The Decisive Millisecond: Matt Staver’s Weddings

Photojournalist Matt Staver‘s (See last Friday’s Faces Friday post) favorite lens for wedding photography is the 14mm because he likes to get in close on candid pictures and doesn’t want anyone in front of him. He also uses the 24-85mm zoom for general images and the 80-200 f/2.8 for ceremony shots. Almost all of his pictures use some kind of flash, except for the ceremony shots.

For available light and fill flash candid, Matt commonly uses ISO setting of 640 and 125 to 200 when there’s plenty of light. Most of the time “I like to shoot things available light when possible and most weddings are low-light situations. Under these conditions, I think digital photos look better and cleaner than ultra-high speed film.” He told me that “I run around a lot and generally have three sets of batteries and I’m shooting one and one on charge and another in reserve. Matt’s White Balance settings when shooting flash, are the camera’s standard electronic flash setting. With available light shots, he uses a white wall or whatever to custom balance the light setting. “You’ll go into a place and figure out what kind of lighting it is and try some of the setting and fine tune it from there.”

Where Matt excels is in elevating wedding cliché images to, dare I say it, art. For the classic photograph of the bride and her father walking down the aisle, Staver is lying on his stomach in the organ balcony behind the altar; “I never use a tripod,” he confessed. This is not a lucky shot of another photographer’s flash illuminating the bride and her Dad, but like much Matt’s works was carefully planned. He guessed what exposure the other photographer had his camera set at F8 (Matt had already asked and the guy was using ISO 800 film), set the camera on manual and the 24-85mm zoom lens at f/10 and got the corresponding shutter speed— around one second hand held—at ISO 125.

Author: Joe Farace

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