Photo of the week – using off camera lighting

Sometimes I think as artists we want to create a totally original idea that is something so unique nobody has ever shot it. While I agree that we shouldn’t be strictly coping someone else’s work sometime it can be a great exercise to start with a shot you have seen that you really admire and then put your own spin on it. I always remember a commercial class I had in school where we had to take an iconic image and do two shoots around it, one where we tried to exactly copy the image and the next where we took the idea and put our own style on it. I chose Edward Weston’s Pepper and it really was a great exercise, in the shot trying to copy his I learned a lot about lighting since it had to be exact and with the other shot I got to think creatively on how to take such an iconic image and make it my own.

With that in mind I had a wedding recently where it started to rain right after the ceremony. It was at a beautiful vineyard that I love to shoot at and at first I was a little bummed I couldn’t take them around the property. As I was eating dinner with my 2nd photographer all of the sudden I remembered a post that I did here with some great images of Strobist photos around the web. You can check out the post here: Amazing strobist photos . The first image on that set was a really cool photo of a guy with a photo umbrella in the rain. That image popped into my head and all of the sudden I was obsessed with getting a shot of the bride and groom in the rain but didn’t really know how I was going to light it exactly to get the rain looking so crisp. Thankfully my 2nd photographer is a total trooper and stood in the rain for a little while so I could pop off some test shots. About halfway after testing the rain stopped, bummed I went back to the reception and focused on some fun dance images. Then right before the end of the night the rain started again so we grabbed the bride and groom and rushed out for a quick few minute shoot.

The setup of the shoot was actually pretty simple. The main light is a Canon 580 that is strapped to the inside of the umbrella so there is some light shining down on the bride and groom. I used my Pocketwizard FlexTT5 on the 550 and set it to ETTL. Then I wrapped a Vivitar 285 flash in a plastic bag and set it to 1/4 power, sitting on the grass and pointing up and a little towards the bride and groom. The backlight will illuminate the rain and freeze it giving you this amazing backdrop of raindrops.

The image out of the camera I loved and kept a few for the bride and groom just like that, however I always have to try to enhance my favorite images a little in photoshop. For this final image I did some contrast changes in Photoshop, a little burning, and tone changes to get this final shot that I felt was a little more dramatic and captured the moment I was going for with the start raindrops set behind the bride and groom.

The Tech specs on the shot:

Camera: Canon 5D
Exposure: Manual 1/125 @ f/3.5
ISO: 1000
Lens: Canon 24-70L 2.8

A few things I learned from the shoot if I were to do it over again.

1) Even with the flash in the background set all the way wide, it still didn’t spread out too much. Using two lights back there would give you a broader area of rain captured so you could shoot a wider angle shot.

2) I would like to try adding another light to the side of me, powered down a lot just to give a little fill light on the couple. With the light coming straight down on them I tried to have them angle the umbrella a little so it would light them more, however sometimes it would get moved straight up and there was a little too much shadow on them for the type of shot I wanted. Having a main light on them would have probably helped out a bit.

Next time i’ll keep working on this type of shot and see how I can keep taking this up a level.

What do you think about the image? Let me know in the comments below. Also share your rain shots on our facebook wall at:

Image Copyright Stagi Imagery 2010 – Fine Art Wedding Photography

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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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  1. What an amazing photo!!!! Absolutely beautiful. And what a great bride to stand in the rain in her dress. They must have been a fun couple

  2. Love this shot, and very cool for on the spot thinking.

    IMO, I personally would have had the couple hold the umbrella at a different angle, in this photo it almost has no dimension, (forgive the opinion, but it looks almost as if someone has cloned it in).

    The background flash (on the grass) I might have placed it directly behind the subjects in the middle (on the ground) pointing upwards to give them a b/g glow and thus utilizing the underside of the umbrella as a bounce, which would have also captured the raindrops, then you could remove the flash from inside the umbrella and place in a strategic position so as to “highlight/freeze” the rainsrops. Then of course your fill in flash would illimunate your subjects.

    I might have to try this out and see how it works….LOL


    (PS: I still love your shot)

  3. Great shot! Did you use a pocketwizard Flex TT5 with the Vivitar in the back?

  4. Thanks! on the back flash just a pocket wizard plus II 🙂


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