Photographing the Grooms’ Speech
One of the many tricky situations a wedding photographer is faced with is the grooms’ speech. You normally have a group of men sitting in front of him and you have three options to get a good photo; either you are in front of the group and just get a shot of him alone but miss the group, from behind the group where your flash lights up the back of the nearest group of men and no light on the groom, or from the side where the men at the far side are poorly exposed. I prefer to use up to 3 radio triggered flash units to light the group, the groom and the bride so I can get everything in a shot. I always try to include a few shots with the bride as her reactions to what is said adds mood to every shot.
Using 3 flash units and getting the exposure correct is tricky on its own and may seem impossible to get set up in a situation like this. You have only a few minutes and cannot ask your subjects to wait while you test your lighting setup. But here is how I do it using the normal flow of a wedding:
1. Set up for the Groom
At the start of the reception the master of the ceremony will stand at a spot where, 9 times out of 10, the groom will be placed when he will be giving his speech. Traditionally a group of men will gather in front of him on chairs for comments and teasing, so check the area for space otherwise expect the groom’s position to change to accommodate such a group. This will be the spot you set up your first radio triggered flash. I set my flashes manually as TTL in such a situations can be unpredictable. Fire a couple of shots of the master of the ceremony and other people giving speeches to check lighting. These shots are not wasted shots as they are needed anyway.
2. Set up for the Bride
While speeches are given and your first flash is set up, set up the second to light the bridal couple at their bridal table. You need these shots anyway, so there is no loss. The bride usually remains at the table to listen to the groom’s speech so the lighting should compliment the first flash unit without getting in the way. Bounce the flash from the ceiling or use a soft box (even a mini soft box will do). Diffused light is always better. Check you angles and where you want to be standing when you do your shots. Make sure your flashes are set up far enough from one another that you can get shots between them from at least 3 angles.
3. Set up for the group
Once you have the above two flashes set up check the light in the area you will be expecting the group of men to sit by firing a few test shots. If you are unsure of the lighting, ask a couple from the guests to stand in the expected shot area or use some kids to test lighting (usually available in abundant supply at most weddings). If light is lacking you will need a 3rd flash unit for that area. I usually choose a flash position from an angle as I do not want too much light on them, but do not want them totally in the dark. If you do not have a 3rd flash unit, then see if it is possible to reposition one or both of the above flash units to give a little more light in that area.
Using 3 flash units may seem excessive and a great expense to have to fork out (they are pretty expensive), but if you want to provide quality photos to your clients then you have to go to great lengths and expense for equipment you may not use for other types of photography. I go to a wedding with 4 flash units though I never use more than 3 (3 the maximum with the speech) as the 4th is a backup in case something happens to one of the other flashes. Always have a backup for anything you will be using at a wedding!