Friday, September 24, 2010

It's A Lonely Job: Shooting A Wedding By Yourself - Part 3

Good Morning Everybody,

We had one of our most fun and fired up crowds too – everybody seemed to have a good time all night long.  We even had some of the hotel guests from the lobby poke their heads in to see what all the excitement and cheering was about.

Ziser Seminar-1003 We wrapped leg 3 of out CBTL tour [link] last night in beautiful St. Louis, MO.  That’s me giving the audience a tour of our CBTL handbook and telling them about the 9 hour DVD everyone gets when attending.

I want to thank everyone who came up during the breaks and told me how much they have enjoyed my Captured By The Light book too.

Ziser Seminar-1006 I signed one book that looked like it had been read about 1000 times. I was told that it goes to every wedding with her and is used constantly as her lighting reference.  Again, thanks to everyone for the very nice remarks.

Ziser Seminar-1012 And, you guessed it, everybody loves our “$6000 Door Prize” time. Here is a shot of Don Hawkins winning the $359 LowePro Pro Roller X300 camera bag.  He was thrilled!  My thanks to Gary Helfrich for capturing a few of the moments with photos last night. THANKS Gary.

Today we head back home and have a week off before heading to Nashville on October 4.  We’ll get back to Cincy about 4 this afternoon, have a meeting with staff, and then just chill for the rest of the evening – we are looking forward to it!

KPPA Webcast Logo Tomorrow I’m rehearing our Sunday Worldwide Webcast [link] with our Sunday presenters.  Folks, it would be well worth it if you can make it to this webcast.  The three presenters are personal friends of mine and are tops in their respective fields of photographic expertise. For $19.95 it the educational steal of a deal! Once again, you can register right here.

It's A Lonely Job: Shooting A Wedding By Yourself - Part 3

For the last two Fridays I’ve been running this series about how to shoot a wedding by yourself – that is all alone, without the help of an assistant.  I tried to point out the challenges, compromises, and pitfalls of that experience.

Sure, it can be done and lots of photographers do it every weekend.  But remember, I want “exciting lighting” to be a large part of the images I produce for my clients.  As I’ve said so many times before, “It’s the difference that makes the difference.”  And nice light, not just correct exposure makes for a great image and separates you from 90% of wedding photographers.

In today’s post I want to cover the wedding reception coverage.  Although this part of the day is usually the most faced paced, it is still probably the easiest part of the day to shoot by yourself.  When I studied with legendary Monte Zucker years ago, I remember him showing the class how he captured his images which included great lighting on all his candids – yes, he photographed his events by himself.

Roller Light Stand Monte’s secret – a portable, battery operated strobe on a light stand fired remotely with radio controllers which he would roll into position for the dance photos, cake cutting images, and reception candids.  His images looked beautiful, full of the rich colors, detail, depth, and dimension that the second light brings to any wedding coverage.

I think the rolling light stand could be a solution for today’s photographer.  I found one at B&H [link] that should fill the bill.  The challenge is to keep the wedding guests from tripping over it.  I don’t think that’s going to be a big problem, but it is something to be aware of.

Cake cutting What I like about the rolling light stand is the fact that you can position it right where you want it to give you your best light for all the wedding reception events, for example; celebration toasting, cake cutting, dancing, bouquet and garter toss.  I promise you, you will get much better light in the subjects that just shooting with Uncle Harry ’s on-camera “blast flash” system.

In my first post in this series [link], Bill Gommel, one of our DPT readers, also suggested a Cheetah stand [link] which opens and closes automatically when you pick it up or set it down. I think this could also prove to be a good solution.

Reception Dancing In addition to the portable stand, I would add a “room light” to the mix.  I’ve discussed the use of a “room light” many times previously here at DPT [link].  The room light is a great way to really enhance your candid images.  It just splashes light around the room again giving a feeling of depth and dimension to the reception coverage.  I’ve discussed the use of the room light extensively in my previous post right here.

An alternative to the rolling or portable light stand would be to use two room lights and not move anything.  A lot of the big sports arenas are set up with the lights in stationary locations allowing the sports photographer the flexibility to move anywhere necessary to capture the winning shot.

This technique works best in larger reception venues where you can tuck the lights away from the wedding guests.  As I’m writing this, I’m thinking a beautiful location in Cincinnati in which we work many times.  The ballroom has a second story balcony where I can easily place the lights out of obvious view and without infringing upon the guest or the decor of the room.

CBTL Book cover With regard to where to place the lights for the variety of shots that need to be taken at a wedding reception, I am not going into that detail today in his post.  You can find that information elsewhere on my DPT blog.  If you want the definitive “road map” to reception coverage, I cover it thoroughly in my Captured By The Light Book [link] in Chapter 10.

Anyway, I hope these ideas help you get through your next lonely wedding shoot. Sure, it takes a bit more effort to pull it off but the results are worth it.


Hey everybody, that’s it for me today.  We head back home today and have next week off.  Well, not really off – we are playing “catch up” with a few projects at the studio.  It will still be a break to catch our breath, eat and sleep in our own home before we head out again on October 4th to Nashville and the east coast tour locations.

KPPA Webcast Logo Hey, don’t forget, I’m hosting our BIG webcast on Sunday, September 26, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. EDT [link].  We have three terrific speakers lined up from around the country speaking on Weddings, High School Seniors, and Family Portraits. You can register and get all the program info right here.  Plan to stop by, it’s going to be a good time! Oh, did I say Door Prizes were going to be given away – yep, about $1700 worth.

See ya’ Sunday or next week for sure. 

Have a great weekend everybody!



  1. Love the blog David, this is a great tip! You mention the room light in your book as well, but I'm not sure if I have enough lights to pull this off. What would you suggest to get the best use of light if I have a 7d along with two flashes, one 580ex II and one 430ex II. I also have a receiver and transmitter radio trigger (cybersyncs) and obviously a lightstand or two and zumbrellas. I was thinking of doing a room light using the 580ex on a lightstand triggered with the cybersync, with the 430ex on camera using a roque flashbender. Do you think this will get me some good depth of light at the reception?

  2. David: I feel you've offered an excellent suggestion regarding a roller stand. As a side note to that--if I may--some of us may already own capable stands that do not have wheels. I was in that position and I found a set of Bogen/Manfrotto caster wheels for under $34 for a set of three. I gave them a try and they have served me well for a few years running. (Mine came from Adorama as SKU BG109). Thanks again, Brian F.

  3. I've done weddings for 30 years alone. What's the big deal? And, I use secondary lights with a radio slave on a light-weight $30 stand withOUT wheels. Easy. Photos always look great, as you mention and show in your own examples. Never needed or considered assistants.

  4. Thanks for the series David, I have found it very useful and have taken away ideas that I can use to help me make my job a lot easier. I haven't really tried using OCF although I have the equipment and the capabilities. Time is the issue and these tips will certainly help me in managing that.

  5. We recently bought 2 cheetah stands for location shoots and they save a TON of time. We use the smaller version of the light stands, and it's a PERFECT solution for us.

  6. I've been having trouble with over-enthusiastic guests who get in the way during moments like the cake cutting, and other key moments. Although my husband and I stand at oppostite angles to get a shot, I'm not sure how well extra lighting would work in that situation. I'm sure someone would trip over it, or even block it.