Do I Actually "Need" Umbrellas for Lighting a Wedding?

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by astrostu, Jul 2, 2009.

  1. astrostu

    astrostu I shoot for the stars

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    I'm shooting my first wedding come September, and what I'm most worried about are the formals coming out right. The rest of it is not nearly as much under my control and the couple wants it more candid anyway, so I'm not worried about those as much.

    I have two flash units, a 430EX and 580EX II. So I can use them together and have at least one off-camera and bounce off the ceiling. The ceremony will actually be in a hotel in one of their large conference/meeting rooms, "hopefully" (bride's words) on a raised stage where I would be doing the formals, I assume. I have no idea what the lighting will be like, but I'm assuming the worst.

    With my current flashes, would spending $100 on stands, umbrellas, and mounts be worth it? Would it offer me significantly better lighting?
     
  2. CxThree

    CxThree TPF Noob!

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    It all depends on the lighting at the location. I have done formals with just a omnibounce. I have done them with a lumiquest pocket bounce or an 80/20. I have also done them with stands.

    In my opinion, the stands will be worth the investment. They are fairly cheap and you can get a lot of use out of light stands and umbrellas.

    You may be able to light them with 2 light stands about 10 - 12 feet apart. Just put your flashes on them, point them straight to the ceiling, and put on a omnibounce diffuser. That gets sort of a bare bulb effect and throws light everywhere. I have done this before and it worked quite well.

    The other question it, do you own wireless triggers?


    Also, do not foregt about other people. You can use the same method I described above without stands. Just get 2 people to hold the flashes at the height you need. It works too.. :)
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    It's tough to answer that one. Getting the flash off-camera is almost always a good option as it allows for better lighting and more creativity on your part. However, group/family shots aren't neccesraily when you can/want to be more creative. In my experience, it's more important that the group shots just be properly exposed, in focus and that everyone's face be lit and clear. Even when using off-camera flash, I will often have it placed fairly close to the camera position because I don't want to be casting shadows from one person onto another.
    Another concern might be shadows on a wall behind them. If they are too close to a wall, the light will cast shadows, which probably won't look good...so shooting with the flash above the camera position might be the best place for it.

    Once you run though the family/group shots, it can be easier to get more creative with your lighting but you also need to consider the time constraints.

    I'd suggest that you scout out the Hotel if possible...or maybe call them if it's not local to you. Find better locations than just the conference room. Most big hotels have a pretty nice lobby and hopefully a nice set of stairs. Maybe they have some nice stairs outside or maybe they have a courtyard etc.
    I personally like to take the formals in a location that is away from where the ceremony is...for the simple reason that you can leave most of the guests behind. If you don't change locations, you will inevitably have a couple (or a couple dozen) guests trying to shoot photos with their digi-cams.
     
  4. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Astrostu... I know your name as someone that has been around here likely before me. But honestly... if you need to ask if you need an umbrella at a wedding... you are clueless as to what is needed to pull off a wedding properly. Please, no offence, but weddings are a heck of a lot harder to shoot than star trails or fireworks.

    The good news is you have some time to prep and get ready for an event that is VERY VERY VERY important that you do right. :)

    1. Make sure you have MASTERED the basics of photography. You can talk ISO, aperture, shutter speed, chew gum and walk all at the same time without forgetting to breathe.

    2. Take the time to mentor with a KNOWN GOOD EXPERIENCED WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER. Mentoring is the BEST and FASTEST way to learn. This way you can play "mr pro wedding photographer" and no one gets hurt, becuase someone is covering your back and at the same time teaching you how to do it right.

    3. Take the time to MASTER your camera and lighting equipment. If you have to think about how to change WB from sunlight to tungsten to shade... it's time to get so good that you can do this without thought. As an example, I can now adjust WB settings, ISO, settings, aperture settings and shutter settings with my eyes shut and still know where I am and what I have changed my settings to. This may sound extreme or stupid here... but when you are in a dark church, you don't have time to chimp settings, change them and chimp again. Change them now, and get that shot!

    4. If your equipment is not capable if capturing excellent quality shots in difficult and very low light situations, rent it, learn to use it. If your camera is not clean at ISO 1600, it is the wrong camera. If you do not have lenses that range from 30mm to 200mm and all are F/2.8 or faster, you will miss so many shots, its not even funny.

    5. If your post processing skills cannot result in pictures that cannot bring smiles or even tears of joy, now is the time to learn, but dedicate yourself... learn and see how the other wedding pros are doing it, and do something that you can be proud of and something that puts a smile on the bride's face now and 20 years later as she is looking at your photos. :)

    Off camera lighting is very important, at least in the style that I have come to use. There are a few that are ambient only, and they get away with it... but either their equipment is INCREDIBLE or they simply choose not to shoot in challenging situations (ie: miss tons of shots).

