Small back yard wedding - shooting advice

adamhiram

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This weekend I will be shooting a small back yard wedding for my family, and wanted to ask the community for some advice. It is certainly within my comfort zone and I don’t have too many concerns, but having never shot a wedding I’d love to hear any tips that may help.

The bride and groom will be under a canopy on a small deck (approx 2’ high with steps in the front, no railing), with 12-14 guests in chairs on the lawn about 10-15’ back. The ceremony will be around 2pm in harsh midday sun, but the canopy is basically a 7’x7’ scrim made with a plain white sheet, purpose built for the occasion. My goals are to capture some photos during the ceremony, then get some more formal wedding portraits and call it a day.

I am shooting with a Nikon Z6 II with 24-70 f/2.8 and 70-200 f/2.8 lenses for the ceremony, and will have my 85mm f/1.8 and 135mm f/1.8 lenses for portraits.

Shot list:
  • Wide shots: I figured it would be nice to capture the back yard “venue”, which should be easy enough with the 24-70
  • Processional: Basically just ring bearer, flower girl, groom, and bride. I figure this should be easy enough with a 24-70 from the isle in the front facing towards the back
  • Ceremony: I should be able to grab a few wider shots from the isle with the 24-70 before switching to the 70-200 and moving further back. I figure a longer lens with wider aperture will help clean up the background a little, since it is in a back yard
  • Recessional: I don’t know if they will bother with this, but I’ll already be at the back of the isle and can snap a few shots with the 70-200 still on the camera, or even switch back to the 24-70 to shoot a little wider
Portraits:
  • Lenses: These should be easy enough with an 85mm or 135mm lens, I just need to bring some posing ideas. I will likely be shooting close to wide open to eliminate distractions from the background, since it is a back yard after all.
  • Lighting: The easiest solution is to simply shoot with natural light. I will probably take some shots under the large scrim, then walk around and find additional locations with open shade.
  • Strobes: Is it worth the trouble to bring a strobe and softbox? I don’t do a lot of natural light work and am used to having full control over lighting, but as long as it is a nice sunny day and I can find open shade, I don’t know that it’s worth the trouble.
Thank you for any advice, and wish me luck!
 

jcdeboever

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Personally, I always have a flash with me. In such an event I would have at least my godox 685 on my camera but have the option of a trigger or cord. I prefer a cord and drape it over my shoulder asbI manually set the camera for the ambient exposure and use the flash for fill.
 

smoke665

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Been a couple years since I've shot a wedding and swore I wouldn't do another after that, to much work and stress. I was fortunate that DW stepped up as my assistant. Having someone that can take over the people management part allowed me to concentrate on the shots. She was always handy with a brush, hair spray or makeup and nudging people in place as needed.

One thing burned in my brain over the years is you can never depend on the weather to cooperate at an outside event. Having a scrim is a stroke of luck, assuming there's not trees around that will cast shadows on the bride and groom at the most inopportune point in the ceremony. On events where there aren't any do overs I tend to use the settings that will best display my subject. I stick with a focal length and aperture that displays all of my subject/subjects in sharp focus. Blurring out a distracting background is easy post, but a missed focus or missing body parts is forever. When you get to the formal staged shots you have more time to work with your settings.

As to lighting, softboxes and umbrellas become sails outside that will catch any puff of wind, but IMO you need the additional light for fill, especially in the eye sockets and to add highlights. Using a bracket to get the flash off camera or as JC mentioned, hand holding it gives you better control of the supplemental light. Using TTL or HSS with AV and EC is fast an easy, where metering every shot just isn't practical. Another option, this weekend at a graduation ceremony in a large hall, I was shooting available light....what a PITA. The photographer they hired for the event used a speedlight on a tall stand pointed straight up with the new version Gary Fong Lightsphere and wireless trigger. Because it was so unobtrusive he was able to place it up front. In use it threw light horizontally in a 360 degree circle, giving him the ability to move around the room freely shooting both graduates on the stage and audience. I now have a Lightsphere on order.
 

paigew

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I would bring your flash but plan on natural light. Is there a view past the canopy? My concern would be that you want the view +flash) but otherwise natural light would work great. I shoot under a canopy for school portraits and is like a huge beautiful softbox.


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paigew

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Been a couple years since I've shot a wedding and swore I wouldn't do another after that, to much work and stress. I was fortunate that DW stepped up as my assistant. Having someone that can take over the people management part allowed me to concentrate on the shots. She was always handy with a brush, hair spray or makeup and nudging people in place as needed.

