Best Nikon Z8 settings for wedding photographers

The best Nikon Z8 settings for wedding photographers

The Nikon Z8 is by far the best Nikon camera out there to shoot a wedding with.

It is as simple as that.

So this is not so much of a review – I will be clear that I love this camera – but more of an article about how to get the most out of the Z8 at a wedding. Reviews are great at telling you if something is good or not, but it is when you start you use it you really need a bit more of a helping hand. I’ve been shooting weddings for nearly 20 years now, always with Nikon, from the F90, through the D2, , D3, D4s, D850, and Z6ii, which means I am pretty familiar with the system, and it just keeps getting better and better. With the Z8, Nikon have pulled an absolute blinder. The autofocus is leagues ahead (and I don’t say that lightly), and banding is pretty much a thing of the past when shooting silently, which of course you are doing all of the time with the Z8. Auto subject detection, 4 way titling screen (at last!), Starlight focus mode, illuminated buttons so you can work in the dark, and much more.

Nikon Z8 or Nikon Z9?

The best thing that Nikon have done for some time, is to put all of the features and capabilities of their flagship camera in to the model down, the Z8. They have never done this before, and some said it would be a crazy move which would hamper sales of the Z9, but for us, it is a master stroke. The only thing the Z8 doesn’t have that the Z9 does is the vertical grip to allow portrait shooting. This vertical grip also houses a bigger battery for longer life, but at the expense of extra weight. Since I stopped using the D4, I didn’t miss not having portrait orientation, but boy did I notice the weight! The Z8 also takes the same battery as the Z6, Z7, D850, D780, pretty much everything. The Z8 also benefits from CF express/XQD and SD card slots (whereas the Z9 is CF Express only), so if you use a lot of cards and keep them as back ups, you can use the SD for back ups and keep a single CF express in the camera for a huge financial saving. Z8 batteries are a lot cheaper too, so it’s a no brainer for me. There is no difference in battery life that I can tell between the Z6ii and Z8. The great thing is though, anything in this article is interchangeable with the Z9, as they are by and large different sized versions of the same camera.

Switching from a Z6ii to a Z8

It’s been a couple of years since I wrote a post about the Z6ii being the best camera out there for wedding photographers, (you can find that here) and back then it was true, and even now the Z6ii still is a superb camera for weddings, it’s just that the Z8 is better. Much better. The only things you could say give the Z6ii an advantage for a wedding are it’s lighter weight, and lower cost. However as someone who has always wanted to use the best equipment I can to give the best results for my clients, the Z8 blows it out of the water in terms of focus accuracy, and this means many more keepers in the collection, and so many of those ‘nearly’ moments being captured with the autofocus being far more capable, so I’ll take the Z8 any day.

The Z8 also now has 3D tracking which works with the eye autofocus. With the lower Z series you can have either eye autofocus or subject tracking at the touch of a button, whereas with the Z8 the eye autofocus is tracking, it morphs from one to the other seamlessly, and for me it is an absolute game changer.

I’ve now shot the Z8 alongside the Z6ii at quite a few weddings, and the first thing I will say is how familiar the Z8 feels – like a D850, but surprisingly it is actually smaller. No more little finger disappearing off the grip like it does with the Z6ii. Initially I set it up to be as similar as possible to the Z6ii for ease of use alongside, but it was only a couple of hours into my first wedding with the Z8 that I realised I just prefer it so much more than the Z6ii in every way, to the point where when I used the Z6ii, it felt strange, even though I have shot nearly a million frames with it over the last few years. This is just because the Z8 is more intuitive, more responsive, has more controls, it just feels better. Nowhere is this more apparent than the autofocus. The autofocus is leagues ahead (more on that later), the viewfinder looks and feels nicer and clearer, it has a tilting screen so I can shoot sideways round corners (yay!), and it is just a brilliant camera. Unfortunately, when you use it with a z6ii, the z6ii starts to feel inferior, and I couldn’t help get frustrated that the z6ii wouldn’t focus as quick or allow me to do what the Z8 could – I guess thats just progress. So like me you might find yourself moving to two Z8’s very quickly.

Importantly though, the images themselves are by and large the same as we expect from Nikon, so don’t expect to get ‘better’ images in terms of the file quality, the Z8 is no magic bullet here, it’s just how you get those photos that has improved exponentially, and thus the fact you are therefore getting photos you might not have captured before, and more of them.

