wedding photography techniques

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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when you need extreme bounce flash to photograph the wedding processional

As mentioned in the article on photographing the wedding processional, in my opinion, the wedding processional in the church is likely the most challenging part of the day in terms of our technique. People are moving towards you – admittedly at slow pace, unless the bridesmaids are nervous. Then they can easily just zip right up to the front! The light levels are low, and the light is most likely uneven. Adding flash to this is a reliable way to get clean open light on your subjects, but bounce flash can be a bit of a challenge.

As an example, with this wedding in Temple Israel of Lawrence, in New York, the light was really low. Not just that, the temple itself was cavernously huge. Yet, a few test shots showed that I could get the kind of light that I like, using just on-camera bounce flash.

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manual on-camera bounce flash

With the response to the article on bounce flash photography at wedding receptions, it might be good to continue the topic. While I prefer TTL flash when I use bounce flash, there are times when I do use my on-camera flash in manual exposure mode when I bounce it.

Julie & Kenny’s wedding, at the Laurita Winery, NJ, proved to be a bit of a challenge with the reception. The reception area was in the winery which had a beautiful interior … but it wasn’t white. Bounce flash was a touch more difficult than usual here.

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bounce flash photography / lighting at wedding receptions

This photograph from a recent wedding got a few comments and questions in the album on Facebook. The questions really hinged around “where did all that light come from?” or whether I had used off-camera flash.

The purple and blue light in the back-ground is from the up-lighting from the entertainment / DJ company. The light on the couple entering the reception room … is all one on-camera bounce flash.

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wedding photography: using high ISO and flash to retain ambience at the reception

Chatting with other photographers at the recent WPS convention in Chapel Hill, NC, I was again struck by how there are so many different ways of approaching lighting. In this case, lighting at the wedding reception. The one photographer I was chatting to, set up multiple speedlights around the reception room, and then controls which are fired, from his on-camera Master speedlight.  Very impressive.

In recent years, the wedding reception venues where I’ve shot on the East Coast of the USA, have moved away from being the dark-hole large rooms, by adding up-lighting, and making the places generally more vibrant and colorful. Coupled with the astonishing high-ISO capability of the last two generations of cameras, I really haven’t felt the need to set up additional lighting to lift the general light levels, like I would have in the past, as described in this article:
- wedding photography: TTL flash with off-camera manual flash
A wedding from earlier this year, at the same venue … where I was able to effectively light the entire place with just an on-camera speed light.
- bounce flash photography & the inverse square law

By using a higher ISO, and carefully bouncing my flash, I could get away with a much simpler set-up of a single on-camera speedlight.

Here’s an example of a recent wedding, where the reception was in a glass-house style conservatory. By shooting against the DJ’s lights, I was able to NOT have a dark background, but something colorful instead.

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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 is photographing the wedding processional.)

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 Quantum flashes since they are workhorses and don’t melt when used hard. They also have a bit more power than a speedlight.

But quite often, I like working with a speedlight setup …

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Sydney & Paul – their wedding day – photo & video fusion clip

This idea of blending photographs and video snippets from a wedding, into a fusion clip, still fascinates me. In a 5 to 6 minute clip you’re able to give a nicely condensed view of the wedding day. Combining the photos and video in a sensible way that visually makes sense, takes time however.  And Jessica and I are still on the learning curve. (Is it even possible to really get to to the top of things these days with the rapidly accelerated pace of digital photography?) Anyway, I love the results so far!

So here it is – the latest fusion clip of a wedding I photographed,
with Jessica shooting & editing the video.
The music track is a royalty-free track provided via Triple Scoop Music.

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wedding photography – lighting large groups

Weddings are one of those occasions when families and friends come together from far and wide. An opportunity to see people they might rarely see otherwise. So it is an important task of any wedding photographer to record this – to get photographs of the various family groups.

This photo is the pull-back shot from one of the big groups I had to photograph at an Indian wedding this weekend. Now, everyone who has been to an Indian wedding, knows that they are sprawling events. There’s lots going on and it can be slightly chaotic at times. So when the bride warned me before the wedding date that there were several large groups of people that she’d love to have photographed, I was ready …

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wedding photography – a photo-journalistic style … or more posed?

A photographer who attended the recent flash photography workshop here in New York, asked me an interesting question regarding my wedding photography style. His observation was about how I seemed to consistently get such well-timed un-posed and natural looking images with my wedding photography. Since my explanation seemed to surprise him, and even bordered on being a real aha! moment for him, I thought it could serve as an article here which might interest other wedding photographers.

When asked by photographers about my style of wedding photography, I like to reply that I don’t quite subscribe to the purist photojournalism, nor the traditionalist style. I think my approach is more along the lines of get-the-job-done-alism.

Instead of subscribing rigidly to a defined style, I’m there to give the bride and groom the best photographs I can on the day. And for this, my approach has to be flexible …

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using a variety of lighting techniques for wedding photography

I’ve had some questions about specific images posted to the Facebook page of my photography. Since I’d like to keep that page for my clients and potential clients, I don’t want to clutter it too much with photo-geek stuff. I therefore decided to select a few images to discuss here instead.

This recent post on lighting ideas for the romantic wedding portraits, showed that I like to mix it up a bit, and not rely on one specific technique. Not every situation we’re going to encounter can be solved with one specific approach only.  Mixing it up in terms of lighting also helps to provide my clients with more variety in the look of the final selection of images. In addition, it also keeps it interesting and fresh for me.  Constantly adapting to challenges is part of the process of growing to be a better photographer.

With the image at the top, I wanted something with a sense of the dramatic. I only had my assistant there with a softbox on a monopod. Just the one light.  We were freezing, and had to move fast. So no time for more lights. To get this kind of separation between my subjects – the bride and groom – and still get even light on them, I simply made sure that my light was at an equal distance to both of them. This way there is no light fall off and one of them brighter or darker than the other …

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