Our Ideal Group Lighting Technique | Transcription

Okay, our ideal group lighting technique. This is going to be awesome, because now I get to show you kind of what … If I had the option to light a group the way that I want to, this is how I would light. Now, of course, when we’re shooting weddings it just depends on the tools that we happen to have with us at the time. Ideally, when I shoot locally, I have a boom stick. So, I have a big boom stick set up that I take around everywhere on the shoot.

Now, of course, it has to be a decent enough sized wedding where I have like say a spare assistant to help me carry that thing around. If not, then I’m using my umbrella and my pocket strobes like before and I’ll just have my regular lighting system to help me out. So it really depends on the type of shoot that we’re doing, the size and everything, the speed and tempo of the day. Now, on this wedding, this was one of probably my favorite weddings that I’ve ever shot and also the most stressful wedding I’ve ever shot in terms of our timeline. We were moving from scene to scene so incredibly fast. We did this entire shoot … Well this is one shoot here, and this is another shoot right after the ceremony.

We did this entire set of formals with them and these kids and the wedding party and everything like that within like 15 minutes. Okay, it was ridiculous. We were going through like 30 different shots. Then, we did this set in another like 10 minutes. So, having a big boom stick ready to go, set up, means that all I had to do was pop the pock wizard right onto my camera. My VB22s are already inside of the Profoto RFi soft box and again, I would have ideally had the Profoto B2 at this time. When I shot these weddings the B2 wasn’t even released yet, so I didn’t even have that. That would make my life even easier, because then I could actually pop off a shot on TTL to get a reading, and then switch into manual and have to not do as much testing as far as the light goes.

Let’s walk through this shot and kind of talk through what we’re trying to do here. Now, when our couple created their mood board, they had a shot in there. They said that the one shot that they must have is this shot that is similar to kind of a Kate Moss image that was in Vogue. Okay, they used that on their mood board. It was a shot with Kate Moss and all the girls, all the little bridesmaids from the wedding and so forth under this tree and it was beautiful. The background was boqueted out and it just had really great look and effect to it. I said, “My dear, we’re going to do that shot.” Okay, now that required that we brought out the lighting gear that we needed. Which, was both the VB22 and the Prophoto and everything and had it set up, but that was okay. We could do that for this shoot, because it was a big enough wedding.

So, we carry this stick around. Now, for this shot what we have here is the composition and the attributes we’re looking for. We’re using the gazebo as our background, okay. Now, what I wanted here was that shallow depth of field that gave it that soft and dreamy look, just like in the shot on her mood board.

So, we’re shooting on the Sigma 50mm Art at F2. Now, this is a lens that I’m confident to shoot at F2 and to get sharp results from. I wouldn’t be this confident on my Canon 50mm shooting this kind of a shot. The optical quality on this is absolutely impeccable, and Canon’s 50mm 1.2 hasn’t been updated in many, many years.

So, shooting a group this large means that you’re going to have softer edges on that lens versus this one. So, I was confident in shooting this at F2, but you’ll notice that I’ve set up the group very, very carefully. Okay, so once we had the light roughly set up, I put the group together and I made sure that our stacking was impeccable. So, we didn’t have people more than a couple inches in front or behind each other. That way we got a very great and sharp look from everybody. If we had depth of field to them … If we were dealing with 2 or 3 rows of people like we were at the other group shots, F2 would be the worst decision I could have possibly made. For this shot, we shot for it, we posed for that.

Now, the bottom series we’re actually using F4 in these ones and we’ll talk about those in just a second. Actually, why don’t we talk about them together. So, in the bottom series these were just after the ceremony. What I’m looking for in the bottom series is just more to show off kind of the background, because we’re shooting right in front of the ceremony site. We’re not necessarily going for that Kate Moss shot over here so I’m shooting it at a little bit of a safer setting. I also wanted to feature the sunset which was kind of bleeding through on the left side. Which, looked really nice and cool.

Okay, so for synchronization the top shot is midday sun, or at least midday shade. At least, a 3 stop neutral density filter is required to get down to F2. Now, we used a 5 stop. The 5 stop was because, again, at the time I was using Singh-Ray and I had a 3 stop Singh-Ray with poor optical quality, and then I had a 5 stop Singh-Ray with better optical glass. So, I opted for the better optical glass, and then to bump my ISO up a little bit to compensate for it.

The bottom shot, where it’s getting dark enough, and again that’s another reason why I’m shooting F4 is to keep things fast. We had like roughly 10 minutes to get all these shots there. I didn’t want to have to get an ND filter, I didn’t want to have to do all that stuff. I just wanted to start shooting, and we didn’t have HSS’s. Had I had HSS’s actually with the B2, I probably wouldn’t had worried about light loss because I wouldn’t have lost that much light to begin with. It would have been adequate anyway, because I’m not trying to over power the scene. Again, that’s one of those scenes where having nicer gear might have helped speed things up just a little bit. Instead I went to F4, because of sync purposes. I didn’t want to have to put on a neutral density filter at that point. Now, in the top shot we left our ambient light very, very bright. We’re at 1/200th of a second, we’re at F2, ISO 200, we’re on 5 stop ND filter. Notice that the background … We leave it with that brightened area look and feel. That’s because that’s the look that we want it to have. We want to have that super bright and natural feel.

