Shooting for the top: wedding photographer Brett Field on how to be a success

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As photographers, we are always searching for perfect light, and most of the time the quality of light available when we need to shoot is not ideal and definitely not perfect.

There are many “purists” among the photographic community who will quote the saying, “the best light, is the light that is available”. When you are shooting for a client, you need to make sure that the light is perfect. There is no way that you can just work with what is available. There is no better way to do this than by the use of off-camera flash and lighting.

We spoke to international wedding photographer Brett Field, whose work not only demonstrates the above but also takes it to the next level. “It’s not enough to know your camera. You need to know how to push your camera to its limits and then manipulate it even further with different combinations of settings and lighting setups to get unique results. Having a variety of lighting options gives you endless options in any lighting condition,” explains Field.

Field, who has been shooting since he was in high school, did not initially follow his love of photography. He started out in commercial property and studied a Bachelor of Business Administration and an International Marketing Management degree. However, after working at a corporate job for a decade, he decided to follow his passion by becoming a full-time professional photographer.

The wedding photography business is a dog eats dog industry, with hundreds of photographers all trying to get their little piece of the pie. “Before I started, I did a market analysis and decided from the onset that I wanted to target the high-end of the market,” says Field. But you don’t just walk into these types of jobs, no matter how good you think you are.

Field started off his career by offering his services as an assistant to gain exposure and experience with the right photographers. “I stepped out of an executive boardroom only to work as an assistant (not second shooter) carrying bags of kit on the crowded tube and streets around London and venues in South Africa,” says Field. “Just make sure you are carrying the right persons bag,” he adds.

When you are shooting commercially or shooting a wedding you have to be able to control the light to make sure that your pictures are everything that you, and more importantly your clients want. You can’t tell the client that the light is not right, there is no do-over, and you have to get it right first time. The only way to ensure that you will be able to do this is with off camera lighting.

“I love off camera flash and constant lighting. They allow me to pioneer my high fashion inspired wedding photography. I never go to shoot a wedding without my Elinchrom Quatra Ranger, Manfrotto LEDs and torches. They are expensive, but worth every cent. Essentially I have studio quality light even when on location,” says Field.

There are a number of ways that you can use the flash remotely, the most basic of these is with an off-camera flash cord. These are essentially hotshoe extension cables, with one end slipping onto the camera’s hotshoe and the other end locking onto the base of the flashgun.

If you want to place the flash further away or use more than one external light, then you will have to look at a wireless trigger system. There are many different models available with different features. Selecting one will depend on your budget.

brett field portrait exampleField shot the image above on location in London. We asked him to explain how he went about achieving it.

“The first thing I did was to check to see what light sources are available and see if I needed to use light to overpower them or if I could use them in my shot. In this shot I used the light coming from the letters to create and halo rim light. The candles were positioned in the foreground to create a nice blurred interest. Only then did I begin to consider the bride. There was a nice big open window on the right, but I didn’t like the way the light was falling onto her face. I closed the curtains and I used two Manfrotto LEDs: one from the left of the frame and the other with a blue gel from the right of the frame. The intensity of the LEDs was adjusted in line with the background exposure level. Then it was a matter of positioning the bride into a gorgeous high fashion pose,” he explains.

Most photographers look for ‘technical’ imperfections when judging a photograph. “For me an amazing photograph needs to encapsulate emotion, lack distractions and captivate the viewer,” says Field.

Field limits his wedding bookings to just 20 per year. This allows him to dedicate a lot of time to each and every wedding. “I have time to get to know my clients. I find people fascinating, so getting to know them feeds this fascination,” says Field. By the time the wedding day arrives, he says he feels like an excited guest who has the privilege of shooting a friend’s wedding.

You can see more of Brett Field’s work at his website, here.



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