Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday: It's A Lonely Job, Shooting A Wedding By Yourself

Good Morning Everyone,

IMG_6572 It's been quite a week. We arrived to a bright and sunny Houston, Texas mid-day and went to work setting up for the program. Houston showed us a very warm welcome last night and everyone loved the program.  The word must be getting out about the tour because we had an additional 40 folks sign up just yesterday for Houston! I’ll tell you, I love presenting the program and from the comments we are hearing each evening everyone seems to be lovin’ it too!

We caught up with several friends along the way in each city and made several new ones too. In our first week, we brought the CBTL 2010 program [link] to over 700 excited attendees, gave away over 100 door prizes totaling over $18,000, and had a great time meeting everyone at each of the three cities we visited.

It's going to be good to head home this morning after two weeks of travel. LaDawn and I are both looking forward to recharging our batteries and having a few days off over the weekend. After that we repack the bags, and head to Detroit on Monday.

That's the tour update for this week. If we are heading your way next week why don't you plan to come on down and bring a friend. I promise - you won't be disappointed.

Time for today's post - here we go...

It's A Lonely Job, Shooting A Wedding By Yourself

This question recently came across the Skribit suggestion box in the right column of DPT. I thought it would be a good topic to discuss. There are a gazillion new photographers shooting these days and most are just "running and gunning" with their on- camera flash.

072-dz-0291-DZ_Wedding-Lindner,Craig W07 Many of you reading this blog want to "amp it up a notch" and take your photography to the next level. Hey, I'm with you - it's always about improving your skills. I don't care how long you've been photographing events. When you stop learning, you start stagnating creatively - not a good place to be in this extremely competitive market.

Most of my lighting requires getting the light coming in from a direction other than on top of the camera. The images are just more exciting and beautiful when lit with a directional light source. So, how do you manage off camera flash if you shoot alone? Well, the fact of the matter is that it's not that difficult. It mostly requires a bit more effort on your part.

Hit the “Read More…’ link below for the rest of the story on how to cover a wedding alone.

Remember, the easiest way to separate yourself from the competition is to just work harder at what you do. The truth of the matter is the fact that there are a lot of lazy photographers that don't want to put in effort to make their photography more special for their customers - too bad.

068-dz-0175-DZ_Wedding-Lindner,Craig W07So what do you need to do to pull off great lighting without an assistant? Here is my 8 steps to great light for the lonely single shooting photographer.

1- Learn how to use my wall bounce/side bounce flash techniques to turn your on-camera flash into a powerful off-camera light source. I've covered this technique several times on this blog, in my CBTL book, and in my Kelby Training videos.

2- Buy a second flash. The BIG question is what should the second flash be. Hey, I've been a true blue fan of the Quantum T5d-r for years. It's got lots of power and the new Turbo 3 battery will easily last the day. Don't forget to pick up the Freewire radio system, too.

I've been working with B&H these last few months and have convinced them to put together a ZIser lighting kit which is exactly what I continue to recommend. I'm happy to report that as of last week, you can now find at B&H my David Ziser Exciting Lighting Kit right here. The complete package is priced to save you a few bucks  when purchased as a complete package.

065-dz-0149-DZ_Wedding-Lindner,Craig W07 3- OK, I know some of you are going to complain about the price, but the fact of the matter is that good lighting is going to set you back a few bucks. Sure, Joe McNally, shoots with small strobes all the time, but he uses several to work his magic. On a wedding I've go to move fast. My lighting set up let's me do that very effectively.

Could you use a second shoe mount flash fired remotely with a radio trigger? Sure you could, but remember a shoe mount flash is about 1/3 the power of my Quantum so you would need three of them to get the same result I obtain. Let's see now.... 3x $359 is about.... You get the idea.

4- Buy a good light stand. My favorite is a 12 foot tall Manfrotto stand with quick lock releases and 36 inch leg spread. The 36" leg spread is important because when you start hanging flashes on it, you want things to really be stable. I bought my over 25 years ago and it's still going strong. Actually, I'm carrying that same light stand with me on tour.  B&H [link] have several choices available. I would just be sure the leg spread is 36 inches wide for stability.

5- Next you'll need an umbrella adapter and a shoot through umbrella. OK, time for a cheap shameless plug - I would only use my super popular 42" shoot through collapsible Zumbrella [link] and bracket.

