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Do I need a speedlite?

Kristen Riley , Feb 04, 2005; 09:56 a.m.

Hello. I am new to photography and a fried has asked me to photograph their wedding. It is an informal/family only wedding, so not too much pressure. However, I want them to have some good images to remember their day. I own a new 20D, Canon 50mm f1.8, kit lens, and 75-300 4-5.6 (non IS). The wedding will be in a clubhouse at 5:00 PM. Will I be able to get decent pictures using on camera flash? Or do I need to purchase a speedlite? I will eventually be getting one anyway, when the budget can better allow for it. ANY input would be greatly appreciated! Kristen


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James Castagno , Feb 04, 2005; 10:02 a.m.

You need a larger/more powerful flash than the pop-up flash. If you are on a tight budget get the 420EX, I had one with my 10D and it had more than enough power for what you want to do although it was limited control wise. If you can stretch your cash the 550EX would be better all around, but if you do not shoot a lot of flash photos it might not be worth the extra cash to you.

E Brennan , Feb 04, 2005; 10:07 a.m.

Unless you want to stick to the 50 1.8, yes. And a bracket would be good. But more importantly.. if i were you I'd politely decline and tell them to get a wedding photographer, it's an important day afterall.

Kristen Riley , Feb 04, 2005; 10:31 a.m.

I just found a 550 EX for rental $40.00. I think that might work well.

Geoff Francis , Feb 04, 2005; 10:37 a.m.

I agree with what Eoghan and James said. I have been photographing for 21 years (not weddings) but know enough that you can't just turn up on the day with a pro-camera and expect to get pro results. It is the photographer's experience and ability to control the camera to get the results they want that makes great images, not the camera itself. Your friend may not understand this and then be dissapointed that the images from your new 20D don't match their expectations, most probably based on others' professional wedding photos.

At a minimum practice furiously in advance under similar lighting conditions. Digital is a good experimental and learning tool. The wedding day itself is not the day to be trying to find out how to manipulate the 20D's features.

Kristen Riley , Feb 04, 2005; 10:39 a.m.

I should have clarified. They just got engaged last weekend and are getting married on the 19th. Short planning time. Basically, they were happy just to find someone with a decent camera. I think they asked me because I will do it for the practice. They aren't paying me anything (except to cover my cost). They are both close to 70 years old and on a fairly tight budget. It came down to asking me or having no photographer at all. Thanks guys! Kristen

Alistair Windsor , Feb 04, 2005; 10:47 a.m.

The 550EX is a very nice flash and the flash metering on the 20D is very reliable (a huge improvement over earlier models).

The suggestion of a bracket is a very good one though it would probably add some considerable cost (you need an off camera cable too). The good brackets both elevate the flash (useful for reducing red eye and shadows) and more importantly keep is centered over the lens when shooting in portrait orientation. This eliminates strong shadowing along the right hand side of the subject when in portrait orientation.

The cheapest and best way to avoid the problem is to bounce the flash off the ceiling (assuming there is a white ceiling available - not alway true in a church). The 550EX is powerful enough to bounce very successfully.

Remember to check LCD often. Your 50/1.8 is a nice lens for portraits. With the flash you can use the kit lens for wide group shots. Stop it down several stops to maximize quality.

Best of luck and remember to enjoy yourself.

F.J. Sarmiento , Feb 04, 2005; 10:50 a.m.

No offense, Kristen, but I would agree with Eoghan and Geoff about the importance of the wedding. However, I would suggest that you join the pro (or maybe not pro but just more experienced) photographer as an assistant so you can take advantage of the wedding opportunity to really put your new kit to work. I understand that maybe your friend has a limited budget but... THE WEDDING day is a day they would really want to have beautiful pictures to bring back beautiful memories. I'm not saying you can't provide them with beautiful pictures. You probably can and will... but with the pro, it's a little less risky.

In your speedlite case, I would suggest the Canon 420EX with Stofen Omnibounce would be a good place to start. I find bounce flash brings out amazing results and the stofen omnibounce really does a great job in dispersing light. If you don't plan on using flash much for your own purposes, then consider renting the 420EX instead of the 550EX. I say this because the 550EX has a lot of manual controls you may not be ready to manipulate just yet. The 420EX has some easy but effective automatic features through E-TTL.

Steve Dunn , Feb 04, 2005; 10:52 a.m.

If the choice is you or no photographer, then by all means do it. Just make sure it is crystal clear to them that you are inexperienced and have not shot a wedding before and that while you will try your best, you can't promise anything.

A rental 550EX would do the job very nicely.

Suggested reading: The EOS flash bible - there is way too much information here to absorb in one sitting, but make sure you read the FAQ at the start and skim through the rest. You can ignore anything dealing with TTL or A-TTL, as your equipment doesn't support these modes; read everything which mentions E-TTL II, which is what you have, and it would also be useful to look at the information on E-TTL, on which E-TTL II is based.

If the setting is one where bounce flash is appropriate (a ceiling which is white, and not so high that the flash unit can't provide enough light), consider using bounce flash. You'll tend to get softer, more natural lighting, as opposed to the traditional deer-in-the-headlights look of direct flash.

F.J. Sarmiento , Feb 04, 2005; 10:54 a.m.

Kristen, I just read your latest post... understood. Rent the 420EX or the 550EX, it's up to you. Bounce when you can. Have a blast and make sure to look for those out of the ordinary perspectives that really capture the intimate moments. I wish I had your opportunity! I'd love to shoot a wedding to gain more experience.

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