Lighting in wedding photography is a big thing. Regardless of your budget you have a responsibility to deliver good clean images to your clients. That responsibility does not diminish with a smaller contract price. Meaning, even if you are shooting your first wedding, or just because you are charging $500 it doesn’t mean you can afford to take things lightly. You still have to produce great images. Lighting, to a large extent, helps you to carry out that responsibility and deliver great images from a wedding event. Make no mistake. Almost all of the wedding photography lights and other accessories detailed here can be hired. Hiring gives you the opportunity to test out a product before deciding to make an investment. But just in case you are beyond that stage, here’s what you are here for –
Continuous Lights vs. Strobes
There are many different types of lights available in the market. They can be broadly segregated into two – continuous and strobes. Continuous lights are difficult to work with at weddings. They are power hungry and often do not work with portable battery packs. Plus, they can become very hot over time – a potential hazard working in a room-full of people. This means not only do you need power outlets, wherever you need your lights to be set-up, you will have to deal with safety issues as well.
Strobes on the other hand do not suffer from any of these drawbacks. They are smaller, lighter, very powerful, have faster recycle times, are easier to set-up and, can work with portable battery packs. With an additional battery pack you can keep shooting the whole day long without any hassles. Thus, strobes are the preferred wedding photography lights.
We are talking of strobes, but flashes often do the same thing, albeit at a smaller scale. Between off-camera flashes, strobes and on-camera pop-up flashes, the first two are the preferred choice for their power and versatility. When you shoot throughout the day you cannot allow the changing natural light to put you off. You need the light to be controllable and consistent, allowing you to produce creative imagery. Strobes for my money allow you to do just that.
Baja B4 from Dynalite is a great 400Ws battery powered monolight that comes under $600. For budget conscious photographers and budding wedding photographers, looking for their first set of battery powered strobes, the Baja B4 is an excellent choice. For slightly more demanding customers the Profoto B1 500 AirTTL battery powered strobe is a fantastic choice.
The B1 gives two important advantages over the Baja B4. First, it produces slightly more power, 500Ws against 400Ws. Second, the B1 gives you full TTL control. This means you can set-up your light, use a compatible transceiver and start firing. The flash power is automatically adjusted by the TTL reading on the camera.
The Choice of Wedding Photography Lights
There are many choices in the market for battery operated monolights. When shopping for wedding photography lights you need to factor in a number of elements – weight, power, light shaping options, TTL etc.
Let’s talk about a couple of those features.
It is important to have a decent amount of power in your strobes. A lot of the venues you would be shooting in are large yet dimly lit areas. It’s a nightmare when you arrive at a location and discover that the reception is going to be in an area with almost no ambient lighting, except the unsavory cocktail of tungsten and halogen lights. You need a number of powerful wedding photography lights to suppress those tungsten and halogen lights. You need those lights to be set-up at places from where you can easily light up the areas you want.
For example the first dance. If you have a small 250Ws light you will have to keep it close to the dance floor to be able to light up the scene. Alternatively, if you have a 500Ws light you can set it up much higher and thus make it inconspicuous. It also allow you to shoot from a distance using a longer lens.
Weight is a factor when you consider that you have to lug everything on your own. With a struggling economy people are looking to cut costs in every way they can. Plus, running a fledgling business means keeping extra hands may not always be feasible. Budding wedding photographers sometimes stand-in as second shooter for their buddies, helping each other out, gaining experience and some cash in the process. You will need light stands, modifiers, battery packs, transceivers, cameras and lenses to go with the lights. So, think of the total bulk of all the other tools you need before deciding on your choice of wedding photography lights.
I wrote about the B1 and its TTL feature. TTL stands for Through the Lens and this is something extremely handy to have. For those of you who have used on-camera flashes will know that TTL is something that allows you to be slightly careless and yet produce well exposed images when using flash. Strobes never had this feature up until the B1. Is it absolutely necessary, no. If you know how to use your flash manually and know what you are doing then there is no need to pay extra for the B1. Any other non-TTL strobe is perfectly good. In any case the B1 TTL feature works with dedicated Profoto transceivers only.
Recycling Time and Number of Flashes
When shooting at a wedding event, with your creative juices are flowing and you making keepers every one minute, you need your flash to keep up. Slow recycling time can be a big issue. A feature of the Profoto B1 is the fast recycling time of 0.1 – 1.9 sec. Comparatively, the Baja B4 has a recycle time of 3.7 sec flat.
The number of full-powered flashes per charge is also an important consideration when selecting wedding photography lights. While the Baja B4 has a smaller power rating and longer recycle time, it gives a high number of full power flashes per charge – 550 compared to the B1 which gives 220.
Being able to make use of a large number of modifiers is a great advantage for strobes. With branded lights you also get modifiers that fit perfectly and transceivers that work across the board allowing you to access the full range of features for any product. When choosing wedding photography lights think of the main modifiers that you would be using as well the triggers that you need. There are third party triggers and modifiers but I personally prefer using same branded items for maximum utility.
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