Off camera lighting for weddings

I have written a lot of posts about off camera lighting and how I love to use it in many different ways for weddings. There are so many creative uses for off camera lighting and I think it can add such a unique look to your images. If you missed some of my past posts here are a few of my favorites:

  • Using off camera lighting for a photo in the rain
  • Nighttime Photography for Weddings
  • Another night photo with off camera lighting
  • Today I want to talk a little about the wedding reception and what you can do for creative lighting during the reception. Most of the time for the main dances I will use at least 2 lights off camera positioned at opposite corners of the dance floor. One light will usually be an alien bee B800 which produces a lot of light. You can use a speedlight like a canon 580 however for the main light I do like the extra power I get from using a monolight. Depending on the size of the room I will normally point this light up towards the ceiling and have it around 1/2 power. This will bounce off the ceiling and give a good overall light covering the dance floor from above. Then I will setup a smaller unit like a Vivitar 285 ( Vivitar 285HV Auto Professional Flash) or just a canon speedlight. I will adjust the power of this depending on the distance to the middle of the dance floor and how dark the room is. This light can be used in many ways but today I am going to talk about using it as a backlight.

    If the light you have bouncing off the ceiling has enough power to fill in most of the scene with a broad light you can use the direct light to create some very cool artistic images. I love to backlight things, even when photographing outdoors I absolutely love the look of the sun coming from behind someone and this amazing backlight and lens flare is a look that I love. You can get that same look indoors even in a dark reception room using off camera lights and basically having one light direct acting as the sun would outdoors.

    In this image the direct light was positioned behind the father of the bride and pointing directly at the middle of the dance floor. They are mainly lit by the other light which is bouncing off the ceiling to give a soft overall light to the dance floor. The light coming from behind then when caught at the right angle just peeking out from the side of them. Although it is really bright and some may say distracting to me it adds a certain feeling to the shot and gives it more of a raw and real feel to the emotion that is going on. Sometimes don’t get caught up in the technical parts of photography too much, shoot for your heart and what images really speak to you.

    There are many other ways to slightly change this angle and make for a much different type of shot. You can have the light positioned between them or just barely showing as a slight rim light around them. There are lots of possibilities and hopefully this will get us all thinking of new and creative ways to capture our wedding reception photos.

    off camera lighting for weddings tutorial

    Here are the technical details of this shot:
    Canon 5d
    1/40th of a second @ ISO 800
    Canon 28-70 L lens aperture set to f/2.8
    Vivitar 285 set to 1/2 power behind subject
    Alien Bees set to 1/4 power behind camera bouncing off wall.

    To read a review of the vivitar 285′s read this review we did, Vivitar 285 flash review

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    Author: Mark Stagi

    Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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