Until recently, I used to shoot wedding receptions with hot shoe mounted speedlights which was adequate enough, but the dark background was an issue as was the noise, since I found myself upping the ISO to 1600~3200 in order to get more ambient light.
Below is a typical wedding reception photo I was getting with this setup. Shot at f/2, 1/160, ISO1600. I think it looks pretty good, but the tell tale signs are there. The main subjects are exposed well, but the background is pretty dark with an orange tint to it due to the difference in color balance between the flash and the ambient lighting. Of course, I could have gelled the flash to counteract this, but I don’t like bothering with gels too much.
So looking to up my game, I recently bought some Paul C Buff lighting equipment. Using strobes completely changed the way I shoot wedding receptions. I’ll never be able to go back!!!
Here’s the lighting gear I bought.
Alien Bees 800. I use the CyberSync CSRB+ receiver to trigger this strobe. The CSRB+ “understands” the commands coming from the Cyber Commander. The cable that looks like a phone cables connects the AB800 to the CSRB+. A 1/8″ cable plugs into the AB800 to bypass the optical triggering.
Cyber Commander. This allows me to remotely control every facet of the strobes. I use this primarily to change power on the strobes and to take a reading with the built-in light meter. It’s really an extremely convenient device to have.
I use the Cyber Sync CST triggers to remotely fire the strobes. I use Velcro to attach the CST to the hot shoe mounted 580EXII flash which is used to light up the subjects. The CST connects to the camera via a PC Sync cable. I use these cables from Flash Zebra. The screw-in type cable secures it in place so it doesn’t come loose. I highly recommend it!
I also bought the Vagabond Mini Lithium Battery Pack in case there is no outlet nearby or if I want to use either strobe outdoors.
Below is how I set up the lights at a wedding reception I shot recently. Both strobes were at about 1/8 power, maybe even lower. I used the Cyber Commander to dial in the lights so that I had a baseline reading of f/2.8, 1/160, ISO800. If the venue size allows for it, I try to put the strobes far enough from the dance floor so that the light fall-off isn’t too much. One of the great things about the Cyber Commander, aside from the ability to remotely control the lights is that it also has a built-in light meter. So I trigger the strobes, take a reading, and adjust the power accordingly. Pretty awesome! I didn’t have an available outlet by where I set up the AB800, so I used the Vagabond Mini Lithium Battery Pack. Very handy! 🙂
Below is a photo using the above setup. Camera settings were f/2, 1/160, ISO 200. That’s right. ISO 200! I had a 580EXII mounted on the hot shoe of my 5DMKII in ETTL mode with the Demb Flip-it bounce card attachment for some fill. The 1/160 shutter speed essentially kills the ambient light so I am pretty much lighting up the scene with my own lighting. Since the flash is the main source of light, I am also able to stop the action on the subjects. White balance and exposure is consistent throughout. I don’t have the very dark background with the orange tint anymore!
You can shoot the same way with a couple of speedlights as well. The only difference is the flash power and the fact that you have to rely on battery power. Either way, I highly recommend shooting with off camera lights. It’s such a game changer!
Here’s a slideshow gallery of images from various wedding receptions taken with this setup.