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Creative Wedding Photography

Lesson 4 of 33

Indoor Lighting

Susan Stripling

Creative Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

4. Indoor Lighting
You can use every kind of light to your advantage, no matter how harsh – Susan tells you how to do it.

Lesson Info

Indoor Lighting

What I'm gonna talk to you about in this section is light light is my favorite thing I love it almost as much as I love linds compression it makes me happy, I hate it when I go to a wedding and the videographers like, oh it's cloudy outside and then one of the bridesmaids is like but you make better pictures when it's cloudy, right? And I'm no, I don't I mean, I know a lot of people love shade, they love cloud cover, you can shoot anywhere the clouds make me sad because what I really want is light as hard and harsh and horrible is possible because I want to use it to my advantage, but when I talk to about in this section is several different types of light using natural light indoors, utilizing windows, utilizing open doors, natural light outdoors, be it at two o'clock in the afternoon or eight o'clock in the summer when the sun is coming down or four thirty in the winter in new york, when it's dark artificial light outdoors using your off camera flash toe light things, your video ligh...

t um and then the final artificial light indoors again, I'm going to tell you all the gear I use, I'm gonna tell you what I use it for, I'm gonna tell you how I handle the light and once again I just want to say nobody pays me to talk about their gear at all I'm telling you things that I have actually bought myself with my own hard earned money and that I love so we've been taking some questions so far as we go along if you have any questions at any point in time studio audience feel free to shout them out and everybody who's watching please come into the chat please ask me your questions this is completely worthless to you if it's not giving you the information that you need and I do want to help you so to start off natural light in doors the first thing about that is do not be afraid to talk to your clients my first couple of years that I was in business I thought that if I was going to take a photo journalistic approach to the day I wasn't able to actually speak to my client's directly right? Because pure photojournalism is shooting things as it happens well how pure is the photo journalism at an event that is the most contrived event that you could possibly see it is a wedding everything is set up everything is happening on a timetable you cannot compare this to actual photo journalism on the war fields it's just not the same thing and for me my end result is to deliver beautiful images to my clients and the delivery bols to my clients to me, is more important than, well, she think that I'm a jerk if I ask her to move, so my first couple of years that I was in business, I was terrified to speak to my clients. I thought that they would think that I was ruining the flow of their day. I thought that they would think that I was being pushy or bossy, but what I realized is part of the reason they're hiring me is because they liked my image is the other part is because they trust me to do what is necessary to make those images, and if it's telling the bride, when she's getting ready to stand over here versus standing over there as a professional, I need to step in and do it. So I still I'm very nervous around groups, conventions, things like that make me very uncomfortable, and weddings are very kind of emotionally overwhelming for me, because I don't like putting myself out like that, but I stepped kind of behind that fourth wall, and I just I just talked to my clients, it's, not personal, it's, just business, so my business persona will enable need to scream at an entire group of eighty people and tell them to move so that I can get this family formal in a way that I would never talking everyday life but your clients need you to do that so you have to kind of advocate for them to be in the best scenario is possible there are a lot of letting photographers who are purely photo journalistic who do a beautiful job I need to have a little bit more of a hand in things I'm not going to contrive the moment for them but I am going to put them in the best setting so that when the moment happens I'm kind of set up to succeed. So for example, when kim in this picture here was getting ready when the clients go to get ready they don't know to go stand in the way evil light source they just stand wherever they're standing. So when she's getting ready I say, listen, you're gonna step in your address and you're gonna pull it up I'm not going to shoot that once you have your dress up and you're kind of holding it as all brides dio before you kind of zip up the back before you do all of those other things can I move you into a different scenario so the light will be really beautiful and they always say of course, so she steps into the dress and she pulls it up and I bring her over near the window what you're seeing to the left of the frame is her parents dresser in her parent's bedroom the shiny front of the dresser on the other side of the dresser is a window behind her. On the side is close curtains and a curio cabinet it's the same sort of lighting scenario as this and this and this I will explain it to you, everybody, everyone ing always I love it. It is really great people. Um I'm going to show you how to do this in the getting ready room that we have set up later today. This shot it won't not specifically with hands and chest, but this lighting scenario is what my ideal is for natural light indoors when a bride is getting ready, it is very, very, very simple. It doesn't matter if it is raining outside, it doesn't matter. If it's cloudy, it doesn't matter if it's sunny because there is going to be light coming through the window. Obviously not if it's nighttime like come on, but this could be at noon this could be a three it could be raining outside. You don't know. My ideal scenario for something like this is to turn first turn off the rest of the lights in the room. The reason for that is because I don't want the ambient light in the room and the different quite balances