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Lighting Tips

Wedding Photography Tutorial: How to Light Family Formals

By Christopher Lin on April 17th 2013

A lot of new wedding photographers seem to be obsessed with the latest tricks and gimmicks to achieve “cool,” award-winning couples session shots, focused only on the bride and groom.

They may cater their budgeted time, their equipment, and their training for these moments and neglect the all important traditional group portraits. However, if you don’t focus enough time and effort on the traditional portraits during a wedding, you’re undoubtedly going to experience angry phone calls from the parents and relatives at the wedding who are wondering why there aren’t any good shots of them during the wedding.

Lighting for Wedding Formals

Lighting is one of the most challenging aspects of group formals. Often times your subjects are elevated, so you might be shooting on a slight upward angle. Often times they’re stacked, so you have to mind the shadows that they cast on one another. And the last common issue is the dim lighting and dark walls inside of dark churches and other wedding venues.

Lee Morris of Fstoppers takes us through his lighting setup in this short video clip. This is an excerpt from their video How To Become A Professional Commercial Wedding Photographer DVD. In their DVD, you’ll get a full tutorial and learn everything about running a wedding business, from lighting and posing to marketing and planning. Read our Full Review.

Watch the Video

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The takeaways from this video are to make sure you bring the right equipment for the scene. In this case, it was a full strobe. Another takeaway is to make sure you have mastered your understanding of white balance, especially if you’re bouncing light off of non-while surfaces. You can’t just assume that you can color correct any scene in post production just because you are shooting RAW.

Be sure to check out the Fstoppers DVD: How To Become A Professional Commercial Wedding Photographer DVD.

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Co-Founder of SLR Lounge and Photographer with Lin and Jirsa Photography, I’m based in Southern California but you can find me traveling the world. Click here to connect on Google +

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Trifon Anguelov

    This is a helpful information on the wedding formals. Lighting is challenging because of the large groups one has to capture. The posing is also important as well the planning and preparation. As a wedding photographer myself working in San Francisco Bay Area, here are 8 tips which have helped me tremendously over the years to have stress free formals:

    If a wedding photographer is prepared and communicate with the bride and groom on the group pictures before the wedding, formals are not that hard. Hope you guys like the tutorial.

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  2. Eric – photographer

    you can see the HARD shadows on the floor at their feet, so based on that I bet you if you metered across the entire group from left to right your exposure is far more potent on the left then on the right. I can set up two umbrellas for a group of 100 just as fast as you can search for a plug, extension cord, etc. Sorry will not be purchasing your product.

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  3. Eric – photographer

    your light comparison is bogus, not a true comparison, WHY? You should have showed an example of the image shot with correct exposure with the strobe and then show the available light image with CORRECT exposure. Based on the amount of window light coming in that room I bet I could have created an image just as good with no strobe. I understand your thoughts on the subject but you are not telling the true/correct information for “wanna-be” shooters out there wanting to learn. And you are attempting to sell them a product. Sorry this post does not cut it.

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  4. Jason Lee

    man you guys are good at getting a lot of mileage out of a little bit of content… FS/SLR i mean,,, good content though.. keep it up

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  5. Jacob DelaRosa

    I wonder how well a 7′ parabolic umbrella would work in this situation? Got one of those myself and the light quality is ridonkulous.

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