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Lighting with an Assistant

Lesson 75 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

Lighting with an Assistant

Lesson 75 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

75. Lighting with an Assistant

Next Lesson: Q&A Days 24-30


Class Trailer

Day 1




Evolution of Susan's Style


Branding and Identity


Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned


Day 2


Introduction to Gear & Equipment


Lenses Part 1


Lenses Part 2




Day 3


Seeing the Scene


Seeing the Scene Q&A


Rhythm and Repetition


Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds


Rule of Odds and Double Exposures


Day 4


Intro to Business


Day 5


Financing Your Business


Day 6


Q&A Days 1-4


Day 7


Pricing Calculator


Day 8


Package Pricing


Day 9




Day 10


Vendor Relationships & Referrals


Day 11


Marketing w Social Media


Day 12


Booking the Client


Day 13


The Pricing Conversation


Day 14


Turn A Call Into a Meeting


Day 15


In Person Meeting


Day 16


Wedding Planning


Day 17


Actual Client Pre Wedding Sit Down


Day 18


Engagement Session Details


Day 19


Engagement Session On Location


Day 20


Wedding Details & Tips


Day 21


Detail Photos Reviewed


Day 22


Bridal Preparation


Day 23


Bridal Preparation Photo Review


Day 24


Bridal Prep - What If Scenarios


Day 25


Q&A Days 5-11


Day 26


First Look Demo


Day 27


First Look Examples


Day 28


Portraits of the Bride


Day 29


Portraits of the Bride and Groom


Family Portraits Demo


Family Formal Examples


Wedding Ceremony Demo


Day 30


Wedding Ceremony Examples


Different Traditions and Faiths


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples


Wedding Introductions


First Dance


Wedding Toasts


Parent Dances


Wedding Party


Reception Events


Nighttime Portraits


Nighttime Portraits with Found Light


Post Wedding Session Demo


Post Wedding Session Critique


Wedding Day Difficulties


Post Workflow - Backing Up Folder Structure


Post Workflow - Culling Shots


Post Workflow - Outsourcing


Q&A Days 12-23


Post Workflow - Gear


Post Workflow - Lightroom Editing


Managing Your Studio


Post Wedding Marketing


Client Care


Pricing for Add-Ons


The Album Process


Balancing Your Business with Life


Post Wedding Problems


Parent Complaints


Unhappy Customers


Working with an Assistant


Assistant Q&A


Lighting with an Assistant


Q&A Days 24-30


Lesson Info

Lighting with an Assistant

So let's talk briefly about kind of how we handle these lighting scenarios okay, so the first thing that we see is we've got a family formal like so now most of the time she kind of wanted to give you a general idea of how this goes down. So if you're our group if you is the studio audience are this group of people getting your family formal taken where would you stand if they agree? Like just if they're the group will pretend that we've got the wrong guy because they don't have the flash bender I'm over here about literally this is about the distance now if it's a really small room I kind of know at this point I'm going to be directly behind susan raid over her head right like a group this big she's going to come literally stand right behind me because if she's over here throwing the light onto the group it's going to hit these people over there and it's going to fall off over there so she knows that the bigger the group the closer she actually needs to be to me yes sir. So the pictur...