to be affecting what I'm shooting here. The other reason is because I on ly want to use the light coming from the window I don't want anything else interfering with it I don't want ah lamp in the corner a lighting this bridesmaid's arm or you know the candle lights overhead making these shadows under their eyes I want to eliminate all of those sources now don't just go into a room and start turning off light it's on lee turn off the lights if the light that you're going to use coming in from your window or your light source is enough to give you what you're looking for, you know if the bride's getting her makeup done in the corner of the room and the light from the window isn't even touching her don't turn off the lights here to be shooting in the dark like, you know, use your brains a bit, but for something like this she's standing right next to the window and what you can see I've over here to the right that kind of blown out white part that's the shears it's just those see through shears that air on almost every single hotel window. I've got the shears with the light coming through it, the shears being pulled help soften the light now to the left over here I've pulled the curtain and I have put the bride against the curtain close to the light source now what this is doing the same light is hitting the bride that's hitting the girl over here on the right the reason why you can see it on the bride but not on the girl on the right is because the background is dark we're going to talk about this again we talk about shooting natural light outside how can you see a rim of light around someone when there is nothing to juxtapose it against? So if you look at this woman on the right and you follow her arms down the second her arms cross across that curtain line you see that light so this is my ideal something like this where the light is mainly coming in from the windows my subject is juxtaposed against a dark background so that rim of light is very prominent I see a hand yeah working its way up yes sir of course I can. Okay so if I shot this photo that girl on the right would be totally black when she pulled up in post or do you have white walls behind you? A reflector what's doing there's a you know what? Sometimes she's totally all black okay for something like this obviously there's some light coming from somewhere in the room that's hitting that side of her face or and again that I shot this image a really long time ago I can directly to it if you look at this one further you can see how dark the shadows of her face are. So obviously there's nothing coming from my side of the camera to fill that in over here there's got to be some other maybe another window in the room that's kicking a little light in but often times when I do shoot this I'll get the bride with that beautiful room of light and then the person over here is a silhouette that makes me happy. Okay, if it doesn't make me happy, I will either turn on a light I'll have my assistant fill it in with a reflector or a video light but what I'm really looking for this person on the right is just supplementary to the image for me and if I do want to shoot the person on the right, I'm going to go over behind the bride to wear this other girl is and shoot into her face. Okay, so yes, ma'am, you briefly mentioned white balance. I was wondering you white balance in camera. Yes, I d'oh. Um there are two things that I always doing camera, which is white balance and crop I never, ever, ever almost never crop in image in post it's all done in camera on guy also try to set my white balances in camera as best I can for something like this, when the light is prominent from the window, I'm going to set my nikon onto cloudy. If you are a cannon shooter, do not set it on cloudy, it will make it red. Um, I wish I could speak to a setting for a cannon shooter, maybe somebody out there who has figured out your ideal white balance for something like this using your cannons. Let us know that would be great info to share, but I'm always almost always on cloudy. It warms it up just a little bit, and then my post production team, which will hear from on sunday that will cross process everything I shoot over the next couple of days for you, you'll see how they take what I've said it at and make it better. So if they see that I said it on cloudy but it's a little yellow, it's, a little green, they know I'm tryingto warm it up and they'll fix it if it's truly horrible and I know that I've got light from the window and then light from in the room and then multiple different, you know, color casts on the image, all shooted, an auto, and then in post we can choose which you want to sort of emphasize, but in a situation like this, almost always cloudy. Yes, ma'am. So you are coming into this image and strategically placing your client where you want and absolutely a very intentional about how you're going to shoot it, you know you want that contract and that paul so using spot metering for her skin tone or how you mean I am, I can't tell you what I used to do five years ago, what I do now as I'm majoring in my head, okay? And that's, the goal of all of this is to get to the point that when you're asked what air your settings or how did you meet her, you go id? I mean, I don't know, I just did it because I can think it in my head for a situation like this. I'm generally an aperture priority shooter unless I get to the reception and start turning the flash on manual. So for something like this, I'm on aperture priority. I'm focusing and re composing just a slight bit. I'm probably it one, eight or two, so my focal point goes right on her cheek and then kicks over just a little bit, so I'm not going to fall out of focus, and then I'm going to take my meter reading right here on her face. But you have to understand if you're going to shoot like this if you're gonna have bright brights and dark shadows don't look at your history ram if you're expecting to see a pretty little bell curve and you see a sharp little v you're gonna freak out because it's not what you're taught is like a well exposed picture I'm doing this intentionally I've got black blacks I've got white, white and that's on purpose so a lot of time if you if you are focusing right in there and you're