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Flavio Bandiera:<br class="br_visual" /> world-class weddings from a world-class camera

Flavio Bandiera:
world-class weddings from a world-class camera

© Flavio Bandiera

August 2013

As one of the world’s finest wedding photographers, Canon Explorer Flavio Bandiera is always striving for perfection. CPN writer Mark Alexander finds out how he is achieving just that with the EOS 5D Mark III DSLR…

The pursuit of perfection is a quest most photographers find themselves on with unnerving regularity. While some shun it, most of us explore every possibility to create the perfect shot, and wedding photographer Flavio Bandiera is no exception.

His images are borne out of a fascination with light, colour and the human form. They are beautifully constructed studies of some of the most important days of our lives, and yet, not satisfied with creating a compelling body of work, the 43-year-old believes he is far from being the finished article. “I have to grow, so I spend a lot of my time trying to improve my photography by travelling and studying,” he says frankly. “A photographer never comes to the end of his learning.”

© Flavio Bandiera

An almost monochromatic use of colour, shot from a balcony overlooking the dance floor with a telephoto lens. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 135mm; the exposure was 1/200sec at f/5.6, ISO 800.

While Bandiera’s self-effacing comments may resonate with many photographers, they belie an extraordinary talent that received both the QIP annual title and the European QEP accolade in the same year. “I try to improve my management of light, so I study painters,” he explains. “They were photographers before there was photography so I think it is important to understand how they managed light.”

His appreciation of painters like Rembrandt becomes apparent when you browse through Bandiera’s portfolio, which is awash with human emotions, colour and a bold style that encapsulates the drama of the day. What also becomes apparent is his willingness to experiment with unusual angles and views. Flavio Bandiera is a photographer with one eye on the past and another fixated on innovation.

Making the best even better

Recently this determination to capture the ultimate wedding image resulted in Bandiera making changes to his kitbag, replacing his trusty Canon EOS 5D Mark II with the Mark III version last year. “It is an amazing camera,” he says. “The body has changed so much compared to the [EOS 5D] Mark II. Every function has been improved.”

The full-frame EOS 5D Mark III includes a number of enhancements over its predecessor including a 61-point autofocus system and 6fps continuous shooting, but perhaps most surprising of all is the improved 22.3 Megapixel CMOS sensor which Bandiera says produces less noise at high ISO settings, especially when used at half-resolution.

“The resolution is too high for me,” the Italian admits. “I take up to 3,000 pictures on every shoot and we shoot a lot of weddings, so I had to choose the right format for my needs. I print my images at a maximum length of 50cm so I found I had all the data I needed at half-resolution. I also discovered that the camera gave me better results especially at high ISO such as 12,800. I don’t know why, but the file looks better and the noise is really well controlled.”

Bandiera says he was left breathless when he first picked up the EOS 5D Mark III, but, as he explains, his reaction wasn’t merely a response to the improved noise handling or refined resolution from the CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5+ image processor. The new camera had some other refinements that would prove invaluable to a wedding photographer.

He explains: “Some moments require a fast camera, for instance when the guests throw rice over the bride and the groom outside the church. During those moments, we often use continuous shooting, and that is when 6fps can be very useful. I have more choice when selecting the right image, which is no small thing. When there is a situation that can’t be repeated in any way, having the ability to take six frames every second can be vital.”

Calm under pressure

You can almost feel his relief. The pressure of a wedding-day shoot can be all-encompassing with emotions running high and key moments coming thick and fast. Shooting the action on a camera that can deliver a choice of key shots provides the photographer with the freedom to focus on his subjects or to find new ways of capturing the joy of the day.

© Flavio Bandiera

Weddings are full of details, and when shot with a telephoto lens they can be isolated nicely from their surroundings. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 105mm; the exposure was 1/400sec at f/4, ISO 800.

Being at the right place at the right time also helps, and Bandiera is quick to point out that while the EOS 5D Mark III is faster and more sensitive than its predecessor, it still retains a compact design that helps him navigate around even the most crowded and drawn-out wedding party. “It is a long day,” he says. “I shoot for 12 hours and with a heavy body, it can be too much sometimes. The [EOS] 5D Mark III’s compact body can make a big difference.”

The camera’s magnesium chassis is strong and durable, but also light and tough, featuring improved weather sealing that protects it against dust and moisture. It is a perfect combination for photographers who want a feature-laden camera that is also compact and unobtrusive. Indeed, for photographers shooting in the hushed surroundings of a church, the EOS 5D Mark III has another big ace up its sleeve.

“In some churches, priests don’t like photographers or the clicking of their cameras,” Bandiera says mischievously. “With the [EOS] 5D Mark III you are able to shoot continuously in silent mode, which has changed the way I take my pictures in church. Now I can shoot without being noticed which is a great aspect during the ceremony.”

The implications of this clandestine approach go far beyond simply blending into the background. It has also had an impact on the video side of the business, which Flavio Bandiera started three years ago. “When the couple exchanges rings, we move in very close. In the past, during the video you would hear me taking my pictures. Click. Click. Click. It was quite distracting and impossible to remove in post-production. Now I can take all images I want and it doesn’t spoil the video, which is great.”

Although Flavio Bandiera doesn’t shoot video – he leaves that to his colleagues – he appreciates the significance of the medium and the impact the EOS 5D Mark III has had on his business. “We talked about it, and they told me what a difference it was to be able to plug earphones into the camera and, more generally, the way they capture video on the [EOS] 5D Mark III is much easier. But, to be honest, I don’t know much about this world as I have never taken a video. I know I should, but I just don’t have the time to look into that as well.”

Flavio Bandiera is a remarkable photographer who produces magical images that are intensely personal yet universal in their appeal. He strikes that balance by refusing to rest on his laurels, preferring instead to refine his use of light, manage his subjects and source backgrounds that will help him realise his vision.

“Luckily my father taught me this order a long time ago,” he says, remembering the advice given to him by his dad who was also a professional photographer. While this trusted counsel keeps Flavio Bandiera on the straight and narrow, he lets the EOS 5D Mark III take care of the rest...



Flavio Bandiera’s top 10 tips for successful weddings

1. Use as much natural light as possible.
2. Carry a number of memory cards and be prepared for any eventuality.
3. Treat the bride as a celebrity and make her feel important!
4. Don’t focus solely on the action, but also on the reaction.
5. Don’t try to be a leader in control of the situation, but document the event as a witness or a historian.
6. The more silently you work; the better your images will be.
7. Invest a lot of time in the album layout. Make the couple feel as if they were in a magazine.
8. If you have time, try to think differently. Experiment when you can.
9. Join workshops and never stop studying photography.
10. Love what you do!

Biografia: Flavio Bandiera

Flavio Bandiera

Born in 1970, Flavio Bandiera learnt his trade from his father Stefano, an acclaimed landscape and advertising photographer. He grew up surrounded by imagery and eventually specialised in international fine-art wedding photography with his work being published in many renowned magazines including Vogue Sposa. Drawing praise from both the public and industry alike, he founded the premier invitation-only association Best of Wedding Photography, which spotlights the best wedding photographers from around the world, in December 2009. Based in northern Italy he lives between Turin and Milan.



Showcase

Boosting saturation in post-production brings more colour and more mood to an image – Bandiera hallmarks. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens at 10mm; the exposure was 1/500sec at f/5.6, ISO 400.