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Lighting for wedding reception

Addy Hampton , Sep 07, 2007; 09:02 a.m.

Hi - I am VERY nervous as I'm not the best with the flash. All the weddings I've done in the past, I've shot in all-natural light, right down to using 3200 speed b&w film at the candlelit receptions (luckily, my clients know that and they WANT that type of look).

The wedding I have coming up in a month is similar - but it's the first time I'll be shooting such a late event (wedding doesn't start until 6:00 p.m.) Everything will take place in the same venue - ceremony/ reception, etc. I'm going there tonight to check out the lighting conditions.

I hate to ask, because I'm so ignorant, but can someone please give me some basic tips on the best type of lighting for the reception? The bride and groom really want the grainy, 1600/3200 speed look, but I want to be able to shoot flash as well, for the color shots and for when the light gets too low. At my last wedding, there really was NO available light once the dancing started, so I used flash - and the results were pretty boring.

I use a Canon EOS Elan 7 (2 bodies) and my flash is the Canon 550EX. I have a stroboframe and a diffuser (although I think I'll get one of those Gary Fong Lightsphere Clouds based on another post I read)... I am going to go nuts practicing from now until the wedding, so any help would be appreciated!



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Brooks Short - Tampa, Florida , Sep 07, 2007; 09:09 a.m.

You really should ask this on the Wedding Forum.

Bill Clark - Minnetonka Minnesota , Sep 07, 2007; 09:15 a.m.

Off camera flash system. I will use up to six units and fire them with Pocket Wizards.

Addy Hampton , Sep 07, 2007; 10:35 a.m.

Thanks - I've never done that type of thing (having different flashes firing elsewhere). How big is the learning curve? I've always been interested. Any detailed advice would be great, thanks!

Nadine Ohara - SF Bay Area/CA , Sep 07, 2007; 01:18 p.m.

I recall there was some discussion about reception lighting in one of your previous posts about cake cutting shots. Re-read the planetneil article. That tells you pretty much 90% of what you need to know. The remaining 10% would be about firing off camera flashes at receptions.

There are several methods of using reception "room lights". One is Bill's--made popular by a photographer named Rick Delorme. He uses 4 or more Sunpak 555s on stands around the room, and NO on camera flash. Here is a part of his website that shows reception lighting.


Another is similar but doesn't use that many flashes--usually two, to cross light the dance floor. This is what I use most often. I don't modify the flashes and they are set 1 stop below the camera f stop. There are variations of this set-up that involve bouncing the flashes off a suitable ceiling. Here is another tutorial by Neil Cowley.


The learning curve is moderate, and one of the problems is, of course, acquiring the lights to use for off camera work and the triggering system, which almost always has to be proprietary since you don't want guests' cameras setting off your flashes. Another problem is that the learning curve is slower with film, since you have to do experimentation and the results aren't instantaneous.

I would also not get the Lightsphere if you are thinking to use it with lower ISO film (than 1600). You'd be better off with a Demb Diffuser or Flip It, or A Better Bounce Card. These are more versatile and can push more light forward when necessary--something the Lightsphere doesn't do too well (particularly the Cloud version--this is better for portraits). In light colored rooms, the Lightsphere is nice, but you don't always get light colored rooms to work in.

Addy Hampton , Sep 07, 2007; 03:40 p.m.

Thanks, Nadine - I've been re-reading the planetneil articles this week and need to really sit down with them and learn.

Your other ideas are really helpful, too, as usual. I'm going to look into those other diffusers you mentioned as well. I think the room I'm shooting in is actually light colored (I'm seeing it tonight), but will check out the other diffusers and other techniques, too. I'm a little frazzled today, hence the new post. :-)

Bill Clark - Minnetonka Minnesota , Sep 07, 2007; 06:43 p.m.

You can take a lighting class from Rick.

Or sign up with Clay Blackmore & his tour.

Check out:

http://forum.montezucker.com/index.php? act=ST&f=8&t=7611&s=46c46a2c5313016e8c014b47157180a0



Tom Meyer , Sep 08, 2007; 01:48 a.m.

Hey Bill, is there a multi light shot on your website, somewhere?... t

Dave Moss , Sep 08, 2007; 03:28 a.m.

you are in LA. you can rent anything you need for the occasion. rather than getting small strobes, why not rent three or four strong monolights (calumet 750s), set them up in corners bounced off the ceiling (if it isn't too high), trigger them with PWs and be done with it. you can shoot that until the cows come home. maybe place them in areas where stuff is going to happen (dais, cake cutting etc). you can always move them around, and their footprint is minimal.

just watch out for kids. maybe sandbag the stands down.

Dave Moss , Sep 08, 2007; 03:30 a.m.

those gary fong things eat up flash. but you said you want grainy too, so that might not matter. with the strobes, you could probably shoot at iso 800, and still get f 5.6. maybe even better, depending on the ceiling height.

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