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For Photographers: Dark Reception with colored lights

One of the hardest things for a photographer to get right, and to understand, it tough lighting situations. two weeks ago we talked about lighting an exit, and today we will talk about another tough situation, a room with no light at all other than the lights from an open door and color dance lights…

We were at Britt and Tony’s wedding in 2011 and things were going well in the reception photography-wise. There was a low black ceiling and there were also lights on in the room. Without warning, the music started pumping and the lights went black. When I say black… I mean it. It was DARK in that room. There was one open door in the corner that lead to a hallway with light. Moments later dance colored lights came on and that was all we had to work with. I would be lying if I said we didn’t both look at each other and had a momentary wide-eyed, “WHAT IN THE WORLD?” kind of moment. We totally did. As a wedding photographer, you know to come prepared with what you MIGHT need, and also to come prepared in your mind, that the worst thing that you can imagine lighting-wise can and may happen so know what to do.

Here is and image from before the lights went out… you can see that their faces are well lit and you can also see a well lit background.

Lens (mm): 24 ISO: 1600 Aperture: 2.8 Shutter: 1/60 Flash: bounced off the ceiling in Manual mode so I can’t remember exactly strength the flash was at

Then… the lights went out.

We did a few things. Dan shot with the flash still bouncing off the ceiling. I added a LumiQuest Big Bounce to my flash. We also shot a few images as is! We thought that since no light and dance lights was what the guests were seeing, it wasn’t a mistake to include a few images that really captured that specific mood.

Above is one that I took with the Big Bounce: Lens (mm): 17 ISO: 1600 Aperture: 2.8 Shutter: 1/60

Above is one that Dan took with the flash bouncing off the ceiling: Lens (mm): 35 ISO: 1250 Aperture: 2 Shutter: 1/40

Above is one that Dan took using available light to show the real scene: Lens (mm): 35 ISO: 6400 Aperture: 2 Shutter: 1/80

And Lastly, above is one that I took with a slow shutter, putting a little perspective on the party: Lens (mm): 35 ISO: 6400 Aperture: 2 Shutter: 1/80

I hope this show that you can make any scene work for you. If you have the right equipment and the know-how, pitch black is doable! I think it is really important to show all aspects of a reception, which is why we took the time to make sure that we had different looks going on in the party, and not just the expected perfectly lit ones. I promise you that it did take us a few minutes to make sure we were good to go lighting wise since the scene changed so dramatically without warning, however keeping a cool head and removing that little “self-doubt-monster” from your mind can make all the difference.

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Hey there!

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