Become ‘one’ with the camera

I said this in my last post, so I’ll say it again. Set the camera up to be an extension of you, and to be as intuitive as possible, there are so many ways to customise the camera, it would be madness not to use them. As I used it more and more, I tweaked which button did what until the camera just feels like an extension of me. Using the camera becoems totally subconscious rather than fiddlign with settngs and menus, which means more time to focus on the moment, and taking better pictures.

Oh, and READ. THE. MANUAL. Yes it’s 948 pages long, but if you understand what everything does, then you’ll always know how to get the best out of the camera. You can skim through and just read the good bits if you will. You can find a link to it here and bookmark it on your phone, and I keep a copy in Dropbox too. It never ceases to amaze me how many photographers buy the top end camera, then can’t get basic features to work, because they haven’t read the book, Don’t be that person! The Z8 is also a more complex camera like the Z9, so it does need a deeper level of understanding. And yes this is a long article too, but if you are going to spend 12 hours a day with the Z8 in your hand, it pays to know what it can do. And hopefully this is what this article does!

The best Z8 settings for wedding photographers

Now we’ve got that out of the way, here are my suggestions to get the most out of the Z8. Of course, we all do things differently, and I am not saying my way is right or the only way (and the title was of course written very much with Google in mind!), but it’s a good starting point, and I hope it allows you to find your own path.

Standard shooting settings

When I shoot, I want to have to think about as little as possible, so I only really adjust two things – aperture for depth of field, and exposure compensation for overall brightness to avoid blowing highlights. For most of the day therefore I am in aperture priority mode, with Auto ISO on. I have view mode (d8) set to ‘show effect of settings’ so I know what I see is what I am going to get.

I set ISO sensitivity (photo shooting settings) to on, with a maximum of 12800 (I don’t like to push noise personally, and if the light really is low, I always think it is better to add light, rather than rely on high ISO), with a minimum shutter speed of 1/200th. You can set this to auto, but I prefer to know that my shutter speed will always be fast enough to capture any moments, but not too high that it pushes the ISO up unnecessarily. The in-camera stabilisation is great, and does allow you to shoot at a shutter speed close to the focal length of the  lens without camera shake, the problem I have is that I work really quickly, so camera movements are usually down to me wanting to swap cameras or move around quicker than I should, so I prefer the security of a higher shutter speed.

I then have ISO sensitivity settings in ‘my menu’ for easy access on the go.

I then turn on easy exposure compensation (b3), which then transfers exposure compensation to the back dial without needing to press the exposure compensation button. Normally I use between -0.7 and -0.3 exposure compensation as standard, I then simply adjust this on the fly to change what I see in the EVF, to give me images that look a little under exposed, but I know I haven’t blown the highlights. It is always easier to recover shadows, than blown highlights.

Autofocus

This is the big one, so lets get it out of the way first, as it really does affect how you set up everything else in the camera, like custom controls.

Personally, I only use ONE focus mode with the Z8 for everything, and that mode is 3D tracking. I can do absolutely everything I need in just this one mode. It’s like the old 3D tracking on the D5, but way better as there are many more focus points.

The Z8 also gives you TWO active focus points. Yep, you read that right! You also have eye autofocus (which automatically recognises if it is people or dogs which is amazing), I can track the bride, I can pinpoint focus on a subject. I can track one child running around in a group of others at the reception. The fact I can do all this has blown me away, and it is so good, and so intuitive. There are a few ways I have customised this thought to get the best out of it, and to really give total control.

dog eye autofocus

The Z8 automatically switches to doggie eye af for those quick shots, no more changing modes!

Using and setting up 3D tracking with eye af control

You must be in AF-C for 3D tracking, as by its very nature it is continuous. I also use back button focus with the AF-on button as personal preference, but it also means I am able to use 4 fingers for different things when focusing, with lightning fast results. If you aren’t using your thumb for focus, then it has nothing else to do, so it makes sense to put it to good use.

