September 22, 2011

romantic wedding portraits with video light

By now it should be clear that I’m quite a fan of video lights for the romantic portrait session with a couple. The Incandescent WB of the video light usually matches the existing light fairly well. Because video light has a rapid fall-off in light intensity to the edges of the beam, it doesn’t “flatten” out the light like bounce flash would. In addition, the video light can seem quite natural in context of the existing light, and not even look like additional lighting. Somehow the light just appears to be great right there.

Here are two of my  favorite images from a recent wedding, where I had my assistant hold up an LED video light to help light the couple. (It’s the same wedding where I used the black foamie thing during the indoor ceremony.)

image details:
1/60 @ f2.8 @ 1600 ISO … with video light; no flash
Nikon D3;  Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR II (B&H) … used at 90mm
Litepanels MicroPro LED video light (B&H)

image details:
1/60 @ f3.2 @ 1600 ISO … with video light; no flash
Nikon D3; Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 AF-S (B&H) … used at 35mm
Litepanels MicroPro LED video light (B&H)

I have both the Lowel ID-light and two LED video lights. Even though the Lowel ID-light is a better tool, the LED video light is my first choice for a quick-grab, always-ready light. LED video lights are compact, and use AA batteries. Easy to slip into your camera bag.

Now, if I had wanted to ease the contrast a bit, and bring in more shadow detail, it would be a simple matter of bouncing my on-camera flash behind me. But it would have to be with the FEC turned way down to -3EV so that it just acts as a fill light. The flash would also have to be gelled with a CTS or CTO gel then to not bring in a blue tint to the fill-light.

With the romantic portrait session at a wedding, I like to mix it up – some available light (if there is enough), some bounce flash, and some video light … or a mix of any of these. We have options.

more articles on:
wedding photography
 - flash photography
 - using video light for photography


{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Naieem Kaiz September 23, 2011 at 6:26 am

Loved the first shot! :)


2 Mary-Claire September 23, 2011 at 9:18 am

Love the photos! I second shot a wedding this past weekend and kept waffling back and forth as to whether I wanted to put my video light in my bag. I left it home and was sorry, (The main photographer didn’t have one either). I will always have it with me from here on out.


3 Joe Sash September 24, 2011 at 10:14 am

Awesome shots! I like the last one best – you can feel the happiness.


4 photomatte September 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Great lighting! I really like the B&W aspect of it, too (and that takes care of any white balance issues, for sure). I’ve never used video lighting; do you have it on a stand? How much does it weigh and how far away can you use it (from the subject)? Guess I could just click on those provided links in the post and find out:)


5 Neil vN September 25, 2011 at 10:34 pm

The LED video lights are light-weight. Not heavy at all. In this instance, I had my 2nd photographer hold up the two video lights for me. (That’ll also answer the subsequent questions.)

I have used it on a light-stand, such as this example where I used a video light at a wedding.

How far away can you use it? Ultimately that depends on your ISO and aperture, but for 1600 ISO at f2.8 you could use it at about 8 feet away. Roughly.

As for the links … there are a lot of useful information in the related links. Any affiliate link on my website is always marked as (B&H) or (Amazon) so that you know you’re leaving this site with a link to a marketplace where the items can be purchased. I am quite consistent with that. (There are some much older posts on this website which I need to revisit though and finish that policy of making affiliate links clearly marked.)

So with that, if there is a link, it is usually an informative or relevant link. Any shopping link is marked as such by the store’ name. All quite transparent.

Neil vN


6 Michael Gronow September 26, 2011 at 12:22 am

Hi Neil. Did you use 2 video lights on the second shot?


7 Kristopher Gerner September 26, 2011 at 2:00 pm

These look great, did you use a grid on the video light?


8 Jerry September 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm

The 2 light question is a good one. I thought it was one, with light from camera right based on the light spilling on the inside of the door frame. But then I noticed that the Groom has a shadow behind his head from a light source opposite him. I give. How’d you do it?


9 Neil vN September 27, 2011 at 5:36 am

Yes, I did use two video lights here, held up by my 2nd shooter at this wedding.

And no, no grid. The video light is concentrated enough that you don’t need a grid.

Neil vN


10 Tony Sale October 3, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Neil I love these shots especially the first one with the reflection in the mirror. Did you have to take any special measures to ensure the video light did not reflect in the mirror?


11 Neil vN October 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Tony … it’s mostly just angling myself and my assistant so that I don’t get either of us in the mirror reflection. There was one image where I had to clone out my assistant’s hand holding the light. Here’s the original image and edit.

Neil vN


12 Mark Lovett October 6, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Really nice shots and great reflections, although I prefer to have the female against the wall so her face is the focal point instead of the grooms.


13 Neil vN October 6, 2011 at 7:19 pm

That pose wouldn’t work in this case because the groom here is much taller than the bride, and I had to find a way to lower him in the frame … and having him lean against the wall and doorframe did that.

Neil vN


14 Nick Alamanos November 4, 2011 at 11:43 am

I usually prefer the bride against the wall, but your photo works.

Good job



15 Kristie Conte August 16, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Hi Neil,

Have you ever shot an entire wedding party with these lightpanels? They look very compact so I’m not sure it’s advisable. Looking for a more portable and less bulky solution.


16 Neil vN August 16, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Kristie … I’m not sure it is entirely practical photographing a group of people with this. The video lights usually aren’t that powerful, especially these smaller LED video lights.

Then there’s the logistical problem of getting a group of people not to move during the photo. Easy enough with just two people (bride and groom), but not as easy with a group of groomsmen and bridesmaids who are energetic.

Neil vN


17 Scott September 30, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Always inspired by your work Neil.
Much in the same vain as using flash do you establish the ambient exposure first (to your taste) and then add the video light to expose ‘correctly’ for your subject? How do you meter for this video light and therefore adjust the light power to the right level? By chimping on test shots?


18 Neil vN October 3, 2012 at 1:31 am

Scott .. here you go: exposure metering and video light

Neil vN


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