"Wedding Receptions in Caves" trend

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by shoots, Apr 13, 2004.

  1. I am shooting the reception, a pro photographer is doing ceremony, for a couple this
    week end. And while I have practiced my setup I could not fully match the dimensions
    and scale of the project I am about to tackle.

    The room is 100' x 60' with 12' high white ceilings. Stage is centered at the back end
    of that 100' space. The ambient light as suggested in the title is low. As a matter of
    fact there are no windows, house lights will be off and
    all illumination will be with candles. Bride wants photo-journal look, which I have
    done before with success, but in daylight.
    My equipment list will include:

    Gobs of Fuji NPH400 and Kodak Portra 400 B/W

    2 F100's, MB-15 power-packs,

    Lenses: 28-70 AFS 2.8, 80-200 AFS 2.8 and one slow Macro

    2 SB-28, with SD-8A power-packs

    tripod and mono-pod

    a 1600ws mono-light and two 800ws mono-lights with three reflecting umbrellas
    at 42" and 60"

    mono's will be radio slaved

    Sekonic L-358

    Light stands if I can't use my auto-poles, in case the ceiling is soft. Bunch-o-
    superclamps and junk.

    Pocket knife, toothpaste and a cracker, in case I get lost (which i am already).

    Since I will not be able to light the room I will set the mono-lights in locations were
    the important parts of the reception take place. Cake cutting, speeches and dance
    floor, I will set them in secure locations weighted and/or taped down.

    On camera I will use an SB-28 with a pocket bounce like the 80-20 but with a full

    What I envision for most scenes is soft lighting with perceived candle light in the
    background. I want to light the subjects with anything from rim to 3/4 but use on
    camera flash for fill and only fill if I can, I know this may not always be possible as I
    float around.

    I have access to the hall early in the morning several hours before the reception and
    plan to rig and set lights then. I will set the 1600ws up with a 60" umbrella for the
    cake cut and speeches. Set it to f/8 I think. I will set the two 800ws lights on both
    sides of the stage and set to f/8 as well, maybe f/5.6?

    I will use manual on the camera 1/15 - 1/60 @ f/8 and set my flash to manual and -1
    1/2 to 12 stops below keys. Or use TTL?

    I have tested these settings and have gotten adequate results but i think not quite
    were I want to be for the limited space I had to work in. Sorry for the long list but I
    wanted to be as precise as possible. Does this sound right or am I way wrong for a
    room like this and the activity going on in it? Is this way overboard for photojournal
  2. Because you have static "key lights" in the corners, you have the problem of variable
    distances as you move around the room. By using an underexposure of 1/ 1/2 stops, you
    may well show these lights, but the results will not be consistant. A few shots rimlit, OK.
    But I doubt you will be able to keep up with the changing distances and their effects on
    moving people.
    You are going to have to rely upon your bounce light to do the job.
    Don't allow ambient light to unsharpen your photographs. Using TTL is
    a risk. I would hate to think what a
    TTL would do with a strobe light in a corner background to your exposure of a person's
    face, and you say you want to underexposure 2 stops to begin with? I think TTL would be
    a liability.

    I think that you could accomplish a few shots with rimlight or with these mono lights
    simply flooding a corner. And sure, you can blur a few shots for 'movement''s sake during
    the dancing. But keep your priorities on recording these people with normal bounce/card
    fill for most of them. <p>

    Consider using filters over your mono lights; you chose the color. And remember that the Bride may not like your additions. Hide your
    equipment so it doesn't show. <p>

    I think you will have a serious problem trying to preserve any candle lighting. It would be
    my choice to use a little Wein slave 180 degree to emulate candle light from a distance.

    I doubt that you will be using 800ws setting, but rather you will be using 100-200ws on
    those walls. But if you are conservative, you will simply hit the walls with about 50-75ws ,
    forget about rim lighting the audience for most of the shots. Also remember that you
    need quick recycle time and 75ws setting will give you this, too.
  3. Buy a 50mm f1.4 or 1.8 if the budget is tight (or failing that maybe a 35mm f2). That couple of stops will help you lots! Try using some high speed film, Ilford 3200 B&W works for me.