In 3D tracking focus mode, you get white boxes which pop up over eyes, which will take priority if you hit AF-on. Meanwhile the subject box also appears, and I have set this to red for differentiation, so it is not white as well (a11). If a white box appears it will take priority, if not, then the red box does. It’s that simple. Most of the time, this is spot on. If I want to track something or focus on something specific, I simply move the camera so the red box is over what I want and press AF-on – moving the camera is way quicker than using the joystick to move the focus point. And once you are on that subject, it sticks like s••• to a blanket, and boy is it good! A big test for me was following children playing in long grass, the camera just sees through it, and never loses focus. I use it so much that sometimes I just use the tracking box over the eye I want to focus on. The tracking box is less than a quarter of the size of the tracking box of the z6ii, so it can be used much more accurately, almost pinpoint.

If the focus box has moved in the frame and I can’t find it, I simply press fn1 to re-centre it in the frame, compose, and focus. Simple. As I mentioned above, you can also do this over your chosen subject’s face, it is much quicker than activating eye af and then toggling between subjects with the cursor. Once on a subject, the eye af then kicks in.

The next thing I might want to do is briefly disable eye af, if I want to chose my own subject and not have any eyes taking over. This is a little more complicated to set up, but works brilliantly. I set fn2 button to ‘recall shooting functions’, which you then have to dive into when you have assigned it by pressing the Ok button, in here you find a range of tick boxes, and I have unticked all except two, leaving ‘3D Tracking’ and ‘AF subject detection options’ (with the latter set to off). This means when you press and hold the fn2 button, eye af is turned off. When you release the button, it comes back on again.

eye autofocus with the Nikon Z8

An example of how to use 3D tracking to your advantage – the eye af automatically picks up Dad’s eye, and if you hit AF-on, it will follow. I also have the tracking box over the bride, so if I want to switch focus instantly,

I can simply press fn2 to briefly disable eye af, then hit AF-on again and I’m tracking the bride. It is capability like this that makes the Z8 an absolute moment machine.

I use fn1 and fn2 for the controls as I want easy access at the same time, and I just know that I tweak focus with the front buttons. So with four fingers simultaneously, I can tweak how the tracking works, temporarily disable eye af, re-centre the focus box, focus and shoot. It might sound complicated to start, but once you have mastered it, it becomes second nature, and for me it is the best way to get the best autofocus performance from the Z8. What I do know is that I have far more keepers with the Z8 as a result of focusing this way, and it is genuinely exciting to not miss any moments just because you can nail focus as you want in a heartbeat. I can’t over emphasise how amazing it is!

Thanks to Matt Trott Photography for sharing this feature with me.

To set up recall shooting function, choose your custom button, then ‘recall shooting functions’, then scroll left and un-select everything except AF- area mode 3D (as you want it to continue to work in this mode), and then select ‘AF subject detection options’, and scroll across and turn this off. Then press menu to save. If it is working, when you press your custom button you will see the recall icon appear on the left of the screen, and the eye af icon disappear simultaneously. 

Other focus adjustments

You can adjust the ‘stickiness’ of focus tracking (a3) if you find that you don’t like how items which block the subject are dealt with, but personally I have it set to the default of 3.

I also use manual focus override, (turn on with a15) and have focus peaking turned on (a13). If the af isn’t working as I want, or to check the available depth of field, simply hold AF-on and touch the focus ring on the lens, and peaking appears, to show what is in focus. The Z8 is much better at focusing in mirrors, but if it doesn’t quite nail it, focus override with peaking will quickly have you in focus in no time.

I also have focus point wraparound on (a10) to move the cursor quickly from left to right etc. I have AF-C focus point display turned on (a11), as this then makes your focus box red when not in focus, and green when in focus, which is super handy, and you couldn’t do this with the Z6. You can also customise the tracking box colour here. Another thing I do is change the focus point selection speed (a14) to high, so the box moves across the screen much quicker with the cursor. You do need to be more careful and precise, but it does work.

Nikon Z8 autofocus capability

This was shot at 20fps just using eye af in 3D tracking mode. The Z8 had no trouble at all with this hand ‘blocking’ and kept stuck to the groom’s eye for the whole sequence as the hand covered his face. Every single frame was pin sharp

