When I first started teaching other professionals about the art of wedding photography, I was surprised by underlying concerns about using high ISO settings. I think there are a few explanations for this. Firstly, some photographers put too much emphasis on zooming into an image on a computer monitor and examining the actual pixels. Secondly, many people underestimate the progress in technology in reducing the effects of noise over recent years. Thirdly, wedding photographers may have been influenced by too many commercial photographers who are working to very different clients, objectives and time pressure.
Wedding photographers who have not got into this way of thinking realise that some of the most potentially artistic wedding images need to be captured in low light conditions (for Surrey, think Clandon Park and Botleys Mansion for example). And without impractical amounts of equipment. And speedily. And sometimes quietly! (In such situations, photographers at weddings – dare I say it – can be a little unthinking. Far too often I see under-pressure photographers turning on the on-camera flashgun, kill the ambient light, and do something formulaic). The key to using high ISO is to think in terms of how the printed images will look (and remember that most wedding photos end up in an album, not blown up on the side of a bus!).
This image was taken at ISO 3200 during a wedding at the Bingham Hotel, in Richmond, Surrey. I didn’t use a video light for this one but relied on what directional light there was from the wall lamp. It prints beautifully and in fact earned me the joint first spot for the BIPP’s UK Contemporary Wedding Awards in 2009. About half of the images in my Associate Panel for the MPA and BIPP were taken at ISO 3200. My wedding photography style is very directed, but top documentary wedding photographers would say the same thing.
Cameras such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark III are now so good at dealing with noise that, even at 6400, just a touch of noise reduction in Lightroom on the RAW file is all that is required. If I need to apply some further Photoshop work on an image, I would also run the exported Tiff file first through Noise Ninja.
The photograph below was taken during the reception dinner at The Gherkin, in central London.