One way to dramatically improve your lighting during a wedding reception is to use two (or more) lights off your camera to light up the reception. The reception area usually provides a dimly lit area which really should be thought of like a blank canvas for you to be as creative as you would like.
With an average size room what I will usually do is put 2 lights on opposite corners of the dance floor. One will be an alien bee B800 which produces a lot of light. You can use this at a fraction of full power and still be able to light up a fairly large room pretty well. If you are looking for a nice and portable monolight, these alien bees are great. They do have to be plugged into a power source so need to be either close to a wall or bring a portable power pack. I’ve used 3 of these for years, they are reliable and priced very well.
Depending on the size of the room I will normally point one light 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 285HV Flash
or a Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite
. With this speedlight I treat it as a key light to either add a dramatic flair to the image or to add more dimension to an image by having it be a light on the side of my subject adding a 3d feel to the image.
There are so many different things you can do when having multiple lights in a scene and can get really creative. Below you will see a very simple setup. Here there is a Vivitar setup on one corner of the dance floor and on the other opposite corner an alien bee. The vivitar was set to manual at 1/2 power and positioned right behind the brides head. The alien been was set to about 1/4 power bouncing off the ceiling to give a good fill light. Shooting with the vivitar right behind the subject but just barely visible creates that really cool burst of light and also an interesting shadow on the floor coming towards the camera. The light on the other side fills in their face so they are well lit.
This next shot is on the same dance floor just a few minutes later. If you are looking at the image above, the camera for this 2nd shot is going to be just to the left of the heat lamp that is in the background. Here the vivitar flash is now coming in from the left of the camera at about a 45 degree angle and the other light is still just giving a broad fill to the dance floor. You can see the really nice dimensional light that this gives to the girl in red though. Look at her face and the dimension that you have from the light coming in from the left side. Also since the alien bee is coming in from the right this does create a little highlight around the right side of her arm giving it shading and again more dimension to the photo. Using a few lights off camera can really make your images pop and the options are only limited by your creativity!
If you have questions on using off camera flash or would like to see more tutorials just let me know
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