One thing burned in my brain over the years is you can never depend on the weather to cooperate at an outside event. Having a scrim is a stroke of luck, assuming there's not trees around that will cast shadows on the bride and groom at the most inopportune point in the ceremony. On events where there aren't any do overs I tend to use the settings that will best display my subject. I stick with a focal length and aperture that displays all of my subject/subjects in sharp focus. Blurring out a distracting background is easy post, but a missed focus or missing body parts is forever. When you get to the formal staged shots you have more time to work with your settings.

As to lighting, softboxes and umbrellas become sails outside that will catch any puff of wind, but IMO you need the additional light for fill, especially in the eye sockets and to add highlights. Using a bracket to get the flash off camera or as JC mentioned, hand holding it gives you better control of the supplemental light. Using TTL or HSS with AV and EC is fast an easy, where metering every shot just isn't practical. Another option, this weekend at a graduation ceremony in a large hall, I was shooting available light....what a PITA. The photographer they hired for the event used a speedlight on a tall stand pointed straight up with the new version Gary Fong Lightsphere and wireless trigger. Because it was so unobtrusive he was able to place it up front. In use it threw light horizontally in a 360 degree circle, giving him the ability to move around the room freely shooting both graduates on the stage and audience. I now have a Lightsphere on order.
It was probably the magmod. I have one. It's amazing.

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smoke665

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It was probably the magmod. I have one. It's amazing.

I know several that use the Magmod and have good results but this one was the Lightsphere. Got a close look at it and talked with the photographer. Gary Fong Lightsphere® (Authentic Product - Made in USA) Supposedly the ridges around the cicumfrence are designed to bounce the light horizontal. Because the ceiling was high and nonreflective he added the reflective attachment under the dome to stop the light from going up. The few shots I saw looked pretty good. I'm anxious to get mine in and play with it.
 
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adamhiram

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Personally, I always have a flash with me. In such an event I would have at least my godox 685 on my camera but have the option of a trigger or cord. I prefer a cord and drape it over my shoulder asbI manually set the camera for the ambient exposure and use the flash for fill.
Not a bad idea - I figured I would shoot the ceremony with natural light and bring an AD400 in a softbox for portraits, but if it winds up being overcast I can always add some T600 speedlights for some fill during the ceremony. Perhaps mounting 1 or 2 on the frame of the canopy with clamps and triggering them wirelessly could add some pop. I'll be there early, so I can always experiment and see how that looks, although my preference is to keep things as simple as possible.
 

paigew

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It was probably the magmod. I have one. It's amazing.

I know several that use the Magmod and have good results but this one was the Lightsphere. Got a close look at it and talked with the photographer. Gary Fong Lightsphere® (Authentic Product - Made in USA) Supposedly the ridges around the cicumfrence are designed to bounce the light horizontal. Because the ceiling was high and nonreflective he added the reflective attachment under the dome to stop the light from going up. The few shots I saw looked pretty good. I'm anxious to get mine in and play with it.
yes that is how I use the magmod. It's my absolute fave for on camera flash work. You will love it.
 
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adamhiram

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Been a couple years since I've shot a wedding and swore I wouldn't do another after that, to much work and stress. I was fortunate that DW stepped up as my assistant. Having someone that can take over the people management part allowed me to concentrate on the shots.
I recall you shooting a small back yard wedding in the last year or two, and was hoping you would chime in. As long as I get one nice photo they can frame as their wedding picture, I'll consider it a success, so I'm not too stressed. I've never had an assistant before and have made due, but my wife will be there and can probably assist if needed.

One thing burned in my brain over the years is you can never depend on the weather to cooperate at an outside event. Having a scrim is a stroke of luck, assuming there's not trees around that will cast shadows on the bride and groom at the most inopportune point in the ceremony.
It's not so much a stroke of luck as it is good planning - it's my sister's wedding at our parents' property, so I already know the entire yard will be in full direct sunlight from about 10am-4pm. I built it from a simple 7'x7' wood with a plain white sheet stretched across to soften the light, held up by 4x 8' bamboo legs. A florist will help make it look more ornate, but my goal from the start was to incorporate a functional scrim into the altar. There are some beautiful mature trees that provide nice open shade until about 10-11am, then it is full sun from then on.

On events where there aren't any do overs I tend to use the settings that will best display my subject. I stick with a focal length and aperture that displays all of my subject/subjects in sharp focus. Blurring out a distracting background is easy post, but a missed focus or missing body parts is forever. When you get to the formal staged shots you have more time to work with your settings.
These are great points that I will definitely keep in mind! I'm sure I can get decent photos whether I use a 24-70 closer to the front, or a 70-200 further back. The only way I was able to sufficiently blur the background in prior test shots was to shoot from 30' away with a 135mm lens at f/1.8, or shoot a little tighter. Hopefully this won't be an issue at f/2.8 or even f/4, but I'll definitely need to take a few test shots in the morning.

