Lighting for wedding reception

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by emeryfoto, Sep 7, 2007.

  1. Hi - I am VERY nervous as I'm not the best with the flash. All the weddings I've done in the past, I've shot
    in all-natural light, right down to using 3200 speed b&w film at the candlelit receptions (luckily, my clients
    know that and they WANT that type of look).

    The wedding I have coming up in a month is similar - but it's the first time I'll be shooting such a late
    event (wedding doesn't start until 6:00 p.m.) Everything will take place in the same venue - ceremony/
    reception, etc. I'm going there tonight to check out the lighting conditions.

    I hate to ask, because I'm so ignorant, but can someone please give me some basic tips on the best type
    of lighting for the reception? The bride and groom really want the grainy, 1600/3200 speed look, but I
    want to be able to shoot flash as well, for the color shots and for when the light gets too low. At my last
    wedding, there really was NO available light once the dancing started, so I used flash - and the results
    were pretty boring.

    I use a Canon EOS Elan 7 (2 bodies) and my flash is the Canon 550EX. I have a
    stroboframe and a diffuser (although I think I'll get one of those Gary Fong Lightsphere Clouds based on
    another post I read)... I am going to go nuts practicing from now until the wedding, so any help would be

  2. You really should ask this on the Wedding Forum.
  3. Off camera flash system. I will use up to six units and fire them with Pocket Wizards.
  4. Thanks - I've never done that type of thing (having different flashes firing elsewhere). How big is the learning curve? I've always been interested. Any detailed advice would be great, thanks!
  5. I recall there was some discussion about reception lighting in one of your previous posts about cake cutting shots. Re-read the planetneil article. That tells you pretty much 90% of what you need to know. The remaining 10% would be about firing off camera flashes at receptions.

    There are several methods of using reception "room lights". One is Bill's--made popular by a photographer named Rick Delorme. He uses 4 or more Sunpak 555s on stands around the room, and NO on camera flash. Here is a part of his website that shows reception lighting.

    Another is similar but doesn't use that many flashes--usually two, to cross light the dance floor. This is what I use most often. I don't modify the flashes and they are set 1 stop below the camera f stop. There are variations of this set-up that involve bouncing the flashes off a suitable ceiling. Here is another tutorial by Neil Cowley.

    The learning curve is moderate, and one of the problems is, of course, acquiring the lights to use for off camera work and the triggering system, which almost always has to be proprietary since you don't want guests' cameras setting off your flashes. Another problem is that the learning curve is slower with film, since you have to do experimentation and the results aren't instantaneous.

    I would also not get the Lightsphere if you are thinking to use it with lower ISO film (than 1600). You'd be better off with a Demb Diffuser or Flip It, or A Better Bounce Card. These are more versatile and can push more light forward when necessary--something the Lightsphere doesn't do too well (particularly the Cloud version--this is better for portraits). In light colored rooms, the Lightsphere is nice, but you don't always get light colored rooms to work in.
  6. Thanks, Nadine - I've been re-reading the planetneil articles this week and need to really sit down with them and learn.

    Your other ideas are really helpful, too, as usual. I'm going to look into those other diffusers you mentioned as well. I think the room I'm shooting in is actually light colored (I'm seeing it tonight), but will check out the other diffusers and other techniques, too. I'm a little frazzled today, hence the new post.
  7. You can take a lighting class from Rick.

    Or sign up with Clay Blackmore & his tour.

    Check out:

  8. Hey Bill, is there a multi light shot on your website, somewhere?... t
  9. you are in LA. you can rent anything you need for the occasion. rather than getting small strobes, why not rent three or four strong monolights (calumet 750s), set them up in corners bounced off the ceiling (if it isn't too high), trigger them with PWs and be done with it. you can shoot that until the cows come home. maybe place them in areas where stuff is going to happen (dais, cake cutting etc). you can always move them around, and their footprint is minimal.

    just watch out for kids. maybe sandbag the stands down.
  10. those gary fong things eat up flash. but you said you want grainy too, so that might not matter. with the strobes, you could probably shoot at iso 800, and still get f 5.6. maybe even better, depending on the ceiling height.
  11. I would get a 2nd flash (in case the 1st malfunctions mid wedding). And practice with your bracket. Shoot a test roll, but 1st, learn to "drag the shutter".

