I recently attended a one day studio workshop run by Karl Bratby in Nottingham. Karl is a respected photographer in the industry and an all round pretty nice chap. His wedding work has a very stylised feel and for that reason I booked myself on the course.
I arrived in Nottingham with no fuss and made way up to the studio. It was on the top floor (4th) of an old victorian factory, with no lift! This left me cursing under my breath the fact that I'd bought my roller case stuffed with cameras and lenses.
The studio is pretty impressive, it's contemporary, well equipped (high quality Broncolor lights and modifiers) with a cool infinity wall. Quite an investment!
After a brief chat and intro, while our subject for the day (Stephanie) was having her makeup applied, it was straight into the shooting... We started with natural light. The studio is on a corner with tall windows equipped with blackout blinds. This allowed infinite control on the amount of light hitting the model. The light really was fantastic and raising and lowering the blinds had a subtle but noticeable effect on the photographs. We also used flags to add and subtract light and the difference is amazing.
Particular attention was placed on the quality and shaping of the light, this led to Karl frequently demonstrating the difference that the blinds have on Stephanie's features.
After a short break for coffee (with sandwiches!) it was on to the next portion of the day... using the studio lights. I use lighting at weddings pretty regularly, so I'm ok with how they work, lighting patters etc. What I'm not used to is working with such large light modifiers! The Broncolor Para is over 2 meters in diameter, it's a true monster in size and price. It's great for covering large areas giving a very even light. After using a flash meter to get our exposure we were free to shoot. The studio flashes give plenty of control and power enabling you to really shape the light.
Karl was now on a roll and wanted to introduce some more drama. A strip softbox (long and thin) was placed above Stephanie's head pointing almost directly down towards the floor. The position of the light is crucial, the face of the model has to be faced towards the light to eliminate any unwanted shadows (especially in the eyes). This was my favourite lighting setup of the day. With the light being so close to Stephanie it causes the light to fall away really quickly, accentuating Stephanie's features.
The last lighting setup was a take on clamshell lighting. This involves two lights, one above and the other below. Throughout the day Karl concentrated on using just a couple of light sources which is handy from my point of view, as there usually isn't time for complicated setups at weddings. We used a reflector instead of the bottom light source to simplify the setup, but the effect was almost the same. The lighting is less dramatic but is designed to show off the model's beauty, makeup or jewellery etc.
Sadly it was time for the day to end. For me the biggest 'takeaway' is that I now know what's achievable using natural light and flash. Although sometimes difficult to achieve in a wedding environment, it has set the bar. Come on Karl run a Wedding lighting workshop!