I often get asked about my lighting setup for wedding receptions. Receptions can be an unruly beast to light properly without good equipment. You never know what you’re getting into with things like ceilings, available light, and even the white balancing nightmare of the DJ’s LED light system. Don’t assume that these setups are going to make you a better photographer over night.
These are the systems that have worked for me personally as a wedding and portrait photographer and may not necessarily work for you and your style of shooting. You need to take time and learn your system and what works with your shooting style. Gear doesn’t make up for a lack of education or practice. Here are the three kits I’ve used over the last couple of years:
Kit 1: The Single Light Setup
I love this setup, I use this on 99% of my shoots. Mostly it’s because of how comfortable I am with it. I highly recommend this as your starting point for the sake of building a solid foundation to upgrade on later. You can do a mixture of walking with the stand and leaving it in a single spot with this one.
Cheetahstand C8 Stand
This stand is my absolute favorite. I don’t want to sound like “that guy” but I won’t buy another brand of stand. I love being able to simply lift the stand and the bottom feet raise up with it. Using other stands make my head hurt now.
LimoStudio 2x 33" Studio Lighting White Umbrellas
I used to use nicer umbrellas, but I break them on a regular basis. Between the wind and my dog, it’s not wise for me to purchase anything more expensive that this.
Kit 2: The Duel Light Setup
This setup is ideal for doing those pesky group photos after the ceremony as well as lighting the dance floor. It’s a little more pricey and bulky but you won’t regret it when you see the results. Pro Tip: hire an assistant to keep from wanting to kill yourself at the end of the night.
Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 (x2)
Can’t stress enough how sturdy and well built these are, plus I don’t like using the hotshoe/umbrella attachment for my stands.
Kit 3: The Quad Light Setup
This is my standard kit as of lately. Having a mixture of “permanent” and portable lighting during a wedding reception is a game changer. Beware though, you will instantly create sucky photos if you don’t get a firm grip on the proper lighting techniques first. Is it overkill? Absolutely. Is it necessary? Sometimes, yes.
AlienBees B400 Flash Unit (x3)
I don’t always end up using the third light in this setup, so you can adjust accordingly if you feel like two is more your speed.
Cheetahstand C10 Stand (x3)
If you're going to use the Alien Bees, be sure to pickup these stands, they’re a good deal taller as well as incredibly reliable.
Somewhat optional, but more of a fail-safe. You never know when you won’t have access to power outlets, plus this battery pack can comfortably power two of the B400s all night long.
Canon 580exii Speedlight
This gives you a portable option that you can haul around the venue.
Hotshoe/Umbrella Mount for C8 Stand
An obvious yet essential part for your portable light.
Cheetahstand C8 Stand
For the speed light, no need for added weight. Just be careful on the dance floor!
PocketWizard Plus iii Set of 2 (four units total)
My favorite trigger system that I personally own. With the zone triggering options I’m able to tell my lights which one I’m shooting with from across the room. Nice piece of gear I would have never known about if it wasn’t for the How To Become A Professional Commercial Wedding Photographer Tutorial.
Pelican 1650 Case (Optional) $230
Don’t be stupid, protect your gear and your sanity.
Obviously in photography there are many different approaches you achieve the same result, but this is what works for me. What are you using to light difficult venues?