One part of the wedding day that I really love to photograph (actually I love it all, but for the sake of this article one part I really love) is the first dance and father/daughter, mother/son dance. Normally these are in the reception venue where the lights come down, creating a nice dark room. I love to think of dark places as a nice blank canvas ready to create whatever vision is in my mind.
There are a couple of things I normally do at reception venues to create artistic light. With an average size room what I will usually do is put 2 lights on opposite corners of the dance floor. One will be an alien bee B800 which produces a lot of light. If you are looking for a nice and portable monolight, these alien bees are great. We have used 3 of them in the studio for about 6 years, they are reliable and priced very well. Check them out here: http://www.alienbees.com
Depending on the size of the room I will normally point it towards the ceiling and have it around 1/2 power. This will bounce off the ceiling and give a good overall light covering the dance floor from above. Then I will setup a smaller unit like a Vivitar 285 ( Vivitar 285HV Auto Professional Flash) or just a canon speedlight. I will adjust the power of this depending on the distance to the middle of the dance floor and how dark the room is. This will be used sometimes as the main light or a dramatic backlight depending on what angle I shoot from.
To read a review of the vivitar 285’s read this review we did, Vivitar 285 flash review
There are so many different things you can do with this type of light. Here is an example with a vivitar setup on one corner of the dance floor and on the other opposite corner an alien bee. In this shot the vivitar was set to 1/2 power and positioned right behind the brides head. The alien been was set to about 1/4 power bouncing off the ceiling to give a good fill light. Shooting with the vivitar right behind the subject but just barely visible creates that really cool burst of light and also an interesting shadow on the floor coming towards the camera. The light on the other side fills in their face so they are well lit.
This next shot is on the same dance floor. If you are looking at the image above, the camera for this 2nd shot is going to be just to the left of the heat lamp that is in the background. So the vivitar flash is now coming in from the left of the camera at about a 45 degree angle and the other light is still just giving a broad fill to the dance floor. You can see the really nice dimensional light that this gives to the girl in red though. Look at her face and the dimension that you have from the light coming in from the left side. Also since the alien bee is coming in from the right this does create a little highlight around the right side of her arm giving it shading and again more dimension to the photo. Using a few lights off camera can really make your images pop and the options are only limited by your creativity!
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