wedding photography

exposure metering: under-exposure / over-exposure vs exposing correctly

When I posted this photograph of Peiwen & Eric’s wedding in Melbourne, Australia, on Facebook, someone asked the question: how much did I over-expose this photo by?

We have to be very clear with our terminology regarding over-exposure and under-exposure. This photograph is not over-exposed. It is exposed correctly! Did my camera’s light-meter jump all the way to the right-hand side? Yes, it surely did. Does it matter? No, it does not. Why not? Because I exposed correctly. Not under, not over, but correctly.

This photograph (which is ambient light only), is exposed correctly … because my subject, the bride, is exposed correctly. This is a key concept – we have to expose correctly for our subjects. Even if you decide to turn your subject into a silhouette, the decision was still very specific about how you wanted to expose for your subject.

If you are a landscape photographer, then most likely your entire scene is your subject. If you are a portrait photographer, then invariably, your subject is what you need to expose for correctly.

However, if you want to balance your subject which is shaded, in relation to a much brighter background, then you’re going to have to use additional lighting to expose correctly for your subject. But working with just the available light, you will invariably aim to expose correctly for your subject.

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bounce flash photography – adjusting the black foamie thing to be a snoot

During the day, as I photograph a wedding, I am continually mixing up the lighting, adapting and adjusting. It’s part of the process of giving my clients as much variety as possible, and also just being flexible in adapting to the demands of the various locations. It’s therefore a varied approach in using all kinds of light sources: off-camera flash, on-camera flash, video light and available light. It’s part of the fun, and part of the challenge of being a wedding photographer – thinking on your feet. Of course there’s extra pressure on you as photographer when you’re flown to Melbourne, Australia to photograph a wedding!

The morning after Peiwen and Eric’s wedding, they had the Tea Ceremony with the parents, and Peiwen was in traditional dress. I just had to get more portraits of the two of them, and with Peiwen in this striking red dress.

In the elevator lobby on their floor, there were these seats and mirrors and wood paneling that looked like it would make an elegant setting for some portraits of the couple. But the light there was uneven, and not very bright. I needed to add some light, but only had a video light with me, and on-camera flash. With that large mirror, someone holding up a video light would’ve involved a lot of Photoshop work. So the next option – bounce flash. But again, that large mirror there was a challenge.

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photographing a wedding in Melbourne, Australia

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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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