Lighting options during a Wedding reception


Marquee’s at wedding receptions usually provide an easy setting to use some nice directional bounce flash. A 360º canopy of white surface can’t get much easier! Heading into the evening reception at a recent wedding, this was exactly how I had anticipated lighting the first dance and evening shots…only to be welcomed by one half of the marquee being black.

To give you an idea here is a shot I took as part of preparing for the main shot above standing underneath the black half of the marquee where the dance floor was. The black canopy stretched above my head and behind me, covering about 1/2 of the marquee in total.  Bouncing flash off this surface  is a big no no.


Faced with this, four options were available for taking the shots:
1. No additional lighting. Cranking up my ISO, opening up my aperture and slowing my shutter speed for ambient light only exposure. With conditions this dark the motion blur would have been awful. NOT an option.

2. Standing underneath the white half of the marquee and bouncing my flash behind me. The light would have been soft and enough would bounce back to the light the couple, although they would be against a pure black backdrop. While this might be ok for a portrait, for a first dance this would look strange and not provide any context to the setting/occasion. Not ideal.

3. Direct on-camera flash. This would enable me to have the marquee and other guests in the background, providing a nice backdrop and context, but the light would have looked flat. The light from the on-camera flash could be softened by attaching a small 8.5″ x 8.5″ soft box (Lastolite Ezybox). I could have made the light more directional by holding the flash in one hand and firing it wirelessly from the camera, but this would have been awkward and required a measure of decent aim with a relatively small light source. Not ideal but probably my second choice in this scenario.

4. Off-camera flash. This would allow me to face the marquee and other guests. Perfect. The light would be directional. Perfect. Using my 54cm x 54cm Lastolite Ezybox with the two baffles inside the light would be soft. Perfect. I could also fire the flash in TTL mode with my Pixel King Pro triggers meaning that I didn’t have to worry about the couple moving away or towards the flash. Perfect. THE BEST option.

Having made my decision all that was left to do was to set up my soft box in the corner of the dance floor, and set my camera exposure based on the brighter background.  Although the background is lighter than the subject, the levels are still fairly low, meaning a ‘high’ ISO and wide aperture would allow me to retain a relatively quick shutter speed to prevent any motion blur.

Camera settings ISO 500, f/3.5, 1/160.

A pop of the flash and the result can be seen!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s