wedding photography

wedding photography: dealing with the DJ’s lights

As wedding reception venues and DJs are becoming more sophisticated in their lighting, there’s now the added challenge of spotlights and lasers and other lighting effects that compete with the simplicity of just using flash.

So how do you deal with this? You just deal with this. One way or another.

You can either embrace the colors (as in the example above),
or you can use flash to neutralize some of the wild color casts.
Just how do you do that? Well, there’s a little bit of homework at the end of this.

Very often, I shoot towards the DJ’s booth, so that the wild colors become splashes of color, whether I add (on-camera bounce) flash, or not. This way I don’t have to directly compete with the lights, but they become an enhancement of the image.

With lasers skimming around – my advice is to shoot a lot to make sure you have enough images, in case some were spoiled by bright green dots. Also, learn to love photoshop and the Healing Brush.

With up-lighting that becomes quite prominent – well, there’s the little bit of homework to do at the end!

And if anyone advises you to use specific settings such as (for example):  1/60 @ f/4 @ 1600 ISO to cover every situation, they are fools who are misleading you. There are too many variables for generic camera settings. Scenarios and situations change. You need to adapt.

You’re not a passenger of your camera’s settings. You control them to allow more ambient light in, or less. And if you allow less ambient light in, you need to add additional light, whether flash or video light.

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wedding photography – using video light for macro detail photographs

With the details photos of the wedding rings, I generally resort to on-camera bounce flash for enough light … and for interesting light. Sometimes though, I mix it up by using video light instead. Here I used the Litepanels Croma LED video light (vendor).

The need for smaller apertures means enough light … but working with a tripod is often just too slow with the hectic pace of a wedding day. Then a stabilized macro lens is essential.

The photo above was shot with an LED video light, so we had to hold the light very close to the rings to get enough depth-of-field. Fortunately though, with a macro lens, you’re working so close to your subject, that the light source won’t interfere.

camera settings: 1/125 @ f/8 @ 1600 ISO
Litepanels Croma LED video light (vendor)

I purposely composed the image so that the one flower would be in the background directly behind the rings, otherwise they would’ve blended into the black background. The rings and flowers were all lit with the single LED video light.

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wedding photography – big bounce flash

In photographing groups with weddings, I have a preference to keep the light soft and even. This makes posing a large group easier, since you don’t have to worry about odd shadows. A big light source, just off to my side, is the simplest way of lighting this. Previous articles described how to do this with speedlights and an umbrella. (Check links at the bottom of the article.) Often enough though, you’ll find yourself in a scenario where one or two speedlights just don’t have enough juice, and then you need to bring out something bigger and more powerful – portable studio lighting.

There are numerous options out there for portable studio lighting – Elinchrom, AlienBees and others. I use Profoto. I always bring my Profoto 600R in the trunk of my car, just in case it is necessary. And frequently enough it is necessary, for example:
– shooting wedding photos in the mid-day sun
– lighting large groups with a large light

With Grace and Joseph’s wedding, I had to pull out the Profoto Acute B2 600 W/s powerpack (vendor) again. Lack of time due to the snowstorm delays had me simply use it as a big bounce flash. But it took a few steps getting to that point …

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use light & lighting to add dramatic impact to your portraits

Simplifying your composition is generally a really good way to add impact to your photos – remove visual clutter, and draw the viewer’s eye to what’s essential. But there’s a converse challenge to this – when you have a location that isn’t necessarily that interesting , how do you add more impact? Light and Lighting is an obvious way to do this.

Create impact and drama in how you add light to the scene, and light your subjects. A recent article discussed this in relation to off-camera flash: using off-camera flash for that extra bit of drama.

For the romantic wedding portraits of Grace and Joseph, we were landlocked to a few rooms inside the venue because of the snow storm outside. Then it becomes a challenge to come up with ideas and use nooks and crannies, and make it all count! For the image at the top, we were in the room where they serve pre-dinner cocktail snacks and drinks. Nothing much there. But I came up with the idea of having Joseph sit on this table against this wall, and then adding Grace.

Posing tip: In terms of posing a couple, it is nearly always easier to start with one person, and then adding the other. Use the first person to anchor the pose. And I usually physically show them where to sit or stand or lean when I pose someone.

The pose works, now we just had to add dramatic light. Bounce flash would’ve flattened out everyone. Well lit, but too evenly lit. Off-camera flash with a gridded soft box would’ve worked like a charm as well – but as I most often do with the romantic portraits of a couple, I went with video light. This time around, I had more toys to play with, thanks to Ryan, the other photographer shooting alongside me, who had brought his video lights along as well.

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wedding photography: bounce flash “indoors” … in the limo

This is a reminder that when you have a high-contrast situation such as when photographing the bride and groom inside the limo – then using on-camera bounce flash is your easiest way to control the lighting. Simply bounce your flash behind you into the limo. Even with the dark interior and fittings inside a limo, enough light should spill back to lift the shadow detail.

The trick here of course is to expose correctly for the ambient light, if possible. With the camera settings then dictated by the ambient light coming through the window, simply use TTL flash to give enough fill-light. Dial down the FEC if necessary.

If you look closely at this image, you’ll see the slight trace of the shadow from the flash – this is because, even though I bounced the flash upwards behind me, I hit the ceiling of the limo and with it so close to the flash, it created a secondary smaller light source instead of just the larger bounced light source. Even with that, the effect looks quite natural, and the reduced contrast certainly did help post-processing.