e behind you was this flash with just the rogue? Yep and I think it was directly behind you on that because I was a huge group and you can also see the lighting on all of the people that is very straight on even she will have come behind me and generally our group is thing is anything more than like ten, fifteen people she's gonna have to come behind me because the only way that we could light it otherwise is to put another light on the other side and that's not something we're doing. I mean, is this like the greatest studio portrait ever of all time? No, but is it a really well lit family formal on a wedding day, which is really all I'm going for? It isthe but if we're looking at like let's, say that the four of you in the centre are a picture right here where she went to stand would be exactly where she would be during family formals and she's going to help me get the groups together, too, because I'm shooting a lot of these unless she's right behind my head and if she's right behind my head, I'm using the twenty four to seventy if she's a little off to the side, I'm all the way back with my seventy two hundred, so by the time I get up and I come forward and I shot out the group and I put the group together and wasting time, I stay in the back. She has lived together she's got my list and I can watch and see how the group is going together so then I can say you sir need to come in you in the purple in the back you need to come down and she knows now who stands next to who, how I like to put the groups together and it's much faster to have both of us moving at that part of the day then for her to just stand there with the light while I run back and forth into all of that. So that's what you do that's what we do during family formals remember I was five so for something like this for something like a portrait when we're using a flash versus a video light like let's say that this's our bride and groom right here where you gonna be? Sometimes I san really creepy in close? Yeah, she hides behind the bright town like I'm sorry this is really uncomfortable. We're not holding on to them, obviously, like I am the cherries, right? But sometimes also like for something like this, if the light is not coming from directly behind them like so yeah sure of the light at an angle diagonally behind them because you can see how it's aiming directly on lauren stace here and this is something that I don't generally read from just knowing automatically it's more like sandra, this is what I'm this is what I'm going for it this is where you need to stand this isn't something that I'm I know automatically she's gonna want me to do that that's that's something that you generally have to tell me, right? Because there are different lighting scenarios for couple's portrait and when I have a bridegroom standing together and looking at each other, she doesn't know right away hold on, am I supposed to like this from the front? Am I supposed to like this by hiding behind the bride? Am I supposed to light this from like off back and at an angle? And how strong do you want this flash? This is where personal preference starts coming in were even still after almost six years, I have to tell her what I'm looking for. I need you to be behind them, but off to aside aim it, her face go it like one hundred twenty eight power and she's like, right? And she does that because she doesn't know exactly what look I'm going for. She knows what I want for family formals because it's consistent and she knows what I want for first answers and parent dances because it's consistent, but she doesn't always know what I'm going for when I'm doing a that's something that you have in your head that I can't I I couldn't even begin to figure out and also it's a hard thing to do because she can't really tell sometimes is my light in exactly the right spot because she's not seeing how it's hitting and sometimes I will have to say take a couple steps back take a couple steps over that's not because she doesn't know what she's doing she's not seeing the lcd on the back of my camera and seeing how this is translating so sometimes there are still points in which you do need teo say what you need because you need something different in a different situation all the time you know like sometimes it's video light and she's standing directly behind them she's hiding right behind the bride in both of these sometimes it's flash from off to the side it's just whichever tool I'm taking to the job and then I need to tell her how I want her to use it she helps me light first dances and parent dances and you saw in the thirty days how that went down where she stands you know if if you're still curious about how all of this goes down it would take hours for us to break down the settings and the whatnot we have days in these thirty days dedicated to parent nance's two toasts to first dances to introductions so you can see exactly where she standing exactly how all of this is is going down but these are things that I couldn't do without her and no, it would not be the same to put a light stand on the side of the dance floor at all the light stand can't move if you frantically wave at it you know teeth I could not have made this image without her or this one or that one she is she is the light in more ways than one honestly and I that sappy but it is so we have a good solid fifteen minutes that we've held up the very end to talk about kind of all of this we're going to talk tomorrow through all of the thirty days to recap every single one of the days and talk about what we did in each segment and take specific questions per segment but this is the last time for the last fifteen minutes that you've got this woman in front of you whether you have questions about what she does for me or what having an assistant could do for you or how to train and care for your assistant or anything about the specifics of the job we save fifteen minutes at the end to ask us anything please also happened okay? Yeah we'll just not really that exciting really when you're moving around you guys move around together or is it sort of you stay where you are now? I know exactly we when we go into the reception, we kind of have like a little way game plan way talk about where I'm going to stand and I stay there and I don't move until she actually just kind of frantically waves her hands or gives me the look or I just kind of know to read where it's going if I know someone's kind of standing in the way the light, the lights not hitting right? I've kind of learned to figure out there's things in the way, but for the but ninety percent of the time I say still like I am a window light is really high guests how you could think of it and we practice it too I'll be like your going okay so be there for introductions and then when first dance starts go over there so let's give it a quick test and we do we test it before everyone just the people are walking and getting to their seats we have it all tested out and when all this stuff is going down when the interests are going down in the first dancers were going down when the toaster going down she's not watching those things happen she's watching me to see if I need more power or less power or oh my god I had to stand in a place where the light is now all of a sudden going in the chandelier it's casting shadows everywhere or I just misjudged it for five feet nine need you to scoot over if she's watching what's going on and I'm waving like a maniac she's not gonna have any idea that I'm going to need anything so if you do have an assistant tell them like listen the day's really fun to watch but don't watch the day watch me because I need help sometimes lots of it yes yes and the other one's gonna take for you to be able to anticipate the need I mean, were you assistant before? No, I'm a mom because amazingly enough really prepared you for this job to learn I want to say bye bye time we had worked together for a good year I was able to kind of read the situation and weddings yeah