behind you. I know Riccis does and he has a lot of talent and experience. Please these are not elitist statements either so please don't get me wrong. There is a lot of risk here and you just have to have a lot of experience going in to cover your butt in case you run into a spot that your back is nailed against the wall and you know how to overcome it fast and with results. I know Marc also uses them on weddings but Marc uses them in situations that is comfortable to him and in area's that makes use of the M8. He also has Nikons , Canons and MF too that he uses as his primary. There are times that AF and speed including high ISO are going to win the day for him and others and either a DSLR will do that or even MF will do that. I know Ben shoots the Canons and for him that is what he is comfortable with and the results work.

    Now i would like to say both the D3 and M8 would be great for wedding but you maybe better off with just 2 D3 or D700 and be done with it to make life easier and not miss anything plus you have one system to only think about. Maybe the best choice overall but having a M8 in the mix is also very nice for those times when RF would be handy and there small size and such are more a benefit than a limitation. Let me add something else that is very specific for wedding work, don't take on more than you can chew off too. First there is a lot of risk here( I am on my podium now, I have a VERY strong viewpoint in this area of photography) and the last thing you want to do is screw up. First you have one shot and only one shot at this and if you blow it your not hurting yourself but hurting someone that maybe waited there whole life and dreamed about getting married. Okay not BS this is serious ****, you CAN"T screw up. That is the bottom line fact and you need to be extremely confident in yourself and your gear ( BTW these are general comments and not directed at you) and if there is any weak link in this , do not shoot them. You can't have break downs and you can't be fumbling around trying to find the right settings. My advice here is find something you are extremely confident in and able to make changes with your eye's closed and fast. Otherwise you will miss something and have proper backup on your shoulder ready to shoot not in your bag 30 ft away which takes 10 seconds to get to and 5 seconds to get ready, well you just lost 15 seconds and that can be a eternity when doing a wedding. Bottom line you need to pick the right poison and know it very well. That may just narrow your choices and also based on your confidence levels whatever they maybe make a simpler and smarter decision based on the gear needed to get it done properly. I feel like a lawyer here because i did not give you a exact answer but what i hope I gave you was a direction to think about what may be the best solution for you. I hope that actually helps you better in the long run.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    Rodney:

    I am a fellow wedding photographer that moved from DSLRs to the M8 and now back to 100% film capture for all my work with M7s.

    IMHO, a wedding can be nicely documented with any of the options you have provided. I believe the tool of your choice (D3, M8, M7) should be selected based on what your style of work is. In my case, the Ms are the perfect choice because of the way I like to work (that is, very unobstrusive, with hardly any portraits other than a 10 minute session) and how I like to use a lot of wide angles instead of telephotos (when using DLSRs, my longest lens was the 85/1.2).

    A lot of my colleagues that have gotten the M8 use it to complement their DSLRs and pull it out for getting ready, reception and some ceremony images. I believe this is the perfect compromise for the majority of wedding photographers. On the other hand, I have also shot complete weddings just with an M and a 35 without any problems but like I stated before, it all depends on your style and the way you see your work.

    As far as digital vs. film, this is also something that you have to experiment with before making a decision. IMHO, mixing captures will be hard since your images will look very different unless you do a lot of post-processing. While digital is great, I decided that film was the way to go for my brand since I had to spend way too much time post-processing my digital images to have my signature look which in a way looks very similar to something shot on film.

    I hope this helps a little bit, but please don't hesitate to post additional questions/comments and feel free to visit my site and blog if you want to preview my M work.

    Cheers,

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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    To follow up on Guy's comments, definitely the gear of your choice must be something you can use with your eyes closed and, of course, have plenty of backup available.

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    Thanks Riccis



    Just to add some background on my strong viewpoint on weddings. Short story i had a close friend years ago and a really good shooter to boot that did a wedding and the bride sued him and he lost everything he had. I mean everything. Also one point of fact the most lawsuits brought up against photographers is in the wedding business and in a good percentage the wedding participants win those cases. So protect yourself with contracts and also reduce your risks to get them done.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    Thanks Riccis



    Just to add some background on my strong viewpoint on weddings. Short story i had a close friend years ago and a really good shooter to boot that did a wedding and the bride sued him and he lost everything he had. I mean everything. Also one point of fact the most lawsuits brought up against photographers is in the wedding business and in a good percentage the wedding participants win those cases. So protect yourself with contracts and also reduce your risks to get them done.
    Another excellent point, Guy.

    Like any other business, I highly recommend to retain a good lawyer to draft your contracts (in some cases have different contracts that apply for out of the state or out the country weddings) and carry at least a $2,000,000 liability insurance... this piece of mind comes pretty cheap and actually a requirement before you are even allowed to set foot on any high end venue in the country. The best advise for wedding photography bliss is to pick your clients, while I receive hundreds of inquiries per year, I only accept 25 commissions annually based on how important photography is for them and whether my style is what they are looking for...