As to lighting, softboxes and umbrellas become sails outside that will catch any puff of wind, but IMO you need the additional light for fill, especially in the eye sockets and to add highlights. Using a bracket to get the flash off camera or as JC mentioned, hand holding it gives you better control of the supplemental light.
It sounds like it couldn't hurt to bring a strobe and softbox and just have my wife hold it during portraits if needed. I've never been a big fan of bare bulb flash for fill and don't have a Lightsphere in my kit, but I'll throw a speed light in my bag just in case, who knows what the weather will be 4 days from now!

Thanks for the great tips!
 
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adamhiram

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I would bring your flash but plan on natural light. Is there a view past the canopy? My concern would be that you want the view +flash) but otherwise natural light would work great. I shoot under a canopy for school portraits and is like a huge beautiful softbox.
There's some foliage and lawn, then a neighbor's house a few hundred feet back. Nothing that can't stay in the frame, but it would definitely benefit from a shallower depth of field. I agree with aiming to shoot with natural light if I can - I know a lot of local family/lifestyle photographers in the area, many of which shoot weddings as well, and very few of them use flash for anything daytime and outdoors. Some speedlights and a bigger monolight will definitely be on hand if needed, but I hope to keep it as simple as possible. Thanks!
 

GlenGeen

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I have great luck using a flash outdoors as a fill light to cancel out potential shadows on the face. I use a Sto-fen diffuser on mine to help soften it a bit.

I have nothing to add to some of the great advice already seen in this thread. I only photographed one wedding, it was a friend of mine. There was a last minute venue change and we wound with a wedding in someones house. This was very difficult to shoot since I did not have easy access to angles. Good luck.
 

smoke665

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I recall you shooting a small back yard wedding in the last year or two,

July of 2019, actually a church wedding with formal portraits inside and out after the ceremony. I guess if you did it on a regular basis it would get easier, but having DW on hand to catch the things I missed was a great stress reduction. She was also great at keeping other guests at bay during the portrait stage.

That isn't a bad idea on mounting the speedlights under the canopy. People don't seem to notice a flash above eye level.

The only way I was able to sufficiently blur the background in prior test shots was to shoot from 30' away with a 135mm lens at f/1.8, or shoot a little tighter.

No right or wrong, but on those shots where there's no freedom to do over, I like to better my odds of success by using an aperture that will give me sufficient DOF on the subject. I can completely blur the background post if need be, but there's only so much you can recover in sharpness on the subject.

I've never been a big fan of bare bulb flash for fill

Outside in bright sun, I'm not sure a bare bulb doesn't work as well as anything.
 
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adamhiram

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Since my follow-up was lost with the forum update and I didn't get to read any replies, here is a re-post.
  • The scrim/canopy worked really well and enabled me to photos of the ceremony in more flattering light
  • Finding open shade for couple and family portraits was a challenge, since after about 10am shade is non-existent. I managed to find a small area of open shade under a large tree near the back of the property that worked well.
  • I neglected to mention that I also took video, although that was more set-it-and-forget-it. I setup a camcorder on a tripod near the front and aimed it at the isle during the processional, then turned it to face the altar for the ceremony and left it recording unattended. It’s no masterpiece, but there’s only so much I can do, and it actually turned out pretty usable.
I was able to put together a nice album of approximately 50 photos to document their special day. If I had to do it again, I would probably have shot in single-shot mode rather than continuous extended, which resulted in 5-10 shots whenever I clicked the shutter. I wound up with almost 900 photos by the end of the day, which was a lot more than I would ever need. Ironically I missed the first kiss, which happened pretty fast with no warning, but I had them recreate it during portraits which came out very nice, and I'm pretty sure they felt less awkward without an audience.

Here are a few highlights.

Here is a wide shot showing the back yard "venue" and the lighting conditions I had to work with

20210502-DSC_2603a by adamhiram, on Flickr

The canopy I built was very effective in softening the harsh direct midday sun

20210502-DSC_2596a by adamhiram, on Flickr

This is the photo they chose for their official wedding portrait

20210502-DSC_2882a by adamhiram, on Flickr

I love the genuine emotion here

20210502-DSC_2892a by adamhiram, on Flickr

I had to include a shot of my son being a goofball but still taking a nice photo

20210502-DSC_3136a by adamhiram, on Flickr

I went with something a little more artistic to close out the album.

20210502-DSC_3241b-bw by adamhiram, on Flickr
 

smoke665

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Since my follow-up was lost with the forum update and I didn't get to read any replies, here is a re-post.

Nope, I only say really nice things about someone's work once.....you missed it you're out of luck, but I guess a little repeating wouldn't hurt 😉

This is a solid set, very well done!
 
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adamhiram

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Thank you!
 

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