Speedliter's Blog is thrilled to feature distinctive wedding photos by Asheville, North Carolina based photographers Jennifer & Joe Mackey of JCM Photography. Jennifer & Joe love their clients and find immense joy in connecting with them as they capture every detail of their wedding day. They mash up styles of photojournalism with creative off camera flash to create truly distinctive images for their clients.
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What gear did you bring to this wedding?
Canon 5D Mark IV (x2)
Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L II
Canon 600 EX II--RT (x9)
Godox AD200 (x4)
Why do you use the camera and lighting systems that you use?
Jenny: To be completely honest, my dad gave me my first Canon brand camera at age 8 when he gifted me his Canon AE-1 film camera. I’ve stuck with them ever since. I think the quality of most of the camera brands on the market now is pretty good so you can’t go wrong with Canon or others. That being said, we love the Canon 5D Mark IV for the canon color profile and overall performance. We tend to be rough on our equipment so it might seem like overkill but we always bring 9 Canon 600EX-RTII Speedlites. During a reception we may use up to 5 at a time (2 on camera and 3 off). We like the Canon Speedlites because they can act as a transmitter, they're reliable, and they never lose connection or randomly switch power level. We also love the Godox AD200 for the affordable power. We have 4 though we usually only use 1-2 at a time. Occasionally, we use 3 if we need a lot of power for something like backlit family shots in the hard sun. We do find they drop signal so we try not to use them during shots where time is of the essence, like a first dance.
How did you approach this shoot from a planning perspective? What was on your mind?
We were pumped about this venue because it has windows built into the ceiling giving us a lot of natural light and, therefore, lots of flexibility. We always arrive 15-30 minutes early to walk around the venue and see what inspires us and what we may want to incorporate into our photos. We love the creative, candid storytelling approach but we also like to have several pre-planned spots so we can get more shots and switch things up when needed. Sometimes that means re-arranging furniture to get the shots we want. One of the spots we loved was in front of an exposed brick wall with old iron architecture and interesting lines. There were catering tables in front of it so we asked the catering manager if we could move them. He said we could do whatever we need to do to get awesome photos!
PHOTO #1: This shot was taken during a 15 minute window planned for first look photos. We started off with some traditional shots (safe shots) to make the most of our short time, but we wanted to work in at least one creative shot before moving on to the bridal party photos. We love doing this type of multi-light shot to add fun colors and tones to highlight the couple in a unique way. We’ve done this with many types of backgrounds including barn doors, boulders, and more. For this shot we used that exposed brick wall I mentioned previously. We underexpose ever so slightly, usually 1/2 stop to a stop, and then we add a light to the background. We used a low flash stand for this one, but often times we’ll actually just have the groom hold the flash. We also used a flash on the couple to give them a subtle pop of light and make them stand out. Since we were using a passionate color in red, we decided to go with a more romantic pose. For this type of shot we sometimes use a tripod and mask out the flash depending on how close we have to get. For this one we were able to stay just outside of the frame. It’s important to make sure you go with a lower power on the flash lighting the couple so you don't overpower the background light and create a shadow or light spill. You can always edit it out but if you do It right in camera and it saves you a lot of time in post.
SHUTTER/APERTURE/ISO: 1/60 - F5 - ISO 500
CAMERA/LENS/LIGHTS/MODIFIERS: Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II, 1 Canon 600 EX II--RT on camera as transmitter with flash off, 1 Canon 600 EX II--RT for background with MagSphere and red MagGel positioned behind the couple about 3 feet from the wall, 1 Canon 600 EX II--RT as key with MagSphere, MagGrid, and 1/4 CTO MagGel.
PHOTO #2: We saw the spot for this next shot across the street from the venue when we arrived. We loved the character of the building and knew we would use it but didn’t know how. When we moved on to sunset photos later in the day we noticed the lighting looked great so we headed over. After getting the couple across the street we noticed the traffic and thought it would be fun for one of us to shoot across the street to incorporate some motion blur from the cars passing by. We love incorporating motion blur! To create motion blur we use lower shutter speed so we also used the tripod to limit camera shake. We also switched our flash mode to rear curtain sync to freeze motion at the end of the frame. We used a high aperture to compensate for the low shutter speed so we needed every ounce of our AD200s 200 watts. We attached the Mag Sphere to the AD200 for a little spread and it worked out perfect to light the couple and freeze them in place. The light was handheld by my second shooter. We repeated this sequence a couple times for 18 shots. Since it was a tripod shot, we were able to layer the best options and mask out the second shooter and light. We ended up using 2 photos where we liked the car placement best. It probably sounds like a lot of time to shoot but it probably took all of 5 minutes. While I was getting everything set up while my second shooter did some natural light shots so we weren’t wasting time standing around.
SHUTTER/APERTURE/ISO: 1/10 - F16 - ISO 100
PHOTO #3: As were walking back to the venue we noticed this red brick wall and liked the framing and color from the trees. First we adjusted our settings for ambient light and took a few shots. Then we decided it would look a little more polished if we added a subtle touch of flash. It’s one of those shots where the untrained eye can’t tell it’s a flash shot. We actually prefer to keep a more natural look but we do flash often for a more polished look. We used low flash power and my second shooter held the flash very close to the couple to reduce shadows and spill light. We used a tripod so we could do a quick plate shot to mask out the light in post. This is one of our favorite, simple techniques to put light exactly where we want it and remove it later without a lot of effort.
SHUTTER/APERTURE/ISO: 1/60 - F4 - ISO100
What software and tools did you use for post-production & retouching?
We use Lightroom for the majority of our post processing only moving to Photoshop or Luminar 4 if we need to do some heavy retouching or removing of objects. We often get everything we need done in LR, but it’s nice having options with two other programs. We use PS a bunch if we do plate shots (composites) where we need to remove the flash and assistant.
What do you like most about the final images? Is there anything you would do differently next time?
I love that we were able create images that have a different look than most in a space where you don’t necessarily need flash. One thing we would have done differently for photo #1 is to use slightly less flash power on the red light or not use the mag sphere. There was a little bit of a hot spot but it faded out to the point where it didn’t take away from the image too much. The couple loved it which is what really mattered but I think we could’ve made it a little more red and a little less yellow/orange had we either used less power or didn’t use the Mag Sphere. We still love the image but we’re always trying to find little ways to improve.
Where can we see more of your work?
We post daily on Instagram @jcmphotographyasheville and frequently on Facebook at JCM Photography - Asheville and we always love for people to check out our website or blog www.yourjcmphotography.com.