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Tips & Tricks

10 Lighting Tips For Wedding Receptions

By Michelle Ford on July 4th 2016

When it comes down to it, receptions can prove to be the most challenging part of a wedding with the presence of so many uncontrolled variables. You are stuck in a low light scene, forced to work with the DJ’s light setup, and you have no choice but to adapt. Here are 10 tips to help you overcome any possible lighting hurdles that get in the way of delivering exceptional images to your clients:

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1. Assess The Situation & Place Your Lights

Walk into the scene and address where the problem areas are; you are setting yourself up for success simply by preparing for what’s to come. Most lighting situations cause photographers stress due to lack of preparation for the scene they’re shooting in.

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Place flashes in the far corners of the room, where you know you will need a bump of light or in areas that require a back light to pull subjects out from dark backgrounds. Raise them to about 6 feet to avoid having shadows cast from any of the seated guests, and zoom them all the way in to prevent any light spill.

2. Match the Color of Light

There is no point in adding in light if it isn’t the right kind. Match your on-camera flash and off-camera flash to the existing light in the room. Depending on the temperature of the ambient light (Tungsten, Daylight, etc.), dial in a Custom Color Temperature setting in-camera to balance out the light in your scene.

[REWIND: THE COLOR OF LIGHT | CORRECTIVE COLOR BALANCE]

3. Light Modifiers

Image by Lin and Jirsa Photography (www.linandjirsa.com)

Since your primary additional light is most likely going to be your on-camera flash, you might want to consider using a method of diffusion so you won’t have strong highlights on your subjects. On the other hand, you’ve placed your off-camera flashes in the far corners of the room on low power as to avoid any light spill and give you light direction. You have the option of gridding your off-camera flashes to create a more guided and directional light source.

4. Dial In Your Camera Settings

This step is left to preference since it will vary depending on your available ambient light and the power of your camera. In low light situations, we like to shoot at around 1/200th of a second, at anywhere from ISO 800-3200. Your aperture is dependent on which lens your are using but keep in mind you want a wider aperture to let in more light.

5. Bounce Your On-Camera-Flash Off of Ceilings and Walls

Most photographers make the assumption that they are getting the most out of their on-camera flash by bouncing it off the ceiling. In most venues where there are low white ceilings this proves true, however, you may find yourself at a venue with dark wood or painted ceilings, in which case you need to make use of your surroundings and find walls or objects to bounce your light off of. Learn more about the basics of bouncing and modifying your on-camera flash in our Lighting 101 workshop.

6. Overpowering DJ Lights

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After you have put in your song request for the night, talk to the DJ about which lights will stay constant and which will be added later on throughout the night. The point here is to avoid any surprises during grand entrances, first dance, parent dances, etc. Cover all your bases so you can focus on creativity and not worry about anything unexpected.

7. Where are you In relation to your subject?

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Assessing the room and placing your lights is just the first step in creating your image. Figuring out where to stand to either utilize or avoid problematic lighting is a part of the trial and error process that comes with creating multi-point light setups.

8. Flash Control

Adding in on & off-camera flashes puts the control in your hands. While the DJ and the venue control their lighting setup, you hold the power of implementing additional light sources to benefit your overall product. Having a full-feature flash or flash trigger that operates as a master and controls your off-camera flashes gives you the ability to decide when it is necessary to add light to your scene.

9. Foreground Lights for Creative Effects

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It gets mundane capturing the same moments over and over again at weddings, maybe sometimes even at the same venue. Creative effects, like these inexpensive string lights, make for perfect foreground bokeh to add just a bit of flare to your image. If that’s not your thing, find objects to shoot through to provide interest in your images and create more diverse compositions.

[REWIND: 5 EVERYDAY ITEMS FOR CREATIVE PHOTO EFFECTS]

10. Direct Flash

Image by Lin and Jirsa Photography (www.linandjirsa.com)

Image by Lin and Jirsa Photography (www.linandjirsa.com)

Don’t all cringe at once! Direct flash has a place in this list of tips because it can be your savior in times of need. When the dance floor is slowly dwindling down and you find yourself left with three people to photograph, slow down your shutter and use a direct flash to freeze them in motion while sending the background into a blurred frenzy.

Wedding receptions can be filled with challenges, but it is solely up to you to plan in advance to arrive at the shot you want. Understanding what lights you need and where they need to be placed will lay the foundation for the rest of your night, so make good use of these 10 tips before your next shoot!

If you are interesting in learning more on tips for photographing and lighting at weddings, stay tuned for the release of our Wedding Workshop courses covering everything from Bride Prep to Wedding Receptions. These all-encompassing courses will take you behind the scenes on stylized weddings giving you access to education never before created in this realm of photography – coming soon to both the SLR Lounge Store and SLR Lounge Premium Subscription.

Michelle is a Southern California Portrait and Wedding Photographer. When she’s not geeking out with a camera she’s nerding out in her IT world. All other moments in the day are spent with her two wonderful children.

See her work on The COCO Gallery
check out her blog at frexNgrin

8 Comments

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  1. Sarah Anderson

    Having the lights sort of change during certain songs for special events is smart. Like the first dance or the parents dance. For those you can lower the lights everywhere except the dance floor. http://www.empiregrill.com.au/weddings

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  2. Pye Jirsa

    Love these tips Michelle, great job!

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  3. Will Anlezark

    Good tips,

    Just quickly at about 5:05

    Isn’t flash not based on per second but based on ratio.

    So for example 1/2 flash would be half power not half a second?

    Just was a little confused by the way you explained it.

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  4. Christian Boecker

    These are some very helpful tips. Thanks for sharing! :-)

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