Nighttime Portraits with Found Light


30 Days of Wedding Photography


Lesson Info

Nighttime Portraits with Found Light

Now let's talk a little bit about found light and by found light I mean any sort of really great light source that I can use to make a portrait at night that doesn't involve a video light and doesn't involve a flash and you might kind of be thinking what are what are you talking about here? But we've talked about during toasts and introductions how you can use existing light in the space in the same way that you would a flash or a video light on we've talked about it during toasts and parent dances and receptions and everything that if you find a light quality that is fantastic if you find the light doing something that you would have done with your flash or your video light anyhow, why not use it to your advantage in a situation such as this? This isn't rachel's wedding we were at the lighthouse at chelsea piers this is the same incredible woman that braved the outside to get our hair blown all over the place and do those really great portrait of her she's standing on of the under one...

of the spotlights in her reception room I've added no additional light to this I simply saw the light cascading down onto the dance floor and I asked her to stand in it ah four hundredth of a second because I need something to freeze the movement of my client's f two eight twenty six millimeters because I want to show the rest of the space as we've talked about it sometimes I like a seventy two two hundred all the way at two hundred because of the compression sometimes I want something wider because I'm going for the absolute opposite effect found light nobody said you can't make a silhouette against a fountain outside there's absolutely no reason when I'm talking about doing a silhouette in the fact that you're foreground and background in tow have a vastly different exposure that by the time you darken down your subjects your background still has to be bright that doesn't mean it has to be the sky that could mean that it could be anything that's brighter and in this instance it was a fountain that was lit up back over to rachel after I worked with that light in the lighthouse and I with that image of her together then I brought out her husband and I came at it from a different angle I shot into all of the lights that were hanging down from the ceiling and I shot into the light that was on the cake and the reflection of the cake on the ground did it create some slight shadows under their eyes yet it did and did it create a little shadow from her chin falling down under her neck yeah it did do I still like that quality of light? Yes I do very much eighty five millimeter one eight at one hundred sixtieth of a second I s so forty five hundred you might look at them and say what in the world is lighting you? Because it's not a flash and it's not a video light that's not flashy either that's not video light either but it's a good light source and it's a clean light source it is a street lamp elisa wanted to go outside and take some pictures at the end of the night I was ready with my flash I was ready that night with my video light I was ready to go is ready to make some really compelling nighttime portrait with them we walked around behind the building in prospect park kind of looking at the walking paths maybe seeing what I could do with some interesting light in the background and then I saw that all of the street lamps were on in the park and they were very very very, very bright so I was able to use my eighty five at one eight two really isolate my subjects and the on ly light on them is the light from that street light I've taken an exposure reading off of their faces and again however you have to go about getting that reading you go right to town I'm shooting with aperture a priority and what's happening here is my camera is getting incredibly confused if I trusted the meter in my camera, it would give me some completely wacky reading because it sees the very bright light of the streetlight it sees the absolute blackness of the trees behind them and then it sees the very bright exposure on the faces of the clients from the light of the streetlight. So what it's going to try to do it it's going to try to fix those bright spots it's going to try to bring up the shadows and if you trust your cameras meter on aperture priority and you fire just like this it's going to be a blown out bizarro mess so what? I'm looking at my exposure compensation when shooting an aperture priority I've brought my exposure compensation down nearly two stops knowing that what that is going to do is going to give me a correct exposure on the faces of my clients and allow the background too dark and down. We've talked before about my history grams about how looking at my history ramses completely and totally completely one hundred percent useless because I use such hard light and such dark shadows that my history graham looks like it blew up and it looks like a disaster. So stop looking at your history ram if you're shooting light like this your history ram isn't going to tell you anything and here is the exact same scene just a horizontal instead of a vertical setting stay. The same approach stays the same. Light continues to fall from the same angle. And there you go again. Sometimes you find beautiful light outside and there's. Absolutely no need to supplement it whatsoever. So you have to know how to use your video light. You have to know how to use your flash. Have to know in which situation it is more applicability. And then you also have