Last week I reached out to my network of readers and friends on Twitter and Facebook to ask if anyone has photography-related questions they’d like me to answer. I figured this would be a fun way to populate a FAQ page eventually. Thanks to everyone who participated!
Here are my answers to the three questions I received from readers…
How do you get such great indoor reception photos when the lighting is so low?
N’aw, thanks for the kind words about my reception photos! I like to use natural light outdoors whenever possible, but you don’t always have that option when you’re shooting a wedding reception. For the most part, I bounce my flash using a Canon Speedlite shoe mount flash, however Nikon users will want to try the Speedlights made for their DSLR. Pointing your flash toward the ceiling or wall and bouncing the light has great results because you end up making that light source much larger. It’s almost as if wherever you point your flash, you have a giant softbox in that area (especially if it’s a nice white ceiling).
Let me back things up a bit and start from the beginning. At reception venues, there are sometimes overhead lights, so I usually try to eliminate any ambient light to avoid different color temperatures in my images. If you don’t block out the unwanted light, your images can have a combination of the yellow overhead temperature with the blue flash temperature, making it hard to white balance.
First up, set your shutter speed to about 1/160-1/200 to help block out the ambient light. Next, set your aperture to something you’re comfortable with. I usually stay in the f/2.8 to f/3.5 range. Finally, adjust your ISO until you can no longer see ambient light in the image. So if you’re taking a test shot of a person, their skin tones should be extremely dark, without any yellow cast showing. Attach your flash, turn it on, and set it to ETTL or an automatic equivalent.
To get soft light, point your flash in the direction that you want the light to come from, say a 45 degree angle from behind your right shoulder. Ideally you’re going to want to try bouncing it and making the light bigger and softer. However, if a ceiling is really high or black, you’ll need to resort to a flash diffuser, direct flash, off-camera flash, or simply by raising your ISO for ambient photos without flash. When you’re bouncing with flash, it takes a lot of flash power, so battery packs like these (Canon, Nikon) are useful in helping your flash recycle quickly.
As it gets darker (say when the venue lowers the lights for dancing), you can turn up your ISO without having ambient light show up, which will help conserve battery power and recycle your flash faster. I recommend purchasing a shoe mount flash and testing out bouncing and white balance in the evening at your home with a friend or family member for some practice.
What is the best time for outdoor photos?
Good question! My favorite light for outdoor photos is referred to as the golden hour (aka magic hour). Golden light typically shows up an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. However, there’s no exact answer, since it depends on where you live…the further you are from the equator, the longer your golden hour. This changes depending on season as well.
Generally, I try to check this handy dandy sunset calculator before scheduling outdoor shoots. There’s also a free app called Magic Hour that tells you when the magic hour is for your location, how long until it begins, and it even sends you a notification that it’s about to start, which is helpful during a wedding when your schedule is packed. I installed it on my phone, so for today it says magic hour begins at 7:23pm and ends at 8:31pm.
If your clients can swing it, schedule sessions to take advantage of the light and your images will appear warmer in hue. If you’re shooting a wedding or family session, pay attention to the light throughout the day. Usually the golden hour happens around or after dinner, so ask the couple in advance if they’d mind sneaking out during the first course for some quick portraits. Also, watch for clouds, since they can often cut time off your hour. Give yourself a good buffer when you’re photographing clients, don’t assume that you’ll have an entire hour with amazing light.
With this type of lighting, your subjects can face the sun without squinting because the light isn’t harsh like it would be around noon. That being said, if you find yourself having to shoot during the middle of the day (I know I do), find shaded areas for flattering light. You can also put the sun behind your subject to get a pretty backlighting effect, just be sure to expose for your client’s skin tones. I’m also partial to flare, which is that awesome rainbow-y glow that happens when light hits your lens. This works especially well during golden hour and happens in backlit situations.
Why is it important to do an engagement session?
I love learning more about my couples, which is why an engagement session is automatically included in every collection I offer. Engagement photos offer an opportunity for couples who may be anxious about taking pictures on their wedding day to get comfortable behind the lens. It gives us the chance to break the ice and get to know each other. When the wedding day comes around, it’s one less thing to worry about because we already met each other and there isn’t any of that potential nervousness. Plus, you and your significant other can get used to posing with each other, so by the time your wedding day portraits roll around, you’ll nail it.
A lot of couples tell me that they only have photos of themselves that they’ve taken with an iPhone and their arms stretched out (and I can relate). This is a nice way to have photos taken with each other in everyday clothes to hang around your home. If you are planning to have professional hair and makeup done for your wedding day, an engagement session date is the perfect day to schedule your trial, so you can see how the makeup will look on camera.
My couples receive their engagement photos via a password-protected online gallery that they can share with friends and family by downloading the complete set, as well as a flash drive. The photos can be used for your wedding website, personal blog, social media, save the dates, or even to personalize your reception with a guestbook or slideshow. Sometimes couples opt to have their wedding rehearsal photographed in place of engagement photos, which is also a nice way to work together in advance.
I’d love to make this a weekly thing, so if you have any other questions, feel free to contact me or leave them in the comments below. Thanks for reading!