Taking a compact to a wedding – YES YOU CAN!

Well, the Olympus OM-D EM-5 is a compact camera in terms of size. But it delivers fabulous results, comparable to what you’ll find with a DSLR. Good enough for a wedding shoot, certainly.

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The wedding throne

I ran into a friend the other day, a professional photographer. We both happened to be covering the same event. He was decked out in a rapid sling body harness with at least 20 lbs of gear hanging on him. Two bodies, Canon 1Ds, 24-70mm on one, 135mm on the other, both with 580EX speedlights, then several other lenses in pouches, and a monopod hanging off his belt. I had a tiny Olympus OM-D EM-5 hanging around my neck, a pancake 14mm. I didn’t even have a flash attached.

I looked at him, and he looked at me. We both had a good laugh. He asked, “I’ve heard a lot about the OM-D, how does it handle?” I replied, “It’s great.” He smiled.

“Why don’t you use a smaller setup when you go on assignment?”

“I wish i could. It’s not what the client expects. If i don’t come looking like this *decked out*, then they don’t think i’m doing my job.”

And there lies the rub, isn’t it? It’s not that smaller, lighter cameras are not good enough; i believe we’ve past the level of photographic adequacy a long time ago — the limiting factor now is not the camera, but the photographer. But it’s because clients expect an uber geared warrior otherwise the photographs simply can’t be good. You have to give the client what the client whats, right?

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Uncles lined up in a row

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An usherer waiting at the door

The last time i shot a wedding, i brought along my full frame gear, and multiple lens choices. Admittedly, i think i captured one of my photographs of the year at this wedding, but i can honestly say i think my gear choice wouldn’t have made the difference. I knew what i was looking for, and when it happened, i made sure i was in the right place to capture it. Even with a tiny Point & Shoot, i would have gotten the shot, and considering how good these cameras are nowadays, despite the low light, it still would have worked.

This time, for my cousin’s wedding, i was travelling very “heavily” — in the sense that i had my family with me. So baby in one arm, i only had one other arm free. The only way i was going to get any photographs was with a smaller camera, my Olympus OM-D EM-5. Even with a spare lens in my pocket, the whole setup weighed the same as 2 loaves of bread and about as bulky as a mid-1990s mobile phone. One handed shots, no problem.

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You can tell they are sisters from the smile

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Husband and wife

Moving around, the one thing i noticed immediately was the small setup i was sporting made it easier to get into position. Mobility isn’t an issue with a full frame either, but it was simply easier. Being easier, who doesn’t prefer that? The other thing i noticed quite quickly on was that fatigue took a lot longer to set in, despite the fact that i was running around like a bunny snapping photos at nearly everything that moved.

Getting home, and looking at the images on the computer, i was very pleased with that i had. I don’t think i missed a single shot due to something i wished my full frame could do that my compact micro four-thirds camera couldn’t. If i missed something, it was because i missed it; i would still have missed it regardless of any camera used.

So, the question remains, can you take a small camera to a wedding and expect to walk away with very satisfying photographs? I believe so. At the end of the day, what makes the difference is the photographer himself, rather than the gear used. Can he “see” the shot, does he have strong “anticipatory” instincts, is he patient enough to capture that “decisive moment”, is he creative and bold enough to engineer the moment? That makes the difference, that will make the shot.

It’s a different story whether clients can be convinced to accept the output from a photographer using a small camera. 

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The bride

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A parents’ blessing

See the full photoset (15 shots) on Flickr. Click through any of the images above for the larger version.

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