How-To: Photograph an Epic Wedding Sunset
You’ve been hired to shoot a wedding. A small cozy wedding in the heart of Florida.
The bride and wedding planner have an eye on one photo.
That epic sunset image.
Basically, the entire wedding is planned for this specific, fleeting moment. You gotta get it, while the entire wedding party looks on… don’t panic.
Just prepare & be patient. Jump back two days before the wedding… (TL;DR at bottom)
The planner sent me a message saying everything is organized around the sunset shot. It’s the make or break moment for their special day (and of me getting paid.) Everything else is a plus.
Part 1: PREPARE
First thing is to prepare & research.
1. Do you have the proper gear to make the shot happen?
– I like to work light-handed. You’ll normally find me running around with my trusty Fujifilm mirrorless camera, my event go-to 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, a 35mm f/1.8. My medium-sized flash kit is a Strobist-approved LumoPro LP-180 (prefect balance between build-quality, functionality, & price), light stand, swivel flash-mount, set of wireless transmitters, and a generic medium octobox. Basically, this. For $275 USD, you’re gonna have some fun. Don’t forget to charge the camera and flash batteries the night before, and have a ton of memory card space.
2. What time will the sun set that evening?
– Google it. For this day, 5:47 pm. The best light hits for 10 minutes, after the sun has set, illuminating any clouds that might be in the sky. Too early and it’s a semi-colorless sunset, bright & generic. Too late and there isn’t enough light in the sky. Start shooting as the sun has come down, nail down the exposure, and allow your subjects to get comfortable.
3.What direction is the venue facing? Do you have direct view or is there an obstruction?
– Luckily this venue is called The Sunset House. Bay-front, the space looks over a wide bay with an infinity pool just at the edge of the property. With the alter set up just on the other side of the pool, I knew just behind the pool was my spot.
4. Be prepared to adapt.
– Getting there about an hr before I was to begin working, I realized my octabox was too much. Working solo and noticing some wind gusts, I had to break down the kit a bit. And getting back to me wanting to work with only the gear necessary, the light stand was out too. For as functional as they may be, I was going to be too far to run back n forth to adjust it to the moments needs (an assistant here would have been amazing… more on that later). Only the flash and transmitters were left on me (along with body, 24-70mm, 35mm, back-up memory cards & batteries.)
Part 2: Patience
– 5:30 pm. The ceremony finished just as the sun was setting. Now, family photos. With everyone around me assuming we were missing the best light for ‘couple photos’ I knew that the best light would be closer to 6pm. Using this set up to dial in the equipment settings. (Classic fill flash settings, exposed for the sky, adjust the flash and aperture for proper fill balance.)
– I noticed the sky was full of high clouds, meaning the an epic sunset was about to grace us.
– 5:53pm. Done with family photos and all now time for the shot… Placed the bride & groom in the previously researched spot between the bay and the pool. My sister was attending the wedding so she happily took the flash and transmitter while pointed to the corner of the pool, 45 degrees camera left of the couple. (right, sis? well it was more like I strongly encouraged her to take a few mins to help out.)
With only 7 minutes of light left, I was certain my setting were dialed-in.
All that was left was to focused on getting the couples natural reactions to the moment. Shouting only a few adjustments to the wonderful light assistant (Thanks Texa!), and resetting the couple a few times to walk up and down the mark.
Within 30 minutes, the remaining sunlight was gone, 434 images where exposed, the mixing and matching of family photos was taken, and 18 ‘winners’ of the bride and groom with their magical sunset were made.
All the preparation allowed for me to become fully immersed in the moment. This is what I live for, the ‘flow’. All the fear and anxiety of documenting an impermanent moment disappears and you become one with the camera. It becomes an extension of your subjective reality. A tool to immortalize the ethos, energy of the moment. Once there, you can relax and enjoy creating.
I live for these moments. Love photography.
– Prepare & be patient when shooting portraits with an epic sunset.
– Take a few moments beforehand to prepare the gear.
– Fill flash with wireless transmitter at 45 degrees allowing for shadow and depth.
– Test shots to set exposure and allow for the subjects to feel comfortable.
– Now focus on your subjects and the spacial reality around them in the frame.
– Enjoy the buzzzzzz
EXPOSURE SETTINGS SET FOR THESE SUNSET IMAGES
– ISO 250 (keep it low)
– Aperture 2.8 (use aperture to balance flash exposure)
– Shutter 1/180 (fastest sync speed available on camera. Too fast and you wont catch the flash. Too slow and you may get camera movement)
For more, check out the wedding gallery here.
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