If you missed it, listen to our wedding photography for beginner series Part 1 here.
Hey, Jasmine, how's it going?
It's going pretty well. Thanks for having me again.
Absolutely. Okay, so we covered cameras, we covered lenses and we covered cards in our last chat but I know lighting is kind of a big one. And I know especially for those of us–you and I included–who are predominantly natural light photographers flashes and standing and all that kind of stuff gets super scary.
Do you want to talk a little bit about when you use flash mostly at weddings and what you bring along to weddings and why?
So I should say, it took me a while to get into flash. When I first started shooting weddings, as I said, in the last episode, I've been shooting weddings for a decade, which kind of feels like a long and crazy amount of time. I can't remember exactly when it was when I got into flash, but it was a few years in. I was using flashes, but I hadn't really experimented with flashes prior to this.
It was one of those situations where it was scary to think about. It felt like a lot. I didn't feel ready to handle it.
How am I going to figure out all this crazy flash stuff?
And I told myself Well, I'm more about natural light anyway, so should I really bother figuring it out? And truth be told, I kind of convinced myself that I was natural light so I shouldn't worry about flash because that's not my style. I thought, oh, I've seen all those crazy flash photographers out there. That's not my style, so I don't need to invest and worry about it.
So I think at a core place, the reason why I dug deep into flash is that I think it's incredibly worthwhile to be able to handle anything, a wedding throws at you.
Weddings will throw all sorts of crazy stuff at people.
And I'd like to stop there really quick because that point is something that I've taught in my coaching and my courses in the past: you're, you're getting paid a significant amount of money, especially if you're shooting lead or this is your intention to shoot lead.
And I always let my students know that it's important to be able to use the flash if you need to use it. That's something that even if it's just on camera, to fill a room or something, but there's an important moment going on, I think starting there is important when you shoot your first lead wedding. Would you agree with that?
Definitely. You don't have to be all the way you don't have to be like a flash champion. Believe me, it takes a while to get there. It took takes a lot of learning.
And I by no means I'm saying that I personally am a flash champion. But I've really come a long way over the years, I've learned a lot. And above all else, I'm just really equipped for all different kinds of situations now that used to just scare me. I used to just sit in terror hoping that I wouldn't have a bad light situation that I would have to figure out. And now I don't worry.
Yeah, totally. That's and that's, I mean, that's huge. It's awesome to be a wedding photographer and pretty much show up not being freaked out and that goes away after your first couple of years.
What would you recommend to someone getting ready to shoot lead and wants to be prepared? Then maybe what they can kind of look into once they feel comfortable with that first step.
So as you mentioned, on-camera flash is a kind of a good baseline place to start. When you have a separate flash unit on your camera, as opposed to some cameras that are less pro level have like a little flash thing built into them. You can't control that.
You're very powerless with the flash built-in.
Once you progress to the pro level bodies where you can add a flash to it, you have a lot more power to control things like the angle that your flash is pointing, the direction it's going. Is it pointed forward or backward or up? Even just starting with a basic flash on your camera is a good start where you start thinking about the direction of light and you are able to experiment on a small scale.
In situations where you can bounce that flash off of a ceiling or walls. That's fantastic.
It gets a little trickier when you're, say, outside in a really poorly lit garden and you are unable to have that even, steady light that you have in a ballroom that had a white ceiling. Starting with on-camera flash and experimenting with what direction you're pointing it in and the level of power you're using on it is just a good general place to start. But eventually, you're going to realize it doesn't cover all scenarios, and you're going to want to upgrade and improve upon that just to cover all your bases.
Most people would say that the ballroom dancing time of the night–and it's not always in a ballroom–is when wedding photographers use the most flash and extra off-camera light if especially if you're a natural light photographer. That's kind of what I started with. I used an on-camera flash, and then I used a light stand that was triggered remotely that I'd set up during dances.
Would you say that that's something that you've done before and that you'd recommend kind of as a next step for beginning wedding stuff?
Oh, definitely, my first year, my first two years, I didn't even think about off-camera flash at all. It's possible to do without, it just limits how you can capture that day. If you're on camera only, you're not going to be able to capture something amazing from afar. You're just not, because your flash on your camera is just going to limit you.
Whereas once you start progressing to off-camera where you can set up a light stand and you can direct that light elsewhere and you can trigger it from far away from wherever you are, at that point, you can light something directionally from wherever you are. You just have a lot more flexibility and freedom. And essentially you're controlling what the light situation is instead of just trying to roll with it as best as you can handle it.
You can say, here's where I want light. And here's how much light I want there.
Awesome. That's, that's great advice.