6- OK, you’re ready to go lighting-wise. Now it's time to execute the single shooter plan. If you haven't figured it out yet, your light stand is now your lighting assistant. Hey, that's how I started years ago. Here is how it works...

7- Show up at the bride's house and begin shooting the candids or PJ shots with your on-camera flash in side bounce mode. You'll get a nice direction on the scene, much better than straight camera flash. Remember too, to "goose" the ISO up to 800-1000, and maybe even ISO 1600 to assure quick flash recycle time.

8- Next set up the light stand, Zumbrella, and your second flash (a shoe mount flash will work in this instance) to shoot through the Zumbrella. If you are using a shoe mount flash, be sure to pull out the built in diffuser so that it covers the flash head and better disperses the light. 580EX II remote  set up - IMG_6023

You now have the perfect set up to get some flattering portraits of the bride, groom and all the guys, bridesmaids, moms and dads, and family members, wedding party. This set up will work with small or large groups.

DAZNOTE: Again, if you are using the shoe mount strobes, you may need to raise the shooting ISO to compensate for the reduced light output of the smaller strobes - still not a big problem.

Once you get the light stand in place it's easy to capture some great images. Take a look at a few of the images accompanying this post. All were made on location with the exact set-up I've shown below. Notice too that I’ve used a reflector for fill and a background light for added effect.

DAZNOTE 2: Instead of using a reflector to fill the shadows, just use your on-camera flash pointing at the ceiling with the output dialed slightly down. The results will look amazing.

Lighting Set up Thurs

Check out this post I’ve done right here at DPT that shows how I set up my shoe mount flash, Zumbrella, stands, and background for all the photos accompanying this post.

The challenge is to move your second light around quickly being careful not to nick the furniture or knock anything over. Like I said, that's how I did things in my early days.

Next week I'll continue by showing you how to work quickly at the church and the alter returns. Plan to stop back next Friday for "It's A Lonely Job, Shooting A Wedding By Yourself - Part 2"


Hey gang, that's it for me today. We have a plane to catch. A little R&R over the weekend should have us fired up for the next leg of our trip. Hope to see you in Detroit, Chicago, or Minneapolis next week on our Captured By The Light 2010 tour. We still have plenty of seats available. You can register right here. Once again, be sure to use promo code CBLDPT10 to save yourself $20.

Everybody have a great weekend and I'll ya' in Detroit on Monday!

Adios, David


  1. I had a great time at the CBTL presentation in Houston last night. First time at one of David's events and I was amazed at his generosity - not just the $6,000 in door prizes (I didn't win any) but also in all the information he gave away.

    I've got his book and read a fair amount of it but the live presentation brings a dynamic that words on a page simply can't deliver!

    The seminar was fast paced, packed with technique and tips that I know will improve my own photography. And where else can you get LumPix FotoFusion for only $99? (Hint: nowhere).

  2. I have followed your lighting suggestions for several years and I have always been a "solo" wedding photographer. I can attest to all you've said being doable.

    One thing I would add is that my stand of choice is the Cheetah stand. This stand has legs that automatically collapse when you pick it up and extend when you set it down. I can move my Quantum with my shoot through Zumbrella very quickly. I can even put it between two church pews as the legs fold up until I have it positioned and then they extend back out under the seat of the pew.

  3. It's great to read a post like this David. I'm a lonely shooter and cope well. I only use lights indoors and sparingly as I like to be a natural light shooter. BUT, having seen your OCF photos, I would like to use them more in the bride and groom portraits. Looking forward to next Friday's post.

  4. Thanks for responding so quickly to my suggestion. I appreciate it.


  5. David... See you Thursday in Bloomington, MN

  6. I love your lighting tips but the thing I'm picking up from this post is the use of a background on the wedding day, I was under the impression this was a lost art but perhaps it could be used as another way to set myself apart from the weekend warriors. Where do you get your backgrounds?

  7. "Instead of using a reflector to fill the shadows, just use your on-camera flash pointing at the ceiling with the output dialed slightly down. The results will look amazing."

    You've said that bouncing the flash from the ceiling doesn't work because it causes racoon eyes. Sinc that's the case, how can the flash bouncing off the ceiling fill in the shadows under the eyes, nose, chin, etc?