Wedding Photography Lighting: Rivkela and Chris

April 14, 2023 Profoto Lighting

Using the Profoto Light throughout the day at a fun wedding

My triathlon coach worked with the bride Rivkela at a newspaper a few years before she got married. She contacted him, and then she contacted me. Being a fellow newspaper alumni I gave them a deal on their wedding. Really glad I did and had the opportunity to shoot this wonderful event. That's Chris in the middle of the top picture bustin'-a-move at the reception. I always love when people dance and have fun at receptions.


Because I get to bust-a-move with my Profoto light. For their wedding I used it right from the beginning with Rivkela getting ready all the way to the end of the reception with an impromptu outside group shot at night in the rain of their friends. I wasn't going to go through the entire wedding again to round up that group shot.

The light popping out of this amazing tool frequently surprises me with how cool it looks. I have two lights, but usually only use one because of the logistics of carrying and setting up two in the limited time and space of a wedding.

For their wedding, I actually had two Profotos going. This couples portrait in the golf course tunnel is an example of using two. It's also an example of the crazy way the light can work and make a picture totally different that what's expected. I've done pictures with the Profoto in tunnels and tube-like interiors before and was kind of expecting the light to hit the corrugations this way. But it was a pleasant surprise seeing how much it lit the ridges up. I can't remember if I tried a grid to lower the way it hit the corrugations, but it seems I did and they went totally dark. The second light above them balanced the light hitting them from behind. It was too dark to try for natural light on their faces. I had to play around with the light placement, power, and them being in the right position for this to work. So the picture took slightly longer than what my usual portraits take, but the price in time made the resulting picture totally worth the effort.

Two Profotos to light Rivkela and Chris in a golf course tunnel.

Dark room while getting ready for the wedding? No problem with a Profoto light.

Before going to the wedding Rivkela and I only had conversations on the phone. She and Chris are from the Portland area and couldn't make it over to Bend to meet. So the first time we met I was walking in with this crazy light on a chrome Avenger stand and setting it up next to the wall of the corner of her room to get her putting the makeup on. Someone made a joke about the situation and she started cracking up. Genuine and original emotion is a cornerstone of my work. Since the light was set up, I was in place with the right lens, and she laughed exactly right, I got the shot.

Usually during the wedding people start not noticing me and my crazy light. When I first show up, 6'5", two cameras on leather straps like Prohibition Era pistols, and a big light on a bigger stand people can sometimes be a little overwhelmed. One reason why I highly recommend doing an engagement portrait photography session with me.

Rivkela enjoying every moment of her wonderful wedding.

Chris and Rivkela share a moment after the cake cutting.

The fun of mixing a white event tent with the Profoto for wedding photography

Their wedding was near Mt Hood on the western slope. So rain is always an option. Other options include bright sunshine, snow flurries, and clouds. We had all three during the wedding. Rain? Garbage bag over the light. Sun? Look for shadows to work in or use a sun-blocking scrim. Snow? It rocks the pictures if you can get people outside.

They wisely opted for a giant white vinyl event tent for ceremony, dinner, and reception. Giant white angled surfaces are perfect for my light. My only worry is bouncing it off the right part of the ceiling so their faces are better lit. The top photo, from the reception, is one of my favorites because of their hand motions and all the faces lit nicely from camera left. The guy with the cane is in the shadow, but he and his can provide a nice counter balance to all the other faces. My favorite part is Chris in the middle, closest to the camera having fun.

This picture, from their cake cutting was lit with the Profoto bouncing on the ceiling from camera left. Chris is in shadow, but Rivkela is lit perfectly and is showing her face nicely.

The one small problem with the white tent and bouncing the Profoto, or any light, is how it also lights up the white vinyl wall behind the people. The other option is to use an on-camera flash bouncing to the side off the angled ceilings, but they overheat and stop working right when the pictures start getting good. They work because they aren't powerful enough to light the room.

The other option is to have an assistant with an off camera flash with a grid to focus the light on the subject and let everything else go dark. This is a big fad in wedding photography now, but to be honest I'm not a fan. My favorite photographers are mostly natural light Magnum and National Geographic people. When using a light, they keep it simple and try to make it look halfway normal.

Here's a painting my one of my favorite and truly immortal human, Vincent van Gogh. The Potato Eaters, painted in 1885. The light is hitting them all equally. There's no brighter light on one person and all the others in dark shadow. I had the amazing opportunity to see this painting in Amsterdam a few years ago after a triathlon race. I'm an art enthusiast, not critic, and paintings like these inform my work as a wedding photographer. Seeing works of amazing art like this inspires me to do better. It's also why I don't ascribe to fads like spot lighting the subject at weddings.

One side-note: Rivkela and Chris's wedding was very happy and not filled with odd-looking people. I'm using this example only to highlight why I like using lights with a goal of making people look natural. Honestly, though, it would be fun to try and mimic this lighting with something like that oil lamp.

The Potato Eaters, Vincent van Gogh (1885)