Off camera lighting for weddings

Sometimes I love shooting a bride and groom at night. When you get to use all artificial light, you can get get so creative and really have some fun with the shoot. Sometimes when photographing a wedding you always don’t have a lot of time set aside to shoot images of the bride and groom. Sometimes by the time the ceremony ends the sun is going down and you only have the nighttime to shoot. Instead of thinking of this as a bummer think of it as a really amazing opportunity to create some great images. When shooting at night you have a totally blank canvas to work with and depending on how you light the image you can create anything you want to. Think of it as a blank canvas to work with where the possibilities are endless!

This image was taken during the middle of the reception while the dancing was going on. After shooting some dancing for awhile we wanted to get one more series of the bride and groom together, so went outside to scout out the area. Sometimes we will go to the lobby of the location or look for interesting spots outside to shoot and there wasn’t much to work with at this spot other than a large empty field behind the building that had a few large oak trees. It was pitch black back here so we had to light everything we wanted to highlight in the image. We first lit the bride and groom with a Q-Flash that has a little mini softbox on it. The light was setup just to the right of the camera and very high. (getting your flash off camera really brings out the detail in her dress). The 2nd light was setup to highlight the oak tree (one more Q-Flash) and we wanted some interesting dimension to the tree, so we lit it from the far left and behind the tree. This way the light was coming across the tree and creating some cool shadows and depth to the image. Finally we have a vivitar 285 flash setup just behind the bride and groom slightly to the right of them to create a little light along the side of her dress and the veil. For the first shot below (our favorite from the series) the 3rd light actually didn’t fire (batteries were a little low and didn’t wait long enough for the flash to recycle) but the second shot you can see the effect of this 3rd light. The color is a little different on these two just because the first has been photoshopped and the second hasn’t really been touched up yet.

To fire the lights we used our trusty pocketwizards. A little bit of photoshop work was done just to soften the image up and put a little glow around her dress. This just gave it a little more of a romantic feel.

off camera wedding lighting
off camera wedding lighting

Tech Specs:

Camera: Canon 20d
ISO: 800
Exposure Program: Manual
Shutter Speed: 1/160 sec
F-Stop: f/5.0
lens: Canon EF 10-22mm f/2.8L
set to 10.00mm

Here is also a different angle in this series where you can really see the effect of the 3rd light. The light on his back really separates him from the background and gives him more depth. Adding a little key light coming in from the side or back can add just a little highlight that really can help your image pop.

off camera photo lighting

For anyone interested here is a Amazon links to some of the lighting gear we use

Digital Photo Buzz Lighting Gear

As always comments and questions are appreciated, drop us a line below.

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Author: Mark

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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6 Comments

  1. Curious how you powered the QFlash? I don’t own them, but I am considering getting them. Are they battery powered? Any good articles on the units themselves? Not sure whether or not to invest in these or additional 580 EXII’s for doing this type of exercises.

  2. Hi Douglas,

    The Qflashes do need to be powered by a battery unit that Quantum makes which are pricey (but do last long and have a good amount of power)

    You can see these on our amazon gear box here:
    http://astore.amazon.com/stagiimageryb-20/detail/B00009XVRV
    Right now they are $569 which is pretty much the norm for these guys.

    With the battery pack they will cost much more than the 580’s but they are more powerful and have a better light spread for portraits (since the light is in a domed reflector, they spread light better than the rectangular speedlights)

    These or monolights (we use the alien bees) I think are perfect for on location lighting.

  3. When you were shooting in the dark, how did you compose and focus? I use Nikon speed lights which have a modelling light effect, but drain battery power.

  4. That is one of the hardest parts about shooting in the dark (or near dark). Generally at a wedding reception there is enough ambient light so I can focus with autofocus but I have to look for sharp lines to focus on like the edge of someones shirt or a necklace, anything with a sharp edge and the camera seems to do a little better with focusing. I prefer to shoot at 2.8 so there isn’t too much room for error but normally I can do pretty good at a reception. If it is pitch black then i’ll raise the aperture a bit to around f/4 or f/5.6 and manually set the focus to around 3-4 feet. Then I just move around the floor and visually try and keep my subjects in that range and don’t touch the focus at all.

  5. Did you use softboxes to minimize the shadow? beauty dish? or 3 different lights for your wedding images at night? I haven’t quite perfected the shadowless image–tips?

  6. Yes, softboxes I use pretty often to soften the light at a wedding. Such a great way to soften the light.

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