BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Shawn Wilson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/25/2005

Weddings and light

Question: What is a target lighting level for wedding pictures?

I know it's a loaded question, and there are LOTS of things to consider. But all I need to get started really is what kind of LUX value should I want for a wedding shoot in the church?

I know there are light QUALITY issues as well as QUANTITY... but humor me for a second. I'm new...

I'm doing a TON of reading on the subject, but nothing so far tells me where I should start. I guess in my mind the place to start is to know what target light level would be optimal.

I am borrowing some studio lights, so I'll be in control of the light level (as much as I can be I guess).

If I walk around with my light meter, then would it be good to have 100 lux evenly across the wedding party? 200? 1000? That's what I'm looking for.

I understand that usually one might be taking the light reading and adjusting the camera to suit, but if one has control over the light level couldn't it be done in the reverse a little?

Say set up the lighting at xxx lux and then once I'm behind the camera I still adjust from there, but I'll have a starting point that I know will be sufficient light to work with.


I am just starting out with actual photography... I'm trying to move up to actually calling myself the P word and not just a guy with a camera.

The first step was to get the Digital Rebel. The resale value is really good at the moment so I figured I'd start there and move up to a 20D as my skill advances and then up from there if I make it that far.

I have been experimenting with many kinds of photography (still, portraits, landscapes, etc...) and recently I've been asked to be one of two photographers for my sisters wedding. Rest assured I won't be the only one... *smile*

But I'd like to get as much of this right the first time as possible. I don't see any better way to learn this than to actually shoot the wedding and see how it goes. Then I'll know more than I started with.

Any and all help is MUCH appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

Shawn Wilson

To love this question, log in above
4/25/2005 8:43:23 PM

Shawn Wilson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/25/2005
  One thing as a side... I once ran into a situation where I was taking pictures at a wedding (I wasn't the photographer, just my own pictures for myself).

At that wedding the photographer had slave flash units set up that when off when I shot (because of my flash I assumed). As a result, my pictures were overexposed.

Does anyone know if on the Digital Rebel there is a way to compensate for this?

To love this comment, log in above
4/25/2005 9:18:30 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  Had to google lux to find out what it is. Still can't give you a lux answer.
Try to get f/4 with iso 200. Start from there, and improvise.
You want to compensate for other flashes going off with yours, you find out what apeture all the combind flashes come out to be and shoot there. Or stop using your flash and shoot without it.

To love this comment, log in above
4/26/2005 1:04:36 AM

Shawn Wilson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/25/2005
  First, the meter that I have is not what I'm seeing here described as a light meter. This meter merely shows the current lux level, it does not tell me what aperture or ISO to use.

Second, in the flash situation, when I shut off my flash, the scene was too dark, requiring me to have a 2 second exposure or more because it was so dark before the flashes.

Closing the aperture down should have been an obvious one to me I guess, but is it dangerous to do so from a picture quality standpoint? Is there a point at which closing down the aperture and speeding up the shutter speed could result in a less than great picture because it's simply overexposed?

Of course, I guess that's what the other camera was doing, huh? It was shooting great pictures with the resulting light burst so my question is kind of moot there.

To love this comment, log in above
4/26/2005 3:40:04 AM

Kerry L. Walker   Please don't shoot when the pro is shooting at a wedding. When you set off his slaves, you not only mess up your own photos, you mess up his rhythm. He has to wait for his slaves to recycle from you setting them off. Remember, he is the one getting paid to shoot the wedding. Wait until the reception to shoot your photos, when the pro won't be using slaves. The pro may have been too polite to tell you but I can guarantee you, from experience, that you ticked him off.

To love this comment, log in above
4/26/2005 7:02:16 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  Your lux meter is like a light meter that measures in ev, or exposure values. It dosen't give you f/stop shutter combos, but a measure of how much light there is. Although I did read enough to see that a lux meter just reads light without any consideration to what film speed you use. A light meter in ev does give readings based on film speed.
If your studio lights are strobes, you'd need a light meter that can also be used as a flash meter. But that page I saw did mention a math formula to get to an apeture/shutter speed combination from lux levels. So can't really give you the answer you're looking for.
Just f/stops and shutter speeds

To love this comment, log in above
4/26/2005 7:30:38 AM

Shawn Wilson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/25/2005
  I appreacite your request Kery W., but I wasn't so brash as to not take any notice of the photographer doing their job. I did ask several times before the wedding started if she minded if I took a few pictures as well, and when I ran into the flash sitiation I promplty shut off my flash. The two pictures I did take with a flash, I took immediatly after she took hers (impressive recycle time on her flashes I'd say) at which time she was moving toward the group to re-position them.

I didn't do anything that I myself wouldn't have allowed someone else to do if I was the paid guy there to do a job.

Gregory L. The site you mentioned, can you post that URL??

See that can get me my answer. I just pick a number, say ISO 100 f/11 and see what lux number gets me to that point. That's one way to answer my question. I don't need an exact kind of thing, I need to know that say, 100 lux to 200 lux is a pretty good studio lighting situation... or maybe 500 to 1000 lux is good. That's what I'm trying to get to.

Thanks for your leg work, I appreciate the effort.

To love this comment, log in above
4/26/2005 8:19:44 AM

Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  First off, Shawn - please take no offense, I'm thrilled to see how many new people are getting interested in photography, and I love to help out when I can.

