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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...

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Old February 7th, 2013, 04:16 AM   #1
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Some reasons I like zooms

I've felt some pressure to switch to prime lenses only. This is what people like Rob Adams recommend. And maybe the difference in sharpness between zoom and prime is noticeable by couples, even if they can't articulate what they're seeing.

Why haven't I switched? -- Cost, for one thing; because the flexibility and convenience of a zoom is addictive, for another; because, apart from content, composition is probably the most important thing to me in an image, far more than sharpness; and also because it's important to me to catch all the little human moments in a wedding. I think being in the right place with the right framing is much harder with a prime lens, and that what you often end up with from prime-lens-only weddings is beauty without heart.

Recently I've also been thinking there's another reason I shouldn't have prime envy -- that there's effects you can get with zooms that you can't get with primes, and maybe the option of these effects is a great tool to carry with you, just as having a slider or a steadicam or a jib expands your visual vocabulary.

People sometimes say that human eyes don't zoom, and therefore zooms are unnatural. But I don't know that this is true. I think it's a very common experience to come to focus on an object in your visual field to the exclusion of all others. So I do think zooms have psychological and visual correlates. Maybe a crash zoom is like suddenly noticing something. Maybe a slow creep-in is like dawning realisation. Etc.

There's a shot that I'm pretty happy about from a recent wedding that particularly made me think, no, I don't need primes. -- B&G are roaming the tables at the reception. And one lady guest was very excited. She stretched her arms out to the bride, doing a little running dance on the spot, and then moved in for a hug.

Coverage was: chest high shot, centre-framing the girl, with shallow depth of field, then zooming out as she hugged, to reveal the bride and show them embracing in a mid shot, again centre-framed. -- In this instance, I don't think a pan-reveal wouldn't have had the same effect or would have conveyed the same excitement.

It also made me think that there really is a sort of ballet in using zooms, and maybe the audience on some level feels and appreciates it -- the skill in zooming in or out to just the right composition at just the right time, and making the adjustment smoothly.
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Old February 7th, 2013, 04:56 AM   #2
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Re: Some reasons I like zooms

I keep saying that EVERY tool has a purpose and limitations and as long as the person using the tools knows what the limitations of that tool are and uses the tool for the purpose it's all good.
I don't like to show zooms BUT in this case, it sounds like a great shot and a proper use of the tool. We do what we think is the right thing with the tools at hand to the best of our ability and I think we're all good enough to make it work and make our clients happy.
What do I know? I'm just a video-O-grafer.
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Old February 7th, 2013, 05:20 AM   #3
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Re: Some reasons I like zooms

I tried a few primes with my EA-50 but truely felt totally restricted not having a zoom. With my 18-200 I will never use the top end but at least I can frame my shot quickly and without having to move position, which at weddings sometimes isn't easy to do at all..people and actual space are usually limited so you are stuck in one spot so have to make the best of it. Sure you do lose out on the DOF that an F1.8 prime gives you but then again using a 50mm prime during the dancing over the hordes of people I found that you are lucky if you can get just one person in focus! These guys are gyrating and moving all over so a smaller iris is actually better so at least you can get a group in focus and are not restricted to a 6" DOF!!

I also found myself having to back off to the point where others were blocking my shot (side spectators) so for that sort of scenario a zoom is really good and you can frame exactly what you want and have the ability to also cut out the guy who insists on dancing right under your lens hood too!!

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Old February 7th, 2013, 08:22 AM   #4
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Re: Some reasons I like zooms

It is hard to give up the convenience of zooms, especially when you will be working in restrictive spaces. I love getting a tight shot for the B&G vows, but wouldn't want to walk up too close, or even have to switch lenses too much.

Conversely, I find I vastly prefer a 35 or 50mm prime during 'getting ready' and large parts of the reception.
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Old February 8th, 2013, 10:00 AM   #5
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Re: Some reasons I like zooms

People sometimes say that human eyes don't zoom, and therefore zooms are unnatural.

Then again, neither is color grading, sound effects, cutting to multiple camera angles and so many other things that go into good storytelling/movie making. So I don't think there's a need to be concrete about any of it.

The right tool for the right job and effect.
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Old February 9th, 2013, 08:58 PM   #6
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Re: Some reasons I like zooms

I wholeheartedly agree with your list of reasons that support zooms. It is video, every shot is not cropped or recomposed in post, mine never are. Composition is far more important than pixel peeping.

Every genre of every art will have it's purists for the sake of purism. I am not stuck on anything unless it improves the product I produce. That improvement should be easily recognized by the client. They don't care what lens you shoot with. They care that it all looks good to them when they view it.

The only thing I will add is that I have always been a believer quality glass. I don't buy cheap lenses.

Steven Digges
Still learning twenty years later.
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Old February 10th, 2013, 12:22 AM   #7
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Re: Some reasons I like zooms

Yep ^ I agree, Canon and Co know this. You can bet they're working on bigger and better zooms. And cheaper and lighter and faster.
Did I mention cheaper.

30+ years with our own audio and visual production company and studios.
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