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Mastering Reception Lighting, Forever.

I’ve had this problem for years when it comes to an entire wedding collection I would post on my website.  Great getting ready, great portraits, beautiful ceremony, and the light is sweet, then we grab the stellar sunset shots and then the reception hits and I’m left with horrible lighting when the DJ turns the lights down low.  I was never really happy & satisfied with the quality of the light on the images with my on camera flash and therefore I just hated to use the images.  So my slideshows stopped with the first dance.  As the years went by I got on camera flash down, but off camera flash was always touch and go.  I could get some of the shots to turn out great, but when the action kept moving and people got in the way of the flash units, things just didn’t come out consistent enough.

Reception Off Camera Lighting - Photographer Mike Larson

That was then.  Last year I was on this shoot in Germany and my pocket wizards didn’t work.  Bummer.  I had to nail this shot.  So we twittered for any extra wireless units and then this guy came from Hamburg and brought these little units that had a chinese name and I was thinking, “what the heck are these things!?”.  I tried them out and they worked like a charm.  Then he told me they were about $20 buck on ebay!

When I got home I ordered 10 receivers and 5 transmitters.  That cost me a whopping $300.  Then I used my existing 550ex, 580ex and 580exII flash units.  I had 4 of them and used them all at 1/128th power to get 3-4 frames a second.  We have all 3 shooters shooting on the same setup and the 4 AA batteries would last all night.  I was blown away by the simplicity of the device, even using manual and not TTL.

How amazing is this light on these shots.  I could finally get insane reception shots, of the 1st dance, speeches, and all the events and all on manual.  It was so ridiculously easy.

Reception Off Camera Lighting - Photographer Mike Larson

Here is how to do it:
Off Camera Lighting at Receptions - Photographer Mike Larson

You want to make sure you have the flash units circling around, dead spots will occur when the flash units are too far apart.

Here are your camera settings: (yes, its really this simple).

Aperture: 1.4-1.8
Shutter speed: 1/60-1/125th, (depending on ambient light)
Kelvin: 5000-6000(depends on amount of ambient light)

Speedlight Flash Settings:

Zoom: 24mm zoom
Power: 1/64th

Other Gear used to secure flashes:

Gorilla Pods($99)
11′ Matthews Light Stands ($59)
12′ Manfrotto booms ($150)

There are always places to put the flash units, the most common locations are out of the way from people at as low profile as possible.  You can put the gorilla pods on top of the DJ speakers, and lightstands around the columns.  If the tripod bottoms get in the way of foot-traffic, you can put booms there and attach to the side of the wall, or pillars near the dance floor.  Attach with Gaffers tape or zip ties.  You can hide these in curtains, or wherever the decor permits.

Important lighting placement thoughts to mention:

– Have flash units as high as you can get so that people don’t block light from hitting the center of the dance floor.

– Space them evenly apart.

Optimal distance away from center of dance floor: 12-25 feet. (25 feet may require flash at 1/32 power).

Reception Off Camera Lighting - Photographer Mike LarsonReception Off Camera Lighting - Photographer Mike Larson

Below is the range of the devices and the technical data.

Off Camera Lighting at Receptions - Photographer Mike Larson

Mike Larson is teaching his last & final workshop of the year, (Dec 6-7th) sponsored by Calumet in Los Angeles CA, Hands on shooting, and dialogue for you to ask questions and grow your business, are you ready for 2011!?  Click here for details http://bit.ly/dBPoWc.  Its only $199.

Mike Larson is an international photographer who began his career traveling the globe in search of photographing exotic locations, amazing surf, and beautiful cultures. Since then, he discovered his passion for photographing people who are in love and enjoying life. Residing in Southern California when not traveling, Mike is honored to be sought after to photograph spectacular weddings around the world.

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!