I didn’t know it at the time, but this shot ended up one of the last pre-lockdown photos I took. The wedding was the last wedding I photographed before Covid-19 hit in Ireland, and this photo, unsurprisingly, came towards the end of the wedding coverage. The lighting in it isn’t what was difficult about this shot. So rather than break that down in any great detail (it’s just one flash in a Magsphere), I wanted to give some background around the process of finding this shot.
The photo was taken on the same day that as a full blown storm hit.
I generally default to the night portrait for a couple being an outside shot, to take in the environment of their venue and possibly the exterior of the building itself.
But as I scoured for this photo while the grooms had dinner, it became obvious to me that, even though it wasn’t raining, I couldn’t place lightstands outside in the wind.
During my scout, though, I did notice that there was one spot where I could look in through a glass atrium and down to a lower bar level, with a relatively clear view.
I noticed too that the area I could look down on was quiet.
So what’s probably not immediately obvious in this shot is that I’m outside the building as the grooms sit inside. That fact alone is giving me a real chance that no one before me has ever taken this shot. And while that’s not a priority when I’m photographing a wedding, it’s certainly a nice little bonus.
Having found where to place myself, the next question is one of composition. Whenever I see light sources I try to include them in the frame. They add some visual interest, often some colour, and perhaps even motivate the placement of my added lights (not in this case really).
If that’s the road I’m going down, those light sources will set the base exposure on the basis that I can then add light as I need to fill whatever shadows I wish to fill. I had noticed those lights on arrival at the hotel about 9 hours earlier and they were in the back of my mind as something to work into a shot.
I did need to work through some options regarding the composition of the frame and how to place the lights within it, and indeed where to place the grooms, but in the end settled on a fairly square-on perspective. One potential challenge would have been reflections in the atrium glass roof, given I was shooting through it from outside, but because it was dark outside and all the light was from inside, that wasn’t an issue for this shot. Trying the shot in the middle of June, even at 9pm, would be a different story.
Composition settled, and that single flash placed under the stairs and out of view of the camera, I was ready to go fetch the two grooms and make the picture.
Very often the challenge of a shot isn’t the lighting, it is finding the frame.