So what do we do with our flash? Well, for the light direction and for the light quality we’re on the Profoto RFi soft box. We have it at a good distance from our group, because remember Inverse Square Law means that we need to make sure that flash is at an adequate distance so that it’s roughly the same distance from the right side of the group as it is from the left side of the group. I’m following kind of that existing ambient light, and the existing ambient light is reflecting off the right side of the hotel and is filling into their face. All I want to do is just pop it up a little bit. So, we just put that flash over here on the right side. It’s held on her boom stick. We’re flashing at only 1/16th to 1/30th  second power granted we do have 2 VB22s on there. So, 1/16th power, that’s like the Prophoto B2 at 1/8th power. So, it’s a decent amount of light, but it’s just acting as a nice enhancement to the existing light. Just brightening up a little bit on that existing light and we get this beautiful quality image.

Once we do that I say, “Okay, I want y’all to goof around, tickle each other, have fun.” And dad goes for a little tickle on his son, she pulls in her daughter right there. They all start looking at each other laughing. We get these beautiful images of them acting natural and looking fantastic, and that’s the shot that I really want. This is the formal shot, that’s great. We’ve got to have that, but this is the shot that I really want. The one with them interacting and having a good time. Okay, so that’s that set up.

Remember with the test shots, we’re using our assistants to kind of stand in, to get everything set up. I have the groups just off to the side. I’m not worrying about the groups until I’m ready to go, because I want them to look at me like I’m a rock star. Like I just put them in the shot, posed them, got these amazing images, and it was absolutely easy and just simple and it was quick. They’re not even … They’re just standing off to the side talking and having a good time for about the 3 to 5 minutes that I use to place the 2 chairs, to get my assistants there, to make sure that my light looks good and to get set up. Then we bring them in and start shooting.

Now, the shots on the bottom, you can see that these are a little bit more dramatic. These were on the Sigma 50mm Art at F2. These are on the Canon 24-70 Mark II at 1/200th and F4 and ISO 100. So, we’re shooting these a little bit more dark and dramatic because we have great color in the sky which I want to feature. We have these beautiful skies up top. We have palm trees in the back that I want to show. We have the gazebo. We have a great background that I don’t mind being in focus because it really reveals where we’re at in the day. We’re shooting at the Saint Regis and it’s a gorgeous property to be shooting on.

So, if I’m not trying to go for that specific dreamy kind of look as I was in these top shots, I don’t mind stopping on an aperture to show a little more depth of field in the bottom shots. Not to mention, it kind of saves me from having to deal with high speed sync or neutral density filers, which is great. It kind of gives me that convenience there. So, we shot these to be a little bit darker and you’ll notice that we’re now at 1/8th to 1/16th power. So we’re pumping in just a bit more light than we were earlier. We’re still balancing this to be natural. When you look at these, this is not shot to be dramatic, okay?

That’s one of those things that … You know if you are a wedding photographer, and your formal images are shot to be dramatic and every single one of them is dramatic and clients come to you and they hire you for that, then great. I’m not going to say there’s anything wrong with that, but in my personal view on these formals is that I want them to look beautiful and natural. I want them to have this kind of lifestyle quality to it, and to get that look I’m going to leave it a little bit on the brighter side. Meaning, that even when I want to retain color in the sky, I’m going to leave it still on the brighter side. I’m not going to shoot it to be very dramatic, because it’s going to have that kind of look to it and that’s not part of my style.

So, while we have more color here. While we can still see that sun bleeding through on the left, while we can still see everything going on, you’ll notice that it’s still a relatively bright overall exposure. We’re pumping a little bit more flash into this image. If we were on the Profoto B2s, we’d roughly be around one quarter power. Again, we’re on that Profoto RFi Octobox, that 3 foot Octobox, and it’s being held at a good distance from the subject. You can see we’re shooting pretty wide. So, it’s held at a good distance where from right to left we have roughly the same distance to that strobe. Again, following the same principles of matching existing light right to left on that shot. With both the shots … With the top shot, as far as the color balance and the white balance, this I warmed in camera to close to 8,000 degrees Kelvin. We’re at 7600 degrees Kelvin, because I want that warmth to it.

When you’re shooting in the shade, you need to pump it up a little bit. This down here, I want it to be warm, but again we have sunset which is already causing more warmth in the scene so we’re at 5800 degrees and getting a really nice look to this. Neither of these images require any gelling. We want to match the existing light color, and that we get that with just leaving it as is.

Again, pose, frame, and shoot. Remember the tips. Don’t start working with the groups until your light is set up, because we want them to really enjoy and not get bored. Then, when stacking rows just make sure that you watch the shadows closely. This technique of, why is this my ideal technique? Because it only requires one flash. It gives me a lot more power than I would have in pocket strobes. If I needed to, with 2 Bolt VB22s on there, if I needed to pump it up to full power that’s 10 pocket strobes worth of power. With the Prophoto B2, that’s 5 pocket strobes worth of power just right there ready to use. It’s my ideal, because in any situation it kind of gives me enough light that I need. I can either … If I’m inside I can use a very small amount of light. If I’m outside I can use up to a very large amount of light, and I can have one single light source with that beautiful modifier on it.

Everything is set up to be very simple, very easy to get the shots that you need. We don’t have to worry about feathering. All need to do is get the right lighting angle and the right distance from the group to make sure that everyone’s roughly the same brightness. Again, you can still use that same half stop variance even when you’re using this technique as we were with the feathering stuff earlier. Because even if we need to make that little adjustment where we kind of adjust and balance out the exposure, anything within a half stop is totally fine and not noticeable. Okay, anything more than that is noticeable.

Just kind of keep those little tricks and techniques in your mind. When you are working with rows and groups, make sure you stack in terms of height and watch the shadows, watch the highlights, watch everything very closely and watch the overall exposure in that group.