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Reception Lighting

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Chris BryanReception Lighting
by on May 5, 2008 at 1:38:37 pm


I shot a wedding this weekend, and the reception was really poorly lit. I had the iris all the way open and I even had to put some gain on to get anything to show up.

I'm wondering what everyone's experience is with an on camera light at a wedding. I feel like its too obtrusive, I know I wouldn't want one at my wedding. What general reactions have you gotten to having a light on your camera at the reception?

Is there a good option that's not too blinding? It seems to me that an on camera light is an all or none type of thing, but maybe there's a really low level light that I'm not aware of that would do just the trick so that I'm not shooting in the dark.

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Don GreeningRe: Reception Lighting
by on May 5, 2008 at 6:10:22 pm

This is a situation that should be brought up during the consultation process. We always ask what the lighting will be like and then offer suggestions to the couple to ensure that there will be enough light for the cameras. We always advise them that we'll shoot regardless of the lighting but that they should know that all cameras need SOME light to operate and without proper lighting the quality will suffer. This is something we put into the contract agreement that is signed by them.

That said, the only time we use an on-camera light is during specific times during the reception, such as the 1st dance, cake cutting, bouquet toss etc. and they know beforehand that this will be happening. Most couples like this idea, as it draws attention to certain aspects of the reception and makes it more of a mini-event. You can buy camera lights that have a dimmer on them so you can dial in only as much light as you need.

- Don

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George BurbanoRe: Reception Lighting
by on May 9, 2008 at 1:22:05 am

Hi Chris,

Wow, while the days, of having huge lights at weddings, when we were using 3 Tube cameras, in the late 80s to mid 90s have pretty much gone, you still need an on camera light or have an assistant carry a light maybe with a small softbox. There is no getting around that, especially for any interviews and for parts of a wedding where in many halls they drop the lights, such as parent/dances etc.. When we shoot weddings, which we try and keep to less and less nowadays, we like the frezzis with a soft box. I have a few of the dimmable 100watt units, and they are great. I also have a varilux, older style which I like cause it''s broader light, 100 watt dimmable, and softer without a softbox. is bigger. You do need light, there is no way around this.. even with cams like the Pd-150/170s which are known to work well in low light. We are using HVX 200 now and they definately require lights. I know some guys who are shooting Weddings with Z1U s and while many stay away from lights throughout the day, they use lights at the halls, which are notoriously low light...

Keep in mind that with lights come the need for power. So this brings up the need for battery packs. Again there are several popular battery packs with different capacities. The bescor battery packs, will give you alot of power for your money, but they are still expensive, and some can be quite heavy. The smaller packs, can give you anywhere from 30-120 minutes for lights from 20watts - 100 watts. The newer LED lights are great and have very little power draw, but some need to be warmed up abit (color gels) and they are relatively more expensive.

Hope that helps..

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Mark SuszkoRe: Reception Lighting
by on May 11, 2008 at 4:24:38 am

The situation was much worse when I was doing weddings with tube and early CCD cameras, and I survived it.... but I think you need to pick an overall philosophy and stick to it. Mine, that I shared with my clients, was pretty much to always stick to existing light only, using supplemental lighting only at the reception and then only for a few key moments, as has been suggested. The rest of the time I was expected by everyone involved to be as inconspicuous and non-distracting as possible. When people are losing themselves in a moment of candid behavior during a dance, you just document it and don't interfere to spoil the moment by blazing them with a 1K spot on the camera.

People coming in with vest-mounted steadicam arms and big PAR's, making a big to-do about their working the event... that's just not what I or any of my clients ever wanted. Makes people too self-conscious and unnatural in their behavior. Now some brides may actually WANT that ostentatious "my wedding is Trump-level and we're shooting it like it's a real movie" look, but nobody I ever knew did.

I used to have pretty good luck working with the DJ, who normally had lots of lights, to find a level with his colored banks and spots that worked okay enough for both of us. You can use a LED lightpanel or dimmable or a china ball affair for interview close-ups. You can use a spot for the first dance, even if you just bounce the ceiling with it. But for the general walking around the reception, I'd just go with upping your gain a bit and enhancing it in post.

You guys today with your way more sensitive cameras, complaining the light is too low, make us old guys with onions on our belts laugh until our upper plates fall out:-)

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Don GreeningRe: Reception Lighting
by on May 11, 2008 at 4:54:06 am

[Mark Suszko] "Now some brides may actually WANT that ostentatious "my wedding is Trump-level and we're shooting it like it's a real movie" look, but nobody I ever knew did. "

There's a certain ethic community in our area that wants this. Their weddings are 3 day events and the more gear you show up with the better. This includes jibs, cranes etc. and they'll willingly pay top dollar. I tend to avoid these like the plague, since our policy is to only react to events that happen and never CAUSE events to happen.

- Don

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