In this blog post I aim to address a technical challenge commonly associated with event photography and wedding receptions. The issue which I allude to is that of on-camera flash's inability to light large venues, thus yielding under-exposed backgrounds or unevenly distributed lighting. While the extent of how problematic of an issue this is largely depends on the client's preference and the photographer's personal style, one aesthetic solution worthy of consideration is venue lighting: the placement of multiple, wireless flashes around the venue.
More specifically, these flashes are strategically setup in order to brighten key areas of the reception, such as the dance floor, though are placed far enough away as to not obstruct other parts of the event. Essentially, the goal is to find an allocative middle ground which does not drain battery power. Lastly, the flashes themselves are secured via clamps and/or lighting stands at an ideal height of 12 ft. While there are a handful of vendors which manufacture such gear, I currently employ Canon's Speedlite 600EX-RT flashes, and Manfrotto's stands and clamps. The 600EX-RT is without a doubt the core of this operation, as this specific model acts as both a master and slave flash, emitting a wireless signal that is effective through physical barriers.
In regard to coordinating the flashes, when paired with Canon's 5D Mark III, the 600EX-RT is capable of creating multiple group modes which allow for each flash to be adjusted separately. The on-camera flash, which acts as the master, is automatically assigned to group A, and should be placed on ETTL mode for an accurate variable reading. All other remote flashes should however be placed on Ext. A and adjusted to best light their target location. Ultimately, the desired effect is to attain a dynamic lighting situation in which important areas are evenly lit in both the foreground and background, while at the same time provide a subtle rim lighting for added flair.
Understandably, it takes time to master the use of this setup, as it may produce unwanted glare or shadow if improperly angled. With practice however, one can learn to manipulate these flaws in a way which enhances a capture. In the end, the most beneficial aspect of venue lighting is that it reduces editing time by eliminating the previously mentioned issues of working with a single flash. Ask any photographer, and they will agree that spending less time toiling in front of a computer screen is a very good thing.