If you're just starting out with on-camera flash it's more than sufficient if you're overwhelmed by the whole lighting thing. I shoot a lot of weddings without a light stand. I've kind of gone forwards and backwards with it. So even though I used it for years, I kind of went the other way again the last couple years and I shoot with less light, but it's a matter of figuring out sort of how to use the tool and then making up the rules. Right?
Exactly. And I think it's important also to keep in mind that just because I have a bag full of for light stands and for off-camera flashes and a whole bunch of flash modifiers and all this extra in case gear. I don't always use it. Not every situation calls for it.
I think some people feel that once they've progressed to that stage, they're supposed to become these hotshot lighting photographers where their photos look like Hollywood scenes all the time. And the truth is you can stay natural, you can stay true to how you shoot. If that's not the sort of light intensive.
Those lights are there to help you to make things look how you want them to look, instead of having to settle for something that doesn't look great. You can add your lights as needed.
If the lighting is great ambient as is, you don't have to add those lights. You don't have to do anything. So the idea is, if you are going to be in a situation with difficult lighting, it'll help you in the long run to have some tools in your bag that will help you handle those things.
Personally, the other advice I like to give to people who are starting out in the lightning zone…because long term, yes, I do believe having off-camera flash skills where you can control multiple lights on multiple stands gives you the most versatility.
However, in a jam in a pinch, and in the early days before you feel comfortable handling that when you're already juggling all this other stuff during a wedding, I think having a continuous video light is a good basic fallback for anybody who doesn't feel ready to like manage the juggle of crazy lighting things. Because it is like this extra brain space that you do need for lighting planning.
Having a continuous video light is a little bit like having an off-camera flash except it's steady. So you don't have to understand the like math of what settings to set an off-camera flash to you and dial it in just for when it pops. You have that continuous resource so that you can set it up how you want it.
Keeping in mind that it may disrupt experiences a little more by adding a permanent steady light, but it can still help and it will be easier to predict what your settings should be and how you can adapt when you have like a steady light source helping you.
I think that's awesome advice. A great place to use something like that is a place where people are expecting a little bit more manipulated light, like family formals and maybe even a first dance. Those are really great places to start with. You can set those up on a stand, you can have your second shooter hold it for you, there's a lot of different things you can do. I still think that that's one of my favorite ways to shoot is to have a steady light source like that. There are so many different ways to do it. And I'm glad that we covered a few.
Getting started with on-camera flash is really important, I think, just to know how to do it if you're going to shoot, lead.
Use your second shooting opportunities as ways to experiment with a lot of this stuff and ask your lead photographer, you know what they're doing and kind of pay attention to how they're doing it, too, if you want to learn more about lighting.
As a second shooter, it's such a great opportunity to experiment. Your primary shooter probably can handle a lot of the things once you're both at the same reception. In a worst-case scenario, they could probably handle things solo, because you're not in two different places trying to manage two different things. So that's a really good opportunity as a second to start trying new things, experimenting with lights, trying to grow and practice. It's less risky at that point.
I totally agree with you and I think that covers basics for wedding lighting. I'm glad that we kind of took the time to dig into this. Jasmine, do you want to remind people again where they can find you on the internet?
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I am at letsfrolictogether.com or @letsfrolictogether on Instagram or Facebook. And I'm always happy to chat about geeky wedding gear-related things or general business photography-related questions. It's, a lot when you first start out and it helps to have resources that are happy to answer questions and talk with you how they do things.
Awesome. Thanks, Jasmine we're going to be back next episode and the one after. We're going to do part two of this three-part beginner wedding photography series. We're going to talk about preparation and the next session and how to prepare as a photographer. And also how to prepare your clients so that they know what to expect on shoot day or wedding day rather. Thank you for tuning in. I will be back every Tuesday and Thursday with 10 ish minute episodes. Remember and everything that you want to achieve, consistency is key.
Jasmine is a California-based photographer, teller of stories, eater of french fries, and head honcho of Let’s Frolic Together. She grew up in Montreal but has called San Diego home for over a decade, so you have to listen real closely if you want to catch her in an ‘oot and aboot’ moment. She’s inspired by adventure, connection, wonder, and dancing her behind off at every wedding. She believes that love is love, that representation matters and that pursuing a career in photography does NOT have to mean being a struggling artist—in fact, you can surprise yourself at being far more successful in your new endeavor if you’re willing to put the work into learning how to run a thriving business. Six years as a graphic designer and brand strategist helped her to fall in love with storytelling but out of love with the world of corporate bureaucracy. Now she loves immersing herself in entrepreneurship and crafting honest and playful stories about people in love.