way had a good amount under about by time we learned but it was just I even knew when I kind of started I wasn't thereto watch a party I was there to help somebody in my eyes just don't it's kind of creepy I kind of just staring or all day, so if you don't know you're like that cross really obsessed with her yeah, but no I mean like it's because if the eye contact is what does it all I mean like everyone smile should make like a quick hand movement you know, like gusteau light up our appointment down or or just like she'll just go like this, and I just drop right to the right to the ground with the light, like I just know. But yeah, it looks like a good year for me to figure it out. It's not something I know that came overnight, and honestly, it could have gone either way, like we could have worked together for a year and just never really mashed, but in a lot of it is it is like dating, like you have to get to know each other, you have to get to know what the other person wants and then there's that component of awesome that either happens or it doesn't mean you signed the tuba at my own wedding. I'd say we're doing pretty good. Yeah, yeah, she can't break up with me, ever, ever. Oh, my god ever would never happen. Well, now I know someone asked, be photo asked. What do you look for in an assistant when trying to find? And your sandra, what is the deal breaker for you? And I know it's, just have your assistant stare atyou just all that I just shared them creepily all that for me, the deal breaker honestly is, are you trying to use this as a stepping stone into your own career or not? Because I need someone who's there, it is a very different mindset when you're going to try to learn from the person that you're working with, and I know a lot of people who will bring in photographers because they want to mentor somebody, but I can't partition my brain like that when I'm at a wedding, I need to be working a wedding, and when I'm educating, I need to be educating I can't educate and shoot a wedding at the same time, so I wanted someone to work for me that had no interest whatsoever in becoming a wedding photographer, but who also really liked photography, I mean there's, there's, there's times there during the day where I know like, if we're sitting down for the airbender, beal and I go. All right, I'm looking through the camera all right? How'd you do it like how did you figure out cause I I don't know how she does he have to stuff she does he have the time on dai and I will only ask her but is it depended on me no it's just because I want to know I have no desire to own my own business I love photography it's it's wonderful um it's just it's not my advice title hire a photographer I mean it's a lot like hiring a personal assistant that just kind of goes to work with you and because I'm looking for an assistant who is an assistant not a second shooter she literally had to have no photography capabilities whatsoever on the very first day that she came to work none at all very sad all right um two questions one from a photo on one from c j a photo says how do you communicate during the ceremony I know you said sandra often shoot in the back the room how do you manage that kind of communication? And c j is thinking about him and his wife getting two way radios with their pieces. What are your thoughts on people so that all the time we talk about it every once in a while we'll honestly we're at the point that we don't even we don't need it now and during the ceremony it's another thing just like the reception we kind of pre game it when we get there. We usually have already talked with e with cordy coordinators it efficient, we kind of know how the ceremony is going to go down for the most part, it's a full mass how much time I have to go up to the balcony or to the back of the room, and I kind of know, because I've done so many ceremonies. Now I know what point I need to be back at the end of that aisle to hand off the rest of equipment to her and to be ready to either book it or to start gathering people or just give away the bride and the groom and we text yeah, we text I keep my phone on vibrate, and I just have it on my I mean, I could literally reached down into my pocket, grab my phone and text a garbled string of numbers and letters to her, and she would know, oh, god, susan needs me and is literally just whacking at her phone. Yeah, but we don't go very far afield from each other. I know now I won't ever we've it would be different if we were like a primary and a secondary shooter team where we were going to different locations and separating a lot, but because we're not I think the farthest we ever separate is when you go to get the groom for the first look yeah, and then I usually don't even go at yeah, so we do every once in a while think should we just get radios? And then we go uh, profound were good and if it's bad enough for me, we call each other on the phone, we actually physically will pick up the phone and call like the one time that I called you when I was like I'm locked out of the reception, then you can let me back in and she came and laughed at me through the glass before she let me back in it's cool and I don't have my coach she's like I think that was the creative live taping I stood there and laughed at you. I threatened to fire her and she's like you're never going to fire me and I was like, you're right, just let me back. It does help when you do develop a report with your assistant, whether you become friends or whether you just like everybody know your work colleagues that you just kind of hang out with at work, but you don't hang out with other times there are long days they could be stressful days we're spending the whole days together you know you need to make sure that whoever you're working with is somebody that you get along with and you like spending time with whether they become your friend or not so that's kind of and that's something that only time will tell it's like internet dating kind of kind of dodgy asked do you guys have a particular dress code that sandra and here's tio that's different from susan or the same as it always all black black, black, black and more black once in a while throw in something gray but then I changed my mind railing you're yeah I'll bring up like what do you think of this and we must get on like it's always black it's multiple shades of black because anybody ever knows that like you wash your shirt and your like your pants were like a black like a black and blue black blacks don't ever stay black um but yeah it's just it's always that way and it's more because I don't want to stick out like a sore thumb from everybody and it also helps sometimes to be a human backdrop it's true I will put her behind ring shot sometimes making black backdrop for me but we just we were a lot of black and kind of shoes nothing too crazy you know we don't have like susan's rippling shirts well that would be really cool that would be fine but you should look into that okay, question from, uh, dj, does sandra ever make any suggestions or changes to oppose or fix something that's out of place with a client? And if she does, susan, do you prefer that she tell you quietly or or have you fix it or you okay with her just going in, fixing it? You don't so much tweak poses unless they're doing something that, you know, that I'm not gonna like she's not going to go in there and be like, tilt your head this way. Now you fix dresses, you'll smooth down stray hairs, she doesn't have to clear it with me for shoes jumps in there, and that is something doesn't look right there. There are occasions where all go something's not looking right like, do you want me to move this person? Because it's just not lining up, right? And if she thinks it's fine, then we'll just keep downing sometimes it's just me not yeah, sometimes you jump in and you're like there's, a crazy hair here and you jump in and smooth, it depends sometimes you're like, is that thing in the background bothering mu