William here: lighting and logistic expert at Ais Portraits. Receptions are the hardest part of a wedding day to photograph without extra lighting. Sometimes, it’s nearly impossible, depending on the lighting the couple chooses. To create the best reception photos for our clients, we have this setup that has been working seamlessly for years.
Reception Equipment Set Up:
You’ll notice it’s Canon specific since we use Canon equipment. You can certainly find Nikon equivalents, and the principles will be the same.
We always use Canon speedlites with the Magmods on the primary camera and the Yunguo on the flash stands. This is because we want to ensure the flash that absolutely must work is on the camera body, and since it’s not as big a deal if the other ones don’t work. If you want to get all Canon flashes, that works too! We picked Yunguo because the price difference is pretty substantial.
The two flash stands go at two corners of the room pointed generally towards the dance floor. To keep them out of the way of guests, I look for a pillar or DJs speakers to place it so there are fewer things to run into or trip on.
While we usually use two flashes on stands, we have seen photographers use three or even four flashes. We utilize just two so that there’s less setup and allows more ambient light into our photos. Adjust the power on the flashes according to the size and colors of the space, since large, dark-colored rooms will soak up more of the flash. You can see examples from different weddings using this setup below:
Exit Equipment Set Up:
Whether the exit is sparklers, streamers, or confetti, you’ll want to pick up an Ice Light with adjustable power and color to ensure you can capture the couple’s exit. Use an assistant or second shooter to help hold it. In a pinch, you can even have a guest hold the light. Whoever is holding the light will need to be holding it facing the couple and preferably at an angle facing down towards the couple as they walk towards you.
These lights are incredibly powerful and flexible tools for the price, and we always keep it in the car when we go to weddings even if we aren’t staying for the exit.
Family Equipment Set Up:
Rotalux 100 cm (soft box)
Speedlite holder (holds speedlite in the soft box)
Sometimes we find ourselves in dark churches with a client insisting on their family photos being at the altar. This is often the most difficult lighting situation we find ourselves in because we are trying to create a well-lit image where the light hits all 10-30 faces in a group image.
Typically in this scenario, we have a softbox (rotalux) with a Yunguo flash to the left of the camera. You can put this on a tripod but I usually end up holding this setup because I can adjust the angle of light easier. To the right of the camera, we have a Yunguo flash on a tripod. On camera, we have a Canon speedlite with the magmod setup that triggers the off-camera flashes.
With these tools, you will find yourself able to handle any lighting scenario from reception lighting to dark church family photos.
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