Stellar Year Wedding Photography » New York Wedding Photography Blog

Behind the Scenes: Portable Studio Lighting

Clients often ask, “What does Stellar Year offer that other wedding photographers don’t?”  After all, with the advent of digital imaging, it seems wedding photographers are a dime-a-dozen and, especially among the more experienced professionals, there is strong motivation to outdo the newcomers and the competition.


At Stellar Year, we pride ourselves on our use of supplemental lighting during formal portrait sessions.  Our packages list this as “Portable Studio Lighting” to better convey just what it means.  Essentially, we bring professional lighting equipment with us on site and can set up a quasi-studio to ensure great shots and any number of varied lighting methods.  We can create dramatic light, even light, flattering light, or accent light equally as easily.  Natural light (whether outdoors in the sun, or indoors near a window) can be gorgeous, flattering, and versatile but supplemental light can give images a different look entirely and provide a diversity to the portfolio we present our client in our final work.


The level of lighting we decide to use depends, of course, on variables such as the subject matter, the pose used, the time available, space limitations,and any other factors that influence an image’s composition .  Our lighting scheme may vary from using several strobes mounted in softboxes and umbrellas to organizing a small army of flashes in various locations.  All of our strobes and flashes are triggered using Pocketwizards (FlexTT5’s and Plus II’s) for the Canon flash system.


For instance, at Jen and Luigi’s wedding, our studio was set up at The Mezzanine for the portrait session.  The original plan had called for formal portraits in the park, but rain canceled our plans and we had to create an ideal setting in less than ideal conditions (a large, dark room with a high ceiling and reflective floors).  Our lighting scheme used two strobes.  One strobe, fired into a large softbox, was used as the main light and was set to camera left.  Another strobe, firing into a large umbrella, was used as the fill light.  The umbrella, a Photek Softlighter, had its diffusion panel mounted to soften the light.  Lastly, a single Canon 550EX flash, mounted on a tripod, was used as the background fill light.
We used this elaborate set-up at this event because of the room’s size.  A smaller room would have allowed a simple scheme, but we always ensure we have enough equipment with us to cater to any situation.  With this set-up, we were able to take advantage of the marble floor’s reflective nature.  We allowed for a beautifully subtle reflection of the subject in the marble to add depth to the image.  The resulting soft, dramatic light perfectly accents Jen’s beauty and creates a versatile system for a single person or groups of people.
During Jen and Luigi’s engagement session, Pak’s vision for a dramatic night-time image was realized on the Brooklyn Bridge.  We used a single flash behind Jen and Luigi to produce an extremely powerful composition.  This was done with two Canon flashes triggered from a Pocketwizard on the camera. One flash was used to light the umbrella, and the other provided the backlight for the silhouette.
In Eunice and Henry’s wedding, we did a portrait session in the church after the ceremony, and at the outdoor gardens before the reception.  Both sessions were done with three Canon 430EX II flash units mounted inside a single softbox.  This set-up is incredibly versatile because of the range of power settings available and the large, soft light source provides even, flattering light.  In the first set of images, the softbox was at camera left, aimed slightly downward at the subject.  In the outdoor image, the softbox was at camera left but positioned much further away and set at full power to ensure even lighting across the scene.
In Jeanne and Alex’s engagement session in Central Park, we carried a small umbrella with a single Canon 580EX II flash mounted inside it.  This created soft light when positioned close to the couple, and dramatic directional light when held further away.  The versatility allowed us to work quickly and create a varied portfolio for Jeanne and Alex.  In the first set of images, taken on the famous Bow Bridge, we used the umbrella to provide fill light in the harsh sun.  In the first image, Antonis was standing behind and to the right of the couple, holding the umbrella on a long monopod above the couple’s heads and aimed downward towards camera left to light the dark shadows.  In the right-hand image, the umbrella was positioned just to the right of the camera, facing towards the sun, to again counter harsh shadows.  In the second set of images, taken along the long walkway in the Central Park Mall, the umbrella was held much closer to the subject to provide dramatic directional light intended to replicate the beams of sunlight coming through the branches.
We hope that little glimpse into what we offer is enlightening (you knew there had to be a pun in this post somewhere…).  We offer the capability to create and execute varied, professional-quality lighting schemes for our clients that give us a step up on the competition.
– Antonis and Pak