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photography technique: wedding portraits on the beach

I had the great pleasure of photographing Sarah and Antonio’s wedding in Santa Monica, California. For the romantic portrait, we went down to the beach in the late afternoon. With the pier in the background, and with the sun (even at 5pm) still beating down, the photos were going to look vibrant, with that sun-drenched look. Beautiful.

When I posted the photos in an album on Facebook, a number of people asked me about this (and other photos), and how I photographed them. The technique is quite straight-forward, as described in numerous articles on the Tangents blog. With that, instead of just giving the hard numbers of the camera settings, and a few details … I thought it might be better as a challenge to followers of the Tangents blog, to reverse engineer this, and figure out the details. So yes, there’s a little bit of homework involved.

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using video light for romantic portraits of the bride & groom

One of my favorite photos of the day. Why can’t wedding portraits of the bride and groom be a little bit sexy?

When I went back to the bridal suite during a quieter moment in the wedding reception to fetch some gear I had left there earlier, I had this thought that mmmm, yes! romantic portraits of the bride and groom on the bed in their suite. This might just work! So I called Julia and Louis back to the the bridal suite at the venue, and we did a sequence of images using video light.

I’m a big fan of video light for certain wedding portraits. The harder light and the rapid fall-off in light, lends a certain dramatic quality to images. Also, a video light like the Lowel iD-Light (vendor) that I used here, is neatly balanced for the Incandescent lighting found in most places indoors. The color balance is usually easily matched. An LED video light such as the Litepanels Croma LED video light (vendor), makes it even easier to change the color balance to your own intent.

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wedding photography – adapting photography lighting during the wedding day

When I posted the photographs of a recent wedding in an album on FB, there were a lot of questions regarding my lighting. The answer is an easy one – I change it up as needed, throughout the day. Whatever is needed to give me the best results the fastest. It’s rarely just one thing. So with Alesha and Patrick’s wedding, I used on-camera flash, off-camera flash (with a soft box), Profoto on-location lighting kit, and of course, if it worked, then I just used the available light. The one only lighting option that I regularly use at weddings, that I didn’t use on this day – video light.

The image at the top, of Alesha just as she finished her prep, was shot with just the fluorescent lights in the room. The color versions look good too, but I really liked the simplicity of B&W here.

Let’s step through a few images, and discuss what I used in terms of lighting, and the how and why …

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wedding photography – detail shots, bounce flash & macro lenses

Macro photography for wedding detail shots is one of those areas where you need a smaller aperture. I know it’s been suggested by some high-profile photographer(s) that you shoot macro at f/2.8 but this is tough advice to follow. If you even breathe, your plane of focus changes for that close distance you’re working at.

That smaller aperture (and I regularly work at f/11 or there-abouts), implies you will need a lot of light. A lot of daylight or lots of flash. When you’re shooting indoors, this means flash, although it is entirely possible to use video light for macro detail photos.

As described in the article, tips for detail shots of the wedding rings, I use the black foamie thing and on-camera bounce flash to create soft direction light. With flash I can more easily get that lots-of-light for smaller apertures.

As with the photograph at the top, with photographing details, I want the light to come from the opposite side than the camera. This creates a kind of wrap-around light as the bounce flash spills all around, but with the shadowed areas towards the camera. In other words, it looks nothing like you’d expect flash to look like.

camera settings: 1/250 @ f/5.6 @ 1600 ISO
It’s unusual for me to shoot macro at this medium aperture. And as you can see from the photo, the depth-of-field it already quite shallow.

A pull-back shot to show exactly where I bounced my flash …

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adapting your photographic style during a shoot

I had the pleasure of photographing Rebecca and Max’s elopement wedding in New York. They’re both from Denmark. (Actually, Max is from Spain originally.) They both planned to get married in New York while over on a trip here. I met up with them at City Hall on the day, where I was the witness to their wedding ceremony. That’s quite an honor too. Then, after the ceremony, we ventured out into Manhattan for an extended photo session.

And this is where there is a certain balance that I need to maintain. If I have a specific style in photographing on-location portraits, it is one of simplicity.

The straight-forward recipe is to make my subject(s) the center of the image by:
– careful composition,
– minimizing extraneous clutter,
– eliminating distracting backgrounds,
– compressing the perspective with a long lens,
– by using a wide aperture on a tele-zoom for shallow depth-of-field.

Great. This works well when the area that we’re photographing our subject in, is just something to have as an interesting, but non-specific background. The background might even be defocused so you can’t really tell where it was. Now, when the location is very much part of what is happening, then as a photographer we need to definitely include the location as part of a “character” in this story. I recently did it with the father and son portrait in Times Square.

And so it is with a wedding taking place in New York, where New York was very specifically chosen as an exotic destination. The photographs of Rebecca and Max had to show a wide range – from the more specifically portrait-like images, to photos which show the city they are in. But I also wanted to avoid a cookie-cutter touristy thing where we move from landmark to landmark and just have them pose in front of things and buildings.

I still wanted to show how they interact with each other. For me, wedding photography, and photography of couples, should be about how they interact with each other. It should reveal something very much *them* along the way.

So there’s the challenge – to take photographs of the couple in Manhattan, and have the range of photos – from elegantly simple portraits, all the way to showing them against the backdrop of the busy city. And yet, not have that same busy-ness intruding, and distracting attention away from them when their family and friends look at the photos.

Let’s run through some of the images and look at the thought-process behind them …

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