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 …
There are 50 people in this specific group photo. A really big group! Now, with the time constraints on the wedding day, there is no opportunity to (or need to) mess around with complex lighting setups. Keep it simple! Really simple.
So there is my setup. I’ve mentioned it in a previous article on lighting the family groups with off-camera flash. Two Quantum flashes on either side, each with a 60″ umbrella to really spread the light wide. And that’s the entire basic idea here – a flood of even light. Nice light that just opens up everyone’s face. No cross-shadows. Nothing difficult to deal with in the post-processing edit.
The two Q-flashes were triggered with PocketWizard Plus II units. Of course, being a static setup like this with off-camera flash, it had to be manual flash exposure. TTL flash has no place here. I shot at f6.3 @ 800 ISO with a wide angle. Plenty DoF at the focused distance. (No, I didn’t measure it.)
A little bit more about what you can see there in that image:
The guy on the right-hand side is Dipak, the videographer on this occasion. He’s cool – laid-back, professional and helpful. The two lights you see in front of the umbrella, are his video-lights that he had up during the ceremony, and to record some of the activity around the family photo session. The incandescent lights from a videographer rarely bother me, since I gel my speedlights when I photograph the ceremony and reception. I also gelled my Q-flashes here with a 1/2 CTS gel.
The small ladder you see in the front, is mine. I knew I might need to get some elevation with the group photos. The people in that photo are on 3 levels. Chairs in the front, where ladies are seated. Husbands or boyfriends stand behind them. Then there are more families standing on the mandap stage itself. (The mandap stage is where the ceremony takes place.) I do make sure that there is no one standing directly in front of the bride and groom, nor is anyone standing directly behind them. This way, the focus is still on the bride and groom in the center.
Arranging a group of this size needs some confidence and a big voice. It’s not for the timid! I start off by having the bride and groom seated. Then I start filling in the front row of seats, and then arrange their partners behind them. I do fill in some space with guests. Then I add the people on the top layer. I really try that no one looks *over* someone’s head. Then you’d just see a pair of anonymous eyes. The best is for people to look over the shoulders of the two people in front of them. Then they are staggered in a good way.
That about sums it up. What I specifically wanted to show here was the simplicity of the setup. Two big lights spreading light evenly around. Nothing more needed. Simplicity is the key.
- Lighting large groups at weddings – Profoto
- Positioning your flash for the formals
- A simple lighting setup for photographing the wedding formals
- more articles on Wedding Photography
- more articles about Off-Camera Flash
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Video tutorials – wedding photography
If you like learning by seeing best, then these video tutorials will help you with understanding photography techniques and concepts. While not quite hands-on, this is as close as we can get to personal instruction. Check out these and other video tutorials and online photography workshops.