Wedding Couple is Mixed Race: Lighting question

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by sauerwine, May 31, 2006.

  1. Hi all!

    I have a wedding to shoot in the near future. The couple is mixed race
    (Caucasion and African American.) The bride is VERY fair skinned, and the groom
    is in the darker third color range. (I've shot darker, but he will be quite a
    contrast to the bride.)

    I shoot twin Nikon D70's and the SB800 flash. (NOT my first choice for
    on-camera flash, but bear with me.)

    I've had the best results over the past 15 years using Vivitar 283's, the
    original Vivitar 8x10 bounce card, Vivitar flash bracket and off-shoe cord; and
    shooting for the 1-stop light loss the bounce causes. ALWAYS nice, diffused
    lighting.

    I am weary of using this setup on the digital nikon for flash trigger voltage
    issues, which I unfortunately have not yet researched. I pretty much decided
    this past weekend that I'm far happier with the results of the older setup,
    though in that case I can kiss TTL goodbye.

    So my question is, given my new setup, and availability to use the Vivitar
    setup, a Sunpak Potatomasher, and even a 20+ inch umbrella with a studio strobe
    (or a variation of) what would you all suggest? I bet the lighting difference
    between bride and groom will be in the range of 2 to 2-1/2 stops; but I
    certainly can tell you for sure when I get back to the studio to review the
    engagement photo.

    Any advice is always treasured!

    Thanks!
     
  2. no matter what lighting setup your using, you should be using an incident meter for taking pictures of the couple so not have to worry about getting the right exposure. probably slightly overexposed as not to lose any detail in the groom's face.
     
  3. Of course softer light helps but it doesn't really mitigate the difference between skin tones. Other than exposing correctly (as Stephen said, a handheld incident meter is not a bad idea), the only thing I've found makes any difference that you can control is getting more light on the darker skinned person than on the lighter skinned person. Of course, in many cases, you cannot control this, but you'd be surprised how many poses you can direct, and how much you can control key or fill light (feathering and directing the light) to put more light on the groom. Even using natural light, placement can be nudged. And shoot RAW. If you shoot jpeg, don't set the contrast up, or color saturation.
     
  4. This isn't what you want to hear, but you may want to consider dusting off your film
    equipment and shooting with Kodak Portra 160NC or 400NC. This is a very low contrast film
    and will give you the highlight and shadow detail you are looking for without any fuss.
     
  5. You can always recreate the Vivitar setup using the SB800, bracket and large bounce card. You don't have to use the SB in TTL mode; there's always Auto and Manual. A bigger umbrella (used with any flash) would be best. It is softer light and it will give you less specular highlights and blosn out reflections.

    BTW, so long as the 283 does NOT have "Made in Japan" on it it has a low trigger voltage and is safe to use on the D70.
     
  6. I'd 2nd Scott's opinion for a medium contrast, portrait type film. These are designed for producing good skin tones, under "controlled" lighting, with high contrast and high brightness range subjects. There might be a way to duplicate this with a D70, but I doubt it.
     
  7. Can't say how the 'programming' works in the D70, but I shot some middle school awards photos: the D50 body adjusted for the African American kids and the principal without much adjustment. What you may have to watch out for is the flash picking up the white dress and causing exposure problems when the camera fires. As noted above, shooting with Fuji NPH 400 rated at 320 (or whatever the new box is labeled) may be a better way to go.
     
  8. if the groom is in a black tux and the bride is something close to white, isn't their race sort of a sidebar to an already existing issue that every wedding photographer in the (western) world deals with every working day?
    Use the umbrella and put the light on the same side of the camera as the darker subject, whatever that subject is.
    The D70 can handle this fine, shoot RAW and you'll have no worries... t
     
  9. Ah thanks for all the good advice! Good point Tom; but most couples don't sort proofs for enlargements based on detail in their clothing! (But do on their faces....until the enlargements actually arrive, that is; then they notice the lace missing from the dress or the dark jacket looking like a silhouette!)

    I *think* I've got all older 283's...checking... at least one is Japan; as is the 285... shoot...

    I was also considering the bounce card / umbrella / diffuser because of the highlights caused by the common oily skin; and it's been darned hot here recently; so I see that as a concern. Are those highlights of any more concern than that of the dress? (In other words; all things being as they usually are in a wedding party, and exposure being correct; should I have any special concern for them?)

