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Tricky ceremony lighting - i need advice

RLehmanRLehman Member
edited March 2013 in wedding photography
I am shooting a friends wedding in 2 weeks time, and she is getting married on an old bridge at 4pm (here in Canada the sun is still fairly high and strong at that time). The way they are going to be facing means i won't have the option of backlighting (well, they'll be facing the sun), and there is a strong possibility i will have dappled light to deal with also (it is a wrought iron bridge - fairly big as it used to be the main traffic bridge over the river - now just pedestrianised).

My question is, what would you do in this situation? I have the option to use OCF, and the equipment i have is 580 ex II, 430 ex II, Pocketwizards 1xMini and 2xFlex and shoot through umbrellas (didnt get a softbox yet). I have uploaded a photo i took of my daughter on the same bridge (but in the winter) to give you an idea of what i'm faced with.

Neil, anyone, please tell me what you would do!!!

Thank you in advance!




  • This is one of Neil's blog that you might want to read.

    You said, "they'll be facing the sun." Instead, the group's back should be facing the sun, so you can light them up with flash. Plus, as Neil mentions in his post, they won't have to squint their eyes.

    If the group is not standing in the middle of the bridge, perhaps you can position the group in front of the bridge. The shadows may not reach them at that particular time of day. If the sun is near straight up, the bridge shadows should not extend very far in the horizontal plane.
  • Thanks for the advice and the link Stephen.

    I would love to position them so i get some beautiful backlighting but unfortunately the ceremony is taking place on the end of the bridge where they will be in direct sunlight. Also, the bridge has a complex wrought iron both on the sides and across the top so it is hard to avoid shadowns and dappled light on there unfortundately.

    Does anyone else have any advice that may be helpful for this situation?

    Thanks again!!!
  • TrevTrev Moderator

    If you shoot like that shot of your daughter, you are on a winner from the get-go. Lovely shot.

    Definitely shoot manual, ETTL flash, minus compensation on flash though, just enough to lift some eye-sockets.

    Also, during a lot of ceremonies I shoot, the celebrant/??? will have the couple actually face each other, so that will eliminate eye trouble, squinting, etc.

    I would not try to bother with the umbrellas, they would need to be close if shooting around the f9-11 mark, depends on sync, therefore would be in the view line of the guests, not good, unless you can get 2 of them off to the sides overlapping which will help add light, up to you.

    Speedlite on camera would be my option, I shoot lots of weddings under same/similar circumstances with lighting directly on them, but once they face each other, it's much easier. Ask the couple, and take someone with you wearing a white shirt onto the bridge over next few days, take some tests, shooting with flash on camera, take note of the settings, and what compo you need to apply, that way you have a head start on the day.

    I usually do that if I can, actually I have a major wedding to do at a resort 'Villa Botanica' voted the world's No. 1 wedding destination just recently here in Australia, and I am travelling up there next week [1 hour + drive] just to sus it out, wedding same time next year.

  • Thank you Trev! I was lucky enough to have shot the photo of my daughter on an overcast day with snow on the ground, so not only did i have a giant softbox for a sky, i also had a giant reflector in form of the snow on the ground! LOL I will definitely take your advice and go down to the bridge at the same time of day to test out my settings.

    I think i'm panicking a little more than i should, but i know for a fact it will be challenging!!!
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Raquel ... cool image.
    Also interesting how the busy bokeh (out of focus area in the background) actually adds to the image.

    Now ... tough situation. Hard sunlight isn't easy to deal with, especially if you can't control where your subject is positioned.

    Stephen gave a link there that explains some of it.
    Here is another:

    But here I think it the article that most directly deal with your problem:

    The simple explanation is ... (shoot in RAW) ...
    and expose for your important highlight (most likely the bride's dress),
    and then add enough flash to lift the shadows.

    You're most likely not going to be able to use off-camera flash, so hard direct on-camera flash it will have to be. And that's okay, since it is already a vast improvement over not using flash.

    So ... shoot in manual on your camera, and
    expose for your brightest relevant tone .. ie, that important highlight,
    at maximum flash sync speed,
    at your lowest ISO ...
    for the aperture that is appropriate.

    And then dump enough flash to match that ISO and aperture settings.

    I'd use TTL flash for the simplicity.

  • Thanks so much for taking the time to reply to my post Neil, that has really helped! I always shoot in RAW/manual, so that's a start but i really wasn't sure what to do on/off camera flash so that has really helped!

    I'm hoping i strike it lucky on the day with the weather, but you never know here in the land of the living skies! :)
  • dgvdgv Member
    if you are shooting with a long lens and from a distance...you may need to zoom out the flash head to effectively hit the subjects with light. Just something to keep in mind if you feel like the light from your flash is not hitting the subject..but hitting everything else around you. It has helped me a couple of times in the past...
  • Thanks so much for the advice. The wedding was last Saturday, and Friday all day we had torrential rain...it was scheduled to rain and storm on the Saturday also but it ended up being scattered clouds and bright sunshine...that alone was a challenge with settings but i think i did well all things considered.

    The actual ceremony ended up being trickier than i thought as there was no real 'aisle' and there were people standing right to the edges of the bridge so i was limited as to where i could stand.

    Regardless, it was a fun wedding to shoot complete with cowboy hats and boots, and even some fireman formal uniforms (as the groom is a firefighter).

    Here is a shot i got after the ceremony and you can see the bridge in the background.


  • TrevTrev Moderator
    HI Raquel,

    That's a very nice image, they look relaxed and happy so you must have done something right in that alone with them looking very nice.


  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Raquel .. going by that shot alone, you handled it perfectly.
    I couldn't do it better.
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