On Location Groomsmen Lighting

Happy Holidays!! It’s crazy to think Christmas is right around the corner!  As you’re settling in for the end of the year we want to bring to you a few tips on groomsmen lighting and break it down for you.

Today we are going to look at two shots that we did at a recent wedding with the groom and groomsmen and how we shot them. These images were shot on-location at Belle Meade Plantation a few hours before the ceremony.

The sun was still pretty high in the sky and we wanted to do more than just stick the guys in shade and take some bland shots, so we looked for a cool composition we liked and then brought out our powerlight to make the shot work. I set up the light and took two test meter readings as the guys were walking over. Once we got them set up as you see them in image one, we took the shot and this was the result.


We metered the main light so that it was twice as bright as the light that was already there (the sunlight). The trick to nailing this type of lighting fast is by understanding how the meter works. The last thing we want to do is take test shots of the guys while they are there, then change settings and so on until we finally get it right.

The other trick with shooting more than one person is that many times the person that is closest to the light will be blown out, and then those that are in the back will be too dark. We could just expose for the guy in front and then dodge and burn the guys in the back later on in post, but that would mean that we would need to do localized adjustments to each and every final shot from this series of images and that would take forever (anything that takes more than a second or two = forever)!

So, the trick is to keep the guys as close as you can to each other so they are all close to the same plane of focus, then move the light back further than normal. Usually, we keep the light as close as we can without it being in the shot because the larger the light source is, the softer and prettier it is. The further back you move the light, the smaller the light is compared to the subject and the harsher and more contrasty the light gets. That is why you may use a small 580ex or sb800 and the light does not look like it came out of Vogue Magazine. It can be cool, but it will be very contrasty and harsh if the light source is small.

So when we move the light back, then the light falls off slower and you get an exposure that is pretty even over all your subjects like the shot below. No Photoshop, no dodging and burning, and this is what came straight out of the camera.

Below is a lighting diagram from the Strobox App available on the iphone. This app is cool because if you come up with a cool lighting set up then you can record it and share it with friends!!

THE GEAR: Canon 5D Mark III, F/10, ISO 50, 16mm (with the 16-35L 2.8 lens), 600 watt Photogenic Powerlight with 24×32 Westcott Softbox.

This next shot was done a few minutes after the first one and was an easy transition from the first set up. For this shot, we wanted to use our lighting, but not do the typical flying V group shot. We kept the same readings as the last shot (we just double checked them real fast on the meter), but moved the groom over to the side and lit him only. This made the guys fall into a silhouette type feel. The groom was lit from a 45 degree angle which always makes guys look super manly and is the go-to lighting for one guy. It always makes them look cool! Using the sun as a back-light also made for some cool shadows down on the ground which adds to the shot.

Check out the diagram below to see the lighting set up!

Here are few other groomsmen images for you to enjoy!

That is it! Remember, practice makes perfect! Now get out and shoot!! :)