How do you shoot photos in tricky lighting conditions?

jwbryson1

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A friend of mine just shot her first wedding this past weekend. She bought her first FX camera (D600) for this event at my suggestion. She had been shooting with a D5100.

Anyhow, the images came out great! I was really happy for her. I wish I could share some of them here, but clearly they are not mine to post. I did give her feedback. She had some tricky lighting conditions which got me to wondering how one deals with those types of shots, particularly at a wedding where there are no second chances.

First situation -- backyard (or any outdoor) wedding. Question: How do you deal with shady conditions where the B&G are standing in shade or partial shade (under trees) at the alter? Is it okay for them to appear in partial shade (on their faces) in this scenario? Does the Photog just walk right up to them and shoot with a flash?

Second situation -- The other tricky lighting condition was when the B&G, and their flower girls / bridesmaids were walking along a path towards where the ceremony would take place. It was outdoors and sunny, but they were walking in shade and partial shade on their faces. It would not have been possible to get a "voice activated" light stand in the same area with a softbox on a monopod, so do you just shoot and expect to have images with shady or partially shady faces?

Thoughts?
 

kathyt

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I will answer these on how I do them. Keep in mind I don't use flash EVER during a ceremony.
#1. I prefer shade. I will spot meter off the brides face, or grooms face if his is lighter, and overexpose 1/3 to at least 1 full stop. I change this frequently as they change positions at the alter. I don't think flash is appropriate during the ceremony. This is just a standard I have set for my business. I want to be the least invasive person I can be, as well as my second shooter.
#2. I would have the lighting conditions imprinted in my head so I know when and where to get the best shots. If they are walking down an isle, I would know ahead of time at what angle I should be at to avoid possible shadows. Also, I would meter quickly as I am shooting to expose their faces properly.
 

cgipson1

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I will answer these on how I do them. Keep in mind I don't use flash EVER during a ceremony.
#1. I prefer shade. I will spot meter off the brides face, or grooms face if his is lighter, and overexpose 1/3 to at least 1 full stop. I change this frequently as they change positions at the alter. I don't think flash is appropriate during the ceremony. This is just a standard I have set for my business. I want to be the least invasive person I can be, as well as my second shooter.
#2. I would have the lighting conditions imprinted in my head so I know when and where to get the best shots. If they are walking down an isle, I would know ahead of time at what angle I should be at to avoid possible shadows. Also, I would meter quickly as I am shooting to expose their faces properly.

^^^ What Kathy said! However (back when I was shooting Weddings) I would use flash IF allowed, just to optimize certain shots. But twenty five years ago, that privilege was still very common... I understand it is less common today, due to being abused.

I would try to avoid any bad light if possible (like dappled shade) or totally harsh sunlight... but sometimes you take what you can get, and help it along in post. Having a helper with diffusion panel / reflectors can help a lot outside... when that is feasible.
 

Big Mike

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There really aren't specific rules (in this situation, do this)...we have to be able to read each situation and adapt to it.

First situation -- backyard (or any outdoor) wedding. Question: How do you deal with shady conditions where the B&G are standing in shade or partial shade (under trees) at the alter? Is it okay for them to appear in partial shade (on their faces) in this scenario? Does the Photog just walk right up to them and shoot with a flash?
Typically, I would set my exposure for the face(s) and let the background do what it will...but I'll be sure to also get shots that do expose for the background.

I will use flash during the ceremony (unless specifically told not to)...and outdoors, I'd likely need a powerful flash. If the 580EX won't cut it, I might break out a studio light with battery pack. Sure, there is the possibility that it's distracting...but for most people, cameras & flashes are part of the experience...like walking the red carpet. Also, most of the guests will be firing their P&S cameras anyway.
Of course, it matters how close the light is...and I don't like getting close to them during the ceremony...and if I do, it's a quick in-shoot-out.

Second situation -- The other tricky lighting condition was when the B&G, and their flower girls / bridesmaids were walking along a path towards where the ceremony would take place. It was outdoors and sunny, but they were walking in shade and partial shade on their faces. It would not have been possible to get a "voice activated" light stand in the same area with a softbox on a monopod, so do you just shoot and expect to have images with shady or partially shady faces?
These can be tricky. But since it's part of the wedding process, I think it's our primary job to document it as it happens. If that means getting shots in less than ideal light...and having areas that are either blown or too dark...then that's OK. Again, try to expose for the faces...probably while they are in the shade, and let the background fall where it will. If the lighting is really all over the place, then I'd probably shoot long and shallow (200mm, F2.8) and really try to isolate one (or two) subject(s) at a time. Blown out backgrounds are less offensive when they are out of focus.

Again, if flash will help...I won't hesitate to use it. In this case, it may only add a bit of fill, or at the very least, put a catch light in someone's eyes.
 

kathyt

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I will answer these on how I do them. Keep in mind I don't use flash EVER during a ceremony.
#1. I prefer shade. I will spot meter off the brides face, or grooms face if his is lighter, and overexpose 1/3 to at least 1 full stop. I change this frequently as they change positions at the alter. I don't think flash is appropriate during the ceremony. This is just a standard I have set for my business. I want to be the least invasive person I can be, as well as my second shooter.
#2. I would have the lighting conditions imprinted in my head so I know when and where to get the best shots. If they are walking down an isle, I would know ahead of time at what angle I should be at to avoid possible shadows. Also, I would meter quickly as I am shooting to expose their faces properly.