or does this weird? And I'll be like, oh my gosh, it looks completely weird, and then we'll switch it. So there will be things she'll ask me about then there'll be things that she just jumps in and does on her own. She didn't used to just jump in and do it, but when she starts to see kind of the same issues over and over and over again now, she's more comfortable jumping in and being like, okay, hold on a second, like she knows that when I do family formals, I like to put the bride on the side of the groom that is not his boot near side goes on the other side, so if she sees them switch, she'll go in and move them back because she knows that that's not what I'm looking for her, but sometimes she just be like that thing over there bothering you, and I'm like, oh, my god now what's really bothering me and we'll make a track man, and she'll tell me if she thinks that I'm doing something that, like, we're at the point now that she'll tell me if she thinks I'm trying too hard or like, if I'm trying to do something that's clever, especially with, like a detail set up or something, she'll look at me and she'll be like like, you need to let this go, we got to get moving schultz saved me from myself sometimes if you go a little too long, I'll say we've spent a lot of time on this one detail like you've got a lot more to get to, we gotta get a move on. Good answer, kevin asked when you in season travel for weddings, is the client responsible for paying for both of your travel expenses and the hotel accommodations? What if the client says they will only pay for seasons expenses? How do you handle that? There's actually an excellent question, so in the past I used to just say pay for my travel expenses, I will find a local assistant to help me out wherever I go. Now I tell them, listen, you don't have to pay for her hotel room or her car, she can stay with me, we driving the same car, I would really appreciate it if you could reimburse my assistance, airfare or train fare because I really do want to bring this person who helps me do the best job that I possibly can if you really don't want to do it, I can find somebody local, but for a few hundred dollars you'll have the person that I trust implicitly to be with me, and most of the time people are like, oh sure will bring your assistant into we have four, three or four travel weddings this year and they're all reimbursing her reimbursing me for her travel is well so that we can go together because travelling is so stressful in the first place that it really does help to have a team that you are very comfortable with and to split the gear load between two people when we're travelling you may never check back you know when we do travel we split all of our gear between two small rolling bags so that no matter what, we can always carry it on the plane and put it underneath our seat if I was travelling alone there's no way that I can get everything that I need in one rolling bag so it helps to have it just helps to have an extra person for sure all right one more from the internet sounds good um tallis a says I'm looking to start a photography business in a year or two and want to get some experience working as an assistant for a few years first would you recommend to someone looking how what would you recommend to someone looking to get their first assistant position and I'll go to both you guys on that one now that's a hard one because I'm an and I listen I am not saying this to be disrespectful or cruel but if you come to me and you say I'm looking to start my own business in a couple of years and I want to work as an assistant I'm not gonna hire you, it's not it's just not gonna happen because I don't want somebody who's gonna just bide their time for a couple of years and then leave me because it takes a lot to invest in this relationship. I want somebody who I think can be with me long term. But if you're going to go about that route contact photographers you'd liketo work with be upfront and honest that you want to start your own business. But you needed you need to come at the contact not with this is what I hope to get out of this. But these are the skills that I can bring to the table to help you do a better job that's the way to get in the door. Yes, I want to start my own business. Yes, one day I will go off on my own. But I promise you that if you let me work with you paul, I work with you. I am there for you now we can talk, but yeah, I mean that's, just the honest don't I had someone who worked for me in florida one time work for me for a period of time, the relationship went really badly and she started her own photography business within two months. In the entire time she told me she wanted to be a wedding coordinator she just straight up lied to me just to get the experience, and I don't like that I don't like to be lied to, so be upfront and honest that what you're looking to do is start your own business. But reassure the person that you're not going to start, you're not going to start your business on their time and in front of their clients. Please don't ever start your own business. Please don't ever leave me no, no, no, you got me now my kids are my kids love you too much, another kid's, one of david's, her sandra. So I'm wondering, why don't you ask for a raise? It's a valid question? I did it, it is about question. She she does. She does give me a raise when she feels it's necessary. I also might my husband pride like shooting me for this, like he's, probably giving me, like, stare, he's a fast going ask for ray. I know tom time these things like for the longest time, I said, like we, we grew a friendship and it's almost like she there's times where we've forgotten to get a check for you for like three, four weeks in a row when it's just like I don't care like like it's yes it's a great party I've told you I've worked for a wedding cake but we never get wedding cake it's true could never get it um it's like my I like to feel that if you really thought that your job was reaching a point where you have beyond haid just like with any other jobs she would come to me and say, listen, I feel like the scope of my job or my seniority in this job I should be making a little bit more money and we would talk about it and I think that I've been very well taken care of from you so I don't I don't feel like I feel like she's here with me in seattle and I took care of her flight and I'm buying all of her food and she's being compensated for her time in I'm not I try to make sure that that it's a good working environment as well if she needs to take time off she takes time off I'd buy her lunch is sometimes I buy her shoes it's very exciting but that she you know like with any employer employee relationship even taking the french about of it that she really does feel that she's very, very, very valued and look at her. She makes me a better photographer. She really does. But she also makes me a better person. And I can't say that about anybody else other than my husband in my children and it's. True, she signed like a tube in my wedding. She's, like my sister, really is, except better. And her sister's probably at home going. Wait a minute. Now, my whole family has taken you under and it's kind of it's like she has become family. So really it's like it's like hanging out with a family member every weekend at work, which is weird. Yeah, but it's sometimes it does turn into a beautiful relationship like this. Sometimes it just turns into that great person who helps you at a wedding that you think is awesome and that's fine, too. I'm not saying that you should be out looking for your life, so maybe yeah, um but yeah, I mean, I pretty much feel like we're going to grow old together, sitting on a rocking chair and screaming at the kids to get off the lawn fan together by a giant compound with bill two's. Idea is, even before we became super close friends, we had a really great working relationship. It could still be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding.