to keep your eyes open and look at things like your background. All of the rules of composition still apply. What's going on here is both rule of thirds and leading lines and silhouette and found light and gear choices. Everything comes together to create these photographs. So let's, talk for bree's section about flash. Now explain to me again. Why would you use a flash instead of a video light? Well, I actually have a pretty darn good reason why you'd use a flash instead of a video lightened. Let's, take a look. This is lauren and colin's wedding. This is actually the last wedding that I shot before coming here to creative live. They are two of the most delightful people that you would ever have the pleasure to meat, and they had one request of me on the wedding day they wanted a picture. Of the various ano bridge now what is the varro's ano bridges the bridge that connects staten island to brooklyn? It was important to lauren it was important to their family history and therefore it was incredibly important to me we had figured out in between the ceremony and the reception we wanted to go to a fort to take some pictures of this but unbeknownst to us, when we got to the fort they wanted us to have a permit. Now I'm never going to shoot somewhere that requires a permit if we don't have the permit but we actually despite all of our research didn't even realize that we were going to need a permanent we got turned away at the gate. Luckily, lauren and colin being the intrepid site scout er is that they were had already found another location if this location hadn't worked, they wanted to go somewhere else. This is a boardwalk off over to the right is the water in staten island and what you see behind them is the verizon oh, bridge now, if you take a look at these settings and you compare them to the settings of all of the pictures that I have shown so far with the video light, you'll see that they're a little bit different suddenly I'm shooting at a fiftieth of a second suddenly I'm shooting at two point eight instead of one point eight I'm all the way out at two hundred millimeters and I'm only at s o twenty five hundred. Why is this the reason why I would use a flash instead of a video light in an instance like this is because the flash is going to allow me to freeze my subjects? I'm able to shoot at a fiftieth of a second, I'm able to bring in the ambient light of the bridge because it's very, very dark because we're in a very deep pit. I want to light up both the bride and the groom, but I also want to bring in the ambient light of the scene. I couldn't accomplish this with the video light, not the way I wanted to shoot this, so we have our flash, we have it on the monitor pod, just like we've been shooting everything else, and if you really squint and think about it, this looks a lot like a first dance. This is exactly how we approach the first dance. I'm just applying it to a nighttime portrait instead, like so I'm like, so it looks like video light, it feels like video, light and yet it's not video light, but I'm not doing anything different from what I would normally do, the flash is still coming. From the same direction that the video light would be coming from, I'm still using the same principles of exposure that I would use for a first dance, a parent dance and introduction or a toast I'm just using it to create ah portrait instead. So what have we covered today? I know today was a little bit more brief than other days, but I'm not a nighttime portrait specialist, I'm not the photographer that's going to ask you to leave your reception for an hour and do these like dramatic, slightly depressing pictures where you don't look all that interested in each other. I'm doing these at a client's request I'm doing these because it's winter time and we have a limited amount of time to photograph the two of you and it's dark by the time you see each other for your portrait's I'm doing this because it was important toe lauren and colin toe have this type of picture because it was important for kelly and ryan to have a picture with city hall in the background. I'm doing these because these air requests of my clients I'm also nine times out of ten doing these to supplement the portrait's that we've already done elsewhere during the wedding day to show something that's important to them to show a different viewpoint, so what we have learned is when do you choose the right lens for the job, is it the seventy two, two hundred, or is it the eighty five? Are we using a video light, or do we need to freeze the action mohr and use a flash? So if you've never considered these things when doing your nighttime portrait's, a few thought flash was the only way to go. Maybe now you'll experiment with a video light, and if you thought video light was the only way to go, maybe now you'll see that every once in a while popping a flash is not such a terrible idea. And I hope that something that I said today might have resonated with you, maybe helped you see a scene a little bit differently, or reconsider a gear choice here or there. I hope you found it useful. Thank you so much for being with me so far, and I'll see you guys again tomorrow.

Class Description

Success as a wedding photographer requires more than just raw talent and the desire to be a professional photographer. To survive in this highly competitive industry, you need strong business skills and a deep understanding of your craft. In this documentary wedding photography experience, Susan Stripling will teach you how to launch and sustain a successful wedding photography business.

