Reception Lighting Setup

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late afternoon crowd! I’ve been running around like crazy today and I’m just now getting a chance to sit down at the computer for an hour before the next event of the day begins. I’ve been doing things like grocery shopping, speaking at a local high school’s photo class, grabbing a quick lunch with my husband before he drives to DC for class and searching for a 16×20 white frame at all the local Targets so that I can finish my “Production Wall” Re-vamp. I feel much better after I list what I’ve spent all morning doing because I really HATE being a late blogger! Ugh. Who wants to read a blog post at 3:30 in the afternoon? Everyone is tired and ready to be HOME!

But for those of you that care and have been emailing about this post for quite some time, I hope you enjoy this.


This is my disclaimer… and I feel like I have a disclaimer for EVERYTHING these days.  This is just the way I choose to use off camera flash. I haven’t blogged about this before because I’m STILL LEARNING. Sure, I think I’m getting the hang of it but I don’t understand EVERY aspect of my 580’s or my transmitters so I’m a little nervous to write this post. However, I’m doing it anyway, in hopes that one tiny thing I share will help someone out in the long run.


I shoot with two Canon 580EX II’s and two Pocket Wizard FLEX TT5’s and one Wescott lightstand.  For those of you that are newer to off camera flash (OCF), the FLEX TT5 is a transmitter that syncs my flashes.  Here is my opinion on the FLEXTT5:  When it works, it’s AWESOME…. but I would never brag about it’s consistency. As I get to know this equipment more, I understand it more. However, I’ll be the first to admit that I get frustrated! However, as soon as I think “I’m just going to sell EVERYTHING and try something NEW!”…. I have an amazing experience with my FLEX! So all that to say, I DO like my lighting setup because it’s SIMPLE. No CORDS, No CONFUSION….. but I wish it was more consistent.


I shoot with a 580 and a flex ON CAMERA and a 580 and flex OFF CAMERA. I really lOVE shooting with the subjects between me and my OCF so that I have a nice “glow”… but this takes practice and AWARENESS. It’s hard to learn how to position yourself for GREAT shots. You not only need to create good composition with the subject, but you also have to be thinking about the position of the OCF as well. It takes practice and I’ll be the FIRST to admit that I’m not the best…. but I’m committing to learning more and more at each wedding. It’s very tempting to just have one on-camera flash and justify it because “most photographers just do it that way”.  But if I’m being the photographer I WANT to be…. I want to provide the BEST… and I want to challenge myself. I spent 2 years never attempting OCF because I didn’t understand it! Then I realized that if I didn’t start learning this system, I would NEVER improve! So as much as I dislike flash, I’m learning to appreciate what it can do! Below is my all time  FAVORITE reception shot with OCF!! I feel like Zach and Jody would be proud! haha Ps. Zach and Jody are flash PROS! Want to learn more about this area of photography? Don’t ask ME!!! PLEASE!! haha Ask them or attend one of their In-Camera Workshops! It’s definitely on my bucket list!!



This is the cover of their album!!:)

I ran out before the bride and groom and plopped my light stand down in the grass and just hoped it was at a good angle. I didn’t really have time to test it out! Luckily, it worked out ok!

OCF adds so much more DIMENSION to images.

xoxo, Katelyn
26 Comments Ask Anything, Education
  1. Rhonda reply

    thank you so much for sharing your helpful ideas!!! You are so amazing!!!

  2. Hans reply

    would love to hear what your favorite ratio is as far as flash A and B. thanks for all the tips you post!

  3. Amber reply

    This inspired me SO much, Katelyn!!

  4. Charlotte Jennings reply

    Thanks for this post!!! :) Gaw-geous images as always!

  5. Karena Dixon reply

    Thank you for this honest post! It’s an area I’m really struggling with myself and it makes me feel so much better hearing those same struggles from someone’s work I admire so much.

  6. Anna K. reply

    Katelyn!!! You have no idea how much I appreciate this post! Thank you for doing it!

