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Thursday's Tip – Lighting, mood, and your wedding day.

One of the biggest challenges wedding photographers face is the lighting at the venues chosen by the couples and as photographers we need to make sure we communicate these challenges with our clients.   While any venue can be worked around the results may not be what the client had hoped for.

Mixed Lighting

Tungsten balanced spots, fluorescent lighting in other general area, and that one funky light from the 70’s that defies color balance.  Mixed lighting is usually among the least noticeable at first glance but most noticeable in pictures.

Different types of light has a different kelvin “temperature” and in turn effects their shade of white.   Sunlight is one shade while bare bulb indoor lighting is another.  This is why in the old film days you had an outdoor film and a “Tungsten” film.   If you shot an indoor shot with an outdoor film it gave you that warm orange effect.

For the most part while we can see the different shades of a warm, green, or cool light, our eyes and brains tend to compensate for it and we simply see white as white with a casual observation.

Now all modern digital cameras have adjustable white balance, so they can compensate on the fly for the “color” of the light.   But even this can break down when multiple light types are used together.  Often the best solution is simply to balance the color properly on the most important or focus of the picture and let the rest shift if need be.  While this can lead to orange or greenish tones on a background this is often better than unusual skin tones on the bride and groom.

If flash is used it might be possible to filter the flash to match the background light, so then most of the tones will be more stable.  This works well if dealing with simple tungsten or florescent lighting – not so well with usual light sources and strong mixes of lighting.

Of course such mixed lighting images while making for color images with unpleasant tints often make for wonderful black and white prints.

Poor Lighting

This can be common both at churches and at many reception venues.   While candle lit ceremonies a wonderfully romantic they don’t always look that way in anybodies photos.   If your reception venue has that nice and dark nightclub feel your photos probably won’t be bright with few shadows.

With poor light the photographer typically has three options.

Flash – sometimes this is all you’ve got.   There’s a lot of options for providing your own light on camera, off camera, bounced, diffused, studio units fired by radio remotes, or even video hot lights.

Now how well the results will be will largely depend on the skill of the photographer in working under these conditions.   Using flash is a particular skillset and not every photographer who might pull off amazing outdoor shoots is skilled at this.

High ISO and fast lens.   Sometimes one of the newest generation of cameras that can give you a usuable image at ISO 1600 or better combined with a F1.2 fixed lens can let you shoot just about anywhere.  I’ve shot stuff in pool halls that was tack sharp hand held with no flash.

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Photographers you best bet is going manual mode at times like this and let some of those areas go black, most other exposure modes will keep looking for that 18% gray and may wash out the shots.

Even with newer cameras high ISO’s can lead to a lot of color noise.   Now even when this noise gets to unacceptable levels you can usually still make a nice looking black and white or duatone print out of it.

Tripods.  When all else fails lock that camera down on a tripod.  In situations where nobody is moving fast, ceremonies, toasts, etc you’ll get some solid pictures.   If it’s during the dancing, you’ll get some interesting abstracts.

So brides and grooms, take a moment and think about what types of photos you’ve seen that appeal to you most.   Is it the bright and airy shots or the moody ones.   If you love bright and airy photos and have a nightclub feel for the reception hall, you may be disappointed in your dance shots.

Photographers, just make sure you communicate with your clients what to expect.   The biggest mistake you can make is not communicating with your clients what the lighting will do for their photos.