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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Weddings & Other Family Events Talk 
Thread started 14 Feb 2009 (Saturday) 08:49
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How I photograph receptions

 
tim
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Post edited over 3 years ago by tim. (29 edits in all)
     
Feb 14, 2009 08:49 |  #1

Wedding receptions are often very, very dark places, i've seen receptions with ambient light levels that need ISO3200/F2.8/0.5sec to expose correctly! Even with a modern camera and fast primes with ISO6400 and F1.4 you'd need 1/16th, which personally I find too slow because of camera shake and subject movement. The quality of light isn't always very flattering, with a mix of candles, tungsten bulbs, and fluorescent lights. Because of that I choose to light most receptions, overpowering the ambient light, though sometimes I set up to enhance it using gels and lower powers. Beware that a cto gel to match tungsten can lose a stop of power. If you want to take an ambient shot to show the atmosphere it's easy to flick back to Av mode and ramp up the ISO to try to get a decent shot.

I typically use two Canon Speedlites (external link) (550/580) on these stands (external link), with Canon CP-E4 battery packs (external link) to cut recycle time by 2/3. The lights are triggered by Skyports (external link), with locking PC cords from www.flashzebra.com (external link) so I can have a flash on the hotshoe as well. I use this cord (external link) to connect the skyports to the flashes, and this bracket (external link) to connect the flash to the stands. I used to use Sunpak flashes, but they didn't recharge quickly enough for me, and with a home made battery pack one of them almost caught fire at a reception, so I switched to all Canon for performance and reliability.

If the venue has white ceilings I usually use between 1/4 and 1/2 power on the flashes, which gets me ISO400-800, F2.8 - F4.5, depending on the venue. If the ceilings aren't white I point the flashes directly at the head table, usually at around 1/16th or 1/32nd power, which gives me ISO400 F5.6 or so.

As a quick aside - for location lighting I use a Morris Soft Box (external link) which is about 20", with the speedlite, battery pack, and skyport mentioned above. My assistant holds it, it's quite light.

Here's a few examples.

#1 - this shows the setup

IMAGE: https://www.mrwild.co.nz/hotlink-ok/potn/rec1.jpg

#2 - this shows the type of lighting I get with the setup above
IMAGE: https://www.mrwild.co.nz/hotlink-ok/potn/rec2.jpg

#3 - a cake cutting setup
IMAGE: https://www.mrwild.co.nz/hotlink-ok/potn/rec3.jpg

#4 - a whole room shot, to show what two strobes can do. I probably used a little bit of on camera flash too.
IMAGE: https://www.mrwild.co.nz/hotlink-ok/potn/rec4.jpg

#5 - this room had a black ceiling and green walls. I photographed the head table using direct off camera flash. ISO400, F5.6, 1/125th, flash power probably 1/16th or so. I used 70mm so each person was about the same size but still keep some DOF, at 17mm the guy in front would be huge and the girls at the back tiny. Beware harsh shadows if you shoot direct, like the silhouette of the person on the front of the head table's tablecloth.
IMAGE: https://www.mrwild.co.nz/hotlink-ok/potn/rec5.jpg

People have asked for photos of how I set my camera up, so here they are

Camera with custom locking PC sync cable fromFlashZebra.com (external link)
IMAGE: https://www.mrwild.co.nz/hotlink-ok/potn/ocl1.jpg

Showing the connection to my camera
IMAGE: https://www.mrwild.co.nz/hotlink-ok/potn/ocl2.jpg

It's mounted to the flash head with velcro on the flash head and the transmitter. Ideally I mount it with the antenna away from the transmitter body, pointing up
IMAGE: https://www.mrwild.co.nz/hotlink-ok/potn/ocl4.jpg

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timecut
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Feb 14, 2009 09:49 |  #2

tim wrote in post #7323354 (external link)
On camera speedlite fill, skyports triggering speedlites fed by CP-E4's. Flash on camera not always turned on. Speedlites on stands between 1/4 and 1/2 depending how I feel on the day. Lights on stands pointing at ceiling if it's white, otherwise pointing directly at the head table on 1/32nd or so. I usually get ISO400 F4, more or less.

pretty cool image!!


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rammy
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Feb 14, 2009 09:49 |  #3

Thanks for the example Tim. Looks nice and bright.

