Tips + Techniques

How to Master Simple Lighting for Creative Wedding Portraits

April 21, 2016

By Laura + Easton Reynolds

Our job as wedding photographers is to capture our client’s story in the most creative way possible and in any shooting environment. So often we hear colleagues say that the getting-ready room was a disaster or they had to do portraits during high noon with the sun blazing. We have found that although these types of situations are a bit more difficult to shoot in, they are not nearly as limiting as you might think. We teach the concept of “The Art of the Second Shot,” which is two-fold: the “first shot” is the one most people take—place groom by window and have him act like he is adjusting his tie, etc. But the second shot challenges us to not stop there and instead be aware of our surroundings and incorporate them in with the couple’s story in a more creative way, often times while using just one speed light. Most times, we don’t even have to move the subject. The following scenes were all shot using this concept.

All Photos © LuRey Photography

The hotel room we were working in was relatively uncluttered but didn’t have a ton of appeal in and of itself. Our couple was getting married in North Jersey and having their reception at The Waterside Restaurant on the Hudson River. There was a beautiful view of the New York City skyline from their venue. NYC had played a big part of bringing this couple together intially and it was a big part of their life overall. I [Easton] wanted to incorporate their love for NYC into the groom’s prep somehow. When we first walked into the room and saw the picture on the wall of the Statue of Liberty, we knew it would be perfect to use in the final image; we just needed to figure out how to incorporate the groom into it. We are always utilizing reflections to tie in interesting aspects into an image that wouldn’t normally be there. 

For this shot, I used one Yongnuo 560-III Speedlite. I attached it to the bed using a Justin clamp. I chose to use a MagSnoot by as my modifier in order to focus the light only on my subject. I then shut off all the lights and closed the windows. 

I positioned the groom behind me because that happened to be the right distance I needed him to be from the painting to fit in the composition correctly. Next I handed the groom my phone with the flashlight turned on, and asked him to close his eyes and hold it up to his face so I could focus on him in the dark.

Camera: Nikon D750  
Lens: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8  
Exposure: 1/100th of a sec. at f/3.2 
ISO: 800  

Here, we were shooting bride and groom portraits at 2 p.m. and the sun was blazing. Our couple chose to get married at The Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum in New Jersey and we wanted the couple’s images to reflect the surroundings of their venue. There were tons of animals on the property so we thought we could use them to tell more of the couple’s story. The shot at right is what we consider the first shot, the much-needed image. Some refer to them as the “safe shot.” These are the staples that every client is expecting to receive. 

For the second shot we didn’t even need to move the couple. As we were setting up to light the couple and get rid of unpleasant shadows, this horse and carriage just pulled up. Right away, we got overly excited and had an idea. Taking our trusty Yongnuo 560-III Speedlite on a Cheetah C10 stand, the light was placed to camera right hidden behind the horse’s face and raised to just above eye level. We chose to shoot this at f/11 so the horses would be recognizable. I used a MagGrid and MagSphere as the modifier for this shot. 

Camera: Nikon D610  
Lens: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8   
Exposure: 1/200th of a sec. at f/11 
ISO: 100  

Cocktail hour is normally in and around the shark tunnel at the Camden Aquarium in New Jersey. Just beyond the tunnel is a floor-to-ceiling glass wall where people stand to observe the sharks and other fish, which would potentially be a “first” shot. I wanted to take a single image and make it look like the couple was in the tank. In order to do this I couldn’t put the couple in front of the glass while lighting them because the flash would reflect off the glass and look awful. I would lose a lot of the detail in the fish and sharks. 

Behind me was a painting of the big shark you see and I could kind of see it in the reflection when I looked at the tank in front of me, so I decided to put the couple behind me as well. I then lit them with the Yongnuo 560-III Speedlite that had a MagGrid and MagSphere on it. This caused the couple to come through in the reflection as if they were standing in front of me. 

The final image puts the couple right in the tank, or so it seems. Laura used a cell phone flashlight on the couple so I could focus on them. Without them having that light on them, I couldn’t see them through the reflection, which made it impossible to focus on them. 

Camera: Nikon D750  
Lens: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 
Exposure: 1/100th of a sec. at f/3.2 
ISO: 1250  

Laura and Easton Reynolds, a husband-and-wife photo duo also known as LuRey Photography are based in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and host workshops teaching The Art of the Second Shot all around the country. 

See the full article in the April 2016 Digital Edition.

Related: The Quirks of Backlighting (and How To Handle Them)

The One Light Portrait

Understanding Light Ratios: Additive and Source Methods