Outdoor reception lighting advice
/forum/topic/1163935/0



Inga
Registered: Mar 15, 2007
Total Posts: 1122
Country: Australia

Hi folks, I know the topic of reception lighting comes up every now and then, and I have read the past topics on the subject...but I am wondering if I can get some advice specific to my situation....

I'm shooting a wedding at a new venue and the reception will be held outside in the courtyard of a cafe. There are no overhead flood lights, and only a few strings of paper lanterns (with goodness knows what color temp bulbs in them). I am told there will be some fair lights up around the place. There is also a very large tree smack-bang in the middle of the courtyard. The bridal table will be situated under a large tin-roofed verandah along one side of the courtyard.

My dilemma(s):
- I have little to no idea of what the light level will be...probably very low
- No idea what WB situation will be
- I had considered using a 2-3 light (speedlight) cross-light setup, but fear the tree and the massive verandah posts and structure will stop penetration of light to the bridal table or cause massive shadows on important peoples faces.

Anyone with advice or thoughts on how to handle this situation and provide the best results? I mean, sure, I can bump up the ISO on my 5DII and shoot with fast primes to make the most of the ambient light (and also try to make the most of the lanterns and fairy lights etc from a bokeh perspective). Should I still go for a cross light setup? Should I help it along with some on camera fill dialed way down? Gels on speedlights? So many questions...



ricardovaste
Registered: Jan 25, 2010
Total Posts: 3888
Country: United Kingdom

Inga wrote:My dilemma(s):
- I have little to no idea of what the light level will be....


Do you know when the ceremony is ? You need to scout out the location. If there is no rehearsal, and it's a new venue / unfamiliar lighting, this is a must IMO. This will help answer many of your other questions. Just take a friend and do a run through of the set up at the time of day / night the events will be happening.

Best of luck



Inga
Registered: Mar 15, 2007
Total Posts: 1122
Country: Australia

ricardovaste wrote:
Inga wrote:My dilemma(s):
- I have little to no idea of what the light level will be....


Do you know when the ceremony is ? You need to scout out the location. If there is no rehearsal, and it's a new venue / unfamiliar lighting, this is a must IMO. This will help answer many of your other questions. Just take a friend and do a run through of the set up at the time of day / night the events will be happening.

Best of luck


Thanks Ricardo.

I have been to the venue numerous times during the day. It's not usually open for dinner trading except for when they put on a wedding. So scouting the venue for reception conditions is not really possible. There is no rehearsal. The ceremony is late afternoon and there will be plenty of natural light. It's the reception that I'm trying to figure out. I know I'll get some solid coverage regardless of what happens, but I would like to do better than just get through the job.



jcolman
Registered: Feb 21, 2008
Total Posts: 5927
Country: United States

Sounds like an easy lighting job. Use two of your lights to cross light the dance floor. Take your third light and use it for either backlight during dancing, or key light during toasts, cake cutting etc. Gel all lights with CTO to bring the color temp down to 3200.

Here are a couple examples of a three light set up.











Inga
Registered: Mar 15, 2007
Total Posts: 1122
Country: Australia

Thanks Jim. Great advice and superb samples.

Are you using bare speedlights in those setups? Are you using anything on camera for on axis fill and to assist with AF?



jcolman
Registered: Feb 21, 2008
Total Posts: 5927
Country: United States

Inga wrote:
Thanks Jim. Great advice and superb samples.

Are you us


Yes, I'm in NC



Inga
Registered: Mar 15, 2007
Total Posts: 1122
Country: Australia

jcolman wrote:
Inga wrote:
Thanks Jim. Great advice and superb samples.

Are you us


Yes, I'm in NC


. Sorry. Using iPhone to post at the moment and hit the wrong button, posting the incomplete message.



Mitch W
Registered: Nov 18, 2009
Total Posts: 2883
Country: United States

Those little paper lanterns will be your friend. They'll help add character and depth to an otherwise dark sky. In this photo I used two speedlights to cross light the dance floor with an on camera flash for fill.






Ziffl3
Registered: May 25, 2009
Total Posts: 4059
Country: United States

J-Coolman .... i should have setup as you described at my last wedding.... live and learn.

I am kicking myself now as i review the images.



Ian Ivey
Registered: Mar 21, 2011
Total Posts: 1336
Country: United States

It's one thing to use a three-light setup on an open floor; it's another to use it with a tree in the middle of the floor. I think the OP is right to be at least wary of the shadows the tree is likely to cast.

Inga, any way you could post a diagram of the space? And how low-hanging are the bottom tree branches?



jcolman
Registered: Feb 21, 2008
Total Posts: 5927
Country: United States

Inga wrote:
Thanks Jim. Great advice and superb samples.

Are you using bare speedlights in those setups? Are you using anything on camera for on axis fill and to assist with AF?


Yes, I use bare speedlights for most of the shots (the wide ones anyway) For the portrait of the couple, I put an umbrella on one of the lights. I use on-camera fill from time to time, especially on exit shots, but I didn't use any on the shots I posted.



Inga
Registered: Mar 15, 2007
Total Posts: 1122
Country: Australia

Ian Ivey wrote:
It's one thing to use a three-light setup on an open floor; it's another to use it with a tree in the middle of the floor. I think the OP is right to be at least wary of the shadows the tree is likely to cast.

Inga, any way you could post a diagram of the space? And how low-hanging are the bottom tree branches?


Thank you for jumping in on this discussion Ian. Much appreciated.

