A Beginner’s Guide to Lighting for Wedding DJs

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If you are a novice DJ, keep reading to learn about what you need to add a lighting package to your wedding DJ set

As a DJ, dealing with lighting controls can quickly seem overwhelming. After all, your expertise is in moving a crowd through music—not through lights. However, as most DJs get bigger and bigger bookings, clients will expect a lighting package that matches the music. Today, we’re going to be focusing specifically on the types of lighting controls and lighting fixtures that DJs will need for the average mid-sized wedding.

While learning about lighting may seem like something that isn’t necessary for DJs, it is something that will set you apart from your local competitors. So, while it isn’t mandatory that DJs learn about lighting, it is an excellent way to improve your overall package and earn more money per booking. Let’s get started by taking a look at the most common form of lighting control systems that DJs use for weddings.

Lighting Control Using DMX

A DMX controller is very similar to a sound-mixing board. When it comes to lighting controls, a DMX controller is currently the industry standard. A DMX light controller is a console that allows the user to manually control lighting effects. Using a set of dials and sliders—much like the ones you would find on a sound mixing board—users can control color, hue, brightness, and even design complex lighting scenes.

Lighting scenes are a set of commands that are saved to the DMX that can be phased in and out of the lighting sequence. Using these scenes, DJs can create complex-looking and impressive lighting landscapes—even in smaller venues.

The controller is connected by DMX cables to the light fixtures themselves. These cables are only able to transmit commands, meaning that the fixtures will require an external power source. The fixtures can be connected in what is referred to as a “daisy chain.” The daisy chain is a configuration of the DMX cables that allows several different interconnected fixtures to receive the same commands at the same time. By connecting several similar lighting fixtures together, DJs can achieve complex lighting effects. While this may sound complicated to set up, in practice, there is little more involved than plugging DMX cords into the lighting fixtures.

It should be noted that DMX controllers are used in a wide variety of applications including traveling theater productions, concerts, and other types of large scale-setups. This means that wedding DJs never have to worry about upgrading their lighting fixtures as the DMX controller is able to control far larger setups than those required for weddings.

Lighting Control Using Automatic Lights

Automatic lights move with the music but aren’t able to do much else.

Another type of lighting control commonly used for wedding DJs is automatic lighting. Automatic lighting is a type of lighting that operates without any external inputs. While this may sound perfect for a wedding DJ, automatic lighting is severely limited in its functionality. You have probably encountered automatic lighting before—it is an LED light that lights up with the beat of the music. Often, the light is limited to a few colors or strobing effects and only moves to the pulsation of the music. Though using automatic lights isn’t a bad way to get started, all DJs will reach a point early on where automatic lighting is just not enough to meet the client’s needs.

Instead, wedding DJs should use these to supplement their DMX-controlled lighting package. For example, strobing LED lights can accent a stage and add to the overall landscape without visually disrupting the DMX-controlled lights.

What Kinds of Lights Are Used for Weddings?

Special event lighting requires several different types of fixtures to create impressive effects Effect lights are easy to use and can create impressive laser effects.

When you are getting started, it can be difficult to know which kinds of lights you need to create a complete lighting package. As a general rule, it is best to start with the basics and add more complex fixtures over time. We’re going to be breaking down the most common types of lights that wedding DJs should invest in for the best possible lighting package.

Wash Lighting

The first lighting fixtures that a wedding DJ should buy are wash lights. Wash lights are a type of light that casts light across the stage or across the dancefloor. Wash lights do exactly what their name states—they wash the area in consistent ambient light. These types of lights provide the background for the rest of the light show and are relatively inexpensive, which is why we recommend buying these to get started. They can also be used for uplighting, which is very popular for weddings.

Effect Lighting

The next type of lighting recommended to supplement wash lighting is effect lighting. An effect light—sometimes referred to as a DJ light—is a type of light that can produce several different effects. Often these effects include multicolored light beams and lasers. Since the effect lights have several different control modes, each type of light is controlled by a different channel on the DMX. This means that the DJs have control over every individual output of the effect lights.

Gobo Projector

Another great investment for a wedding DJ is a Gobo projector. A Gobo projector is a type of light that forms a shape projected on a flat surface. Often these types of lights are pointed at the ground or at a wall to display a name or a design. Gobo lights are perfect additions to weddings because it lets DJs add a personal touch to their lighting package. Using a Gobo projector, DJs can project the name of the couple or other romantic designs to add ambiance to the room.

Spot Lights

The last type of light that we’re going to be discussing is a spotlight. Spotlights are designed to illuminate a single spot in a room to draw attention. In the case of a wedding, spotlights are used for things like toasts, speeches, and first dances. As a DJ, having a spotlight to help move the crowd’s attention is always helpful.

How Will the Lighting Fixtures Look?

The visual appearance of your lighting setup is important for clients

Many wedding clients prefer to have cords and fixtures hidden as much as possible.
Planning a wedding is often extremely detail oriented. That is to say, every detail of your lighting setup will be under scrutiny—including its appearance. Many clients will prefer that your fixtures be wrapped in white fabric to avoid the black light fixtures disrupting the wedding color palette.

There is also a concern for the visual appearance of the cords required for the power sources and for the DMX. Wedding DJs need to plan their lighting setups to minimize the appearance of cords as much as possible. This is so important for so many clients that some DJs have begun purchasing wireless lights to be used for uplighting. Since the lights are placed along the walls, DJs can avoid using potentially hundreds of feet of cords.

We hope this article gave you a few useful tips you can use to start building your DJ lighting setup for weddings. Being a DJ means constantly finding ways to set yourself apart from the competition—and a great lighting package can do just that. The great thing about DJ lighting is that you can start small and build your way up as you learn to use the DMX and build up your skills as a lighting technician.

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