The Photography Show 2019: Shedding light on weddings with Kate Hopewell-Smith | Profoto (UK)
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The Photography Show 2019: Shedding light on weddings with Kate Hopewell-Smith

01 March, 2019

Written by: Ailish Cook

Kate Hopewell-Smith will be joining us at The Photography Show 2019 to share her expertise in capturing weddings and getting the shot no matter the location or weather conditions. Specialising in wedding, portrait and boudoir photography under her own website, and luxury events and destinations business with her husband, Kate is no stranger to getting the perfect shot. In this story, Kate talks us through 7 of her key wedding set-ups.

Kate's journey

Describing herself as a second career photographer, Kate has never had any doubt about her passion and speciality - photographing people.

"I’m convinced you can only photograph people successfully if you enjoy making connections and building relationships. My favourite subject at school was art and back then my medium of choice was oils.  I studied History of Art at degree level and now when people describe my work as ‘artistic’ I couldn’t be happier.  Following graduation, I always worked in creative industries – TV marketing, fine art publishing and brand design. I looked after the clients, ran the projects and helped the team create and deliver a vision."  

After moving out of London to raise her children whilst studying photography in her down time, Kate decided to follow photography as her passion and pursue a career as a visual story teller.

"I believe that what lies at the heart of my work is fascination and respect for human relationships - photography enables me to hold up a mirror and show people on the outside what they feel on the inside."

7 key wedding set-ups

Below Kate takes us through 7 of her key wedding set-ups, and how she achieves the perfect images for the bride and groom.

Set-up 1: Creative and beautifully detailed shots

We like to start every wedding with some creative and beautifully detailed shots – our brides have often spent a long time choosing every element of their final look and at least two pages of the wedding album can focus on these images.  Probably the most important of these images is a stand-alone dress shot, and it is a useful way to introduce the venue or location of the wedding.

In this case we were in the Seychelles Four Seasons Hotel and the best view of the whole complex is from the spa. We specifically requested that the dress be brought to this location (after checking with the bride!). The issue we have here is one of dynamic range and with the limitations of cameras and natural light we would have had to choose the view OR the dress.    

We exposed for the view and then used 2 A1s off camera tightly zoomed with grids either side of the dress to tightly focus the light – it is hard to control reflections when you are working with so much glass! 

Set-up 2: Bridal preparation

The rooms that brides get ready in vary so much – in terms of size, décor and most importantly quality of light. If the natural light is good – fantastic – but it so often benefits from adding some artificial lighting – either to just fill shadows or put some much needed light onto the bride herself.   

We often put brides in-front of windows when they are getting into their dresses and exposing for the shadows can result in soft and dreamy images which look lovey until you zoom in and realise they are a little soft or hazy.  We have learnt that adding a touch of side light (to prevent unsightly reflections in the windows) really helps to give the image a touch of bite without losing the overall feel. In this case it was from a single flash head bounced into an umbrella to the right of the camera.  

Set-up 3: Adding fill light to couple and group shots

Like most location wedding and portrait photographers we love back light – anything from some gentle sun to dreamy golden hour and thankfully it is still the light that sets pros apart from amateurs/guests. On sunny wedding days we have to get the group shots done according to a schedule so if we can’t find a great location in the shade we will shoot into the light.

We will always try and encourage a couple to leave the wedding party for a short time during golden hour and we like to use a little fill to lift shadows, improve skin, pop in catchlights and add some contrast.  We literally had 5 minutes of available light with this lovely couple and asked them to run to the location before the sun disappeared for the day.  

Depending on the situation we will either use on camera fill flash or off camera heads to add some light from the front. We will always modify to soften the light – usually the A1’s dome diffusor, wide lens, bounce card, soft bounce or umbrellas. 

Set-up 4: Illuminating group shots at winter weddings

We shoot a lot of winter weddings where we expect to have to light most of the wedding in one form or another (although some of our toughest weddings have been in the summer when the British weather doesn’t play ball). One of the trickiest venues we shot was the Roman Baths – not only is the ambient light very low and atmospheric - there is a water between you and the wedding guests.   

We used 2 B10s, gelled to tungsten with umbrellas (to soften and spread the light). One either side of the wedding party and directed towards the centre to get the most even spread of light possible. If ceilings are high and there is adequate space then we prefer to bring the B10s behind us, putting them together to create one large light source, and further back to ensure that the light drop off is as gentle as possible.   

Set-up 5: Lighting couples to match ambient conditions

Fundamentally our main job at a wedding is to tell the story – of the venue, the people, the details and the emotion. It is absolutely critical to maintain the authentic ‘feeling’ of the event and this is so often about the ambient lighting – chandeliers, candles, DJ lights etc. Therefore, it is essential to be able to successfully add additional lighting to draw attention to the key people in the frame. This was particularly important with the image shot at the Shard. There was beautiful, winter, golden hour light across the London view and it was essential to add some lights on the girls to highlight them within the frame – Brent was holding the off camera A1s in one room and I was shooting through 2 sets of windows from one side of the suite to the other.  

We always establish our ambient exposure first and then build any additional lighting – often using gels to match the warm lighting that usually dominates the night time shots at a wedding. Due to us being commissioned to shoot both photography and video at weddings we may well rely on continuous lights for this – so the B10s with their colour adjustable continuous light is utterly perfect for the way we work. We will usually modify in some way – whether that means grids to focus the light or modifiers to soften it. 

Set-up 6: Lighting winter wedding portraits

We have learnt over the years how important it is to get some beautiful portraits of wedding couples – the ones we call ‘piano shots’ that the parents like to frame after the big day. They aren’t exciting or creative but they need to be shot in good light – so the couple look gorgeous.

This isn’t a difficult natural light shot but it does become more complicated when they need to be done at night in a venue like the Roman Baths.  Ideally we like to use 2 lights – ideally B10s which work just as well in the continuous light mode. One is used as the key light and is modified using a reflective umbrella and the second head is used as a hair or separation light to pop the couple out of the environment.  If there is some nice, directional, ambient light we might just use one head to add some separation light.

Set-up 7: Creative night shots and creatin rim/separation light

One of the big bonuses of winter weddings is that you get to shoot some creative night shots – as early as 5pm if necessary! We always like to use the location where possible and put the focus on the ambient lighting.

Ashridge House has a beautiful staircase which is the focus for the wedding ceremony but also looks nice at night when you expose for the lanterns and candles.  The flower ‘moongate’ offered a lovely compositional device but it needed to be brought to life with some kind of lighting.  This was as simple as using one unmodified strobe head, gelled using ½ CT Straw, pointing at the wall behind the couple. 

Enhanced creativity

It has always been our goal to find the right, portable, lighting solution for our needs as a couple who offer both photography and video. The combination of the Profoto A1s and the new B10s is unbelievable. Both types are light, portable, the right power for how we shoot and easy to modify to shape and colour light in a whole host of flattering and creative ways. They are so easy to use and we particularly love the brilliant B10 app which enables us to makes changes from our phones and remain totally discreet at all times.

The Photography Show 2019

Thank you to Kate for telling us about her key wedding set-ups! You can visit us and Kate at The Photography Show 2019, where she will be talking about her wedding photography alongside a variety of other incredible photographers. More information can be found here. To follow Kate and see more of her work, visit her personal website or Instagram, or visit by Lumiere to see her destination images.

Written by: Ailish Cook

Products used in this story

Umbrella Deep White

A versatile and zoomable umbrella for a softer light