You’ve got a bride that could model professionally and a handsome and impeccably dressed groom, on a Texas Hill Country ranch. You’ve got an entire 30 minutes for wedding portraits. Everything is lining up for amazing portraits except for one thing, the available light is flat and dull. The clouds are shapeless and grey and the sun is completely hidden. What do you do to produce an iconic, dramatic portrait of your world travelling couple? How do you make them stand out from the background and the sky?
What we do when we need to light something fast with drama is utilize cross lighting. It is our default go to lighting set-up in most on-location situations. The process is simple, find your composition, then find the ambient exposure. Your goal is to underexpose the environment by a half to 1.5 stops. This is accomplished using manual mode and your cameras meter and the resulting histogram.The image will seem a little dim but the majority of it is not black, just dark.
In this case our settings were ISO 200, f8 and 1/200th (our camera’s x-sync speed). Without off camera lighting, these settings underexpose the sky and makes our subjects almost a silhouettes. Let’s add some anytime lights to create some drama and bring up our wedded couple.
Glance down and look at the lighting diagram. We start with the weakest flash, the speedlight placed camera right and behind the couple. It is gelled with a full CTO gel (orange) and set to 1/4 power to mimic the fading sun and give us a bit of orange/blue complementary light. Notice the orange highlight along both the bride and groom’s right side in the image above. This gelled light produces the separation off the shoulders and edges our subjects apart from the background. Even the groom in his navy suit is well set off from the dark background.
The second light is a Einstein 640ws unit set to 1/2 power in a 18×48 strip box. The softbox is pointed back in the direction of the first speedlight. We call this cross lighting. The setup produces dramatic shadows, and sets our couple apart from the background. It creates moody skies for the cinematic effect we were striving for.
Your exact settings will be different because you will face different ambient light, different distances and different power lights, but the concept is the same.
With the lights, composition, and camera settings locked in, we were then free to focus on the action and emotion between the couple for the remainder of this set. The combination of lighting and emotion will always win the day!
To Josh, life is one big adventure. He founded AzulOx Visuals in 2009, AzulOx Commercial Photography in 2014 and has been exploring the world and new photographic techniques ever since. Josh loves to use his photographs to tell stories, and he excels in designing creative story-boarded shoots. Josh is passionate about photography and the creative development of his students. He uses a variety of teaching techniques to help his students realize their photographic vision.
Josh is a husband and father to 2 young boys- who are junior models and photographers in training.