    When the bride says 'photo journal' what does she actually mean? Show her some 6x4's and 8x10's printed well with the high speed film and no flash, as well as some colour with flash (I am presuming she is a friend) and give her an idea of what to expect and see if that is what she wants. Lots of people say 'photojournalist' but mean nicely lit portraits only showing my best side.

    Also since she only wants candles lighting the room, does she really want big lights set up flashing off and on during the night?
  4. 3200 watt seconds of slaved flash power at a candle lit reception seems counter to the ambient look and feel that the couple have planned. You could do all that, or leave it all home and get a 50/1.4 as suggested. Perhaps bring the monopod for the big zoom. If capturing the ambient backgrounds with naturally lit looking subjects is a plan worth considering, then I think your Nikons and SB-28s on a flip bracket with a soft box are plenty. The Nikon TTL flash system is one of the best in the business. Your choice of film is just right IMO. The 28-70/2.8 is cool because at 28mm you can shoot at 1/15th of a second. The issue of foreground subject sharpness when using slow shutter speeds is a non issue when using flash. To a greater degree, the flash duration determines that, not the camera shutter speed. When shooting for ambient feel to the lighting, the camera shutter speed and lens aperture control the background exposure, and the TTL flash in combination with the lens aperture controls the foreground exposure. Used in conjunction with wider apertures and slower shutter speeds, the (fill) flash duration is typically fast enough to freeze almost any foreground movement. Or you can vary the balance toward favoring the background and introduce some foreground subject movement. When using a 50/1.4, especially at f/1.4, the ambient background will go out of focus making the flash lit subjects stand out. Movement in the background due to a slow camera shutter speed is a non issue because it is already out of focus due to a shallower depth of field. When using the 50mm @ f/1.4 to shoot full figures, DOF will be fine. The only time it needs to be f/4, 5.6 or 8 is if you want the background to all be in focus also. At a reception that usually just introduces a buch of conflicting clutter behind the subject. I know that using this technique is difficult to trust at first because the subject sharpness is determined by the flash duration (typically over 1/500th of a second and usually over 1/ 1000th). We're so conditioned to the idea that the camera shutter speed controls subject movement that it's hard to swallow. But think about it. Do you think it's a shutter that captures a bullet in mid flight? Or was it an extremely short strobe duration? Same principle applies here.
  5. Here's ever so slight subject movement (players bow hand) introduced by favoring the camera shutter/aperture combo over the flash settings.
  6. Sorry, forgot to mention that both these examples above were shot using a slow shutter
    speed (flower catch was @ 1/30th and the Music shot was @ 1/15th if I recall correctly).
  7. If you are trying to get a PJ look, room lights can be tricky to use. The thing I like least about them is that they can cast some very funny looking shadows from things like center pieces and hanging decorations. They also have to be in the right position to get a specific type of lighting, for a specific spot. For what you are doing, I would just set one, or two to bounce off the ceiling. They should also be set to a low power setting, or you'll lose the candles. Your main light will be from your camera mounted SB-28. I prefer the Omnibounce to the Pocket bounce, but that's me. The F100 will have no trouble doing TTL flash with room lights (been there, do that). Just set the flash to plain TTL and +.7 compensation on the flash.

    A 50/1.4 would be a good addition to the 28-70/2.8, but you can get by with the zoom shot wide open. The AFS lens will also focus faster. The PJ look isn't happening at f8. Also, the SB-28 doesn't have enough power to do much bouncing at small f stops. Shutter speeds between 1/15 & 1/30 is the right range.
  8. Holy Moly, I just noticed that the pix I uploaded from my lap top look way underexposed
    on my screen.

    My main computer is down while my studio is being rebuilt and I'm using this machine in
    the interum.

    Please let me know if they appear unusually dark or if they're washed out on your monitor.

