Wedding Guests Complain Strobes are Too Bright

RFPRFP Big grinsPosts: 40Registered Users Big grins
edited April 29, 2012 in Weddings
Hi Everyone,

I have had several different guests at different weddings complain about my AlienBees 800 strobes being too bright.

I was using them to illuminate large ball rooms or tents during evening receptions to shoot introductions, dancing, etc. In all cases, I had the AB800s on the lowest power output. I must admit, they are still very bright and disruptive at this output when the room is very dark.

Prior to starting my own business, I assisted a well-established wedding photographer who routinely used her AlienBees for entire receptions and she said she never had anyone complain. She had slightly less powerful models than I use, but she often put them at higher outputs.

Lately I have just been bouncing my Nikon speedlights off of ceilings and walls since I don't want to upset clients. But I would like to figure out a way to use my more efficient and convenient AlienBees. I've done some searching and discovered that a lot of photographers won't use strobes at dark events as they are too invasive. Was the photographer I worked with incredibly unique or have I just had bad clients?

Does anyone have some tips on setting up the lights or modifying them to reduce complaints?

Comments

  • RFPRFP Big grins Posts: 40Registered Users Big grins
    edited April 25, 2012
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 18,655Super Moderators moderator
    edited April 25, 2012
    I moved this to the Weddings forum as it seems to be a wedding and event sort of question.

    I occasionally use monolights at receptions and events, and I do trim the lights to lowest power. When the DJ switches to their "mood lighting" with house lights off, or in a tent at night, I typically just use hot shoe external flash and modifiers.
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • Matthew SavilleMatthew Saville Wedding Photographer Posts: 3,394Super Moderators Major grins
    edited April 26, 2012
    I think that a dimly lit reception hall deserves to stay dimly lit as much as possible. The coule is often paying tons of $$ to have all the lighting, the table settings etc, the ambiance...

    My rule of thumb is, if I use flash it should NOT be causing me to turn my ISO down below 1600 / 3200. Just because I can, doesn't mean I should. I use small hotshoe strobes usually set to 1/16 or 1/32 power, with a warming gel on them so they match the color temp of the ambient light. 2-4 of these lights in the far corners of the room, and you're good to go at ISO 3200, f/2.8, and ~1/100 - 1/200 sec.

    Also, during certain special times of the night, such as prayers, toasts, and first dances, I try and shoot ambient if I can. If the venue lighting has any sort of light shining on the dance floor, then I can rock an 85 prime wide open with ISO 3200, and again I'm good togo. Sometimes for toasting etc. I'll use a single off-camera hotshoe flash, snooted very heavily, with the beam pointed right towards the person giving the toast, or the first dance, at 1/32 or 1/64 power.

    I'm as much of a wireless flash gearhead as the next guy, but I honestly don't think that a wedding reception is a good place to be busting out studio strobes. Your shots should capture the ambiance of the evening as often as possible... At least, that's my own style and that's the style that I believe many clients appreciate...

    =Matt=

    1017836066_QPiAb-M.jpg
    My first thought is always of light.” – Galen Rowell
    My SmugMug PortfolioMy Astro-Landscape Photo BlogModerator of the Dgrin Weddings Forum
  • QarikQarik Krazy Korean Posts: 4,938Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 26, 2012
    I have shot about dozen events in reception type settings (a few with 30+ foot ceilings)..I have never needed more then bounced on camera speed lights. Personally I think dim light can be great mood light.
    D700, D600
    14-24 24-70 70-200mm (vr2)
    85 and 50 1.4
    45 PC and sb910 x2
    http://www.danielkimphotography.com
  • RFPRFP Big grins Posts: 40Registered Users Big grins
    edited April 26, 2012
    Thanks, Matt! Once again, you give great advice.

    It looks like my best friend in the world will be getting married some time next summer in California. Since I'm going to be in the wedding, I thought I'd reach out to you about the areas you cover out there. Send me a message!
    I think that a dimly lit reception hall deserves to stay dimly lit as much as possible. The coule is often paying tons of $$ to have all the lighting, the table settings etc, the ambiance...

    My rule of thumb is, if I use flash it should NOT be causing me to turn my ISO down below 1600 / 3200. Just because I can, doesn't mean I should. I use small hotshoe strobes usually set to 1/16 or 1/32 power, with a warming gel on them so they match the color temp of the ambient light. 2-4 of these lights in the far corners of the room, and you're good to go at ISO 3200, f/2.8, and ~1/100 - 1/200 sec.

    Also, during certain special times of the night, such as prayers, toasts, and first dances, I try and shoot ambient if I can. If the venue lighting has any sort of light shining on the dance floor, then I can rock an 85 prime wide open with ISO 3200, and again I'm good togo. Sometimes for toasting etc. I'll use a single off-camera hotshoe flash, snooted very heavily, with the beam pointed right towards the person giving the toast, or the first dance, at 1/32 or 1/64 power.