    I would avoid trying to get too fancy at first. Using double lighting will improve your photos tremendously. But it will also increase your headaches until you become familiar with the equipment.
  12. Tom,

    I've got one posted on my community page. Off camera flashes. Main light camera left. Fill
    light hand held by my assistant. Hair light Sunpak 544 snooted.
  13. Hi, everyone:

    I went to the location last night - very beautiful, but it's going to be difficult. Cathedral
    ceilings, and very low lights (at their highest setting, I couldn't get a good exposure even w/
    3200 speed film). So I'm going to have to use flash for the whole wedding/reception. I will
    see all your suggetions and practice, practice. I took a test roll last night. The only problem I
    had was focusing in the low-light. The 550EX assist beam didn't seem to be working, or
    maybe I don't know how to use it! I've been poring over the manual all morning, but it's not
    telling me much - any ideas on that? Thanks!
  14. A lot of it depends on the size of the room. In most of the halls I've worked in bounce flash off the walls or corners with your on-camera flash is a great way to go. With really high ceilings I try to hug the walls and bounce off of them whenever possible.

    I've found that an external battery pack is essential. Without it you just can't recycle fast enough to get all the action.
  15. Here's the techniques I use the most:

    On-camera bounce flash off a side corner:

    On-camera bounce flash plus one remote slave:

    On-camera flash bounced behind me plus remote slave in umbrella:

    again, battery packs on all lights. A must.

    ISA 800 seems to do it for me with the bounce flash, although I'm usually shooting at 2.8.

    Hope this helps.
  16. Sorry, the second one should have pointed you here:
  17. Katie--be sure the focus assist is turned on in the custom functions menu on the flash. And focus assist does not work if you have the autofocus set to AI Servo. You should be using One Shot anyway. If you get into bouncing, Edward is right about needing an external pack.
  18. Thanks, Edward and Nadine!

    I practiced last night at a party in dim conditions and the focus assist DID work - so I don't
    know what happened the first time. I'm definitely renting a 2nd flash (as backup) and 2
    Quantum Battery Packs.

    Here's my latest question: I can't really bounce, as all the walls are covered in glass. The
    ceiling is as high as a Gothic cathedral. I get the impression, because this is an intimate
    (80 people) wedding in a very small space, that umbrellas and stands would be
    inappropriate. Also, I dont' really have time to learn how to use them well - I think I'd be
    somewhat panic-stricken if something went amiss with them.

    So, my latest question: Do you think I can get beautiful images with a flash set-up? (If so,
    maybe the assistant with a 2nd flash, as noted above)? I just want to avoid the "snapshot"
    look common to flash, and I want to be able to move around fairly quickly.

    I did finally buy the Lumiquest, after a lot of research, and in panic mode (!). I'm
    experimenting with that.

    I am interested in dragging the shutter, but I can't get my shutter speed lower than 1/60
    (my lens is a Canon 28-105mm f 1.4) for some reason. When I set the camera to AV, I
    can't get a fast enough shutter speed, so I keep setting it to P, and all I can get is 1/60
    (won't let me dial up or down). Not sure what I'm doing wrong, as I've never had that
    problem before...

    I just bought the Canon 85mm f 1.8 lens - this should help, right? I'm thinking the larger
    aperture will also help me if I do get to shoot any 3200 speed film, under candlelit

    Nadine, when you mentioned shooting at least 1600 with the lumiquest, can you please
    explain? I've used neopan 1600 b&w, is there a good color one (I've shot 800 color but not

    Thanks, everyone, for your patience. This is like a crash lighting course for me - !
  19. Oops, I didn't mean I got a lumiquest, but a lightsphere 2 (cloud)...
  20. Are the walls glass or are they opaque walls covered in glass or are they mirrors? Makes a difference.

    If the space is not ultra huge and is light colored, you'd be surprised how well you can bounce the flash, even if the ceiling is high. However, if the place isn't light colored and is huge, you will have trouble, especially with film, where one tends to overexpose for a safety margin. I'll reserve my suggestions for you based on your answers to the above.

    To drag the shutter, you basically need to be in manual camera mode. In AV, you can cheat a little if you put the ambient (not flash) exposure compensation to -2. This is to underexpose the ambient so your flash can freeze motion. Program will not work for you at all unless by conincidence, which you do not want to rely upon.