taking your reading on aperture priority you have to understand that in a situation like this usually I end up dialing it down about half to a full stop because the camera is not going to know what to do with this dark background and then this white it's going to try to even it out for you and I know that I need to bring it down and if you're in manual adjust accordingly for a long time for me and I still battle with this a little bit with clients or like but your image is air so dark you know they're just so dark can't you just take him like brighter but to shoot and light like this I mean I can't make them brighter because it wouldn't look like this and this isn't under exposed it's perfectly exposed so it kind of took a while for me to get my brain around what I used to think was underexposed is actually just right four light like this, I know you don't have a lot of time, but no, please go ahead. These weird questions, this will be what, ideally, that would want to shoot, getting ready a situation which aim for, of course, when I'm looking at this image and I'm going, I'm shooting it and will shoot it. Wood spoke mandarin, which is normally what I do, and I look at the back of my camera and I'll say, okay, is this still not, like, emotionally charged enough in terms of the light? Not until their time, but is this not contract and dramatic enough on and how do you like? How do you just from experience, just from going in and out and doing it? Yes, so much. Looking at the back of a commoner and setting, I'll still look, I mean, do I chump? Absolutely, of course, ideo because I make incredibly stupid mistakes sometimes like we all do. I have literally shot with a lens cap on before and been like, oh, god, what have I done wrong? I'm like, seriously, we all make mistakes, and no matter how much experience you have, sometimes you're still just like did I just do the right thing but more and more now as I go into these scenarios over and over again I know what I need to be set on aiken lookit the light coming through the window and be like okay, I know that I'm going to need to under expos by like three quarters of a stop because I can see that the light coming in in the darkness on the other side is really gonna confuse my camera he's like I said your camera's gonna try to equalize and I don't want it to equalize so it does mean I know and I'm not saying that you've been seeing a lot of photographers they just want the answer right now and they wanna be able to do it right now well, you can't do it right now like you have to put in the work and you have to put in the time you have to keep going back to it and it's frustrating but there there literally are no magic bullets if someone tells you they are they're lying to you so it looks like you know the windows blown out but you care if you're taking a reading off for cheek whether a protest is blown out or not unfortunately like you can't it's hard like we're looking on the monitor the monitor doesn't look like that which is what I'm looking at which doesn't look like the original slide either like theirs a slight difference if the test is going to blow out a little bit, I don't mind. And again, it's, if that's something that does bother you, you do have to adjust accordingly. Maybe shooting like this isn't for somebody who that bothers. And I know that when I showed the pictures outside, somebody is gonna be like, well, she blows the whole veil. She doesn't know what she's doing no, I know exactly what I'm doing. I'm blowing the veil because I choose to not because I don't know how to fix it, so we will shoot this later. I promise you, we will set this up and shoot this later. So any other questions before we move on? Yes. Now, I just wanted to ask at this point how much interaction or you having no one's done it all. I'm not saying a word to them, probably what I've said to get them in this situation is okay. Kathy, you've got your dress up, do you mind coming over here and all literally, like put my hands on her and I'll be like, hey, do you mind? Like if you could just come stand right where I'm standing, that would be awesome, and I'm like, just do your thing, so I put her there and then inevitably some bridesmaid comes like this yeah, I always laugh and I'm like hi if all I can see a view is your butt all I'm going to shoot is your butt and they're always like oh god, I'm so sorry and then they move out of the way so what I'm looking for is everybody kind of in a line and if someone moves out of the way all kind of grabbed them or if I realised that she is like walking into the light I don't want her there I'll just come in and be like scooter back I don't do a whole lot of chatting with my clients I don't know a whole lot of interacting I know a lot of photographers really tried to like make friends with their clients but I'm there to do a job for them and I love them and I'm friendly with them but the wedding day is not my times like chit chatting become their besty besty which is really bad she moves out of the car if she starts turning I'll come in and all turn her but for the most part I'm not going to say ok now like grab this and now do this and now put your hands here and if people start looking at me I'll say no no just keep doing your thing you guys are fine and just let them have the moment so as you can see like I'm setting the scene here for the light to be exactly what I wanted to be, and then if the moment unfold, then they're unfolding in the city scenario that I want, um, unfold in same sort of thing, and again is the same principle is kind of over and over again with the dark and down room and the light coming from the single window window light for portrait's lovett on ly very rarely will I shoot something like this, where I put the light behind the client, what I'm generally looking for is something like this and something like this. Now I've been shooting a variation of this picture since two thousand three the very first time I saw, like a bride, sitting down and looking up was on becker's blawg, he does them really, really well, and I was like, huh? I never thought to get above and shoot down so I would get above and I would shoot down. I was using my fifty I was like, you know, this just doesn't really mean it