During 30 days of step-by-step instruction, Susan will show you how to:

  • Develop your business — everything from honing your creative vision to marketing tactics to studio management
  • Fundamental shooting techniques for every possible wedding scenario by inviting you along to an engagement session and wedding day and with real-life clients — not models! 
  • Post production workflow
  • Marketing and sales
  • Album design
During the start-to-finish documentary coverage of the wedding day, Susan will teach you how she handles each part of the experience, from photographic technique to client care, all with zero re-takes or re-shoots. Susan will wrap up the 30 days with detailed instruction on post-production workflow, post-wedding marketing, album design, post-wedding sales, and much, much more.

By the end of this course, you will have accompanied Susan through every step of a wedding and will have the skills, mindset, and tools needed to make a living — and a name for yourself — as a wedding photographer.


1Introduction 2Evolution of Susan's Style 3Branding and Identity 4Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned 1Introduction to Gear & Equipment 2Lenses Part 1 3Lenses Part 2 4Lighting 1Seeing the Scene 2Seeing the Scene Q&A 3Rhythm and Repetition 4Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds 5Rule of Odds and Double Exposures 1Intro to Business 1Financing Your Business 1Q&A Days 1-4 1Pricing Calculator 1Package Pricing 1Marketing 1Vendor Relationships & Referrals 1Marketing w Social Media 1Booking the Client 1The Pricing Conversation 1Turn A Call Into a Meeting 1In Person Meeting 1Wedding Planning 1Actual Client Pre Wedding Sit Down 1Engagement Session Details 1Engagement Session On Location 1Wedding Details & Tips 1Detail Photos Reviewed 1Bridal Preparation 1Bridal Preparation Photo Review 1Bridal Prep - What If Scenarios 1Q&A Days 5-11 1First Look Demo 1First Look Examples 1Portraits of the Bride 1Portraits of the Bride and Groom 2Family Portraits Demo 3Family Formal Examples 4Wedding Ceremony Demo 1Wedding Ceremony Examples 2Different Traditions and Faiths 3Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo 4Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples 5Wedding Introductions 6First Dance 7Wedding Toasts 8Parent Dances 9Wedding Party 10Reception Events 11Nighttime Portraits 12Nighttime Portraits with Found Light 13Post Wedding Session Demo 14Post Wedding Session Critique 15Wedding Day Difficulties 16Post Workflow - Backing Up Folder Structure 17Post Workflow - Culling Shots 18Post Workflow - Outsourcing 19Q&A Days 12-23 20Post Workflow - Gear 21Post Workflow - Lightroom Editing 22Managing Your Studio 23Post Wedding Marketing 24Client Care 25Pricing for Add-Ons 26The Album Process 27Balancing Your Business with Life 28Post Wedding Problems 29Parent Complaints 30Unhappy Customers 31Working with an Assistant 32Assistant Q&A 33Lighting with an Assistant 34Q&A Days 24-30



All the positive reviews say it all. When Susan took on the challenge of teaching this course it must of looked like attempting to climb Mount Everest...and she accomplished just that. Susan is a detailed, well-organized photographer and this clearly comes out in her teaching. Using repetition, clear instructions, a logical and well laid out presentation, she answers most any question you might have when it comes to wedding photography. I felt like I was having a private consultation when watching the course. She is real, honest, tactful, funny, and a gift to the photography community. Finally, her photography is professional and inspiring. Thank you Susan for the tremendous amount of work that you put into making this an outstanding Creative Live course for us all.

Tammy Hoherz

I am actually a HS science teacher, but also have a small wedding photography business. I bought this class because I looked at her work. I won't buy a class on CL unless the instructor has beautiful work. Of course that doesn't mean a person is a good instructor. Well IMO, Susan is a very good instructor. She doesn't get off on too many tangents and sticks pretty much to the point. As a student, that is key. I also have Roberto Valenzuela's course, and his approach is different. Both of these photographers are great. But Susan's approach to business and shooting and work flow is a nice contrast. I appreciate her information about outsourcing work. This was very helpful to me. Kudos to Susan and her teaching abilities.