One of the most frequently asked questions we get regarding wedding photography is how to light receptions. Most reception ballrooms are dark and dingy with that infamous tungsten light overpowering the room. It can be a daunting scenario to walk into and for that reason, we’ve made it simple and outlined our 5 favorite lighting techniques for wedding receptions:
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Lighting Technique #1: On-Camera Bounce Lighting
Let’s start with the most common technique for wedding reception photography, or any indoor event photography for that matter: bounce flash. This works great for most reception ballrooms because they are painted white or some neutral tone which essentially creates a softbox effect when you bounce a flash against it. The key to this technique is to point your flash backward so that the light coming back is hitting the subject at an angle rather than bouncing your flash directly overhead and creating harsh shadows under the eyes.
Flash Power: 1/8th – 1/4th Power, 1 on-camera flash
Lighting Technique #2: Pin Lighting
Many times in wedding receptions, you’ll find that the DJ/lighting crew sets up spotlights for grand entrances or for toasts. Along the lines of this idea, take your off-camera flashes and use them as pinned spotlights for your subjects. This technique works great for toasts since the speakers are usually close enough to the couple to be able to use one light to hit both of them.
Flash Power: 1/16th – 1/8th Power, 1-2 off-camera flashes
Lighting Technique #3: Rim Light
Let’s add onto technique #2 by quite literally adding in a second, or third, off-camera light. This time, the light is being used to chisel the subject out of the darkness by creating a rim light or hair light. This will yield images with higher production value and a more polished look. This is essentially a 2-light clamshell set up with one key light hitting the subject from the front and one rim light hitting the back of the subject’s head.
Flash Power: 1/16th – 1/8th Power, 2 off-camera flashes
Lighting Technique #4: Direct Flash
Direct flash gets a bad rep for looking too amateur, but there is a way to do it for stylistic purposes. Using your on-camera flash you can freeze subjects while incorporating motion into the shot. creating the effect that you see above.
Flash Power: 1/128th, on-camera flash
Lighting Technique #5: Statue of Liberty
This is just a fancy way of saying “hold your own damn flash”. We coined this term for run and gun scenarios where you want a strong key light and maybe don’t have an assistant handy. It creates that spotlight effect that pushes a strong and clean key light onto your subject. This is a perfect lighting technique for venues with crazy ambient lights.
Flash Power: 1/8th, off-camera flash