looks ok, but why do all of my clients have huge foreheads? Like, I don't understand, whatever you know, I obviously I'm doing something wrong with the lighting or or the one I didn't realize that my linds selection was actually really hampering me, so you know, my very wise husband said why are you using a fifty you should be using an eighty five and I was like, yeah no I mean I knew that telling you that um but once again it was with the whole revolution of your linds is a tool for a specific purpose, not just the proximity you can stand to your client the eighty five one four at one for is what I shoot every single one of these pictures at that's what I shoot it's what I shot these at a week and a half ago setting something up like this all I need is that exact same window that she just got ready in front of what I'm going to do let's imagine this picture of megan behind he is the window, right? So the window light is coming in like this I always want to shoot these in the area that she's getting ready in um usually it's very easy to control right before she's gone to the ceremony or the first look that's when I'm going to take something like this first things first to deviate from the light and the tech well, a little bit I'm going to ask everybody to leave the room when I shoot this picture she gets dressed kind of finished getting ready to go do whatever she's doing next on I'll say hey guys can I have just a few seconds with cara by yourself, like, do you guys mind? Everybody sort of clear out for a minute? I just want to take a couple of portrait's over and it kind of it tends to stress people out. If there are other people in the room, you'll have plenty of time to take pictures over yourself. Just can you give me, like, five minutes? The reason why I want to get everybody out of the room is not because she's uncomfortable in front of the camera it's because I'm gonna ask her to sit on the ground, and if I ask her to sit on the ground she's going to sit on the ground and not think anything of it, if I ask her to sit on the ground and her mother's in the room or her bridesmaids in the room, there will be a gasp like you asked her to cut her hands off and they'll say, but you're gonna get so dirty like you're not gonna get dirty, you're going to sit down on a perfectly clean hotel floor gonna be totally fine, you're not gonna wrinkle. Your marriage is going to be totally all good, like you gonna sit down for, like, two minutes and you're gonna get right back up, but say hiss that you like you were doing a horrible thing to them but you know come on guys you're gonna be fine we're all fine so I'll throw everybody out of the room and I'll have her sit down and I'll show you how to do these tomorrow I'll shoot exactly this but I'll have her sit down and kind of lean on one hip you know, like a cheerleader sits with her legs off to one side right put one arm on the ground, lean on that arm and then do something with the other arm sometimes she plays with her hair I'll say you know, do something with your hand don't just leave it on the ground to play with her hair or she'll bring her veil around are more often she'll just kind of drape it around her stomach and that's okay, you're sitting up I want you to lean towards me so then she's sitting down and she'll kind of arch up towards me and I see you've got to lead with the front of your chest nice it's going to feel like you're like the prow of a ship but you need to kind of like rise up towards me and they're generally very uncomfortable at this point it's usually the first time you've shot anything of them formal and they're staring right into your linz also, you know, just look up towards me and then don't even look at me like, just look down or look around and give her a chance to kind of calm down a little bit and what I want is I want that window light that's behind me toe fall avarice softly on her face I'm not going to put her in a shaft of light I'm not going for a beam of hard light here I've got the shears closed and if this word that if this were a window and she was sitting on the floor here I would stand upon this stool I stood on stools, I've stood on ottomans, I've stood on edges of beds, I've stood on radiators, I've climbed up in window sills whatever I can do to get above her because what I'm going to do with my eighty five one for at one for is moved my focal point so that it's directly on top of the eye that's closest to the camera. Yes, I know that will push the other I slightly out of focus. Yes, I know that as we travel down her body it will become mohr out of focus because of the one point for but that's what I want that's what I'm going for this isthe flattering whether you are eighty pounds or three hundred pounds it is a beautiful focal length and pose for everyone so this is all I'm looking for is a small handful of really simple window lit image of the bride sitting on the ground eighty five one four if I don't have a window, you can also use like if the room that she's in opens up toe outside you can open the front door and have her sit by the front door sometimes the scenario that urine doesn't lynn to making this portrait and if it doesn't I'm not going to do it I can't make it work I'm not going to make it I'll find another way to make a picture of her by herself you also have to be very mindful of your background in this one she's sitting on a white floor if you step backwards to these she's sitting on a hotel carpet it's just dark behind her you just make sure that you take a look at your background through your lens and clear it of clutter and make sure that it's pleasing and doesn't distract from what's going on in the frame and you can see in this one she slightly turns her face away and you get a little tiny shadow on the side of her face as opposed to something like this where she's looking dead straight on at me it is very, very, very easy to dio very simple, very beautiful looks good on everybody all you need's a window the end quick questions about this before I move on already straightforward yes now I have a question here j to de ap about how you get the emotion from your client and like you were talking about in this moment where getting ready, it's kind of crazed, maybe the bridesmaids