additional lighting – 01

Someone asked me about the lighting I used at the reception of a wedding I recently photographed.

Here are two of the images I blogged there ..

I often vary how I set up additional lighting at reception venues.  In this instance, I had a 580EX flashgun that I held up high in my left hand, that was triggered by an on-camera ST-E2 transmitter.  I also had a second 580EX that was wirelessly slaved via the ST-E2.  I would therefore try and control my viewpoint and perspective, to have the second 580EX light up the background and give some sense of depth.  This would also avoid that dreaded black-hole background.

I haven’t really been happy with using the 580 as the on-camera master, since the results aren’t predictable. I’m getting more consistent results using an ST-E2 transmitter. The second 580EX was fastened on top of a CP-E3 battery pack that I placed on top of one of the DJ’s speakers.

In these images there was no wall behind me that I bounced off. Just the rest of the reception room.

The strobe on the DJ’s speakers was angled up, and not direct.
Because the ceiling is low, the light isn’t as spread out as I would’ve liked.
The way the light in the background is concentrated, is a result of the flash being bounced off a low-ish ceiling, and not because it was direct flash.

The flash in my hand – I don’t use it directly.
In this instance I had a Stofen on top of it, with the top cut off.
This way I can still direct my light to a large extent, instead of turning it into a barebulb type omni-directional light source.
With my hand I can also cover part of the front of the omni-bounce and have less direct light if I want.

I adapt my technique from wedding to wedding, dependent on the venue, the ambient light sources, and the results I want.
In this instance, the light levels were very dim, and I had to use flash.
But the ceilings were too low to use my Q-flashes that I most often use as additional light sources,
eg here: finding the light

Techie info for the first image:
Canon 1D mk2N / Canon 24-70mm f2.8 /  1/125th @ f2.8 @ 1600 iso

Techie info for the second image:
Canon 1D mk2N / Canon 16-35 mm f2.8 mk2 /  1/20th @ 4 @ 800 iso


13 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. says

    The lighting in your photos is truly exceptional. I am inspired, which is a good thing because it is 2am now and I am shooting my first wedding tomorrow. I cannot express in words how much your articles are helping me right now.

    A million thank yous.

  2. George O'Toole says

    Please write a book soon – I would buy it because your articles on Flash Photography have been the best I have ever read – user friendly not overly technical!

  3. david bart says

    i agree with the comment by george o’toole 0n 15 Oct 07.

    write a book ASAP.

    wonderful instruction and a pleasure to read.

    in a word ……… f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c.

    if you have an e-newsletter, put me the on list NOW.

    if you dont have an e-newsletter …… write one and let me be the first customer to receive it.

    kind regards, david bart, sydney, australia.

  4. says

    Hi there George and David and Lisa …

    As it happens I am busy writing a book. It will hopefully be published later in 2008. :)

    David .. the easiest way to get updates is to set your RSS feed to check for this blog. Any time that a new post appears, you’ll automatically be notified.


  5. says

    Hi there …

    I lit it in exactly the same way. But because I was turned away from the light on the DJ’s speaker, the light from the secondary flash was less obvious on the background than the examples I showed here.

    How do I manage to hold the 580EX and camera in either hand?
    If I do this, I am using the zoom mostly at specific focal lengths. And then I don’t need my other hand to zoom.

    With my hand outstretched, I can reach behind guests with the direction my light comes from. It’s much more flexible than a flash bracket.

    And I rarely use a flash bracket – mostly because of the way the Canon 1-series D-SLR’s hesitate when the camera is hunting for the IR-beam which is often miss-aligned from the correct axis. This happens because, unlike the Nikon SC-19 cable allows, the Canon TTL cable doesn’t allow the IR-beam to be emitted from the camera like it should.

    I hope this helps.


  6. Meaghan says

    I would just like to say your shots are AMAZING. I am new to lighting, always just hoping the pics turn out… But i am photographing my first wedding this Saturday as a favour, so NO MORE. so thank you thank you THANK YOU so much for taking the time to write all this amazing information

    Megs ?

  7. Yap Tsok Sam says

    Dear Neil,

    Love your lighting technniques, in fact i have been reading your site for quite some time now. Always read your site for inspiration. Tried to applied some of your techniques, some worked some don’t.

    I seem to have problem with exposure when the ambient light is dim like in a restaurant. The background looks fine but the subject will most of the time overexposed (clipped image in the histogram). When i dialed down the flash exposure, the image looks dark. I shoot RAW, and most of the photos i’ve taken, i need to readjust their exposure in the RAW software, to removed the clipped area, before i can use them, is this the normal process?

    Another thing is i noticed you almost set all your photos apperture in the range of 2.8-4, won’t this affect your picture range of sharpness when you take group photos?

    I shoot with Canon 400D, 17-85mm lens, with 580EXII.


  8. says

    Hi there Sam …

    It depends on the groups you’re talking about.
    For family formals I wouldn’t use f2.8

    But for the photos shown here of people dancing, then f4 is adequate since the images will rarely be blown up to a great size.
    Instead, most will never be larger than 4×6

    I also need one central point / person in focus.
    In this instance it would be the bride.

    About the exposure problem you describe, it does sound to me like your settings are such that your background will be too dark. You need to lower your shutter speed, and use a wider aperture (the 17-85 isn’t going to help you here), and use a higher ISO … and then your ambient exposure will be brighter.

    And then make sure you don’t over-expose your subjects with flash.

    Neil vN

  9. says

    This post is all about wireless TTL…. but what about wireless without TTL?

    I set up some test shots today using my Pocketwizard to trigger my 580ex using a PC sync cord, with the Speedlite shooting into an umbrella. Of course, there is no TTL utilized.

    I haven’t jumped into using my 580 in manual mode, but understand that is what is called for in this type of scenario. Am I on the right track here to assume you would set up your subject, set the camera to (eh, i dunno, let’s say) ISO 200 and 1/125. Then, set the Speedlite to M and then set the output to 1/1 and take a reading on a meter. Based on the reading, set the aperture accordingly. True?

    Then, I assume if the output was too much, or if you wanted a wider aperture, you can dial it down based on the 1/3 stop increments???

    I’m so new to this, but excited for the knowledge. If you covered this, please direct me to the right link. I’d like to use off camera lighting on-location without TTL (since my pocket book can’t afford the transmitter yet ;).

    Thanks so much!!!! -Amanda

  10. says

    Amanda .. you could do it that way, although there are other approaches to using manual flash which is easier to use. I’ll be adding more about this on future blog posts.

    And yes, you can dial down your manual flash in 1/3rd stop increments as need for a wider aperture.

    Neil vN

  11. says

    THANKS Neil… VERY much looking forward to that future blog on manual Speedlite without TTL!

    After reading in-depth Planet Neil, I feel my knowledge on flash photograph has done a 180. Amazing, understandable information. You are doing a great service for all of us who want to reach for the next level. THANK YOU! Kudos! ~Amanda

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