They say if you fail to plan, it means you’re simply planning to fail. But sometimes, spontaneity can work to your advantage. Just ask wedding photographer extraordinaire Raymond Phang. While some photographers believe planning is everything, he prefers to let the unexpected inspire him.
EOS 5DS R, EF85mm f/1.2L II USM lens, f/2, 1/2500 sec, ISO 2000
When it comes to overseas shoots, Raymond usually starts with general information he can gather about the location. He’ll then shoot and explore the places as he goes along.
“I’m more of a spontaneous, seize-the-moment kind of person, so I’ll enjoy the shoot better if there’s not too much planning or details involved. I prefer to be thrown in an unexpected situation or rather a new environment, because that’s when I’ll have the adrenaline rush and inspiration.”
However, that doesn’t mean he goes out there on a whim and shoots. He relies on the locals from the country he’s visiting to help him with his shoots.
“We link up with local friends and meet up with them as much as we are able to. You never know when you’ll need their help one day. If you don’t have a good support network or contacts, regardless of whether it’s a local or foreign land, you’ll face challenges planning for contingency.”
Raymond adds, “That’s the thing about making plans. It brings about hope, and with hope comes disappointment. When things don’t go according to plan, always be prepared to face that fact and be flexible to accept changes.”
It’s no surprise that his shooting style leans towards the unconventional and quirky. “I get bored very easily, so I always challenge myself to do something different, and at the same time, have fun. That’s why I started doing conceptualised wedding photo shoots. It’s basically storytelling with a hint of humor whereas the mainstream style is still rather standard and classical.”
EOS 5DS R, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens, f/5.6, 35mm, 106 sec, ISO 400
When it comes to his equipment, Raymond relies on Canon EOS 5D Mark III to get the job done. The 5D’s features also complement his unobtrusive shooting style during the actual wedding days.
"I’ve been using the 5D since the series was launched; from the EOS 5D to the Mark III. It does a great job, thanks to the high ISO and my favourite feature, its silent shutter. It’s like my sidekick, going through the mission in stealth mode so that people don’t notice me when I’m photographing.”
EOS 5D Mark II, EF85mm f/1.2L II USM lens, f/2, 1/1600 sec, ISO 2000
A camera’s speed is also important in Raymond’s line of work. That’s because weddings are filled with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments; from a groom’s facial expressions to the guests’ emotions at a bouquet toss. Any delay from the camera would mean missing out on such crucial details.
EOS 5DS R, EF85mm f/1.2L II USM lens, f/1.2, 1/1600 sec, ISO 2500
EOS 5DS R, EF85mm f/1.2L II USM lens, f/2, 1/320 sec, ISO 2500
EOS 5D Mark II, EF85mm f/1.2L II USM lens, f/2.2, 1/1600 sec, ISO 160
To date, Raymond’s most challenging overseas shoot was the one in Okunoshima, Japan. With a team of only two men, they had to lug their gear to this small island known as a haven for rabbits.
“We had to work with these rabbits, and they were wild, not tame, domesticated rabbits. So we were unable to control where they look, we can’t get them to stay at a certain position.”
EOS 5D Mark III, EF50mm f/1.4 USM lens, f/8, 1/10 sec, ISO 320
EOS 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens, f/4, 35mm, 1/10 sec, ISO 800
EOS 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens, f/7.1, 19mm, 1/200 sec, ISO 400
Raymond recalls another challenging shoot – they were in Korea and everything was set in motion; from the salon for the couple’s hair and makeup, to the transport including a driver, everything had been booked. But on the actual day of the shoot, the rain threatened to spoil the couple’s dream wedding shots.
“We had to arrange for a change of dates with the planner at the last minute. Thankfully, we managed to avoid the rain and capture the cherry blossoms in all of its beauty.”
EOS 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens, f/5, 16mm, 1/200 sec, ISO 100
And then sometimes, beauty emerges from the unexpected. Like when Raymond photographed a couple on a bridge in South Island, New Zealand. What was intended to be a simple, classic shot, turned out dramatic instead.
“When I saw the boatman returning, I had a sudden inspiration and checked with the couple if they would mind getting wet. They were cool with the idea, so I had the boatman rev the engine. Initially the waves sent were rather pathetic, probably because the boatman was worried that the couple would get cold and wet. After which the subsequent revs sent massive waves of water splashing upon the couple. The effect was rather dramatic but we were pleased with it.”
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