and the mother and everybody's in there, you get them away so she can have a moment and then how do you interact with her to get her to buy that serene around with, you know, sitting her down and everything? And then I kind of get up on my chair and I'm like, so how are you doing? And they're usually like, oh my god, thank you for getting everybody out of here or I'm really stressed out or whatever, whatever, and then I just talk to them very calmly, you know? Listen, I know you're really stressed out or, you know, you look really beautiful, I just want to get a couple of quick shots of you don't have to do anything or be anything or I feel like you're, you know, posing in anyway, I just want you to look at me and so aim the camera on them, and I'm like, look at me all the way through the limbs don't look at yourself in the limbs, try to look me in the eye through the lens, and I wait a second, I've got it and you know if they're nervous if they're laughing if they're kind of looking around a little bit I'll work with that for a little kind of let them get it out of their system a bit and then I'll say, you know, if you're really uncomfortable looking at me I totally understand look around you know look at the ground look at the wall and then every once in a while just turn your eyes right up and look right at me and then look around it's something else and I wait for that brief second where she just makes eye contact with the lens and then I let her keep on going I don't want to make I don't let's make her feel uncomfortable really early on in the day and it's very I mean, I my husband took pictures of me the day after our wedding and we did this picture and it's awful like it's really, really, really uncomfortable it's terrible it's so uncomfortable and you just you have to make them feel very unthreatened very calm and if you're very calm, they'll vibe off of that very calm and if they're really snazzy, which you know, some people are just kind of all over the place just do your thing look around don't feel like I have to look at me just every once in a while just cut your eyes up at me and then keep on going and you'll get it. I mean, even if I am again not in any way advocating that you spray and pray because that is dumb. That is really dumb. If you are spraying and praying, you're going to miss what's right in front of your faces. You're frantically like wearing out your shutter breathe like for me, a lot of it was just learning how to be calm behind the camera, and sometimes you have to take a few more if the bride is a little jittery, but don't just text or else you're also going to car very nervous, and then you're gonna miss it. So moving onwards? Yes, sir. Actually, um, the last wedding I did this. I mean, this sort of in exactly right. Because it was in a basement room in the church, the sunday school room. And it looks like like an army of five year olds have just left. The room is off on these cluttered everything's. Colorful. The walls are all painted, and it was like, you know, what am I going to do here? So I actually I took her out to doorway and shot there, but this was much simple right there, yeah e have helped one person today so far we're doing good, all right? I mean and again sometimes it's handed to you sometimes the window like that you're looking for is literally the light of god coming through a stained glass window in a church on you have an incredibly beautiful woman like ellie an incredibly beautiful light in the middle of madison wisconsin actually an hour out of madison, wisconsin and you're handed literally the light of god and it is amazing but most of the time you don't get that but when you do man use it look for the light coming through every single window every single door exposing for her letting everything else go dark in this church did you turn all the lights off they were already off okay they were kicking us out wait it was like a literally pitch black and I was like who stained glass and then we had to take a detour yes ma'am uh this's probably wanna one question but I've conditioned myself to shoot manual and you were saying you sure aperture priority so what do you control the esso and the exposure compensation it's actually a very good question usually what I am we're gonna have to start flying we're now halfway through but these air excellent questions and I don't want to shortchange them um I'm on auto eso which what is but what that basically does on my nikon and I again I wish I could tell you if kanan had an equivalent I do not know, I think it does, does it does. So what I'll tell my camera is listen, I have got mine eighty five on it, so once I go over one hundred sixty eighth of a second, I want you to bump my eyes so for me, so it'll just automatically do that. So I guess I could do it myself, but the camera can do it. Why did I not just let him do it? I don't. I need to be fussing at it, but, yeah, I know a lot of people who shoot manual there's absolutely nothing wrong with shooting manual it's, the same principles you're still taking the same reading and either, you know, adjusting your interior down for aperture priority or changing your settings from annual ah, lot of times, my first thing will be to bring my shutter down, and once I get to like, critical point where I can't really bring it down anymore because of camera shake, then I'll start adjusting my s o yes, and we have a kind of gonna start flying. Yes, go on. That last image, I felt like it worked really well because of the veil in the picture, and it seems like you have a lot of pictures that have awesome veil components, what do you with this have worked without the veil on the little a question, like, what about do you photograph brides that don't have seals are really short nails all the time? Okay, yeah, I actually, once I started putting out a lot of mail pictures out there. I have a lot of clients who, by veils for vale, okay, but honestly, I shot this with the veil over her, and I shot it with the veil, not over her, on and it's, still a beautiful picture. Either way, and if the veils too short, I'm going try to put it over her head, but I mean elia's, gorgeous. I could shoot her in any light, and it would be pretty with anything over her face or nothing.

