As, it really doesn't matter knowing what equipment you use, if you don't have insight into why I use what I use. I've already shared about the camera's I use at weddings, and also my favorite lenses (and why they rock).
Now I'm going to share what I use to modify light. Mostly I'll share about wedding photography with flash, and why it makes a big difference.
When the light nature (or the venue) gives me naturally isn't completely stellar, I modify it by either adding a flash, a video light or a reflector to add the light where I want it. While, it's great to use natural light, I am a firm believer that you have to be able to create the light you want when nature doesn't provide it.
Here are the light modifiers I use the most, and when I decide to go to them.
Wedding Photography with Flash
Nikon SB 800 and SB 910 and SB-28
These are OCF (off camera flashes) for Nikon. I use them on camera, or attach them to a light stand and trigger them via a radio trigger so I can get dimension to the light.
One of the first things you learn as a photographer is that the angle of light on your subject matters a lot. Photography is essentially just painting with light. This is why photographers will try to take their flash off their camera if at all possible.
15 years ago, whenever you wanted to trigger a flash or strobe (high powered flash used in studio), you'd need a sync cord that physically attached the camera and the flash... much like landline telephones of yesteryear. (ha)
Now a days we have radio triggers (pictured on left) that allow us to trigger flashes (one or multiple) via a device through the radio waves. It makes it so much easier to create dynamic lighting when you can have your flash on a light stand off to the side and you can control the relationship of your light to your image purely by placement and distance. It's really pretty rad.
Depending on the venue and the light around (day vs night. White walls vs black walls etc) sometimes we need to have our flash stay on our camera. It happens pretty regularly, but it’s pretty rare to see a professional have their big flash on top of their camera faced directly at their subject. (An example you’ll see this happen is in bright sunny day light though).
Usually direct light is not very flattering, so we like to diffuse it (make it softer and prettier) by aiming the actual light at another source, and using that source to light our subject. That is why, many times you will see the flash bulb pointed at the ceiling, or at a wall to the side, or many times even behind us.
I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve had an unsuspecting guest come and “let me know” that my flash has been pointed backwards (aka wrong) all night. I always smile and let them know I know it’s been pointed backwards, and it’s purposeful. It’s because I want the light that looks natural. the light that bounces around and off of other objects before touching my subjects face. This way it looks more natural than a bright bulb pointed their way. It adds the extra umphf I need while creating the atmosphere I want as well. A win win :)
(**side note, if you see a “professional” photographer using the flash that pops up off their camera body, run. Run like crazy as no professional would use that as a main light because 99.9% of the time it is just plain ugly. **)
Flash gels -
You know when you go to take a picture on your camera, and the white balance is off, so the picture comes out looking all blue or orange? Well light puts off different temperatures, and create different colors depending on the source . For example : Daylight is a blue light, Tungsten (household lights) is a really amber light, and florescents are a really green light. Your camera can balance the lights to provide what your eye automatically does, but sometimes you have some day light and some tungsten light, or you want to add a little flash into a florescent lit room.
This is when flash gels come into play (Pictured left). Since flashes are balanced for daylight, you need to put a color gel over the flash to make it mimic other light sources for the image to come out looking great. That's why I keep these gels on hand all the time. I can easily add a gel to fix some funky light and create an image you'll like seeing.
You can also use gels to do some really neat tricks. Like if I am taking pictures outside around dusk, and I want the sky a super blue, I can use a flash with a tungsten gel on it and it makes my subject stand out looking normal and will create an amazingly blue sky. Gels can be a ton of fun which creates dynamic beautiful images for you. Like the image to the left ;)
Reflectors and Softboxes. -
If I use these tools, depends a lot on the type of natural light (sunny or cloudy), the time of day I’m shooting, and honestly… the timeline of the day. You can use a softbox in front of your flash to create absolutely beautiful light on your subject but it takes a couple extra minutes to set up and finesse to create the look you want. What it is is basically just a big box with one side that has a diffuse white fabric that the light goes through. It creates a much softer and more flattering light than that of just a flash bulb.
At times you *really* need it, sometimes it’s an added perk. If it’s a perk, then it depends on the time in the timeline if we can bother with it or not.
A reflector is a similar thing, but an option I will default to a bit faster. It’s basically like a big white (or silver or gold) fabric, that I strategically place in a way that will bounce light back onto who I am photographing to make them look better. It’s a much faster approach and works fabulously if it’s a sunny day, and you have some shade you are working in.
But if the timeline is super tight, I will forgo the bother of the reflector as well unless it's absolutely needed. Yet another reason to add buffer room into your wedding timeline!
Here are some samples of using a light modifier, and how that can add amazing dimension to your photos.