    I'm as much of a wireless flash gearhead as the next guy, but I honestly don't think that a wedding reception is a good place to be busting out studio strobes. Your shots should capture the ambiance of the evening as often as possible... At least, that's my own style and that's the style that I believe many clients appreciate...

    =Matt=

    1017836066_QPiAb-M.jpg
  • tenoverthenosetenoverthenose Major grins Posts: 815Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 26, 2012
    Sometimes I shoot with high iso's and low powered lights, other times I crank up the power and remove ambient light. It's all about creative control. That being said, I wouldn't use big soft light all night long at a reception. Most of the time if I do use high powered strobes, my light is gridded or flagged off from getting in everyones eyes. For example, during for the dancefloor during the reception, I will often get a big strobe with lots of power as far away as possible, add a grid, and point it at the dancefoor. This keeps my exposure fairly consistent, gives me the contrast I like, and keeps the light where it needs to be. I think that is a big key.
  • Mike BishopMike Bishop Big grins Posts: 51Registered Users Big grins
    edited April 26, 2012
    I'm kinda confussed and wanna make sure I got this right. if the lighting is a dimly lit reception and I can get the shot at 3200 Iso and a fast enough shutter speed to keep it steady, does that mean that the flash should be avoided?

    Anouther thing, If I feel flash would help with the shot can I just leave it as E-TTL on the 7D and manual the ISO along with flash exposure compensation to get a weak flash?
  • Matthew SavilleMatthew Saville Wedding Photographer Posts: 3,394Super Moderators Major grins
    edited April 28, 2012
    RFP wrote: »
    Thanks, Matt! Once again, you give great advice.

    It looks like my best friend in the world will be getting married some time next summer in California. Since I'm going to be in the wedding, I thought I'd reach out to you about the areas you cover out there. Send me a message!
    Definitely have the couple give my studio a call. I don't handle bookings anymore, but we do shoot pretty much anywhere, for a price. We're based in Orange County.

    http://linandjirsablog.com
    http://linandjirsablog.com/associates

    =Matt=
    My first thought is always of light.” – Galen Rowell
    My SmugMug PortfolioMy Astro-Landscape Photo BlogModerator of the Dgrin Weddings Forum
  • Matthew SavilleMatthew Saville Wedding Photographer Posts: 3,394Super Moderators Major grins
    edited April 28, 2012
    Sometimes I shoot with high iso's and low powered lights, other times I crank up the power and remove ambient light. It's all about creative control. That being said, I wouldn't use big soft light all night long at a reception. Most of the time if I do use high powered strobes, my light is gridded or flagged off from getting in everyones eyes. For example, during for the dancefloor during the reception, I will often get a big strobe with lots of power as far away as possible, add a grid, and point it at the dancefoor. This keeps my exposure fairly consistent, gives me the contrast I like, and keeps the light where it needs to be. I think that is a big key.

    Exactly. Spill kills. Any time I'm pointing a flash at people during a reception, it gets gridded / snooted. That makes it far less obtrusive to everybody else standing around; and the person being "flashed" is never looking directly into the flash anyways...

    [img][/img]
    I'm kinda confussed and wanna make sure I got this right. if the lighting is a dimly lit reception and I can get the shot at 3200 Iso and a fast enough shutter speed to keep it steady, does that mean that the flash should be avoided?

    Anouther thing, If I feel flash would help with the shot can I just leave it as E-TTL on the 7D and manual the ISO along with flash exposure compensation to get a weak flash?

    No, it is not that using flash is taboo. In fact I supplement ISO 3200 "ambient" light with flash all the time. I just use hotshoe strobes at low power, I keep ISO 3200 going, but maybe I bump my shutter speed up to the sync limit to maintain sharpness. This keeps that dimly lit ambient feeling. (if the flashes are bounced properly, both on-camera and off) So it is not that you should avoid flash at all costs in a dimly lit situation, it is just that 1.) The couple would probably appreciate as many photos as possible that replicate that beautiful mood lighting, whether or not you use flash to supplement, and 2.) the darker it is, the more people are going to be blinded if you use a huge strobe pack that spills all over the place. (See our discussion about using a grid / snoot to direct the light towards a singular subject, instead of lighting the whole room...)

    =Matt=
    My first thought is always of light.” – Galen Rowell
    My SmugMug PortfolioMy Astro-Landscape Photo BlogModerator of the Dgrin Weddings Forum
  • bloomphotogbloomphotog Major grins Posts: 582Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 29, 2012
    Good stuff from Matt and Patrick. I frequently will just zoom my wireless speedlites to 100-200mm. This very effectively snoots the light and keeps the spill from overpowering ambient. Always try and get your flash output as low as possible. This keeps recycle times low and will usually require high-ISO.
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