manual axillary flash / reception

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by mikemeskin, May 5, 2010.

  1. Here is a question for the lighting experts. - What is the best way to shoot with an off-camera flash during the reception?
    The plan is to have an assistant carrying a monopod with a small softbox and a shoe mounted flash. One option is to use TTL Control radio slaves. - I am considering splurging out for Radio Poppers, or Pocket Wizard's mini TT1 and Flex TT1, but they are pretty expensive. Another option is to use manual flash triggered by ebay slaves. This may be problematic, because I would have to constantly adjust the aperture for different distances. I am worried that this approach would be too limiting. One more possibility is to fill the reception room with slaved flashes, all aimed at the ceiling and walls, triggered by rental pocket wizards. This could be a problem, because light stands can be a danger to the tipsy wedding guests. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
  2. I use a quantums mounted on 13' light stands fired with Pocket Wizards. I run them at max. 1/2 power sometimes lower. I don't use umbrellas. Sometimes I leave the umbrella on the light stand and use the shaft for the Quantum battery. Slave flashes I've found don't work because when others fire their P&S cameras it will set off the slaved units. I leave the flashes alone and adjust from the camera. Too little ambient, slower shutter, too dark either open up the f stop or change ISO. Once I get what I want to see then I leave alone, focusing on what's happening in front of me. I capture with RAW. I hardly ever use a fill light for the reception either hand held or on camera as I want more dramatic photographs.

    Many times I will use a tripod at the reception! Especially if I want to sell a client a large print! Smiles!
  3. Bill, I'm not sure I understand the logistics of using a tripod at the reception. I assume you don't carry it around with you. And, while it's sad to say this, I worry about leaving equipment lying around, so at the reception, I'm generally carrying all my equipment with me. Do you find a secure place for your tripod and have your assistant fetch it when you need it?
  4. I'm still searching for an ideal setup for reception lighting, but right now I use a combination of bare flash and umbrellas, all manual with elinchrom universal skyport triggers/receivers. In the future I might consider radiopoppers and 580EX flashes.
  5. There is no 'best way'--it is how you want the shots to look. For instance, your mention of a light on a stick, to me, is totally different from placing 'room lights' in the location. The former is subjects centered, and does not 'open up the background'. It separates the subject (if the off camera is used as rim) and adds a nicer, direcitonal light (if the off camera is used as key), but does not do anything for the background unless you direct the person holding it to aim at the background.
    For the light on a stick, having automated flash exposure may be useful, although you certainly can use manual flash exposure for the off camera with much success. For room lights, manual flash is actually preferred (at least, by me). The point of room lights is not to necessarily light the subjects, but to raise the ambient light level, and secondarily, to provide accent and separation lighting on subjects. So 'dumb' triggers are perfectly fine. I use Cybersync 'dumb' triggers and they are great--fire every time.
    There are various ways of using room lights--direct, bounced and a combination thereof. The most basic set up has 2 lights placed opposite each other. This is to minimize distracting shadows. This works better in larger spaces so you don't have harsh light--distance affects light fall off. This also means you are mostly trying to shoot perpendicular to the light axis, although this isn't always necessary. If you get closer to one of the lights, you can close down your aperture or make your ISO slower. Usually, at the middle of the area you want to light, the lights will measure about a stop less than the flash EV you set on your camera.
    You can also bounce off the ceiling or walls, for softer light, and this often works better in smaller spaces. Again--manual is better here. You can also combine bouncing and direct.
    I would avoid having more than 2 flashes until you are more experienced with the technique. To avoid knock over, I have sandbags, have taped the tips of my stands with fluorescent tape, and put my stands in places that don't have trip over problems. I also use clamps, bungee cords, and found surfaces.
    The best thing to do is experiment a lot on non-important stuff, and gain confidence.
  6. William,
    I don't mean to sound like a snot but when I take a tripod to a reception I intend to use it! Smiles! I will take a step ladder, elevate the tripod and make some pretty nice shots! If I need to quickly move around I can get the camera off real quick and I will leave the tripod standing, near a light of mine, the DJ's speaker, somewhere I can get to it.
    If I don't need it I have to put it somewhere where I remember to take it with me! I've left it at a couple of venues, went back and it was still there! No more putting it at some corner of the room. Maybe it's because not many use a tripod anymore.
  7. Here is a photo of B&G first dance.
    I entered it in print comp. judges didn't like the candidness of it but liked the lighting.
    Too many Pixels, will re-submit.
  8. "...when I take a tripod to a reception I intend to use it! Smiles! I will take a step ladder, elevate the tripod and make some pretty nice shots!"