    When you are using those wide apertures, be aware of the very small DOF you will have, plus if you aren't using lenses with wide apertures, you will have autofocus problems. You might want to research Marc Williams' posts concerning focusing with wide aperture lenses. I'll see if I can find one.

    My comment about shooting at 1600 with the Lightsphere was to say that the LS, especially the Cloud, doesn't throw out as much light forward, which limits the reach of the flash, so unless you are using really high ISO, you may have problems. I used 1600 because that is what you said you do with high speed film. I would personally use ISO 800 color film with flash.

    Also confused about your lens. There is a 28-105mm f3.5/4.5 consumer zoom and there is a 24-105mm f4L lens, but no 28-105mm f1.4 zoom (wish there were).
  21. HI, Nadine:

    The walls are made of stone, but they have built-in cupboards with glass doors on them
    (I'll try to post a photo later). The glass cupboards cover about 75% of the given wall

    The part of the wall that isn't glass is stone - kind of orangey. The ceiling (way up high!)
    is covered in paint-patterns of light orange & yellow.

    Thanks for the flash/dragging the shutter info, etc!

    Oops, I meant that i had the 28-105 mm f3.5/4.5 consumer zoom. I am looking at my
    other post and the other lenses you mentioned. If I could only get or rent 1 more lens for
    this wedding, do you have a favorite? (Besides the 85mm f 1.8?)

  22. I don't know the Canon line, but sooner or later you are going to have to get a 2.8 zoom. For receptions a 28-70 is fine. Since you have two bodies an alternative would be a fast 35 on one and a 50 on the other, but that would imply two flashes too.

    As for the room: the good news is that orange walls are an OK color for bounce flash since they won't give skin a nasty tone and won't absorb too much of the light. They bad news is the glass will be a problem whether you bounce or not since you will have to place yourself carefully to avoid reflections.
  23. Two things about the glass cupboards. First is you need to avoid flashback from your flash by shooting at angles to them and not from directly in front of them. Second, if what is behind the glass is opaque, they are "bounce-able".

    You will get a color cast bouncing against the orange-y stone. Add the orange-y tungsten lighting, and the cast can be oppressive. However, with film, the cast doesn't seem to be as disturbing as with digital--maybe because the lab corrects these things in the printing, although they don't correct the backgrounds, just what is lit by the flash. You could gel your flash but I wouldn't bother if using film.

    The LS will give more color cast than a white card or Flip It in the card up position. This is because the latter throws more light forward, and the light thrown forward is more 5500K (more like daylight) than the mostly bounced, color cast light produced by the LS. Again--the LS will not have much reach, so for closer subjects, it is OK, but for farther subjects, I'd use a white card.

    If the wedding is in a month, I'd suggest you not try to do multiple lighting. The way to learn this with film is to do a little at a time at each reception while covering yourself otherwise. You just don't have the time to get up to speed for this wedding.

    That leaves dragging the shutter. Do some searches on the wedding forum. I'd learn to use manual camera mode rather than rely on the AV -2 trick I told you about above.

    As for the lenses, try a 50mm f1.8 (inexpensive and good) or 50mm f1.4 (very good), or a 28mm f1.8 (good) for wide aperture primes that aren't hugely expensive. You can probably squeak by with the 28-105mm lens but it might be borderline... Up to you whether to rent the 24-70mm f2.8. You can also try the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8. Excellent lens that is close to the 24-70mm in image quality but is much less in cost. If you decide to get one, be careful about getting a sharp copy--do some searches on this topic too. Some photographers have the 2.8 zoom plus wide aperture primes for low light. Some photographers use primes only. Up to you how to proceed...

    Here is one thread about focusing wide aperture lenses--in this case the 85mm f1.2L, which has a large front element and is slow focusing. Look at Marc Williams' post.
  24. I'm also just starting on flash at weddings, but I've just finished reading a book WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY: ART BUSINESS & STYLE by Steve Sint. It offers some excellent and very real-world advice on room lighting and using on-camera flash for weddings.
  25. Thanks! Also, please check out the other posts I've started and gotten responses on - I'll see
    if I can post them here. They were very helpful!
  26. Kate, you might find this post EXTRA -helpful!

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