You look great, you step into the shot and you watch the photographer press the button. Then he looks at the back of the camera, maybe he grimaces and then he tweaks a bunch of settings in the camera and takes another shot. Then he or she does it again and again and again. Once satisfied they smile and begin shooting. When you see the final shot weeks later you LOVE it! Well here is what had to happen in order to capture that image. Now remember, some of us make it look effortless but it is no less difficult. Some or ALL of these things have to happen for every shot!
Here is what has to go through your Photographer’s brain in order to take that amazing shot they just captured…and they have to do this for every shot, every time, all day long. On average the following sequence is processed through their brain 1000+ times a day during a typical wedding…
ISO is the setting that is used to determine the sensitivity of light the sensor needs. In layman’s terms a photographer chooses the lowest ISO number he can get away with in order to preserve the skin tones but fast enough to get the shot. It’s akin to film speeds if you remember having to choose that in the store pre 1995.
The F-stop determines how much of the background will be in focus. Your photographer has to make a creative decision whether they want to blur it out completely or have it it tack sharp all the way back to the distant mountain ranges.
Shutter speed is partly a creative decision and partly a technical decision on what they want to accomplish. In addition, they have to watch out that their shutter speed doesn’t fall out of range on the high end or the low end.
Do I have enough shots on my CF card to make it through the next sequence? If not, when would I change out to the next card and will it disrupt the ceremony or other important event?
Can I use standard matrix metering or do I need to switch to spot or center weighted due to some bad lighting conditions? Many pros shoot on manual which renders the metering mode irrelevant but manual still has its own set of decisions.
Single focus point or multi focus point for tracking? Many times you will see photographers using single point so that the eyes remain tack sharp. They will focus on your eyes/face and then recompose the scene to get their final composition. It looks like they might be photographing your nether regions or feet but rest assured, they are not
Drive modes are chosen based on whether or not they are taking a single shot or a sequence of shots on rapid fire.
Light and/or Lighting:
Where is the light coming from? Do I want to front light, back light or side light? Do I want to add light with a reflector or move the subject closer to the bounce source? Do I NEED to add strobes? If so the strobe settings also need to be tweaked. Lighting is a crucial element and a lot of factors influence it.
The photographer will generally work this out before they approach a scene but it is a series of small refinements while they get the shot how they want it. Many use the rule of thirds and have their eye on keeping attention on one of the 1/3 quadrants…but also many are just concentrating on breaking the rules. Either way a lot of factors contribute to how they will compose the scene. In addition they have to watch for poles, signs, garbage cans, people, cars or any other distractions that could enter the scene.
This is perhaps the hardest part and the one that needs to be done the quickest. You really need to know what, where and how you are going to shoot something and every shot is different. Then add the gut reaction to every candid moment that is happening around you. In addition, your photographer needs to pre-think how they are going to process the photo so they shoot with that in mind.
Now imagine doing that for an average of 2500 shots a day! So when you see your photographer “tinkering” with their camera some or all of these things are going through their brain when prepping to take a shot.