    Bill, as you are obviously aware, tripods at receptions aren't that common, so this is an interesting approach. What percentage of your shots do you use the tripod for? 50%? 75? Almost 100%?
    I'm curious about the ladder + tripod comment, too. I'm just unable to visualize this. Climbing up on a step ladder where there are people drinking and dancing sounds, um, risky. Doing so with a tripod sounds like the photographer's had one too many trips to the punch bowl himself.
    Do you find that plopping down a camera on a tripod in front of, oh, a group of people at a table, causes them to pose for you without your having to say, "Excuse me...."???
    I'm asking because I'm intrigued.
  9. Dear Nadine, Thank you so much for your advice! It's invaluable! I now realize that what I would like is to have a more directional key light, since there should be plenty of ambient fill in the room. The idea of using manually set room lights can be very useful in other situations, and I will keep it in mind for the future. I might try the Pocket wizards "Mini and Flex" with a flash on a stick, as I do not feel confident enough to try manual flash in a reception yet.
  10. If you do the light on a stick thing, be sure to work out hand signals with your assistant--the one holding the stick, so he or she will know where to go in relation to the subject, on your command. Some people use clock positions--all in relation to the subject, with you, the photographer, being in the 12 o clock position. So perhaps you want rim light coming from the subject's left side. Hold up 8 fingers (8 o clock) to let your assistant know where he should be. Any standardized method can work, of course. But ones where you need not speak are best, because of the possible noise level.
  11. William,
    I use a tripod primarily for the dancing photos.
    I make a few table photographs but not very many.
    I'm a believer of taking time to make the so-called "formal" pictures. That's when I capture the photographs that will mean a lot to the B&G/family who hire my services that others may have to make during other times. If a B&G want other group photos at the reception I find good controlled light somewhere and do them there. I try not to make photos when people are seated as I feel I'm intruding on to space that's been reserved for them to relax, visit with others and enjoy a drink whilst eating.
    Just how I operate. Others may see it and do it differently.
  12. Bill,
    Thanks for taking the time to respond. I like your answer very much. And I will confess that I have always hated taking table shots myself, for the reasons you suggest: I hate intruding, and they don't ultimately seem to be of great interest to the bride and groom or anybody else.
    If I may, one more follow-up question. So do you TEND to find a good vantage point and stay there, or are you moving around a lot with your tripod?
  13. I don't move very much. I work at getting things set up as I see as my vision, relation to the DJ & lights, my off camera lighting, dance floor size and location, ambient light, the surroundings I want in the background. I usually stay only for an hour or two at the reception. I work at getting the main events scheduled early so as folks who are inclined to leave early see them and after the main events the B&G can party. I've found that many of the dances look the same.
    Have a Great 2010!
    You have a nice web site.
  14. eBay poppers will be fine for a small reception center. As a bonus, pair those with an inexpensive non-TTL flash and you've got a setup that can "walk off" without consequences. I usually set mine up in a strategic corner and leave it there all night. Practice using it before the event. You generally don't have to adjust your settings that much until you totally switch the angle you're shooting from. If you're setting up shots carefully and thoughtfully, you should have time to tweak the settings/take a light reading/chimp before you start shooting from a different angle.
  15. Isn't "axillary" flash more for doing nudes? (Sorry; couldn't resist.)
  16. It's always best to have the subject shave the axillary area before any flash photos are taken...unless of course they like 'hair in the armpit' pix....

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