^^^ What Kathy said! However (back when I was shooting Weddings) I would use flash IF allowed, just to optimize certain shots. But twenty five years ago, that privilege was still very common... I understand it is less common today, due to being abused.

I would try to avoid any bad light if possible (like dappled shade) or totally harsh sunlight... but sometimes you take what you can get, and help it along in post. Having a helper with diffusion panel / reflectors can help a lot outside... when that is feasible.
I think 25 years ago I would have been using flash too, but because of the changes in technology it is feasible now to really optimize my camera and lenses to their max.
 
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jwbryson1

jwbryson1

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I will answer these on how I do them. Keep in mind I don't use flash EVER during a ceremony.
#1. I prefer shade. I will spot meter off the brides face, or grooms face if his is lighter, and overexpose 1/3 to at least 1 full stop. I change this frequently as they change positions at the alter. I don't think flash is appropriate during the ceremony. This is just a standard I have set for my business. I want to be the least invasive person I can be, as well as my second shooter.
#2. I would have the lighting conditions imprinted in my head so I know when and where to get the best shots. If they are walking down an isle, I would know ahead of time at what angle I should be at to avoid possible shadows. Also, I would meter quickly as I am shooting to expose their faces properly.

Kat, how do you shoot indoor "action" shots when the church is not brightly lit? ISO 16k? :lol:

In all seriousness, how would you capture a well exposed shot (not blurry) of the newly married couple walking down the aisle as they exit the church if you don't have a flash to bounce off of something? You can't shoot at 1/10 and expect to get sharp focus.
 

kathyt

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I will answer these on how I do them. Keep in mind I don't use flash EVER during a ceremony.
#1. I prefer shade. I will spot meter off the brides face, or grooms face if his is lighter, and overexpose 1/3 to at least 1 full stop. I change this frequently as they change positions at the alter. I don't think flash is appropriate during the ceremony. This is just a standard I have set for my business. I want to be the least invasive person I can be, as well as my second shooter.
#2. I would have the lighting conditions imprinted in my head so I know when and where to get the best shots. If they are walking down an isle, I would know ahead of time at what angle I should be at to avoid possible shadows. Also, I would meter quickly as I am shooting to expose their faces properly.

Kat, how do you shoot indoor "action" shots when the church is not brightly lit? ISO 16k? :lol:

In all seriousness, how would you capture a well exposed shot (not blurry) of the newly married couple walking down the aisle as they exit the church if you don't have a flash to bounce off of something? You can't shoot at 1/10 and expect to get sharp focus.
I just do it. My body and my surroundings are my tripod. My flash does not enter the church ever. I will bump my ISO as high as it needs to be, the most I think I ever had to go was maybe 8000, to get a fast enough shutter speed and then shoot. I only used a tripod when I had the 300mm prime because it was so heavy and I put it on my second camera body. Both my second shooter and myself, use the 70-200mm 2.8l with the Mark 3 for most ceremonies. If it is a catholic ceremony I will throw on a few primes in between. I really like the 85mm 1.2 for ceremonies too. I know most of the venues well enough to know the lighting scenarios for the most part.
 

cgipson1

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I will answer these on how I do them. Keep in mind I don't use flash EVER during a ceremony.
#1. I prefer shade. I will spot meter off the brides face, or grooms face if his is lighter, and overexpose 1/3 to at least 1 full stop. I change this frequently as they change positions at the alter. I don't think flash is appropriate during the ceremony. This is just a standard I have set for my business. I want to be the least invasive person I can be, as well as my second shooter.
#2. I would have the lighting conditions imprinted in my head so I know when and where to get the best shots. If they are walking down an isle, I would know ahead of time at what angle I should be at to avoid possible shadows. Also, I would meter quickly as I am shooting to expose their faces properly.

^^^ What Kathy said! However (back when I was shooting Weddings) I would use flash IF allowed, just to optimize certain shots. But twenty five years ago, that privilege was still very common... I understand it is less common today, due to being abused.

I would try to avoid any bad light if possible (like dappled shade) or totally harsh sunlight... but sometimes you take what you can get, and help it along in post. Having a helper with diffusion panel / reflectors can help a lot outside... when that is feasible.
I think 25 years ago I would have been using flash too, but because of the changes in technology it is feasible now to really optimize my camera and lenses to their max.

Yep! Two OM-4's with 100 ISO in one and 400 in the other... not quite the same as modern digital technology. lol!
 

TCampbell

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Shade is no problem AND... as you generally get softer and more diffuse light it's preferred.

Where it gets "tricky" is if there's a background in full-sun. Now you've got a problem where the exposure for the shade is going to cause the background to be over-exposed and the exposure for the background is going to leave the subject in shade under-exposed. You'd either need to move to find an angle that doesn't include two radically different exposures in the same frame OR boost the exposure of the subject in the shade by using flash so that the difference between shade and sunlight isn't much -- but if flash isn't allowed, that's a problem.
 

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Just shoot it. It is what it is. It is photo journalistic. It is not a portrait session.
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