July 2, 2021
Shooting weddings requires a lot of moving around. I used to lug a ton of lighting gear around, but over time I’ve been able to really hone into exactly what I need on a wedding day! Now, the only lighting gear I really use is a speed light! To be more specific, I use a Nikon Sb-900 on my Z6 II body (and occasionally a profoto b10!). The bulk of my gear is stored in a rolling bag (I use the Think Tank international); it holds whatever I’m not using at that moment in addition to a smaller bag. For that, I use the ONA Chelsea Photography Bag (You may have seen me mention this before; check out my ONA Chelsea Bag review here)! My husband Brad likes to use the Kamrette! Really pairing down exactly what is needed and what works best in terms of transporting and keeping track of both active and backup gear has really allowed us to navigate our weddings without being bogged down by stuff we just don’t need (especially during such traditions as a New Orleans second line!)
So why don’t we use any off-camera lighting gear? Don’t the quality of our photos suffer as a result? No! Here are some reasons why I ditched my plethora of off-camera lighting and why I actually enjoy the aesthetic of my photos even more:
No more harsh shadows
When we used to set up constant lights or speedlights on light stands and the lighting was in the exact right direction, it was beautiful: soft, bright natural off-camera light! However, as we move and the clients move, the light isn’t moving with us. Therefore, oftentimes the light that’s on a stand would cause harsh shadows on the client’s face. There are occasions when I can interject and ask someone during a toast to move to a specific spot and orientation but when the father of the bride is giving his daughter that perfect spin, I cannot jump in! In those situations, that’s when I am most grateful for the use of a speedlight in my hot shoe.
I like to be mobile
Like I mentioned before, weddings require you to move really quickly. More gear means more time and effort used to pack up, set up, and transport. This may not seem like such a huge deal now, but when moving between venues and navigating the different parts of a wedding (like a second line, for example), you will SO enjoy the freedom of leaving the lighting equipment behind!
No more trip hazards
Even though I always used sandbags to keep my off-camera lighting gear stabilized, I often found that people would lean on or trip over the light stand legs. I was always so nervous that someone would fall and get hurt!! If I ever HAVE to use an off-camera light, I like to go with the Profot0 B10 and just have my second-shooter or an assistant handhold it or stand near the light stand for safety. The only time I’ll really use constant light from an external source now is for a ceremony when there’s no videographer ( as they often set up constant lights of their own) or when there’s portraits post-ceremony outdoors at night.
Videographers often bring lights
If you find you do need to use some external lighting and there’s a videographer present you will find they often bring their own lights! Correspond with them and make sure it’s okay for you to chat through lighting together and to work side by side throughout the day. The videographers have to bring their lighting equipment no matter what as you cannot use a speedlight on video! Sharing lights reduces clutter and clears pathways, allowing both videographers and photographers at the wedding to work together to get the shot.
Off-camera lights can be distracting
Not only can off-camera lights be distracting in some photos, but they can be distracting in person as well (especially if they’re constant lights)! I cannot tell you the number of times that when photographing a wedding using constant light, the clients or the guests have complained about the light. Especially when you are in a dark space with these one or two super bright lights, it draws a lot of attention to the light source and why it’s there. I suppose this is the beauty of a speedlight…when you need it, it fires but when you don’t it appears to be off. If I am using a speedlight in my hotshoe, it follows me around wherever I take my camera, which means it sees what I see. It really allows me to capture all of the moments I can without being a big distraction for the event.
Setup is quicker
Weddings don’t typically allot for ample time to set up the shot exactly the way you want. I cannot tell you the number of times when lugging around and setting up these light stands, speedlights or constant lights, striggers, extension cords/batteries etc that I had to ask the client or the planner to give me a few minutes to set up for the formal events at the wedding. Now, when I walk into the room..in the time it takes for me to walk through the doors to the other side of the room, I am set up and ready to go! This is huge. Weddings are fast and very quick-paced without a lot of time to wait for the photo team to set up and get organized. Being quick and ready for the client will help you get into the good graces of both the client as well as the planner if one is present.
You can easily switch back and forth between ambient and artificial light
I actually recently purchased a very low aperture lens. Unless the lighting conditions are bad (an off color that washes out the skin, tungsten light or a bright color that doesn’t really fit), I like to shoot at 1.2 to capture the feel of the event throughout the day! Even during a reception, I like to create photos that emulate the setting and feeling of the room during the reception. Of course during “grip n’ grins” (guests or wedding party posing for portraits) I’ll adjust everything to look very nice and perfectly lit, but other than that I like to keep the photos very true to how the environment looks in real life.
Think about your style. I like to keep things simple; classic, very true to life, and not overly edited. Keeping my setup simple really helps me to focus on capturing the moment within my photos. What’s your style? What’s your setup? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! I’d love to hear from you and talk about lighting gear!
Thanks for reading 🙂
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