wedding photography lighting techniques

wedding photography: posing and lighting – aiming for a consistent style

The two images were taken about half an hour apart, with entire different lighting setups – yet there is a consistent look.

The photo on the left was shot using video light with an Incandescent white balance. A video light is a small light source, so the lighting is usually quite contrasty – so you need to take care with the posing to have your main subject posing into the light. With a bridal couple, I will nearly always favor the bride for the more flattering light. Hence, I will invariably pose the bride in relation to the light – and then add the groom.

The image on the right was shot with a Profoto B1 portable flash (affiliate), and the Profoto RFi 1’×3 soft box (affiliate). (Check the comments in this article – high-speed flash with the Profoto B1 – to see why the narrow 1×3 soft box is a favorite for on-location portraits. The image on the right was shot through one of those elliptical shaped openings you in the divider screen you see on the left.

When posing a couple, I start with one person first, and then add the second person. This makes it easier to assemble the pose. In the examples here, the pose is quite similar, but changed up because my position (and angle) changed.

Now, back to the theme of this article – how it is entirely possible to aim for a consistent style, even though using a variety of lighting – this is a topic we’ve explored before. For example, in the article adapting the use of light & flash photography, I emphasized that I do mix up the lighting types, depending on what is needed; what is practical; and what is the best option. Similarly, in the article where I used the Profoto B1 portable flash at a wedding, I added examples of using available light; video light; and on-camera bounce flash. Again, I base what I use on whether it is necessary, or most practical or the best choice.

Even though I mix up the lighting I am using as the wedding day progresses, I want a coherent style to be apparent. It will count in your favor if your work shows diversity, but there’s a discipline so that it doesn’t look random or hodgepodge.

Let’s look at further examples from Nicole & Brad’s wedding:

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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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wedding photography: positioning the lighting for the groups & formals

In setting up the lighting for wedding formals in the church, the question often crops up – where do you place the lights. How far from your subjects do you place the lights.

The photograph above shows how and where I place the flash with the umbrella – about 3 pews in, just behind me or to my left (or right). This is approximate though. Two pews in would be fine. Of course, if you’re shooting the wedding formals elsewhere in a different location, just use the same idea.

The closer you bring the light, the more you risk having the light come from too steep an angle, and giving you shadowed eyes.

In positioning my light here, I can be slightly forward of my light – no chance of lens flare – and I have proper perspective for full-length photos. You really do not want to shoot full-length portraits with a wide angle lens. Step back, rather than zoom in!

Placing the light relatively further back like shown here, does bring the light in at a fairly low angle – but it gives open, clean lighting. This is how it looks:

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a simple lighting setup for photographing the wedding formals

Photographing a wedding can be pretty hectic at times, especially as it so often becomes the photographer’s de facto responsibility to keep everything on track. The formal photo session specifically is a part of the day that many photographers find challenging. The other challenging part of the wedding day is photographing the wedding processional. You have a narrow margin to get things just right. No second chance.

When photographing the family portraits, you can really help yourself by nailing your lighting. Get it down.  Then you can concentrate on getting the groups together, and concentrate on posing the groups. But your lighting works! Much less stress.

I mostly work with the Profoto B1 flash at the moment, because of their versatility and sheer power. However, I often work with a speedlight setup …

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wedding photography – favorite image – city lights

For the romantic portraits, I often take a couple around the venue – the light is just different than during the day. This is where video light comes into its own. Here though, I wanted some of the city lights and light from the traffic outside the venue to appear in the background. The way I envisioned it, was as a stream of cars behind them, but in the first few test images, the cars were too distinct, even at f2.8 and 200mm focal length. Looking at how the approaching cars lined up at the traffic intersection, I decided to use that instead, and let the cars’ headlights flare out.

Then I just needed some light on the couple to complete the image …

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