    I think I am going to stick with digital for this one; as I've invested a bit more in glass for the systems than I've enjoyed with film cameras- and 35mm is all I have left in that realm anyhow.

    I'll startle you with another very noobie question: Does digital exposure so closely correlate to film that I can use my LunaPro SBC with the diffusion flash attachment as an honest exposure guide as I've been used to in the film days?

    Thanks in advance and for all the good advice! Levine, Meyers; you guys are busy as usual helping everyone out! Thanks!
     
  10. *Meyer* I'm SORRY for the spelling slip!
     
  11. Yes, specular reflections on darker skin can be more of a problem. Diffused flash is preferable. What is more preferable is blotting the skin. Get a Wein Safe Sync for the Vivitar or get them checked for sync voltage. Any hand meter technique is as valid for digital as it is for film, except for the brain part--your brain. Shoot for the highlights, not the shadows with digital. How you use the info from the meter is up to you, as it has always been.
     
  12. any chance using avail light more?
     
  13. Lots of good ideas to consider here, but I would add one more consideration. If you use an incident meter (never a bad idea) and then overexpose slightly to compensate for darker skin, as was suggested, you risk blowing out the details in the bride's gown. That gown probably represents a healthy investment, or, at the very least, was selected after much thought. It's very important to the bride.

    When it's a choice of blowing out the gown or losing detail in the black tux, the answer is always simple. The tux is probably rented anyway and the groom doesn't care about it's finer points. But when the choice is between blowing out the gown and losing detail in a subject's skin, the solution gets a bit less clear.

    Can you use the SB off-camera (sync cord or wireless)? Then you can dial it down a bit and throw some subtle fill on the groom while exposing the bride for ambient light. Or, use ambient only and get an assistant to use a reflector to throw some light onto the groom.

    It's a challenge, to be sure. Practice some of these suggestions before the event! Good luck, and let us know how it turns out.
     
  14. In addition to much of the above - I suggest using a bright background which also helps.
     
  15. " I suggest using a bright background which also helps."

    This is very interesting scenario, Mary, given your experience. It would seem to me that using a brighter background would make the subject even darker, add more contrast, and exacerbate the problem, no?
     
  16. Rich raises an interesting point in noting that you don't want to lose the details in the dress, ever. So I can't help but to wonder how this situation would be tougher than shooting any dark-skinned groom or bride. While this groom might be noteably darker than his bride-to-be, I'm betting he's even darker than the dress. What sort of techniques have you used to get good contrast between a dark-skinned bride and her bright white dress in other weddings? Seems that's the same sort of things that should help here.

    I would think anything you can do to give the groom the lion's share of the light would help. An off-camera flash, situated more to his side or aimed slightly more at him, would be a good start. A slave aimed at him might not be a bad idea, either.
     
  17. Thanks again, folks!

    I think I am going to approach from a fill slave off to his side.

    I had this same situation occur before, but back then was using NC film and the Vivitar bounce card; so it worked out fairly well. Dress details were only a tad bit over, and he was only a tad bit under; but the overall shots worked nicely.

    Unfortunately, I very rarely encounter dark skinned brides, so the proximity issue works to my benefit in terms of a slave fill.

    I'll be experimenting a bit beforehand; I'm beginning to really lean towards a slave unit through- or bounced from- an umbrella; and modeled on his side.

    Thanks much! I'll post some shots after the fact!
     
  18. I think what Mary means to suggest is a naturally separating background, not a background that creates an extreme contrast. When a dark skinned person is photographed against a dark background, you get merging of tones. With a naturally separating background, you get immediate help in keeping the subject separated from the background.
     
  19. For the darker skin, try to get some light from the side and slight to the back- 100 degrees away. Even if 1-2 stops less than full exposure, it will show up. Put light into a light-colored background if available- angle of reflectance = angle of incidence. See "Light- Science and Magic"
     
  20. As it turns out, the difference wasn't quite as extreme as in their announcement session. (The Bride acquired a good bit of color this spring.) So... the impact was less severe.

    I found that bouncing the flash (even from the high, high, ceiling,) performed best under the circumstances. (Pre-wedding activities ran overtime, giving me only 15 minutes to photograph the groomsmen and get set up in the chapel. Guests were there by the time we arrived, so the other setup I brought along could not be used.)

    I'll post a few samples for historical reasons and to show the results when I get home.

    Thanks again to all who posted on this one!!!

    -Shawn
     

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