Here is a quick iPhone pano of the courtyard. I am standing somewhat toward the back of where the dancefloor will be set up (removable flooring). The bride and groom table will be set up under the verdandah straight ahead. There will be tables of guests all around the tree and even on the dancefloor until the dancing starts. Behind me is 7-8' high limestone wall the will bound the edge of the dancefloor. You can see one string of electric lanterns on the left. There will be at least one string of paper lanterns over the dancefloor, and fairy light on the verandah structure.

Dancing shots I'm not that concerned with really. I have the freedom to move lightstands around and try different angles etc. It's getting shots of the bridal table during speeches and earlier in the night that has me more concerned. Also getting candids during cocktail hour (which will be just after sunset) will most likely be too dark for natural light.

When people say getting the light further back and using the inverse square law to get more even exposure, there is obviously a limit to how far back you can reasonably run speedlights and still get effective output while getting good recycle times. Is there such a thing as a "good working distance" for this type of cross-lit setup in an outdoor setting?



simplelogik
Registered: Dec 28, 2005
Total Posts: 70
Country: Australia

Inga, would you like me to come and hold your light!?? Better use up that credit because it might expire soon



Inga
Registered: Mar 15, 2007
Total Posts: 1122
Country: Australia

simplelogik wrote:
Inga, would you like me to come and hold your light!?? Better use up that credit because it might expire soon


Thanks for the offer Richard. I've actually already got a mate assisting me for most of the day, so should be alright. But I really do appreciate the offer!
(I had wondered whether you would comment on this thread...)



simplelogik
Registered: Dec 28, 2005
Total Posts: 70
Country: Australia

I don't hang around forums, except to stir Mike .

No worries, BTW Jen will need your help for a Friday wedding soon, she still hasn't contacted you yet.



Inga
Registered: Mar 15, 2007
Total Posts: 1122
Country: Australia

Any more advice based on the photo of the location?



jcolman
Registered: Feb 21, 2008
Total Posts: 5927
Country: United States

Inga wrote:
Ian Ivey wrote:
It's one thing to use a three-light setup on an open floor; it's another to use it with a tree in the middle of the floor. I think the OP is right to be at least wary of the shadows the tree is likely to cast.

Inga, any way you could post a diagram of the space? And how low-hanging are the bottom tree branches?


Thank you for jumping in on this discussion Ian. Much appreciated.

Here is a quick iPhone pano of the courtyard. I am standing somewhat toward the back of where the dancefloor will be set up (removable flooring). The bride and groom table will be set up under the verdandah straight ahead. There will be tables of guests all around the tree and even on the dancefloor until the dancing starts. Behind me is 7-8' high limestone wall the will bound the edge of the dancefloor. You can see one string of electric lanterns on the left. There will be at least one string of paper lanterns over the dancefloor, and fairy light on the verandah structure.

Dancing shots I'm not that concerned with really. I have the freedom to move lightstands around and try different angles etc. It's getting shots of the bridal table during speeches and earlier in the night that has me more concerned. Also getting candids during cocktail hour (which will be just after sunset) will most likely be too dark for natural light.

When people say getting the light further back and using the inverse square law to get more even exposure, there is obviously a limit to how far back you can reasonably run speedlights and still get effective output while getting good recycle times. Is there such a thing as a "good working distance" for this type of cross-lit setup in an outdoor setting?



You can easily set up two cross lights to cover most of the area in the middle. A good working distance for speedlights is about 20-30' from each light. This means you can have your lights 40-60' apart and still get good coverage with the lights set to about 1/8 power. You might even be able to set to less power. The lights in my examples were probably set to 1/16 power and they are not powerful lights. The point is to add just enough light to get a good exposure on the subjects while underexposing the ambient light by a couple two / three stops.

Use your third light as a movable light to put light where you need it, depending on what's going on. If it's not windy, I would stick an umbrella on it to soften the light, or have an assistant hold it. You can also use some on-camera fill flash along with your off camera lights, assuming you are set up for this.

Honestly, what you have here is a pretty easy lighting situation. It's compact and you will have some nice ambient lights to help give depth to the shots.

Here are a couple of shots from a beach wedding I shot last year. My two speedlights were about 100' apart. I did have a little bit of ambient light from the lit dance floor, but not much.



You can see one light firing on the left. The other light is on the right, out of frame.



Inga
Registered: Mar 15, 2007
Total Posts: 1122
Country: Australia

Jim, thank you so much. This is super helpful and encouraging.

I'll see whether I use the third light on camera (dialed down), or use it on a third stand and move it (have it moved by my assistant) to suit.

Thank you once again.



jcolman
Registered: Feb 21, 2008
Total Posts: 5927
Country: United States

Inga wrote:
Jim, thank you so much. This is super helpful and encouraging.

I'll see whether I use the third light on camera (dialed down), or use it on a third stand and move it (have it moved by my assistant) to suit.

Thank you once again.


You will get more pleasing results if you keep your third light off camera. The only time I really use on-camera fill is for things like exit shots where I may be moving as I'm shooting.



Inga
Registered: Mar 15, 2007
Total Posts: 1122
Country: Australia

jcolman wrote:
Inga wrote:
Jim, thank you so much. This is super helpful and encouraging.

I'll see whether I use the third light on camera (dialed down), or use it on a third stand and move it (have it moved by my assistant) to suit.

Thank you once again.


You will get more pleasing results if you keep your third light off camera. The only time I really use on-camera fill is for things like exit shots where I may be moving as I'm shooting.


Thanks Jim. Good advice.