Wedding photojournalism vs. lighting up a dark church

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by eric_guel, Mar 31, 2004.

  1. As a self-described wedding photojournalist, I like to keep my
    equipment simple: a couple of AF 35mm nikons, strobes, bracket when
    needed and relatively fast lenses (2.8).

    However, I have a wedding coming up in August that's taking place in
    one of the darkest churches on the planet. There is NO natural light
    inside this place and no chance for bouncing either, the ceiling is
    black.

    I talked to the bride and she's pretty certain the stage lights will
    be nice and bright, but the problem is the reception is going to be in
    the back of the sanctuary, basically in the same room. She's already
    said she's going to have the tables lit with candles, but not very
    many. I think she's going to be going for the dark, romantic look.

    Anyhoo, I normally shoot with 400 or 800 speed film, but even with
    faster film like that I don't see how I can avoid the photos with the
    properly flash-exposed subject floating in a sea of darkness. I'd
    really like to get a lot of background light into my photos, but I'm
    thinking that might be impossible.

    So, does anyone have any suggestions? I once assisted a wedding pj who
    lit up a dark reception hall with a couple of white lightnings or
    something like that, the pictures came out great. Unfortunately, I
    don't have any of that stuff though I'm sure I wouldn't mind renting
    it for the occassion. What do you all think?
     
  2. Double lighting is the answer.Use an on cameras flash as fill,and an off camera 2nd light as the main light.This can be done with either stand held or assistant held lighting fired via slaves.I fire the main light 2 stops brighter than the fill,and I get a nice effect that doesnt appear flash lit.
     
  3. Steve, is there a way to do that and retain TTL control? Or will I need to go manual?
     
  4. Sorry, but the double lighting described above is for lighting subjects and not spaces. To lighten up a dark space you need one, or more flashes up high on lightstands, aimed to skim the light across the area. The room lights will be on manual, you set the level with a light meter and fire them with radio slaves. TTL for your on camera flash will work (I've done this.)
     
  5. Bruce,

    I see what you mean.

    Also, when I've got these extra flashes, on light stands, "aimed to skim the light across the area," where exactly am I aiming them? Also, should I diffuse them with something or set them to cover a 20mm area?
     
  6. Go manual - it isn't really that hard, particularly if you have a good flashmeter.
     
  7. There is a local reception hall here whose walls and ceiling are painted black, and its a big space, which is similar to what you are describing. When I shoot there, I do as Bruce describes--try to light up some of the background people and objects (since you can't light the walls or get any reflectance off them). I usually set up one or two manually set flashes on stands on either side of the DJ or band, usually right next to their speaker stands or other equipment because when you set up stands, you have to be very careful about people possibly tripping over them or injuring themselves if the stands fall over. You might want to tape them down or weight them and never put them in any high traffic areas. Some even place them on rafters or other beams using C-clamps and the like. The flashes are aimed toward the center of the dance floor and adjusted to read the same or 1 stop less than the camera exposure. If your location has a balcony, you can put them there, aimed downward. You then have to be mindful of where they are so that you don't get them blasting into your camera lens although you can get low and "hide" them using someone's body or head. Also, some lenses render the blast as a nice star, so its not all bad. When the action is not on the dance floor, and your placed lights don't end up in the photo you want to shoot, you can take one of the flashes with you and position it like Steve suggested, either as main or rim, or to light up what is behind the action. Sounds like a lot of work but it really pays off. You don't need lots of high powered gear either--a couple of Vivitar 283s or even just one--can help a lot, especially if you, as a PJ shooter, use wider apertures anyway.
     
  8. Steve Levine's answer is best. Steve's call for a slave unit that is under powered (setting) compared to the main is conservative advice, too. This 2nd light will therefore less likely "interfer" with the net lighting effect.
     
  9. Steve is right in using double lighting. His approach works well. I have used this technique for a number of years and it is very easy to do. I use an assistant sometimes (best situation) and not sometimes. If not it goes on a caster based stand to make it easier to move. In addition to lighting like a portrait, you could try using a second light to add rimlighting to your subject by placing the remote flash to the rear side out of camera view. This will keep them from blending in with the black background. Or using the second light to light the background. I just want to avoid the blending of hair into blackness. Double lighting in any form is the key. As to how much money you will have to spend to accomplish this, well, it will be expensive just like everything else in this business. Buy the best radio slave unit that you can. I used Quantum Radio Slave 4's, but I think from what I've heard and read in this forum and elsewhere, Pocket Wizard's are the best. For one extra light it really doesn't matter too much as long as it's a radio slave and NOT an optical slave. For those out there who like IR triggered slaves, sorry, but a lot of people have the same flashes as the photographer and they could trigger the flash just like the optical slaves. So, I say just radio.
     
  10. The question is about lighting a dark reception area. Not taking pictures of the Bride, Groom, people walking down aisles. It's about throwing some light into a dark background so it doesn't look like he's shooting in a cave.
     
  11. Thanks for all of your input. I'll digest all this and make a decision soon. Luckily, I have until August to get this figured out, and I've got a lot of access to the church to shoot some test stuff.
     
  12. Then add this:

    You can't really open up the whole space with light: So just "tropical light" 2 walls with
    spots from an AC 100ws unit or two. Sure, you will have dark corners, so what. You have
    drama. You then choose the direction and background of your shots to conform to your
    limited lighting. A cheap, used Speedotron 400ws unit will more than be adequate. And
    it won't run out of batteries! Watch the cord, though. I would put it in the corner near the
    cake. In this way, there won't be much traffic around it.
     
  13. I use canon gear so there is TTL available using two or three strobes in a room. But really its not that difficult in manual.
    http://neilcowley.com/
    weddings/2003/photos/Mack_Davis_1139.jpg

    You do have to have an assistant who knows what to do however. To keep shooting the wedding photojournalistically, you just have your assistant follow you around and light either your subjet from the side, or just throw more light into the background. You can put the flash on a monopod to help get it some height if need be. If you look through my wedding photojournalism pages from 2003, you'll see several examples of using additional lights to boost the subject or backgournd. I especially prefer to shoot the first dance that way. If its a dark room I'll also use a light in a corner synced with a pocket wizard (manual output) and then use the on-camera TTL to mix and match the lighting as needed. So even if your assistant (or a lighting stand) is shooting manual - don't assume that all your flashes have to be in manual. Best of luck learning it, its a great technique.
     
  14. Neil - May I say that your work is outstanding! I love your out of focus backgrounds and your eye for artistic detail. I like how you "see". You also capture emotions beautfully! I only looked at one wedding - but trust me I'll be going back to look at more. Hope to see more posts from you about your techniques and equipment.
     

Share This Page