  9. Marc - The pix look fine.
  10. Marc, your shots look fine on my screen.

    Troy, I'll second the recomendation to get a 50 1.4 and ditch the complex lighting scheme. Even if you can manage to get the lighting to look right, it seems like you are running the risk of the bride wanting to strangle you for interupting her candle lit reception with a bunch of lights. The 50 1.4, a bag of Neopan 1600, a bag of NPZ and Marc's flash techniques if the high speed film isn't cutting.

    Good luck.
  11. Troy, you are using film, not 25mm digital. Therefore, you will not get duplicate results with Marc's presentation. F1.4 is shallow depth of field time for you, not Marc. With candle light, you need will have tiny spots of light in the background, this is not enough 'drama' to justify taking the risk of mixing ambient light with flash. DJ lights can wipe smears over faces unevenly. If you want to simulate candle light, put an amber filter over a rear slaved flash near the candles.
  12. If you truly do expose for the candle light, then as you are amongst these candle flames,
    your flash exposure will mix with the ambient light. If this means you are exposing at 1/4
    of a second, you will have blurs. If you expose at 1/15th, you will no longer have your
    candlelight, but simply spots of light, tiny, tiny spots of light. And it could happen that
    these spots of light will turn into "lines of light" because you moved the camera and
    blurred them when you hit the button. Then it is possible that these 'lines of light' could
    mark over a face or
    clothing of a person. In film, you will be retouching this up.
    Remember, too, that most interesting shots in PJ style are not of a single person. Rather,
    it is of 2 or more people interacting. It isn't likely that these two people will both be in a
    perfect focus plane line for you. At f1.4 with 50mm, you have depth of field measured in a
    handful of inches, not feet, at 5-6 feet to the subjects.
    Marc explained his theories, but he didn't show you an example of what you can expect
    from a 35mm film camera at f1.4 at 1/15th or so. His example also shows AC bulbs,
    candlelight in the backgound. AC bulbs are far more powerful than candlelight. These is
    not at all the same conditions you will have.
    In order to convince yourself of the light output of a candle flame, place 5 candles on a
    table in a dark room. Stand, oh, 7 feet away from them and take a incident meter reading
    of the flames. Now you know what you are working with. Take another reading at 3 feet.
    In order to re-create this light, you need to have an exposure on your camera of that 3
    foot reading or better. Walls will be lit at 7 feet. So, when they dance, you will need the 7
    foot exposure setting to illuminate the walls by candlelight. What a difficult imposition on
    you to be tied down to such long exposures in PJ style.
    You really do need a f5.6 for these candid pictures of these guests. And I use f8 or f11
    routinely. But I illuminate with slave flash.

    Make a sharp reproduction of the people, and let the imperfect, insufficient background
    light be a 2nd priority. Even Marc's examples show that his foreground is not lit with
    mostly ambient light. It isn't even 50-50. It is more likely 90% flash, and 10% ambient in
    one shot. Preserving the ambient light is not important.
    What is important is a record of these guests. Many will pass away in the next ten years.
    Preserving some candlelight is not worth the risk of failure of her pictures.
    I realize that you have the motivation to 'go beyond' and provide advanced lighting. But at
    some point, you need to retire from being a lighting director to becoming a stage director.
    Consider the story and the people as a first priority.
    Stage directors block their actors and re-create the story without costumes and lighting.
    It is only at "dress rehearsal" that it all comes together.
  13. I think there is a misunderstanding here. With this technique you will not get pin points of candle light in the background, you will get the background. While it is true that you will get more DOF with a DSLR that has a smaller sensor, it isn't that much more. Here's a shot from the 1Ds which is a full frame sensor, therefore the optical results are identical to a 35mm film camera. Shot with a 50mm 1.4 @ 1.4, 550EX flash, 1/20th shutter speed.
  14. The DOF of a 50mm lens at f1.4 is the same regardless of film/sensor size. The sample shots of Marc's were shot with a D1x which has a crop factor of 1.5, and not 2. Marc's 1Ds is full frame, with no crop factor. A 50mm at f1.4, with a 1.5 digital crop factor has a field of view angle of a 75mm lens, but it still has the DOF of a 50mm lens.