But I am completely blown away by the number of people who keep showing up saying, "I'm new to photography and I'm shooting a wedding, please help." Weddings used to be a sacred cow for photographers. I've been taking pictures for over 20 years, and the only reason I agreed to shoot my cousin's wedding last month was that she was on a budget and was not going to hire anyone otherwise. I knew she would be happy with whatever I came up with, but I was still nervous as Hell. You get one chance to get it right - no reshoots.

Shawn, I understand this is your sister's wedding, but you mentioned that there will be another photographer. The most important question is will the other photographer be getting paid? That is what should determine what your role should be.

Rant over.

To love this comment, log in above
4/26/2005 8:22:16 AM

Shawn Wilson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/25/2005
  No offence taken, I've got thick skin. This is a public forum and if I was prone to crying then I shouldn't be here... *smile*

Trust me when I say that when my mother and sister asked me to participate, I was SHOCKED. And saying that right now I'm nervous as HELL is so much of an understatement it's not even funny. Do understand that I do realize the 'gravity' of this situation.

The other photographer is a friend of the family, and while she's been doing photography for a while longer than I, I don't think she's getting paid, or at least not much more than cost. She's a film user, so I'm sure they're paying for film, but nothing more. She was the photographer at my other sister's wedding a couple years ago, and has been invited back.

Bottom line though is that from where I sit, they've asked me to participate so I'm going to do the best I can. And really, I'm thrilled at the same time because I don't think there is any other way to learn except to DO.

I'm a 'tech guy' running my own consulting firm with over 8 years under my belt and 3 certifications. I learned everything I know by DOING, and have turned down or fired so many college grads because of a fundemental lack of ability, it's not even funny. I have a pretty strong view on book learning vs real world learning, but that's not suited for this forum... *smile*

Having the chance to DO something like this to get better at it, really is something that I'm glad for though... albeit also scarry. Who ever mastered something by taking the easy road though?

You mentioned no reshoots, and while that's true, I'm probably doing something I'd guess nobody here does... a PRE-shoot. The wedding is a few months off and I'm staring my pre-shoots this week.

The church is light challanged, and because of the importance of this event coupled with the fact that most every 'bad' picture I've taken was due to lighting issues, by the time the wedding comes around I'll have done no less than 3 photo shoots at said church.

It's the church I grew up in (with a new sanctuary) and we're there all the time anyway... so I've got some people acting as a mock wedding party for me to figure things out with before-hand. I'm trying to do some background here as well so I don't have to learn everything by experimenting.

Thanks for your help, and I do appreciate everything.

To love this comment, log in above
4/26/2005 8:59:24 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  Maybe the sacred cows moo just like any other cow.
But I typed in "what is lux levels" and I looked at the first site listed.

To love this comment, log in above
4/26/2005 9:05:10 AM

Shawn Wilson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/25/2005
  Sometimes it's all in the wording... I've been searching for things like:

"target lux level"
"studio light lux level"


And when I searched just now for "what is lux levels" the first site I got was an austrailian lux standard chart. The meter itself comes with such a chart, but photography studio isn't in the list. *smile*

I'm not getting the same result you got from your search it seems... any chance you could post the link?

To love this comment, log in above
4/26/2005 9:40:12 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  That's because it was "what is lux values". One word does make a difference.
The site is

To love this comment, log in above
4/26/2005 8:08:21 PM

Shawn Wilson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/25/2005
  I think I've come to a conclusion that around 1000 lux is a good starting point.

I guess I just wonder what everyone out there does with their own setups? Like when you're on location shooting a wedding or other similarly sized group, how many lights of what power do you use to light them? Surely not everyone uses strobes do they? What about in the studio?

To love this comment, log in above
4/26/2005 8:15:11 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  They don't go by lux. They use a flash meter. It's strobes or available light.

To love this comment, log in above
4/26/2005 8:36:17 PM


BetterPhoto Member
  I would shoot at least 3 weddings with a pro before shooting alone. It seems easy until you do it. You don't even get a chance to pull out your lightmeter before its over. Shoot Raw if you can, it might save you, and I said might.I shot 100 before I shot alone and its nerve racking evey single time. Never the same twice

To love this comment, log in above
5/9/2005 2:36:36 AM


BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2003
  Funny, I started out about like you. Now, I hardly ever use my flash units. I have two 550EX's that I use only at the reception, (I just sold my studio strobes) or just when it's dark. Otherwise, my goal is all natural lighting. It seems that the more experience one gets, at least these days, the less flash one uses. It's just a pain. And, when you shoot wedding after wedding, you realize that it's just such a waste of time, when all you have to do is to learn to find the light. Once you learn how to do that, strobes are just a waste of time and totally unneccesary.

I'm not saying you don't sometimes need a little something, but for the most part, you don't.

To love this comment, log in above
5/9/2005 12:39:17 PM

Marta Y. Beach
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/21/2005
  My outlook on weddings is that they are very special and yes, there are no re-shoots. I take photos with a digital camera and make sure that all my photos are quality. I use the photojournalism style which bring the wedding day story together. Of course I shoot the still photos with the family and wedding party but most important is to capture those moments were the bride and groom look like there is no one else in the world. When it comes to lighting I try not to overwork myself about it. I shoot some test shoots and then go to work. Always think like an artist and your photos will turn out beautifull. Good luck and just know that with dedication and passion everything in life is possible

To love this comment, log in above
5/10/2005 7:33:00 AM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.