Reception Lighting suggestions

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by ken_owen|1, Apr 17, 2016.

  1. I've got a friends wedding to shoot in August. I went and looked at the reception hall which is in an old, active, whiskey distillery. The hall
    is dark, like really dark. Dark wood floors and dark wood ceilings (20' up) with lots of small halogen accent lights and incandescent wall
    lights. It's rectangular with the DJ area and head table opposite of each other on the long sides of the room and the dance floor in the
    middle. I don't have a lot of weddings under my belt so I'm looking for some lighting suggestions. I recently invested into the profoto OCF
    system with 2 B1's and the B2 set up. My initial thoughts were to put one B1 on each side of the room close to the middle but diagonal to
    each other. The cake table will be close to the B&G as well so I was thinking I might be able to get away with just two lights? Should they
    be diffused? Bare? Pointed towards the dance floor? Also should I use the B2 on camera as fill in conjunction with the b1's? I would really
    prefer not to have a camera mounted flash but maybe necessary. I primarily shoot seniors and an occasional outdoor wedding but need
    a little help on thinking through this one since it's a new lighting system for me as well.
  2. The first thought that comes to my mind: You've got several months until the event, why not take your setup to the hall and test it? It sounds like you could use the practice setting everything up and using it. Take a friend or two and photograph them standing in different locations. Just try and do the testing with the same ambient lighting and at the same time of day as the wedding. It sounds like a cool venue ... even with the poor lighting!
  3. I thought about that but it was like pulling teeth to get in to just take a couple of quick snaps with my iphone. It's a popular venue that's booked out. They have daily tours of the distillery as well. We had to make arrangements with security for the limited time we were allowed to be there. You're right about the practice. I'm not a professional but I take my photography seriously and look forward to the pressure to perform.
  4. With bare light you get hard shadows. And if it's darkish you just get no shadow detail or anything.
    And if you put up big diffused light sources you are going to ruin the look of the place and it's going to be very sensitive where you stand in relation to the subject and the light source. And you can't light the room from all around either.
    With 20 ft high ceilings they are not going to show up in your photos much. You might as well bounce off them (which you can do with 500Ws) but with a directional light source.
    Place the two B1s on stands close to the walls (so they don't get knocked over) and point them straight up. If you have a short snoot or grid that would be perfect. With that on you can send the light straight up into the ceiling without the light from the strobe going sideways and over exposing things close by. If the strobes can take AC you should hook that up.
    The round rather large spot in the ceiling (where the strobe illuminates it) will now become your new light source. So you have to place it so you get nice lighting on the B&G. I suggest two opposite corners. Never light them straight from the front or straight from the back is you will not get much modeling that way.
    Then place the B2 on a smaller stand with a small softbox on it. Use that if you need some extra light somewhere while you are shooting. For instance for cake shots you place the stand with your light somewhere strategical and then you can roam around and shoot. This would be you "slightly" off camera flash, meaning you have it nearby when you need it. When you don't need it you just put it in the corner and turn it off.
    You should gel all your strobes with CTO as they will probably look cold otherwise compared to the usually warm light sources used. That will turn them from 5-6000K down to 2700-2900 K.
    Then try to shoot it as you where almost shooting with ambient light only. Otherwise it's a big chance you will destroy the mood of the place. So if the ambient exposure would be say ISO 1600, f2.8, 1/30s you might shoot it so the ambient is underexposed a stop or two but not more. So say ISO 1600, f2.8 1/60s. And then the strobes will provide overall lighting, modeling and separation for the subjects without being overbearing. So even if you could turn up the strobes and shoot it at ISO 400, f5.6, 1/100s you will have an almost entirely strobe lit venue and it will probably not look anything like what the B&G experienced on their wedding day.
    Try to do some shooting in similar venues before the wedding. I'm thinking anything that happens in low lighting and are generally dark and have 20 ft ceilings. Actually whatever you can do to get a feel for your lights and the results you get.
  5. Frustrating news regarding the difficulty getting inside the venue for some practice! I agree with Pete that shooting in similar venues before the wedding will help you. Get some practice and be prepared, as the Boy Scouts would say. I'd even bring a standard speed light just in case. Here's a final idea: Google the venue and wedding photos. If they're so busy, chances are somebody has posted photos of a wedding (or other event) held at the hall. You might be able to glean some information about how things were lit for the event.
  6. Thanks so much guys for the input.
    Pete, You gave me a lot to chew on. My fear was the color cast if I bounced. I was wondering if gelling would have helped
    with that. 1/2 CTO or Full? Haven't shot strobes before with gels, only speedlites. I need to find a similar place to practice.
    The last wedding I did I went the week before and shot some practice shots. But it had low white ceilings. It was ideal!
    Would you use ttl or manual? I would assume manual. If at 1600 ISO would you start at 1/4 power?
    Thanks again...
  7. Use or rent strobes with modeling lights. You don't have to crank up the modeling lights to full power, just enough to help
    your camera see and focus. With people wearing black the camera may search for a focusing spot and drive you nuts. The
    dim modeling light won't be noticed. Use radio slaves to fire the lights, but be careful not to set your camera, if it is a Canon
    on ETTL because it won't sync to the strobes. You should probably shoot on manual. I like to aim the strobes at the tables
    where the guests are, because your camera flash will cover the dance floor and the strobes will fill in the rest of the room.

    For the first dance you can get creative and back light the bride and groom or side light them. Anyway, to pull this off
    successfully you probably need 2 strobes and your shots will look very professional.
  8. OK, strange idea which might not work for this, but maybe someone else.
    Use a camera with the IR block filter removed, and appropriate IR lighting system.
    This would be good for places where added lighting would take away from the experience.
  9. Ambient light, check ISO/apertures for 1/125-1/200 shutters. If you can get ISO3200, f/1.4-ish 1/125-1/200, that's plenty of light IMO. If not, or if you don't have f/1.4 primes, flash is probably going to be necessary.
    I use fast primes partly because receptions are so frequently dim.
    Once you know ambient light levels, try on-camera flash bounced against the ceiling slightly behind and at an angle, see if your flash can keep up with that at ~1-3 stops below ambient. If not, try bare on-camera flash with the white popup pushing forward (or an omnibounce or whatever) as a last resort and see if you get consistent results. I don't use the latter for my own work, but some people do.
    Gigantic monolights bare and direct in a place like that would probably be nuking (too much power). Then again, I use ISO1600-4000 regularly for receptions, so I need less power. Off-camera hotshoe flashes are typically enough for me. Mount flashes high, sometimes in opposite corners with different channels (if you can activate multiple channels at once), check exposures and see if you can blend with ambient light/mood. I encourage CTO filters/gels for flash/moonlight output to better match ambient tones.
    But there are plenty of photographers out there who are better at lighting receptions than I am.
  10. Thanks guys for the responses. I do have a couple of fast primes. A Sigma 50 1.4 and a Canon 85 1.2. I'm thinking of
    bouncing the strobes with gels and using higher ISO.
  11. If you bounce them consider 1/2 or 3/4 cto (or combine 1/2 with 1/4) if the surfaces are dark wood, since they project a certain amount of orange already.

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