  7. molly reply

    wow! i had no idea so much went into lighting at a reception – and i think it’s such a great example that you always are working on improving! love it! :)

  8. Kacey reply

    THANK YOU SO MUCH KATELYN. I know you don’t feel comfortable sharing but I really appreciate it. My reception pictures are where I feel I need the most work. I’m not pro at any of it yet, but if I can get ahold of better lighting for my reception pics, then I’ll feel more comfortable with my wedding pics for my clients.

  9. Gabby / En Route Photography reply

    Ughhhh off camera flash is super intimidating, but its definitely something on my bucket list to master! ;) Thanks Katelyn!

  10. Lana reply

    Thanks Katelyn! I too am still experimenting with my OCF. I use Cyber Sync’s and Alien Bees and have some trouble with consistency as well. I feel much better knowing that I’m not the only one. Fabulous work as always!

  11. KTB Reynolds reply

    Thanks for the late afternoon pick me up! It helps those of us watching the clock waiting to go home!

  12. kristin partin reply

    girl. totally off topic, but I read this and wanted to let you know I buy my white (larger) frames from michaels–they are always on sale (buy one get one right now) and they are really sleek & way more affordable than target. Just thought I’d fill you in on the savings! ps you’re cool.

  13. Sarah reply

    How do you know what to set your settings to on your OCF? I know nothing about OCF and am trying to learn. It’s nice to see what kind of set up you have, but could you help with what your process is when taking the pictures with flash? Hope I’m making sense. I’m just so comfortable with natural light and flash scares me. :)

  14. Lauryn reply

    Hey Katelyn! I know you said you are on the fence, off the fence with the Pocket Wizards because of their reliability… I have Radio Poppers, which are also wireless, and have heard/read they are more accurate with each click than Pocket Wizards. The Portnoys first recommended them to me. Just a thought! I know that would me re-investing in something else… its tough!

  15. Teresa Gonzalez reply

    Is it possible to use regular pocket wizards? That’s what I currently have. Thanks for the awesome advice! :)

  16. Amanda Miller reply

    Katelyn, May I ask why you have 2 Flex TT5’s instead of having 1 TT5 and then a mini TT1 for on cam? I was recommended to get a TT5 and a Mini TT1 and I absolutely cannot get them to fire at the same time! So frustrating and now, I am beginning to wonder if I should have got 2 TT5’s instead!

  17. Megan Lesley reply

    We use ‘no-brand’ pocket wizards which are great! Quick question – Do you pop your light stand near the dancefloor and leave it there for the entire night? Or do you tend to move it around a bit?

  18. Abby Grace reply

    I’m so scared to start doing this because I’m terrified someone’s going to trip over my light stand! You know, the ONE PIECE OF EQUIPMENT people cite as an example when explaining why you need libility insurance.

  19. Dana Beverly reply

    Beautiful images! I use a 430EXII with tt5/miniTT1/AC3 and the only time I’ve encountered a problem it has been my fault… But have you looked on pocket wizards site?
    There’s a known problem concerning the 580. Hope that helps!

  20. Evian reply

    Hi Katelyn! Thanks for the awesome post. Do you ever have brides complain about the ocf going off throughout the night? Also, do you use anything to soften the harshness of the flash indoors? Thanks in advance girl!

  21. Off Camera Lighting | Wedding Photography reply

    […] Katelyn James Photography […]

  22. Amy Jensen reply

    Hi Katelyn! Do you use manual flash or ETTL? Thanks so much!!!

  23. Jaap reply

    The images don’t seem to load. Any change you can fix the links? I would really like to see the end result ;-)

  24. J reply

    what are your flash settings when you shoot with OCF?

    • Katelyn James reply

      Hi J! You can learn all about our OCF settings and equipment in our OCF mini-guide!

  25. Amy Yong reply

    Some great advice in this blog, thank you so much!!i booked a wedding for next year but it’s been a long time since I photographed a wedding. I am a little nervous about it! I want to do a great job!!

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