    Cheers,

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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    Hi There
    I am by no means as experienced as the other posters, and Riccis wonderful wedding shots are something to dream of being able to make.

    But when there is no escape I do shoot weddings professionally, and I've shot weddings with D3 and M8 and a combination.

    it seems to me that unless you are selling yourself as a wedding photographer on the basis of your personal style (as Riccis is); then the best approach is the one where the camera allows you to get all the shots with the minimum of fuss. The D3 does this . . . and if you HAVE to put on a flash . . . . the D3 still does it.

    To be honest, I prefer the shots i take with an M8 . . . . but I'm not sure that my clients are so discerning. The bottom line is that the last wedding I shot was with a D3, and out of a couple of thousand shots i don't think that there was one that was seriously compromised from a technical point of view.

    If you're doing dozens of weddings a year, and if your clients choose you because of your personal style . . then you'll know what you want to use. If that isn't the case, then the boring old D3 / D700 comes up with the goods time after time.

    Just this guy you know

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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    usually the less choices the better. use what you are 100% comfortable with. frankly, if you are asking what the difference is between an M7 and an 6 then I don't think these are the best options for you. I prefer film for things such as weddings and births, but don't even think about it unless you are 110% comfortable with it and can load an M7/6 with your eyes closed in seconds flat. I've been using one for over 15 years (as a pro) and even I screw up loading them sometimes, something you don't want to do during a wedding.

    I shot a friends wedding pro bono with the D3 recently and have to say I was really happy with the results. I used four lenses, the Zeiss 25 and 35, the Nikon 85 f/1.8 and 17-35. I shot all day, inside to outside (in the rain), back to inside again and even outside the venue at night and never mounted a flash and only used one bar on the battery (and shot almost 800 RAW images). The files look very film like and everyone was really happy with them. It would be my number one choice again (unless there was a b&w film budget).

    As far as film goes I prefer the M7, but the few weddings I've done I usually throw my Rolleiflex TLR into the mix as well with good results. But there's nothing worse than the roll running out at the wrong moment (and that can happen even with two bodies).

    Really it comes down to just being a damn good shooter no matter what the gear. There's only doing it once - no reshoots allowed. I think that unless you are a long time M user (or an especially gifted early adopter) I would go with the D3/D700 and not look back. Limit yourself to no more than three or four lenses - too much lens changing is also a sure way to miss the moment.

    Good luck!

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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    My advice would be to pick one system that you are incredibly familiar with and stick with it! I have tried using both Nikons and M8's for a couple of wedding shoots (and I was not the paid photographer) and missed a number of shots going back and forth. I am probably just getting old (71) but I found that I could go with an M kit or a Nikon kit and not miss the shots. It is the difference between the two that gets to me. I am sure that real pros like Marc and Riccis can handle this but I doubt that most can. Anyway, just my thoughts.

    Woody

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    I would agree 100% on picking a single system and really getting familiar with it. Since I have both systems (nikon and M8) , I try to work with only one or the other. I shoot primarily with the M8s ....my reflexes seem faster . When i pick up the D3 ..it takes longer(because I use it less) but if I shoot only with the D3 ...it gets easier and I start to achieve the same hit ratio.
    Unfortunately with a wedding ,you only get one shot at it ....so a system you are familiar with should always be the first choice.

    The only difficult about your choice is that you use an M6 . If you shoot a lot then the M8s would fit the situation ..otherwise I would go with 2 D700 s or Canon 5d2 s ...they handle flash much better and would be a lot easier.

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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    The one aspect I didn't stress enough in my earlier post is that, as others mention, every shoot is a one-shot deal. You need to have a core set of gear (and backups) you know inside out and backwards and that you can use without even thinking about it.

    Mixing an M8 or film, etc in on occasion if/when the opportunity SAFELY presents itself, and assuming you can use it effectively and quickly is fine and can allow you to creative a distinct (and hopefully premium) style, but the SOLE thing to remember is you're there to do a job.

    As a customer there is no excuse for failed gear, lack of backups, needing to 'run for batteries...' -- or handing the bride a chronological 'Uncle Fred' package lacking those magical candid moments because the photog was too busy playing out the exposure variables in his head, fumbling with lenses/bodies or 'riding his histogram' to notice the world around him.

    There is also no excuse for handing the bride some "Fine Art Photography 101 Final Exam" full of high contrast, grainy uber-ISO, high-contrast low sat, skinny DoF shots because the photog wanted to let his inner creative child out to play -- or limited his/herself to the gear they LIKED best vs. what was best suited for the job at hand.

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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    Quote Originally Posted by robmac View Post
    There is also no excuse for handing the bride some "Fine Art Photography 101 Final Exam" full of high contrast, grainy uber-ISO, high-contrast low sat, skinny DoF shots because the photog wanted to let his inner creative child out to play -- or limited his/herself to the gear they LIKED best vs. what was best suited for the job at hand.
    It all depends on your style and how you have built your branding as there are clients for every style out there... The majority of my clients are from the creative field (art directors, designers, Hollywood producers, etc) and they commission me exactly because they want that "Fine Art 101" look you mention and not a replica of their parents' wedding images.