Starlight mode

The biggest gripe with the Nikon Z series has always been the lack of ability to focus in low light. This is because the focus works on the sensor, and it needs contrast to focus. I’m happy to say this is a thing of the past with the Z8, it is just so good in low light. Nikon have also introduced starlight mode, which allows you to focus in near darkness, by adjusting the sensor read out for contrast and brightness, or some other form of wizardry. All I know is it works. Things can look a bit weird and slow in Starlight mode (don’t worry, you’re not stoned!), and I haven’t used it much just because you don’t always need to, it really is only for those times when it is really dark, and nobody is ever really in complete darkness at a wedding (and if they are, perhaps you shouldn’t be shooting them!) Perhaps as an example if a couple have their first dance and there is no light at all because the DJ turned all the lights off, but didn’t tell you. I have Starlight assigned to the display button for easy access, and I have it in ‘my menu’ (weirdly you can’t add it to the ‘i menu’). The word STAR appears on the left of the viewfinder which is handy, but as it changes the view settings (so you don’t see your actual exposure, only a bright screen) use it with care and perhaps check your images when using it.

Nikon Z8 starlight mode

Starlight mode – yep, you can now focus on people in near darkness!

Custom Controls

I’ve spent quiet a bit of time working out what works best for me, and everyone is different. What I will say though is you really should use custom controls, as you can get so much more out of the camera and set it up so the things you use most are always at your fingertips. The Z8 has two* more buttons too, so more options! *(technically only one, the Fn3 button, but because it has a specific focus mode button on the front, this then frees up fn2 which I previously used to change focus modes)

Custom controls are found in the custom settings menu, f2.  You can also customise the options when in Playback mode (f3).

Here are my chosen settings;

shooting

fn1 – re-centre focus point – wherever it is in the frame a quick press and it is back in the middle, move it over your target, hold AF-on, and reframe.

fn2 – Disable eye autofocus (press and hold) – this is through ‘recall shooting function’.

fn3 – currently playback, as this matches where the play button is on the z6ii, so if you are shooting the two together and want image review, it is in the same place. The play button on the Z8 has moved down to where the release mode button was on the Z6ii. If you only use the Z8, I’d use it for something else, I might consider it for silent on/off.

joystick centre button – live view info off – this is a great way to quickly declutter your viewfinder, so all you see is the image you are shooting. Press the button to get all the info back.

video record button – As you don’t record video while taking photos, this is a spare button, in a prime place. I use this to get to the top item in ‘my menu’, which can be your most used setting, anything you want it to be. For me this is currently camera sounds, so I can quickly make the camera ‘silent’ (again, weirdly you can’t add camera sounds to the ‘i menu’ – yet.)

exposure compensation button – As I use easy exposure compensation on the rear dial (b3), this button became spare, so I use it with the dial to change quickly between my shooting banks A-D. This is now effectively my U1/2/3 from the z6ii, except I don’t have to look at a dial anymore. I switch between banks a lot so this works for me, but you could also use it for silent on/off.

display button – I have the display set up to just show what I want (d17) so this button became redundant, so I now use this to quickly turn starlight mode on or off.

lens control ring – I have this set to what lenses rings were originally intended for, which is focus. You can set it to whatever you want though, if you want it to adjust white balance or something else whacky. I’m just old fashioned.

I’d also mention ‘recall shooting function’ as a great option to assign if you don’t want the ability to turn eye autofocus on and off (as you can only use one recall function currently). You can set this up to you absolute go-to settings with a specific aperture, focus mode, ISO etc, and if you need to do a ‘grip and grin’, or want to quickly switch back from the manual settings you are using for flash etc. you just press and hold the custom button assigned. A kind of ‘get out of jail free’ button.

Playback

I don’t tend to use a lot of controls in playback mode, primarily because I don’t use it that often as I generally know what I have captured. One thing I do though is assign a button to zoom in on the focus point quickly, so I can review if I have nailed focus.

example wedding image with Nikon Z8

Nikon Z8 with 14-30mm f4 – at ISO 64 – I love how I can shoot ISO 64, just like the old days!

10 Things to do when you get the camera out of the box

I know this should be the first thing you do, but we all go for the exciting stuff first, right? Here are a few things I would certainly look at changing from the defaults the camera arrives with.

1- Sensor shield on – in the set up menu. This isn’t on by default, but it makes sense to use it. You need to turn the camera off, and this covers the sensor, which will help prevent dust and other nasties getting on your sensor as you change lenses. Another great feature not found on the Z6ii. Get in to the habit of turning your camera off each time you change lenses.

2 – Turn on RAW image quality – as with most Nikons, out of the box it is JPEG normal.

3 – Switch to dual card writing (backup)  – and turn on the slot empty block so you can’t shoot with a card missing.

