First Dance wedding photography
First Dance Wedding photography
Just a quick post relating to my wedding photography first dance set-up someone asked me about recently. This might be more of a First Dance wedding photography advice post than a wedding one. The first dance is one of those times where off camera flash can really shine and one where the ‘uncle bobs’ can find a it bit daunting. I’ll use the photo above from a wedding at East Riddlesden Hall. First dance wedding photography
My standard set up for this is 2 off camera flashes, in this case I used canon 2 580EXII but you could easily do it with smaller flashes. I set these up on lightstands at opposite corners of the dance area, this allows me to move around as I often need to during the dance but still light the couple dramatically. The lights are unmodified and pretty harsh, not ideal for people photos but work well for the look I try and go for during the first dance. Both the camera and flashes are set to manual and triggered with a canon’s ST-E2 (an infra red trigger) but you could use any form of off camera trigger, doesn’t have to be TTL enabled. The IR triggers work pretty well indoors even when you don’t strictly have line of sight, in this shot 1 light is in-front and one is directly behind, both still fired (otherwise you would get a silhouette) I like including one of the lights in the shot as it could quite easily be disco lights or someone else’s flash so doesn’t look out of place. The reason why we have to use it on manual is a bright burst of flash coming into the camera usually confuses the TTL and tells the flash to calm down a little, which isn’t what you want.
In terms of flash levels I generally set them to around 1/32 power with a 24mm spread, or there about. The camera is trying to get a little ambient light, but not much. So a good starting point for a typical first dance would be about ISO1600 at around f/2.8 for 1/60, if you want to draw in more ambient light you can drag the shutter a little, so maybe 1/30 or 1/15, this will not effect the flash as it isn’t dependant on shutter speeds, only aperture and ISO. It is a good idea to do a few test shots whilst the couple are getting ready to dance. The power of the flashes will depend on how far they are from the bride and groom. Once everything is set you just need to concentrate on composition.
It is important to vary your shots during the first dance, do a few wide and a few in nice and close, some low, some high. I like to include the guests all taking photos and then swing round to get the band or singer on the other side, I find this set up lets me do that very well, the only issue comes if the couple go and stand right under one of your carefully placed lights but the first dances are usually pretty stationary affairs, the couple generally warn you if it is going to turn into a bit of a break dancing routine (yes I have seen this happen on a number of occasions!). Focusing can sometimes be a bit of a problem due to the low light levels but if you look for some contrast where you are focusing you will be ok. As with anything relating to photography, know your gear and practice it, make sure the batteries are good and charged for the first dance, it’s not the time you want one of them gasping for charge! Different set ups work for different photographers, this is just how I like to shoot the first dance. Thanks for looking folks.