    It's all about developing your brand and marketing to your target audience what's important and not the gear you use, otherwise I wouldn't be able to bring a Holga to my weddings

    Cheers,

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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    Riccis - you're quite right. I should have fine-tuned my comments further.

    Unlike some photogs I've met, I think approaching such a distinctive style is a gradual process - a process that must place NO risk at the client's feet.

    As you judge the reaction to the more artistic work you can start tweaking your style and packages to attract a clientele that will pay for (and appreciate) it -- and gain a reputation (and pay rate) accordingly. The percentage of 'bread & butter' shots in the average portfolio gradually decrease as the percentage of more creative shots gradually increase. At some point you hit a tipping point where you've created a distinctive niche (as you say) - and are hopefully having more fun (e.g. get paid to toss a Holga in your bag ;>) as a result.

    This cautions and sage advice in this thread just reminded me of many of the so-called 'pro' wedding photogs I've met and seen at work (as a guest) over the years. Nice guys and gals full of the best of intentions, fumbling around with (backup-less) ill-suited equipment, a fixation with chimping and a fistful of 1/2 dead batteries.

    In short, lots of ambition, not enough practice, no budget for backup hardware, far too great a laissez-faire attitude to the risks their taking with the client's big day (and their reputations) -- and a generous interpretation of their own, shall we say, 'creative abilities'.
    Last edited by robmac; 4th December 2008 at 15:40.

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    Rob

    Good points on frequently encountered wedding photographers . I had to laugh having worked my way thru grad school shooting a borrowed Hasselblad . One body ,one flash 6 rolls of film ....banged them out ever week ..never a bust. Must be my clean living.


    Then my oldest daughter was married in 2006 ....she picked the photographer ...a single Canon 20D....back up was film . I was worried enough to have a 5D ready in the cottage. Carried a d-lux 2 in my jacket pocket ...right down the aisle. (stayed in the pocket as I wanted to live.)

    But I think the point is that weddings are serious business and if you take one on you should be prepared.

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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    Hey, if clean living works.. (I, ahem, wouldn't know personally).

    I think with my "...screw it, I'll try it anyway..." moments I got away with, the various gods of bad luck just looked down (up?) and simply decided "..nah, he's making it too easy.."

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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    Their are reasons pro cameras have 2 card slots. Imagine shooting a wedding and a card fails and no ceremony photos. I shoot canon and leica m8 but in a situaition where I am shooting for cash. the canons are the front line camera. I have 2 mk111 and a 1ds mk 111 and a 5d mk 11. The nikon d3 have 2 card slots as well. I will always have a camera with 2 card slots my primary camera if being paid. Also there is much better weather proofing on the nikon or canon gear.

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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    I can just imagine looking some new bride in the eyes and telling her you lost x% of her $$$$$$ 'once in a lifetime" (in theory) event because your $50 memory card had a brain fart.

    I've wrestled 160lb Irish Wolfhounds apart that were bound and determined to tear one another into Chihuahua-size chunks - I would imagine that would seem like a pleasant event in comparison (and ultimately less painful).

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    Re: Advice and wisdom

    I've shot weddings with just a Leica M, but only as a gift to a friend or a family member. I've never been the only photographer. I always say, "hire someone to do the official stuff, and I'll do 'candids.'" In most cases, they have liked my photos more than the pro's.

    One of the most awkward moments I've ever had in photography was when a family member hired a pro to do his cheapest "digital package." Which was basically, "I shoot JPGs, give you the files and that's that." He advised them to spend a little more (presumably so he could shoot film or RAW and work on the files), but they wanted the cheapest.

    The wedding was at an old country inn, so there were a lot of available light shots with sunlight streaming in the windows where he wasn't allowed to use fill flash. So there were important shots where the subjects were too dark, or the subject was OK but sunlit parts of the shot were blown. Outoor stuff with fill flash was fine, but even there, sometimes the contrast was too much for the JPGs in dynamic situations.

    The couple was furious with him. Fortunately, my shots (on BW400 CN film for the ceremony and pre-ceremony, and color neg for the reception) saved the day, and they had good-quality coverage of everything. But the pro photog got a lot of bad word-of-mouth. And he was good. I'd shot alongside him at a couple of other family weddings, and he knew what he was doing. The irony was that he had resisted going digital for just this reason, but economics forced him to.

    I defended him, explaining that the cheap package almost guaranteed that shots under extreme lighting would be a problem, which is why the photog advised them to spend a bit more. But try explaining dynamic range issues to a couple of teed-off New Yorkers.

    I'm just glad I was there with my M6 and film, so they have a complete record of the wedding and the pro didn't have to deal with more than a tongue-lashing.

    --Peter

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