    To answer your question... nah, I can get away without using an umbrella or softbox, but there are times it is an advantage... the getting ready in the homes shots or after church couples or small group shots, the cake shot, the table settings (center piece) shots come to mind rather fast. Other than that, I don't use or need an umbrella at all. I do use diffusers and bounce cards a LOT, though. It is easy to walk around with a tripod with a speedlight and a bounce card on it... way harder if that lightstand has an umbrella/softbox.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2009
  5. astrostu

    astrostu I shoot for the stars

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    Point taken. Unfortunately, the location is on the other side of the country. I will be arriving at least 24 hrs before the ceremony (plan on getting in Thurs. night, ceremony's Sat. afternoon) and scouting around and talking with hotel management if I can about what's available and what they can do for me in terms of keeping any particular areas clear. Otherwise, all I have to go off of is the hotel's website.


    1. I think I've mastered the basics of photography. I've written guides explaining all that.

    2. I've been to and photographed two weddings, just not as primary/sole shooter nor with my own lighting equipment. I've also done formal portraits, just outside and not with lighting equipment, and I did one model shoot before, indoors.

    3. I've spent 4 years with my camera body and know all about it and my lenses and my flash units.

    4. Mine is. My equipment is listed in my signature though I don't think I've updated it with my latest flash.

    5. My processing skills have been honed over the last 8 years and it is to me that friends often come for help.

    I don't take offense by what you said, and I know it's the standard response on these boards when anyone asks any equipment question relating to wedding photography, but at least check some of the basics like with my equipment being in my signature line before you assume I don't know the basics. Like with the person today who posted asking if he should be using a 50mm prime for a wedding and then thinking that it was his camera processor that does a 1.5-16x crop ... that's fair game for you to recite your list.

    Anyway ... thanks for answering my question about whether umbrellas are very useful in photographing formals at weddings. Both the bride and groom will be getting ready in rooms at the hotel, which will have windows and pretty good lighting. The cake cutting I expect will be surrounded by people and setting up umbrellas would not be practical. I'll make sure to remember to bring some diffusers, though.
     
  6. CxThree

    CxThree TPF Noob!

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    Let us know how it goes. I was impressed with the lighting I got from 2 speedlights with stofen omnibounces pointed up to the ceiling.
     
  7. inTempus

    inTempus TPF Noob!

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    In most cases there's no need for a umbrellas and all that stuff. If you're shooting a normal sized wedding there's no reason you can't get the shots you need with a 580EX, Omni Bounce, a tripod, remote shutter release and a L358. There's no sense in lugging a bunch of crap you don't need across the country.

    To be honest, I'm rather shocked you need to be told this given your experience. Are you sure you've used a Speedlite before? :D
     
  8. musicaleCA

    musicaleCA TPF Noob!

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    astrostu: How the heck are you finagling clean images out of your 350D at high ISOs? I seriously want to know; I can't get a clean image out of my 450D at 1600...ever.
     
  9. astrostu

    astrostu I shoot for the stars

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    I just have zero experience with an umbrella or off-camera flash. Figuring out lighting at the moment gives me shivers.


    I have never gone above ISO 400, rarely even up to 200. I shoot almost exclusively at ISO 100. The benefit of fast glass, IS, a stable hand, and avoiding low-light as much as I can.
     
  10. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Expose Right
     
  11. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Correct exposure and decent noise reduction makes ISO800+ photos usable even from a D200. Think of it not in terms of I need zero noise, but consider that your camera at ISO800 may produce photos that are not to your standards, but would probably still produce photos that no one else at the wedding party could take at all.

    A quick and nasty example. It's not noise free, heck it's not even what I would consider tac sharp, not by a long shot. But the bride and groom loved it because it was unique. No one else at the wedding with their point and shoots captured the moment without horridly contaminating the lighting:
    [​IMG]

    I use my flash as a fill light outdoors, and as a bounce light indoors. In the case of the reception of the last wedding I did it was outdoors at night so I couldn't bounce the flash. I ended up putting the flash off the camera on a tripod on the right to create a light source. Wasn't ideal, not my best photos, but saved the day, again my photos looked much better than anyone elses and the couple were very happy.

    Know thy flash, more importantly know in advance the time and location of the wedding (scout ahead if possible), and leave the umbrella in the bag unless you really really need it (I don't own one).
     

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