Friday, September 17, 2010

It's A Lonely Job: Shooting A Wedding By Yourself - Part 2

Good Afternoon Everybody,

I'm writing this as I fly back to Cincinnati, Ohio for a big wedding this weekend. The bride is the sister of one of my past clients so it should be fun as I'll know a few of the guests attending.

It's going to be a long day - we begin at noon and go straight on through till midnight. The bridal consultant is a past client too and has us scheduled at some beautiful locations around the city for the day's shoot. We should be able to get some great images.

I jump back on a plane early Sunday morning for Denver, Colorado and catch up with LaDawn sometime later that day. She left Minneapolis earlier today and is driving our rental van the 1000 mile trip to Denver. I sure hope she enjoys the scenery ;~)

The Minneapolis photographers were a great group to hang with last evening. Everyone enjoyed the program even though we went a little later than usual. I can never figure out how I run over - I mean I talk about a million miles a minute and still can't get it all in within the 4 1/2 hour program ;~) But like I said, the crowd didn't seem to mind.

That's the latest update from the road. Let's get on with today's post.

It's A Lonely Job: Shooting A Wedding By Yourself - Part 2

Last Friday I started this series because I wanted to explore the ramifications of shooting a wedding on your own. Is it easy to do? Is the coverage compromised in any way? How can you do your best job if you are a "one man band".

Last week I covered the photographs that we need to make at the bride's home where she is getting ready. I pointed out that it could be done quite effectively but a light stand needed to serve as the mechanical assistant for some of the photographs. No problem, you could still get all the photos and have them well illuminated.

This week, let's discuss the ceremony coverage and group shots. Things get a bit trickier here when trying to put exciting lighting on a lot of the photographs. Things are starting to heat up a bit and you have to keeps your wits about you to keep up with all the action of wedding party arriving, guests arriving, the actual ceremony, recessional, group images, and the limo exit.

The fact of the matter is that there are going to be many instances where you will have to compromise the lighting and resort only to on-camera flash. Anyway, let's look at the wedding play by play and see how it shakes out for the long photographer.

Hit the “Read more…” link below for the rest of the story.

The Play By Play:

1 - The wedding party arrives at church. I would shoot this with just my on-camera flash. I would have it set to "aperture" mode and set to "high speed flash sync". That should cover me for any contrasty lighting situations in which I might find myself as the bride and the girls exit the limo and head up the church steps.

2 - I would next track down the groom and get some shots of he with his best man. They are usually hanging out in the sacristy (catholic church) or some other small room on the church property.

These images could be photographed with the side bounce technique I discussed last week so the lighting be be just fine.

3 - I'd find the bride and get some shots of the girls hanging out too. These are just reportage shots taken to document this part of the day.

4 - The Processional is a bit trickier to photograph. I would probably set up a light stand in the left rear corner of the church with my Quantum attached set to 1/4 power. With my shooting position being in the back 1/3 of the church during the processional, I could still get the kick light I wanted with this set up.

I would also fire off a few available light only shots to capture the ambiance of the setting and surrounds.

5 - The service is easy to photograph because I NEVER fire a flash during the service. The best way to cover the service is from the back of the church with a wide array of lenses ranging from super wide angle to long telephoto. I would also plan a make a trip to the balcony for a few shots for a change of perspective too.

6 - I would photograph the recessional with just my on-camera flash set up as discussed as in step 1. The bride and groom are going to make their way down the aisle and most of the time head outside to greet their guests. Once again, I went with the camera/flash setup  I mentioned in #1 above to accommodate the bright afternoon sun and fill the shadows where necessary.

7 - Altar return photographs or group shots would be next. I definitely would have my trusty light stand set up with my flash attached to give me the dimensional lighting I strive to achieve in my photographs.

For years we set up the second light by pacing off 7 steps from where I intended to pose the groups directly to where the camera would be. Next, 4 more steps to the left into the pews, set the light stand and flash and raise it's full 12 foot height.

That height assured me that all the shadows being cast by the off-camera flash, even though it was shooting threw and umbrella, would fall behind the people in the group.

8 - The exit and limo shot would have to be done with on-camera flash only. I may use a slower stutter speed and higher ISO to pick up some of the ambient light in order to add some depth to the image.

That pretty much covers how I would cover that part of the day. You can see that I made a few lighting compromises along the way shooting alone. I don't think it is major comprise to the coverage. I just know I could have gotten better lighting on some of the shots if I were working with and assistant.

I also realize that today's discussion could have lots more variables than what I've discussed here. I tried to give you and overview in very general way of how to proceed if you are a lone shooter.

Next week I'll cover the reception including cake cutting, bouquet and garter toss, and dancing. See ya' then.


Hey gang, sorry the post didn’t make it up yesterday.  I stepped off the plane and had to put out a few fires around here.  I’ve got a wedding all day today and then head out early tomorrow morning for Denver.

Have a great rest of the weekend and I’ll see you on Monday.



  1. Great post as usual, thank you for taking the time to post this, it really helps those of us that are barely starting and don't have a budget for an assistant. Have fun at that wedding tonight; Vanessa

  2. Thanks for the post! I am currently a lone shooter when I do weddings and am going to be training my hubby as an assistant to help out on the next one. your seminar's tips on what the assistant sees were invaluable.

    Also, it was wonderful meeting you and chatting being introduced to 'flat tire' by Gabriel.

  3. David,

    Thanks for this post. I was there in Dallas and enjoyed the tour.

    With the two light setup you are describing for the formals afterward, did you use the light on the stand as you main light with a fill on-camera? Or was the light on the stand the only illumination? If you did use both the stand and an on-camera flash, which was the main, which was the fill, and what was your ratio?



  4. Enjoyable post that gives good information; it would be interesting to hear more about "timing" and how one photographer can keep up with the fast pace of most weddings and how to manage it so that one has the time to pack and load the gear from location to location while shooting alone as mentioned. I find that the time given is generally way to short and it becomes very stressful to keep chasing the wedding instead of being ahead of the timeline and shooting without being so darn rushed and frantic.

  5. Thanks for posting the setting of the Quantum at the back of the church. What power settings are you using on the alter return portraits for both Quantum and on camera.

  6. "For years we set up the second light by pacing off 7 steps from where I intended to pose the groups directly to where the camera would be. Next, 4 more steps to the left into the pews, set the light stand and flash and raise it's full 12 foot height. "

    In your book, you say you set the lights up at the 4 o'clock position. To reach the 4 o'clock position, wouldn't you also need to place the lights about 1 or 2 steps forward as well 4 steps to the left as described?

    Also, would you set your flash to 1/4 power (which would be full power on a 580 EX flash)?