4 – Turn on flicker reduction – (photo shooting menu). Why wouldn’t you?

5 – Change RAW recording to High efficiency * – photo shooting menu, RAW recording. The best compromise between lossless compression and full compression with high efficiency (more on that later).

6 – Turn on auto rotate display  – (set up menu) – this simply rotates the display info when shooting portrait orientation. Love it!

7 – Turn on focus peaking- (a13), it’s the bees knees when focusing manually or to override the af!

8 – Turn on extended shutter speeds – this gives you longer exposures than 30 seconds, so why not turn it on for that shot of the Milky Way above the wedding venue.

9 – High FPS viewfinder on – (d19) – better visibility when following things moving at speed.

10 – Set power delay off to a level you are happy with – setting c3 – for me there is nothing worse than grabbing the camera for a moment, and it has gone to sleep. So I set this to 5 minutes, so the camera is always on the ball. Yes it uses more battery life, but I can keep swapping batteries out all day. Better that than miss a moment. It also prevents that squeak sound as the camera wakes up in the church when the vicar told you to be silent….

11 – Read the manual – did I mention that before?

My Menu

I highly recommend using this to put in all the menu items you use regularly, for quick access. You can then assign a custom button to open it quickly, so no diving around in settings! You can also sort them so you have the most used settings at the top of the list. If it’s in the menus, it can go in here, unlike the i menu. You can also swap this for the ‘recent settings’ menu to show al the things you have adjusted recently. Have assigned the video record button which serves no purpose to me as a photographer to the top item in my menu.

The ‘i’ menu

I have this set up similar to my Z6ii, but now with custom buttons, there isn’t anything in here I tend to access on the fly as the Z8 shows me more that the z6ii – you can see you have 2 cards in on the top LCD display for example. You can of course customise this with anything you want. I use it to primarily access the interval timer, multi exposure, and silent mode. I have exposure related items on the top, and functions on the bottom.

Nikon I menu

Shooting menu banks

On the Z6ii you had U1, U2 U3 which you could customise and save, and when you selected this it would go back to the exact settings, including shutter speed and aperture etc.

With the Z8 you don’t. That might seem like a negative, but remember it is a pro camera, so set up differently, with more capability. You now have 4 shoot menu banks, A, B, C, D. You can rename these to whatever you want, so I have A named WEDDING as my default. They are pretty much the same as the user groups on the z6ii, but with one key difference. Unlike the User groups which you save, the shoot menu banks stay as you leave them. Think of it like a car seat – you adjust it how you want, and when you get back in, it’s the same. If you switch to a different bank, the settings will be the same as the last time you were in the bank.  This is really important, as if you don’t use the banks and change settings, say for the first dance, then you will have to manually reset them to whatever you want to shoot something else, So I would highly recommend using the shoot banks to save getting yourself in a muddle.

To get more control, turn on ‘extended menu banks’ (Photo shooting menu) to also include things like shutter speed and exposure in the things that don’t change when you switch bank. With this set to off, your shutter speed and exposure settings will remain on whatever it currently is regardless of which bank you are using. I also change the file naming for each bank with the letter suffix (Z8A etc) so that the camera sorts them in to a folder, and also so when editing I know what bank I shot in. This also prevents any duplicate filenames appearing.

I have mine set up as follows;

A – WEDDING – Auto ISO, Aperture priority, H* compression, usually left around f3.2

B – MANUAL – Fully manual for first dance or flash work.

C – DANCE – f10, 1./10 sec, ISO1000, manual focus

D – LANDSCAPES – Lossless Compression, full manual

If you choose not to use the banks, or only ever shoot one way, then I would strongly recommend you copy the settings from bank A to all the other bank. This is because most of the time, you only know which bank you are in by the letter on the LCD (don’t be fooled by the A top left of the screen if you are shooting aperture priority mode). It is surprisingly easy to switch modes and not realise which one you are in, and the camera defaults are for Jpeg only with single card writing, so if you are in the defaults, you could end up shooting a whole wedding this way without realising. You have been warned! Copying the banks will prevent this.

