Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Photographing a wedding: Dealing with harsh light, but telling the story of the day

Last month I photographed the wedding for my nephew and his new wife. Shooting a wedding is always high pressure, but especially so when I am doing it for my own family. Even though I was photographing the wedding as my gift to them, I convinced them to hire my second shooter so that I could be a guest for a small part of the day. 

I can always trust Evan to do a great job, but even with our combined experience we ran into some difficult situations, and I thought I would share this with you all.

The advantage of having Evan there, was that he could cover the men while I photographed the women getting ready. This is one of Evan's photos showing a typical scene with the guys.

While Evan was up in the groomsmen's getting ready room, I was down with Stephanie and the other women as they got ready in the barn area. Instead of getting ready in the small bride's room, they chose to get ready in the large barn area. To avoid the harsh sunlight, I moved them outside for some photos on the shady side of the barn. 

Once Stephanie got her dress on and touched up her make-up, I had her sit down on the chair where they got ready. This area was still shaded but the bright light outside the open barn door created beautiful light on her.  I used the Canon R6 camera with the Canon RF70-200mm lens for almost all the photos that day. I then switched to the Canon RF24-105mm and Canon RF15-35mm lens for the reception.

I did not have to use any flash for these portraits and relied strictly on the directional light coming in through the barn doors.

And then I took them outside to the same shaded area again for their finished portraits before the wedding.

Another advantage of having Evan there to second shoot, was that I could actually be in some of the photos. This is a photo of me and my brother. I am the good looking one! :)

Right before the wedding started, I got all the guys outside their "getting ready room" and had them give me a thumbs-up. Once again, I had them in the shade to avoid the harsh light.

And then Evan and I walked over to the wedding ceremony location, and we both looked at each other like "Uh oh, this is not going to be good!" The sunlight was coming through the trees and blasting right into where the bride would be standing. We both walked over to that spot, looked up, and realized that this was not going to change any time soon. The wedding started and we had to improvise. 

When the parents and wedding party entered the ceremony, the light was behind them and it worked really well.

But as you can see here, the sunlight was only on part of the wedding party and DIRECTLY on the bride. Evan was shooting down the center and he gave me the shrug signaling "I will do the best I can."

While Evan was shooting directly at Dean and Stephanie, he was making sure to meter to protect the highlights. In other words, he had the camera set to darken the scene so that the wedding dress would not be a glowing white mess, knowing we could lighten the other areas in the retouching process. I was moving around to see what other shots I could get in better light. 

I walked behind the gazebo and saw that the light was better from behind the officiant and the couple, so I spent a large amount of time shooting from the back area. 

I was trying to stay low and to the side as much as possible, since I did not want to be a distraction to the guests. But, as you can see here, the lighting was much better from this location. 

I love this shot of Blake (Dean's brother) comforting him during his speech.

The good news was, I could move around and shoot from different angles, knowing that Evan would get the straight-on shots of the ring exchange and first kiss.

For all the formal photos after the wedding, we had very little area to work with, that was not in bad light. 

Eventually the sun dropped to a point where I could get nice portraits of the couple from the spot where they were married.

As you can see from these photos, we now had nice even light at this location, which provided for some really nice golden-hour shots.

We completed all the formal photos, but before heading to the barn for the wedding reception, Stephanie really wanted to get photos amongst the trees in the front of the property. I turned them away from the sun and used my Canon 600 EX-RT flash to light them from the shady side.

Evan suggested that Dean and Stephanie go nose to nose and I captured this shot of them. Truth be told, Evan is better at posing couples than I am!

For the wedding reception, we set up numerous Canon 600 EX-RT flashes around the barn to get directional light on our subjects.

I use a combination of one flash on camera (with a MagSphere diffuser and set up as a master in group mode), and two other remote flashes.

As you can see, the multiple flashes really helps to light the subjects, even in a really dark environment.

This last shot was taken as Dean and Stephanie ran through the tunnel of glow sticks.  Right before this happened, I moved one of my remote flash stands outside the barn. You can see it popping behind and to the left of the couple. It was a combination of that flash (lighting the people in the rear and backlighting the bride and groom) and my on-camera flash (lighting the people closest to me and front lighting the couple) that made this all work.

It was a tricky environment to photograph, but we were really happy with our results. The most important thing is that Evan and I captured the story of their big day and they loved the photos. 

Congratulations to Dean and Stephanie!


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1 comment:

mike said...

Nice lighting in very difficult spots.