Wedding Photography Tips: Let There Be Flash!

 

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Firing the flash has ensured that the bride has been well lit, while the sky has been nicely saturated with a slight underexposure. Photograph/Vivek Sequeira

Firing the flash has ensured that the bride has been well lit, while the sky has been nicely saturated with a slight underexposure. Photograph/Vivek Sequeira

One of the most useful accessories for a wedding photographer is the flash.What can it do? What can you achieve? Let’s find out.

Why Use a Flash At All? In wedding photography, with 500 images or more being made in a day, correcting every image in post is not an option. So, you need to get your pictures right while shooting. Flash units help this by giving you a great deal of control over the image, making it an invaluable tool.

Getting Natural Looking Images with Flash: Flash produces a hard, direct source of unflattering light that looks artificial. You need to learn how to use it so well that its use in your pictures remains almost invisible to the untrained eye. While knowledge of technique can help you achieve this, it primarily calls for practice.

External Flashgun or Onboard Flash? Your camera’s onboard flash is surprisingly useful, especially as a fill-in. Yet, it cannot be taken off the camera, or bounced, or zoomed. It also has a limited range. External flashguns are far more versatile.

A Good Flash Bracket Is Invaluable: Despite the extra weight, a bracket adds a huge amount of capability to a flash in a wedding environment. It also frees up the hot shoe for accessories like LED lights.

The camera’s onboard flash is superbly useful at weddings and also very underestimated.

Seek Permissions To Use Flash: Many temples, churches and mosques prohibit photography or the use of flashguns. Get your approvals beforehand.

Use Flash Warming Gels: Flashguns are daylight balanced, unaccented by any colour. Warming gels help saturate skin tones, as though the subject was standing in mid-morning light.

Boost ISO to Increase Flash’s Range: Flashguns have a certain distance after which light levels drop. To increase range, open up the aperture. If the aperture needs to be constant, push up ISO. A two-stop increment doubles the range of the flash.

Learn to Compensate Flash Exposure: Control the intensity of the flash from the metered value by using Flash Exposure Compensation. By decreasing to -1EV, portraits look less flat and more natural.

Control Ambient and Flash Exposure: Using a combination of aperture, ISO and Flash Exposure Compensation, you can independently increase or decrease the exposure or brightness of the background, and the subject illuminated by the flash.

Control Shadows With a Burst of Fill-in: Bright sunlight, halogen lamps, lights from the venue… they all throw sharp shadows. Your flash can be used to fill-in these shadows. You can either eliminate shadows fully (making the lighting flat) or just lighten them, so that it appears more natural.

Here, the use of a slow shutterspeed along with the flash during the day has frozen this couple on a spinning carousel. Photograph/Meghna Shirish

Here, the use of a slow shutterspeed along with the flash during the day has frozen this couple on a spinning carousel. Photograph/Meghna Shirish

Another Way to Freeze Action: The duration of the burst of light from a flashbulb is so quick, that it can perfectly freeze motion. The showering of rice or flower petals are perfect for freezing action.

Capturing Blurs while Freezing Action: Slow Sync Flash combines a slow shutterspeed (to capture background blurs, light trails, or any motion) with flash, fired after the shutter opens (to freeze action).

Remotely Trigger Strobes: Flash sync cables trailing across the wedding hall is not safe. Use wireless radio triggers or the camera’s Flash Commander mode instead. They transmit metering information and can control flash settings remotely too.

Concentrate Light With a Snoot: A snoot is a cone that fits onto the head of a flash unit that focusses the light. It throws a soft-edged circle of light on the subject.

Diffuser Domes For Large Groups: If you are in a situation where there is no ceiling or walls to bounce the light from your flash unit, you can use a diffuser dome to soften the frontal illumination.

Balloon Diffuser For Even Softer Light: Apart from using soft boxes, one can also try balloon diffusers. They are easy to transport, and effective in getting directional but soft light.

Bounce the Flash off Walls and Ceilings: When a source of light is much larger than the subject, the illumination on the subject is extremely soft. Bouncing the light causes the wall or the ceiling to become a large source of soft light, perfect for portraiture or groups. For doing this, your flash must have a head that can swivel and tilt.

Know Your Flashgun’s Coverage: Every flash unit has a maximum range and angle of coverage. This will give you an idea of lenses and techniques you can employ.

Isolate the Couple with Flash Illumination: Zoom in the flash head while using a wide lens. The throw of light will be limited to the couple and not on others surrounding them.

Add a Lively Sparkle to the Eyes: Fire the flash at its lowest power settings, not necessarily to illuminate your subjects, but to get a catchlight their eyes.

Slow Sync flash can help you turn fun guests like the groom’s friends into strange apparitions, while also capturing the mood and the ambience of the venue. Photograph/Sneha Kar

Slow Sync flash can help you turn fun guests like the groom’s friends into strange apparitions, while also capturing the mood and the ambience of the venue. Photograph/Sneha Kar

 

Go for Directional Lighting: Fire the flash remotely, off camera. It opens new possibilities and moves away from the traditional, flat, ‘into the face’ flash lighting.

Watch Battery Levels: Flash units can drain quickly. Keep an eye out for this and have spare batteries handy.

Use Multiple Flash Units Creatively: In portraiture, one flash unit could be used as the main source while the other could be used as a background or a hair light.

Remove the Lens Hood with Wide Angle Lenses: Lens hoods on wide lenses can block the onboard flash, causing a shadow in the foreground. This problem does not occur with external flashguns.

Try Zone Lighting with Studio Flash Units: Set up studio light units to evenly light up whole sections of a wedding venue. Umbrella diffusers work well for this technique because they transmit a large part of the flash’s power while bouncing some part of it back onto the ceilings or walls.

Beware of Reflective Surfaces: Shiny surfaces or even spectacles can ruin a good flash photo. Subtlely change the angle from which you fire the flash to solve this.

Factor in Flash Recycle Time: Releasing the shutter before the flash has indicated a recharge may result in an underexposure or the flash not firing at all. High-end flash units recycle faster than the onboard flash. You miss fewer shots.

Learn About High Speed Sync Mode: It allows you to use extremely fast shutterspeeds with a flashgun. This will allow the flash illumination to overpower daylight. It is also useful as a fill-in when you need shallow DOF in bright light.

Keep Experimenting and Learning: There really is no limit to creativity with flash, especially in wedding photography.

 

Tags: Better Photography Wedding Photographer of the Year Awards, Canon, Canon BP WPOY 2016, Diffuser, external flashgun, flash, Flash Bracket, Flash Exposure, Illumination, ISO, onboard flash, technique, tips, Wedding Photographer, Wedding Photography