As a wedding photographer I have learned that our shooting conditions are not always ideal. One of the places I dread most is the bride's dressing room. It is typically a hotel room with bags, shoes and every beauty accessory invented strewn across the floor. The lighting is never ideal and the decor just might be the straight out of your grandma's home. Read on below to see a simple lighting setup using two flashes that can help you create beautiful portraits even in not so flattering locations.
After the bride has got her dress on I love to do about 10-15 minutes of portraits in the room. One of the best things you can do is drop the room lights down, close the curtains and find a particular direction of light. This might be from a window, a skylight or even some lighting you set up. The key is you don't want a potpourri of light bouncing around every which direction. Once you have the lights turned down find a clean area of the room (or make one). While bokeh is a beautiful way of separating your brides from the background - a blurry pink bag on the ground is still a pink bag on the ground. Don't be afraid to ask for helping in clearing out an area to shoot towards.
I will then position the bride towards my one light source. This might be a break in the curtains by the windows or if it is too strong I will set up a Speedlite inside of a softbox. They key now is to pay attention to the types of light patterns you are creating on their face. Shadows can either make or break your photos. I am personally a sucker for the Rembrandt light pattern. I love that light triangle of light under the eye. I also enjoy shooting on the short side (shadow) of the face as it is typically very flattering to the bride. Here are a couple photos I have taken along with information on how each was shot. I hope you find this useful and are able to use it on your next shoot to create beautiful bridal portraits no matter where the location.
Both of these shots below were done using one Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite set at 1/16th power inside a Westcott Recessed Mega JS Apollo Softbox. This softbox is huge which in turn helps to create a gorgeous soft light that wraps around the bride. The fact that it is recessed helps give you better control of the light. You will need some space to set this up on a stand but the beautiful part is that it takes seconds. This giant box is built on an umbrella frame so that it simply pops open and slides right into your umbrella receptor, no adaptor ring required. My settings in the camera were 1/200th shutter speed, f/5.0, ISO 400 using the 70-200mm lens.
Here is a lighting diagram showing how everything was setup in the room for the top photo. After setting up the main light (softbox) I decided to use a reflector on the opposite side just to help fill in the shadows and add a little extra light into her hair which is where I felt I was losing detail. I also added one more Speedlite with a grid at an angle behind her to give that hair a bit of a rim light and help separate it from the background. You will also notice her position relevant to the softbox. Her shoulder lines up with the back of the box allowing the light to wrap around her face.
In this second picture I just simply had her change her position in relationship to the softbox. She took a big step forward and by doing that cut off the light wrapping around her face creating a more dramatically lit photo shooting from the short side of the face. Other than that all other settings are the same as the first.
The softbox gives you an amazing amount of control in setting up your shots, but if you don't have one handy this same look can be accomplished as well using a window in the room. The trick here is to choose a window (when possible) that does not have harsh direct light. Also many hotel windows have a couple layers of draping on windows including a sheer one. If one is available use it to soften the light by having the bride pull it in front of her as you'll notice in this shot below.
Hopefully this has been useful in seeing how any ordinary room can be turned into a place to create gorgeous photos of your brides. Let me know if you have any questions at all in the comments. If you would like to see more of my wedding work please visit my website at http://www.trevordayley.com.