Class Description

Join award-winning wedding photographer Susan Stripling for a 3-day journey through the world of artistic, compelling, and financially successful creative wedding photography.

Throughout this course, you’ll explore lighting, posing, capturing detail, and much more. Susan will simplify the potentially daunting process of selecting the right equipment for every wedding’s needs. You’ll learn about transforming poorly-lit or visually uninteresting wedding settings into picturesque images.

Susan will also guide you through the workflow she uses, and explain the composition principles that result in dynamic images. You’ll explore concrete, on-the-fly troubleshooting strategies for unexpected wedding events.

By the end of this course, you’ll have the tools you need to think on your feet while photographing every phase of a wedding, with jaw-dropping results.



Outstanding, one of the best courses on Creative Live. Wow! The delivery is sharp, on point, and focused. I've learned tons. There are so many gems I've watched this video many times and have now purchased more videos from Susan Stripling. Outstanding presenter. My photography has already improved greatly by implementing some of the techniques shown.

a Creativelive Student

The content of the course was perfectly taught at a "real" level. Susan's work clearly, speaks for itself, but her willingness to be so generous with her knowledge is fantastic. She has become an instant favorite of mine and her style is truly special and unique. The course was reasonably priced and I am beyond thrilled that I have taken the time to learn from one of the best in the industry. INCREDIBLE course in every way!!


I Loved this course. I would definitely take another course by Susan Stripling. Her images are beautiful. She has the posing, timing, lighting, mood, etc. all down perfectly and makes amazing, beautiful pictures. She is an excellent communicator as a teacher too.