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Ideas how to handle colored lights projected on subjects at wedding reception?

CarlosZCarlosZ Member
edited November 2015 in wedding photography
To:  Everyone On Tangent, Did a wedding this week at a reception hall in New Jersey that while the Bride/Groom were coming in on the intro they had all kinds of colored lights on the dance floor Blue,Green ,Red and a spot light including lights all over the dance floor and they even shut the lights off/on just amazing and crazy. I am well aware that as a wedding photographer we must be able to handle anything that comes our way.  What I did was bounce my on camera flash while the crazy colored lights were behind the Bride/Groom and it worked and I was able to get some nice photo's, but I still had some issues were the colored lights in reception hall were being projected some time on the faces of people dancing green lights, blue lights and its was just insane. Some of my photo's that I deleted had a green light,blue light or red light on there face of my subjects of people dance including the Bride/Groom. I was still able to get some photo's of the bride/Groom and other subjects but still had some issues with some photo's. Just trying to improve and better my ways if its possible. My setting on my Canon 5D Mark 3 with 24-70mm f 2.8L Lens were F4 S1/80-1/200 at iso 800-3200 and I bounced my on camera flash. Does anyone have any Technical ideas how to adjust to this issue. I think its a great discussion and would greatly help those of us who are wedding photographers. Thank you in advance to everyone for your kind help. My email is zphoto1@aol.com   (Carlos Zaldivar)


  • TrevTrev Moderator


    I've had the same thing, my solution, don't worry about it.... remember, that was the ambient 'mood' and I've had exactly the same crazy things, RGB lights all over the place.....

    I just take enough photos of the couple primarily first up, making sure I don't have 'crazy light' on their faces in a few shots since the lights are generally revolving/moving, then I just fire away, exactly like you the bounce flash.

    Honestly, don't try and correct, I almost guarantee they will love the images and will even comment on the lights.

    Each time I've had that, I get the same reaction, wow, love how those DJ lights looked.

    Don't forget they paid good money for that DJ, so they would like to see some shots of them working for sure.


  • Trev,  Its just crazy I deleted the bad ones were they had a yellow face along with her dress and his tuxedo was also yellow.Why would you pay good money for those crazy lights and crazy DJ  and venue lights is just amazing to me. I also forgot to say on my post that I used a 1/2 cts gell on my flash and set my WB to 3800K.
  • TrevTrev Moderator

    No doubt 99% of wedding photographers in here have 'seen it all', that's for sure.

    A few weddings back I had those bloody big commercial sodium flood lights hanging from ceiling, fluros on wall, DJ's RGB disco lights flashing/beaming all over the place, then they got serious, guests had brightly coloured 'glow gel sticks' waving around the place.

    I just upped the ISO as much as I could, WB set to around 4000K, 125th, f4.5; then flash with 1/2 CTS on it but iTTL about 1/3-2/3rds stop under just for a kicker, and some were darkish/moody, others lit better, depended on my position, and I just let them go.

    The couple loved them. Personally I would have kept maybe 5-6 out of around 60, but I knew from past experience, let them all go (apart from blurry, crap shots of course).


  • Trev,   Thanks for the info I just hope I never get another wedding job there again. Maybe in my interview with my clients I should ask the question DJ and venue have crazy lights? I kept about 10 shots out of 100, Thats how bad the color was on there face and all over there body. I shoot in every position and tried everything I could think off but the lights were out of control.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    I feel ya pain mate! 
  • Trev, Thanks again it is pain for sure. Does anyone else have any advice it would be great to hear.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    The only real way around this is to under-expose the ambient, and bring up the exposure with flash. 
    Not always easy though. 

    With this Bar Mitzvah party, I had a Profoto 600R pushing light up into the ceiling for me to get enough flash to get rid of the deep green and deep blue colors. It was horrendous. (And the client wasn't too happy about it - she said I made the lighting look too flat. I replied by showing photos with, and without the additional flash.  I sincerely felt I had no other option.)

    And here is a previous article on the Tangents blog, touching on this topic:

  • So, Neil, tell me again ...... what exactly is wrong with the Bar Mitzvah-party shots? The customer must have had a very picky eye or brain behind it, or was a pro photographer. I would kill to get shots like these in a venue that gave fits to someone as experienced as you.

  • Neil, It was just crazy I hope never to have a wedding there again. Thank you for the information.

                                                Carlos Zaldivar
  • Neil, Just one question so you mean I would under expose the ambient light by -1.5 to -2 stops and then use on camera flash too expose correctly? Also of course use a 1/2 Cts gel at about 3800-4000K or no gel?
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited November 2015


    Yes, precisely what Neil means, but you must also realise that laser lights are very bright, and that in itself will not kill the light if it shines on faces, etc. but it will kill any other normal overhead light like crappy fluro/sodium and you do get a better image from that perspective.

    Re gelling, up to you, since if you are wanting to retain some ambient which is very warm, you gel the flash so you have to turn down the WB to around 3800-4000K as you say, because by turning it down to get correct WB on skin tone, you then drop the slightly too warm background which balances then with skin.

    However, if you really underexposure to kill ambient and rely solely on flash, you would need to decide if a gel is needed. I probably still would anyway.

    I inserted an image of a little girl shot during a wedding reception in an old warehouse on the river here and she wandered off into a back area.

    The house lights were already turned off and I was at ISO 2500, 1/100th shutter, f3.5 aperture. Virtually totally dark except for the DJ's lighting of laser patterns.

    My flash (on camera bounce) was around +2.0 on flash head, but also because I have a Nikon I then have my camera body's exposure compensation turned on and from meta data it was at +1.7 e/v which adds to flash power and not ambient when Nikon body is in full manual mode.

    As an aside I automatically add that body compensation in reception, so I can then just dial down flash head compensation or dial up as needed; that way I am not fiddling with 2 settings if I really need the power which I did in this case, dark high raked ceilings of timber and iron.

    Now you can see exposure was good, but, as the ambient was virtually pitch black, those laser lights still shone through like a lighthouse, and you can see splashes of it on the girl's dress, but see how razor sharp and bright they are on the floor, no way you can kill that, hence my initial post I just live with it. (for Laser anyway, I can control ambient easily).


  • Trev, Great information thank you.
  • I would nicely ask the DJ or the bridal coordinator to turn those lights off or not aim them at the bride and groom during first dance. Same for bride/groom parents dance. After that...let's get the party started. You are there to capture the event the way it is. There are creative way to use those lights. 
  • mgmotomx_250, Thanks for the informations. Thats a good idea it was just crazy.
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