The quiet winter months are the perfect time for wedding photographers to trial new kit ready for coming season. With that in mind, we spoke to Robert Pugh, a professional wedding photographer and Sony ambassador, to find out how he sets-up his cameras.
Robert shoots weddings with the Sony A9 and the A7R III. He puts the Sony Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA lens on the A9 and uses the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 on the A7R III. His primary lens is the 35mm with the 85mm being reserved for portraits.
However, he also uses Super 35mm a lot. This means the 35mm effectively becomes 50mm and the 85mm becomes 135mm. This approach saves swapping lenses and avoids having to crop images post-capture.
Both cameras are set-up identically as follows:
Raw and Jpeg
Robert shoots raw and Jpeg images simultaneously with raw files going to slot 1 and Jpegs going to slot 2. This means that he has duplicate images in case of a card failure.
Unlike some photographers, Robert uses the Jpegs as his main files with the raw files being the back-up. Once the wedding album is done and dusted, he deletes the raw files to save storage costs.
Shooting in continuous low mode allows you to shoot single images or squeeze off a burst without blasting out a long sequence.
There’s a lot of movement at weddings so continuous AF mode allows the camera to keep up.
Aperture priority mode gives you control over depth of field. As a default setting, Robert sets his cameras to overexpose by +0.7EV as he’s found they tend to underexpose a little. However, he has also set his viewfinders’ brightness to -1 as they tend to show the scene brighter than it is.
Once these adjustments are made, the EVF shows an accurate preview of the image. It also means that the exposure is usually spot-on.
The Custom settings on the mode dial are useful because they allow you to switch a whole raft of settings with one turn of the dial.
Robert sets up the Custom 1 option for use for the majority of the wedding – the daytime part of the shoot. He uses the following settings:
Using the Auto Shutter Type option sets the camera to use the electronic shutter for all shots apart from when a flashgun or trigger is in the hotshoe.
The electronic shutter allows you to shoot completely silently, but it won’t work with flash. If the electronic shutter is selected in the menu, you have to delve into the menu to select the mechanical shutter when you want to use a flash. Using the auto shutter option saves time.
Shooting with the sensitivity (ISO) set to Auto allows the camera to adapt to changes in the light level so you can concentrate on getting the shots rather than worrying about the exposure.
However, it’s important to limit the maximum ISO value that’s available in Auto ISO mode to 12,800. ISO 12,800 may seem high, but if the exposure is right in-camera, the noise should be kept within acceptable limits.
It’s also possible to set the minimum shutter speed that’s used in Auto ISO mode. Robert recommends setting this to 1/125sec.
Custom White Balance
Robert sets the white balance to Auto in Custom 1, but he uses the custom white balance control to set a manual white balance value in each room or shooting situation during the day.
It’s helpful to customise the centre button on the back of the camera to access the custom white balance controls.
Robert uses the Lumu light meter to measure the colour temperature and calculate the white balance.
Standard Creative Style
Robert aims to produce images with natural colours. He finds the best approach is to shoot in the Standard Creative Style but with the Contrast and Saturation settings both reduced to -2 and the Sharpening set to -1. This produces flat Jpegs which can be quickly edited to suit Robert’s style.
Robert sets up Custom mode 2 to suit shooting during the evening. The settings are as follows:
- Sensitivity – ISO 3200
- Shutter speed – 1/125sec
- Aperture – around f/3.2
- AF Area – Zone (this is especially useful for the dance floor shots)
- Shutter type – Mechanical (for using with flash)
In addition to using the centre button to access the custom white balance controls, Robert uses the following customisation options
- AEL button – set to enable back button focusing.
- Shutter release – AF disabled
- AF-ON button – Eye AF
- Button C1 – ISO in case a specific value is needed
- Button C2 – Focus area – Rob mainly uses Expanded Flexible Spot and occasionally Center Spot
- Left on navigation pad – minimum shutter speed for Auto ISO to increase to 1/250 sec for the first dance and the confetti shot
- C4 button – Super 35mm view
One battery in each camera and one spare for each is more than enough for one of Robert’s wedding shoots.
The Sony HVL-F43M flashgun is a nice compact unit that works well with the A9 and A7R III at weddings. However, Robert reduces its output by 0.7EV.
He uses it off-camera with a MagMod MagSphere for portraits but mounts it on the hotshoe and uses it direct and bare when shooting dance floor shots.