The camera also has custom settings banks as well so you can change the global settings to give you another 4 variations of different settings. I have all 4 set to my standard settings for the same reason, if I inadvertently switch banks. The difference between shooting and custom setting banks is a whole other article in itself, but effectively choosing setting banks is done via the custom settings menu where it is the top item on the list, and it controls everything within that settings menu. If you ever get confused, just remember that shooting menu banks control items in the Shooting menu, and custom setting banks control things in the custom settings menu.

Image size and compression

The Z8 only has the option to shoot RAW files at full resolution, so you can’t set them to medium RAW. So that’s 45mp images, with a file size of 45mb with lossless compression, vs a file size of 30mb for a z6ii shooting 24mp. So at first glance, it might seem like you need bigger memory cards. Fortunately, Nikon have thought of this, and have developed next level compression. It’s a bit confusing, as in the Z6ii you have the option for lossless compression on or off, whereas in the Z8 there is no option without compression, so lossless compression gives you the highest quality, but also the largest files sizes. So Nikon created high efficiency* (with an asterisk for some reason), which is a great compromise, and gives you images that are 45mp but the same size as the Z6ii files, so you can keep using the same size cards. Nikon say it is almost indistinguishable from lossless compression, and I can’t tell the difference even when shooting high contrast scenes where I need highlight and shadow recovery, so I doubt my clients can either. For some reason though, the ‘images left’ counter on the LCD screen shows 3.3k available vs 2.6k available on the Z6ii with a 128gb card.

One thing that will use up more memory than anything else though is listed next…

Shooting speed

The Z8 can shoot up to 20fps in RAW (120fps Jpeg). That is a LOT of frames. If you shot at this rate continuously, then you could fill up a 128gb card in just 3 minutes. So, it needs to be used very sparingly, and if shooting silently, it is incredibly easy to rattle off more frames than you think, because although you get white bars in the frame to indicate release, you are not going to see 20 of these in a second. Brilliantly though you can customise how many frames per second you use in low and high speed modes. I currently use the same as the Z6ii for most of the time (L = 3fps, H = 10fps), but ratchet up to 20fps for key moments such as confetti runs, balloon pops, or that potential ‘award winning’ moment. Remember as well that if you go above 20fps to 30 and beyond on the dial, then the camera will be shooting Jpeg only. 120fps is double the speed of slow motion video, which is absolutely bonkers.

The buffer is amazing, and can easily handle this higher frame rate. With just 400mb’s write speed cards, I can get 5 seconds at 20fps (100 frames) before hitting the buffer. Drop your frame rate for a confetti run, and you can keep shooting continuously with no worries.

You can customise how the screen indicates you are taking shots in setting d14 as ‘release timing indicator’. You can either have off (so you see nothing visually, not ideal), or the old fashioned blackout, white lines along all four sides (white over black or black over white which is clever), or just at the side. I’ve stuck with all 4 sides. This is really important if shooting completely silently, as below.

Silent shooting

The Z8 has no mechanical shutter. So you’re shooting with electronic shutter and able to shoot silent all the time, there is no ‘silent mode’. The only time it is not silent is if you turn on the artificial sound (in the camera settings menu). I have this in ‘my menu’ too as it is bit tricky to find when you just want to turn sound on and off. (You can’t have it in ‘I menu’ or as a custom button, but you can have ‘silent’ as an option). Personally, I like to have it set on 2, so I can hear it, but no-one else can, but I also find myself adjusting it at different times of the day. Having the sound also gives you a good indication of which release mode you are in, and if you are shooting too much….

But what about banding I hear you say? Well the Z8 has a much higher shutter readout speed than the other Z series cameras of 720fps, which means that banding is all but eliminated. Another huge advantage over the Z6ii. Another piece of next level wizardry with the Z8 is high frequency shutter speed tuning. This can be found in the photo shooting menu, and you need to be in either shutter priority or manual mode for it to work. You will know it is turned on as the shutter speed becomes decimalised. This is for when the flickering is so bad that it is starting to appear. Firstly get your chosen exposure in manual mode, then turn high frequency flicker on, then you can fine tune the shutter speed to match the frequency of the LED lights (so for example 1/125th could become 1/126.5), to eliminate banding altogether. Genius!

Battery strategy

The Z8 has a smaller battery than the Z9, which is the same battery as the Z6ii, and lasts just as long. There is a compromise here for sure, smaller batteries and a lighter camera, but less power. So it is down to us to ensure we have enough power through the day, and I use this simple strategy below, which works really well. I keep my spare batteries in a small pouch on my belt at the front for easy access. Generally, with the settings above I get between 3-4 hours and 1500 shots per battery, which is plenty.

