Lighting Techniques For Events


William Lulow

When it comes to photographing events, anyone can snap images of what the scene and the people in it look like. I am always looking for ways to use what I know about lighting and all the available choices photographers who understand it have.

At a recent party which I was asked to photograph, I was able to use several of these lighting techniques successfully. First was the SILHOUETTE LIGHTING:


This was a fairly straight-forward setup. No light from the camera position, all the light from a window. As you can see, it is not a complete silhouette because a fair amount of the window light actually spilled over onto the subjects.

The second was DIRECT LIGHT:


Here, a single light on a stand was aimed at the ceremony. It was triggered by a radio slave on the camera. Because there was no light from the camera, the foreground people were all dark, thereby directing the viewer’s attention to the action in the image and providing a “frame”, in which the action could be lit. (Note: I will sometimes add a second remote light if I want the scene to be lit more evenly. Here, I wanted the drama of the event with only the one light).

The third is FILL-IN LIGHT:


Since the subjects were facing away from the sun, the sun’s light created the completely white sky (like a white background in the studio). This image was lit with a single strobe mounted on a light stand in order to fill in the shadows caused by the sun. Because the sun is quite distant compared to the flash, the flash will fill in the shadows successfully.

Each of these lightings came from an understanding of what TYPES of studio light there are and how to use them in different circumstances. Remote activation of portable flash units is achieved through the use of radio transmitters which fire the strobes remotely. This enables the photographer to use different lightings under various conditions, because the light does not have to be on-camera. Speedlights can be regulated by the transmitting device. Pocket Wizard makes a unit that will control up to three different speedlights in various remote positions, all from the camera position. Otherwise, you can turn on/off remote flashes manually to create all kinds of effects.

In this way, you can give your events some interesting lightings and make them stand out from the normal coverage.