If you've worked with me, seen my photos, or taken one of my workshops, it's no secret that I love to geek about all things flash and lighting. It's been a long time since I wrote a post about lighting technique (especially in the middle of wedding season), but Friday night's wedding offered a unique lighting problem and I thought it might be cool to share the solution we came up with here.
Last Friday's wedding was at The Commons in Topsfield, and I was second shooting for my good friend Ali Rosa. We'd scouted the room before the reception and noticed that the couple would be seated under the balcony, under a much lower ceiling than the rest of the room. The toasts are one of my favorite parts of the wedding day to photograph - they're never short on great laughs and expressions, and typically I like to shoot and light them the same way - with my flash bounced off the ceiling, sometimes adding a second light off camera as an accent/hair light.
Here are a couple of examples lit that way:
The Commons however, presented a bit of a unique problem. The ceiling above the couple was so low, we weren't able to put our lights in a position where they'd provide an accent light without casting a funky shadow. And we wouldn't be able to position ourselves close enough (and under that low ceiling) to use on-camera bounce effectively. Here is a shot of the room so you can get a better idea. The couple would be sitting in the center of this next photo, in the back of the room under the balcony.
How to solve this problem? Well, we noticed the floor was glossy (good), the ceiling and walls were near-white (also good), and that the couple would be sitting near the opening of the balcony (as opposed to deeper against the wall). Typically, I'll work with my off-camera lights at super low power - in the 1/128 to 1/64 range. Here that wouldn't be nearly enough light, especially as I was going to need them to help amp the key light in the image, not to serve as an accent.
What we did, was set our stands as high as they would go, bounced into the higher ceiling of the room, set to 1/4 power. Here's a shot of the room with the stands, and a diagram of their placement, complete with the exposure settings and gear used.
Here's a side view, including my position where I shot from.
We needed to up the flash power to account for the increased distance we'd need the light to travel, another reason why we placed the stands as high as they'd go. Here are the resulting images.
Are they perfect? No, the shadow from the light bouncing through the staircase rails bugs me - but we did accomplish the goal - cleanly lit photos of the couple - something that wouldn't have been possible otherwise. One more thing worth mentioning - if you don't have 3 small flashes you could have done this with one, albeit with slower recycle time. One small flash places off-camera in the center of the room, around full power, would have given similar results.
Post your questions in the comments, and if you'd like to learn more about wedding reception lighting, there's always my workshops.