  1. The first battery of the day – once discharged, it gets swapped out.
  2. Second battery. Once this is in, I try to put set 1 on charge when I have a moment.
  3. Third battery. This in my pouch, ready for rotation.

You can usually find power at the reception if not in your car, so once I have finished set 1, these go on charge and get swapped out so I can always have a set charging if I need to, in a dual Procube II. You could also charge them with a powerbank in your bag if you don’t want to plug a charger in at the venue, then forget it, or have the DJ unplug it. So generally, I always have one battery in camera, one fully charged spare, and one on charge, which keeps you going ad infinitum. And please no complaints about how long battery life is, there is always a compromise on weight, and if you don’t like, it buy a Z9!

Shooting the dance floor

The low light af is so good, that focus issues are a thing of the past, but personally for now I still like my manual set up as it removes the need to focus altogther, with 100% results. You can read about that here.

I hope you have found this useful, as I have said, camera set up is very individual, so if there are any other settings you use which work really well, or suggestions, I’d love to hear them in the comments below. And apologies for possibly making you feel like you need to upgrade to a Z8….

Robin Goodlad is a professional documentary wedding photographer based in Dorset, UK. These views are my own based on experience, and I am not affiliated with Nikon, aside from being a registered professional user. To have a look through my wedding work with the Nikon Z series, please have a look here, or follow me on Instagram!

15 Comments

  1. Well, Robin, what can I say? My 2 x Z6ii bodies are still set up according to your blog on those lovelies.

    Having now read though your ideas on the Z8 I have only one problem….where the he’ll do you find a Z8? There seems to be more waiting than the factory can make!

    See you on Neil’s group.

    1. Wow what a guide. Thank you for taking the time to help us. I took love the Z8 after upgrading from the D850. I Dontae my time to taking school pics at a small school. I set up my strobes this morning and couldn’t see a thing through the camera. ended up using starlight view. do I have a setting wrong on my Z8 for using strobes?
      Manuel mode
      BTW I live in a small town on an Island in southeast alaska. The nikon dealership has 2 Z8 on the shelf.

  2. Wow… many thanks again for another piece of incredibly helpful work Robin. Having tried a demo Z8 I can see why you’re blown away by it! My pre-order has arrived and I’m getting it next week, I’ll try not to ask too many questions!

      1. Robin, I’m confused by custom setting D7 – choosing a file numbering option. Do you have any advice on this please? I’m bothered by the Nikon Manual file sequencing advice and I don’t want to get caught out by the camera shutter being disabled!

        I’ve been using the ‘on’ option but I think that’s the wrong one?

        Many thanks mate.

  3. If I could hop on a jet and hug you, I would. Thank you so much for taking the time to spell out your settings and the reasons why you use them. As a family photographer, sometimes I have children on the go, families walking through fields, high contrast scenes etc. – a real mixed bag similar to what you experience at weddings. All that you’ve carefully documented here has eased my mind as I make the transition to the z8. Thank you!!

  4. Hi Robin, thank you for sharing this detailed article; I too come from two z6s and have now bought two z8s for shooting weddings, I’m having some second thoughts about two aspects: the important amount of grain already visible at low iso (400,800… with z6 the images where totally clean) and the shadow recovery in lightroom which makes these areas of the image a bit ‘muddy’ and with a lot of grain, what do you think about?
    Thank you very much!

  5. Hi Robin,
    I am not a wedding photographer and I haven’t even bought a Z8 yet. But I shoot a lot with dancers, actors and other moving people. And I do see the limitations of my D850 mainly with regard to precision of auto focus.

    My settings are very similar to yours, I shoot most of the time with aperture priority, auto ISO and minimal shutter speed of 1/200, recently 1/250.
    For my ICM work I use a Leica Q2 with a completely different setup.

    I really appreciate your thoughtful description of the use of this camera and your great way of explaining your settings.

    Your way of describing the camera and its advantages confirms my idea of changing to the Z8. And then I will certainly try out your suggestions…. 😊😌

    Thank you very much!!
    Christian

    1. Hi Nick, I have it set to release priority, since I want the shutter to fire regardless rather than waiting for the af to tell me the image is in focus, because I am using back button focusing.

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