    There is no "risk" mixing ambient with flash if you know what you are doing.
  15. I will post some candle lit shots as soon as I can get back on my main computer where
    they are stored.

    Timber is correct, you can get trails of light bleeding into faces, but you have to almost
    delibertly move the camera for that to happen.

    One thing to remember, is that when shooting by candle light, you aren't trying to light up
    the entire room so it looks normal with some candles there, you're recording it so it feels
    like it really was...with fill on the subject. The fill can be controlled to varying degrees for
    whatever effect you wish.
  16. Regarding the comment that 50mm f1.4 has the same DOF at any sensor size. This is not
    what I am referring to. Marc is showing pictures at 16mm
    in the midst of making a referral to the use of 50mm. This is like "bait and switch"
    advertising. These are not examples of 50mm at f1.4 using 1/15th of a second shutter
    speed. And to compare 16mm to 50mm as far as depth of field, well, this isn't even a
    close or fair comparison.
  17. Marc has just acknowledged one form of "risk" that appears with mixing ambient flash:
    trailing light blurs. As for "knowing what one is doing": This one is an easy one. With
    TTL, the unit is taking away control from the photographer. Therefore, it isn't the
    photographer who is doing the "knowing", it is the auto mode. Auto mode is the subject
    of another thread recently posted on photo.net Auto mode responds to the reflectance
    of the people's clothing and as a result, creates all kinds of unpredicable, unknowable
  18. I don't rely on photo.net threads for generalized, hersay information. I rely on years of personal, first hand experience using specific TTL flash metering systems.
  19. Folks, there are 2 or more ways to do everything in photography. As Bruce points out, and I agree with, the ambient light technique does work based on actually doing it for years, using film or digital, wide angles, normal lenses and medium telephotos even wide open. It's an experienced based knowledge that you refine until you know what effect will happen each time you use it, same as the techniques folks like Timber know and use. It's nothing new and has been used for a host of different applications, from documentary, commercial, fashion and, yes, even event photography. No one here invented it, it just is being used more as an alternative since the popularity of modern wedding styles has grown. I for one prefer it, so it looks like no flash was used at all ...or actually to not use flash. But to each his or her own. Here's one shot with a 50mm @ 1.4 where the use of flash is almost invisible, but would not have worked without flash.
  20. Thank you all for sharing your personal expertise and experience. <p> As Marc points out - there are different techniques. All advice given by wedding photographers has to be within your scope and comfort level/experience. Testing is always encouraged but not at a wedding ;-) until you find what works for you. <p>Some of it is preferences. I personally "prefer" the more ambient shots and never shoot at F8 unless I'm shooting outdoors in a non-posed candid situation where it is full sun or studio/commercial or landscape. <p>Again - there are no "wrong" answers... Always look at the work if possible of the photographers here offering solutions and base your choices on what you are trying to achieve. If what they do is what you aspire to.. There you go!
  21. I thought I posted a response yesterday but I do not see it. Anyway, Thanks everyone
    for your exchanges, I have made my decision as to what equipment I will take and am
    fairly confident as to how this will turn out. I have tested the setup and have gotten
    expected results, however as you all well know there is always the unexpected. That's
    why I bought a jumbo roll of duct tape.

    Originally I was asked to photograph the entire ceremony. I told the bride that
    although I have photography experience I had never photographed the wedding
    ceremony only receptions. And that I had no problem if they wanted to hire a pro to
    do that part which is what she did. So, at least I had sense to do that.

    I will post some sample pics when I get back with as much detailed information as I

    Thanks again!
  22. Troy,

    Use a faster film than ASA 400 film. Also, try a test using a flash with a 1/2 straw or full straw filter over the front. Rosco has these polyester filters. Bounce this light from the ceiling. As a result, you will have amber colored flash. This will give you the fill light that will combine with the color of the candle flame for a more natural look. WITHOUT using such a fill bounce amber flash, you will certainly have contrasty pictures that make people look like they are in a cave. With the amber flash bounced, you will have a more romantic look. But you must do tests at the site to have success. You cannot guess at this. I think you are walking into the most difficult lighting situation I could imagine: 100% candlelight!

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