Speedliter's Blog is thrilled to feature elegant wedding photos by St. Louis based photographer Brad Blackburn. Brad has a keen eye for incorporating architecture into his portraits that enables him to create striking, dramatic images for his clients.
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CAMERA: As a long time Canon shooter, Brad turns to his reliable Canon 5D Mark III. The 5D series is known for being a work horse in the wedding photography industry. The 5D MIII is full frame, weather sealed, has a 22.3 megapixel sensor, 61 autofocus points, and dual card slots (important for once in a lifetime moments). Although it has been replaced by the Canon 5D Mark IV, a new or experienced photographer would be well equipped carrying the legacy 5D MIII model.
LENS: Wedding and event photographers often shoot on the move and value the flexibility of zoom lenses. Zoom lenses allow photographers to change the composition of their photo without changing their location by zooming in or out. Brad carries an arsenal of Canon zoom lenses including the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, and for wide shots the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 II USM.
LIGHT: Recently, Brad switched from the Canon 600 speedlite series to Godox and enjoys the extra power he gets from the speedlite/monolight hybrid Godox AD200. He carries three of them and swears that they have been more reliable than his former Canon speedlites. The Godox AD200 can put out 2-3 times as much light as a Canon 600EX-RT at almost half the price. For US photographers, Godox is also available from Adorama but is rebranded "Flashpoint." To modify them, Brad carries a suite of MagMod products including the MagGrip, MagBox 24 inch Octa, MagSphere, MagGrid, and MagMod Basic Kit gels. A newer company launched from Kickstarter in 2013, MagMod creates products that easily attach and detach from lights using strong magnets. Despite being a newer company, MagMod has proven reliable and their products have found their way into many professional photographer's bags. If you're just getting into flash modifiers, the MagBox Starter Kit is a great way to get started.
BAG: Brad uses a Peak Design Backpack to transport all his gear.
Whether shooting wide or tighter, you'll find Brad consistently shooting with an aperture between 2.8 and 4.5 to let in lots of light in low light venues. He maintains a shutter speed around 1/100 to avoid blur but still let in lots of light. The 5D MIII is great in low light so Brad will increase his ISO as high as 1000 in some cases to let in enough light for the exposure he's looking for.
This photo was taken at Central Library in St. Louis, Missouri USA. Brad is shooting as wide as possible with his Canon 16-35 f/2.8L II to capture the beautiful architectural detail. He says the 16-35 is not his first choice for crisp portraits, but it was the ideal lens for this wide shot. He wanted to keep the ambient light dark and dramatic but light the bride and groom so they stand out. To accomplish this, Brad positioned a Godox AD200 at 1/8th power as key light facing the couple from the left with a MagGrid to focus light on the couple without illuminating the background. Brad used a MagMod Color Temperature Orange (CTO) gel to match the light on the couple more closely with the background light. Without a gel, the AD200 would be in the ballpark of a cool 5000-6000 kelvin where the background is closer to a warm 2300. To make the couple pop from the background, he put a single Godox AD200 at 1/8th power with a MagSphere on the floor behind the bride and groom. They practiced the pose several times before the shot in order to move quickly while shooting as there were people walking around the library.
SETTINGS: 1/100 sec at F/4.5, ISO 1000
To achieve the composition in the next photo, Brad shot from about 80 feet away from the bride and groom. He used his Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II to compress the foreground while maintaining sharp focus on the couple. Again Brad wanted to capture the dramatic ambient light of the Central Library as a background but have the bride and groom pop. He used a Godox AD200 with MagGrid, MagSphere and CTO gel at 1/16th power as his key light held by an assistant above the couple and a little to the left. To act as a rim light, or kicker light, Brad put a second Godox AD200 with a MagSphere on the floor behind the couple. Before moving to his position, Brad gave his clients instructions to smile at one another for a few moments, then kiss, and then interact playfully. He told them to use the flash as an indicator to move to the next pose. Brad says sometimes couples are comfortable and natural and sometimes it takes some coaching. By giving basic instructions and then giving them space, Brad is able to capture candid looking shots with playful expressions.
SETTINGS: 1/100 sec at F/3.5, ISO 400
Brad followed the same recipe as his prior photo for this one. His goal is to include the unique architecture of the wall while highlighting the bride and groom. He wanted to try something a little different for this photo so he decided to "throw a bit of color" onto the wall to accent its curvature and texture. Brad used one Godox AD200 with MagGrip, MagGrid, and MagSphere at 1/16th power as key light on the couple from camera right. His blue kicker was another Godox AD200 with MagGrip, MagSphere, and blue MagMod blue gel.
SETTINGS: 1/100 sec at F/3.2, ISO 200
Brad has done a superb job of choosing unique locations to feature in his photos. This creates beautiful, memorable images for his clients that stand out. It is also interesting to note that, rather than using popular Canon Speedlites or top of the line Profoto gear, Brad finds reliability and consistency with the affordable Godox/Flashpoint brand.
To photographers learning and experimenting with strobes, Brad says: Get the flash off your camera! Then get out out there and shoot and have fun! I took that advice many years ago, and it literally changed everything for me.