In earlier times, wedding photographers would have to use large and cumbersome lighting units to get all the photographs they needed from the top-end weddings they were contracted to shoot. For pre-portraits of the bride and pictures during the reception where higher power flash units were required, photographers often used the larger units to get the power they needed. But since the advent of small, AA-powered portable Speedlites, that burden has been reduced considerably.
Since Canon introduced the Speedlite 600EX-RT and now 430EX III-RT jsystem, with its versatile “Radio Transmit” (RT) feature, there is no longer a need to use anything other than these two Speedlites in multiples to take all the photographs needed during an average wedding.
To prove this, I decided to accompany nationally known photographer and Canon Explorer of Light Clay Blackmore on one of his wedding shoots, held at the upscale Fairmont Hotel in Washington, DC. We decided to use eight Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT flash units. Why did we use eight? We could have used fewer lights, but Clay felt that the additional lights gave us more options and more freedom to create the depth and shadows that we needed to get the best possible images. With the new “RT” system, we can place the lights almost anywhere because they link up so easily. To increase the power of any Speedlite, just add additional units. It’s that easy.
Clay has been shooting weddings professionally for 35 years. He began as the protégé of wedding photography icon Monte Zucker and always used an assortment of lighting in his weddings. When he started, he used large studio strobes in some situations and almost-as-large non-AC flashes with heavy battery packs for portable use.
“Monte and I did everything at the highest level,” Clay said, “and that meant using the most powerful flashes we could.” Now, with the Speedlite 600EX-RT units, we can use smaller units and use them in multiples into a light modifier to greatly increase their power.
We selected three of the most important examples in a high profile wedding to cover: bridal portraits, family portraits and the reception. Speedlite 600EX-RTs were used in different combinations with selected light stands and modifiers, paired with either a Speedlite 600EX-RT or a Speedlite ST-E3-RT transmitter on the camera. Each example will contain photographs of how the Speedlites were set and the final photographs taken by Clay. His comments are included below each photograph.
“One of the best tips I can give a photographer is to plug into the wedding a few days before the event. Whether it’s for casual pictures or heirloom style formal bridal studies, as shown below, the bride and families really appreciate the attention to detail that these portraits require,” said Clay Blackmore.
Two days before the wedding, Clay and I went to the bride’s house to photograph her in her bridal gown before the anxiety and potential chaos of the wedding day itself. We set up a backdrop on the rear porch of her house.
“Since we were working outdoors, it was just so beautiful and there was little or no wind. I could have used the daylight as the fill and built the lighting on top of that,” Clay said. The essential lighting was the main and the lights that came from behind, with the daylight used as an overhead fill.
“The mark of a true portrait artist,” Clay added, “is to bring light in from behind and with double kicker lights so we achieve the three dimensional quality I am looking for.” The Speedlite 600EX-RTs were great for that and we wound up using all eight for the final portrait, as the photograph of the setup (Photo #2) indicates.