How do you trigger the Skyports if you have a flash on your camera hotshoe? Where do you have the Skyport trigger connected to fire the remote flashes? Do you use the 2.5mm sync port on the transmitter?


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form
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Feb 14, 2009 10:23 |  #4

If I were doing the same thing I would hide a low bare flash behind the table too if there's room, and set it at low power, just to give an edge light.

Most places I've been to don't have such conveniently low, white ceilings.


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Peacefield
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Feb 14, 2009 14:31 |  #5

I'm glad you posted this because I've heard of a few people saying the don't use on camera flash for receptions at all, just a few strobes perpetually pointed at the ceiling. My question, though, is how do you adapt to the ongoing event? The dancing, people at the tables, etc. Do you move them around all night? Do you use them just for head table shots?


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form
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Feb 14, 2009 14:39 |  #6

Probably moves the stands. I would (and do) if needed. I use anywhere from 3-5 off camera flashes now for wedding receptions. I almost always want a kicker edge/rim light and a good fill light somewhere, especially for the dance floor.


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photagraph
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Feb 14, 2009 18:47 as a reply to  @ form's post |  #7

I want to try something like this! Not sure it'll work that well with canons wireless triggering though.




  
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tim
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Feb 14, 2009 21:04 |  #8

rammy wrote in post #7323612 (external link)
Thanks for the example Tim. Looks nice and bright.

How do you trigger the Skyports if you have a flash on your camera hotshoe? Where do you have the Skyport trigger connected to fire the remote flashes? Do you use the 2.5mm sync port on the transmitter?

I have a speedlite on the hotshoe, and the skyport transmitter is velcro'd to the flash head and connected to the camera's sync port. Yep I use the little sync port on the transmitter.

form wrote in post #7323799 (external link)
If I were doing the same thing I would hide a low bare flash behind the table too if there's room, and set it at low power, just to give an edge light.

Most places I've been to don't have such conveniently low, white ceilings.

I'd say about 1/2 of the reception halls I photograph in have white ceilings. For the ones that don't I shoot the flashes direct at much lower power.

I could have hidden the stands, or I could photoshop out the light stands, but I don't see a big need.

Peacefield wrote in post #7324973 (external link)
I'm glad you posted this because I've heard of a few people saying the don't use on camera flash for receptions at all, just a few strobes perpetually pointed at the ceiling. My question, though, is how do you adapt to the ongoing event? The dancing, people at the tables, etc. Do you move them around all night? Do you use them just for head table shots?

I move the lights whenever I need to. As they are they light the front half of the hall fine. I have the on camera speedlite if I need to light other places.

photagraph wrote in post #7326121 (external link)
I want to try something like this! Not sure it'll work that well with canons wireless triggering though.

Nope, it'll be unreliable. You need skyports (external link), pocket wizards, or the alien bee ones.


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RobNYC
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Feb 15, 2009 13:33 |  #9

Thanks for posting this Tim!


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stathunter
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Feb 15, 2009 13:37 |  #10

That looks like a perfect location for off camera lighting. Lately the locations I have had are not so perfect.


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bnlearle
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Feb 15, 2009 13:38 |  #11

Radiopoppers are a great option for those of us in civilized nations :p


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lil_miss
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Feb 15, 2009 14:09 |  #12

They're coming to NZ very soon!! :) Eagerly awaiting


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tim
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Feb 15, 2009 15:55 |  #13

I have no desire for radio poppers. In this situation having a consistent amount of light means all my shots come out the same brightness, and need exactly the same post processing. Using ETTL they're all going to come out different and would need to be processed individually, by hand. That slows my workflow down a LOT.

Also using ETTL you do occasionally get some weird results. In long grass the other weekend I had 95% good exposures, but 5% were two stops overexposed with the same framing. I have no idea why.

I use manual flash more than I use ETTL now, I just like the consistency. Of course I have an assistant manning the flash when we're doing an interactive session, by myself it'd probably be too time consuming.


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Matt30D
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Feb 16, 2009 10:23 |  #14

Tim- I have a 580EX and 4 430's, what could you do with this set up..with all 430's on stands? Be CREATIVE>


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Feb 16, 2009 10:43 |  #15

Assuming you're using the built-in infrared, I would put them really close to you at all times and pray the triggering system works.

Creatively I might try a triangle or square pattern and point them from the corners/edges into the middle of the room, all raised and pointing downward, all with umbrellas/brollies. The 580EX would then fill wherever needed.


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