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Ratings and Reviews

Misty Angel

oh Susan, you are AWESOME!! I am not a wedding photographer (despite dipping my toe in this intimidating pool for one of my dearest friends), I shoot all forms of portraits and love sports too! Your '30-Days' has been the single most influential and educational moments since I started my venture into photography in 2009! THANK YOU! Your honesty, directness, bluntness, humor and vulnerability makes these 30-Days the most worthwhile time spent away from actual shooting; while simultaneously is the most inspirational motivator to push you out there to practice these ideas/techniques! #SShostestwiththemostest You raise the bar in this industry, not just with wedding photographers, but with all genres of photography! I wanted this course to learn about shooting and thought, great... I'll get a little bit of the business side too... OMG! I got it ALL! I'm dying! What an awesome investment in myself, my business and in YOU! PLEASE keep doing what you are doing! I love your new Dynamic Range, I feel that it is a wonderful extension of the work you do with Creative Live! I watch you EVERY DAY, every morning... I know that I continue absorbing your wisdom through repetition! I don't want to be you, I want to rise to your level! So thank you for the inspiration, motivation and aspiration! Keep on being REAL, its what we love about you! We embrace your Chanel meets Alexander McQueen-ness! :) Thank you for stepping into this educational space and providing us with your lessons learned so we can avoid the negative-time investment making mistakes... we are drinking your virtual lemonade!! HA! Like the others, whatever wisdom you offer in this medium, I will be jumping at the opportunity to learn from you! THANK YOU!


All the positive reviews say it all. When Susan took on the challenge of teaching this course it must of looked like attempting to climb Mount Everest...and she accomplished just that. Susan is a detailed, well-organized photographer and this clearly comes out in her teaching. Using repetition, clear instructions, a logical and well laid out presentation, she answers most any question you might have when it comes to wedding photography. I felt like I was having a private consultation when watching the course. She is real, honest, tactful, funny, and a gift to the photography community. Finally, her photography is professional and inspiring. Thank you Susan for the tremendous amount of work that you put into making this an outstanding Creative Live course for us all.


Wow. What a super, comprehensive, entertaining, informative course. Well done. I've taking a lot of photography classes and this one is definitely top of the list. Susan Stripling was very well prepared (and great job by the CreativeLive Team too). Terrific course. Susan shared so much. Thank you! P.S. Love the CL boot camp courses.

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