wedding photography

how to overpower bright sunlight with on-camera flash

The photograph on the left shows one of the toughest lighting conditions you get to deal with. Your subjects are half in the sun / half in the shade … and there is no way you could interrupt and change things in your favor. There is no way to have the flower-girls move. No way to bring in additional, off-camera lighting. You can’t scrim the sunlight either with large reflectors.

There are these times when your options are limited, but you still have to get the best out of this challenging situation. There is one viable option here, crouched down in the center aisle – use on-camera flash to bring up the shadow detail.

There have a few articles here on how to overpower the sunlight with off-camera flash …

… and they all follow a specific train of thought to get ourselves out of trouble. Even in this article – engagement photo sessions: posing, lighting & context – there is an algorithm in place.

Same with this scenario where we use on-camera flash. In fact, it is even a little easier:

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destination wedding photographer

podcast interview w/ Wedding Photographers Unite!

Looking at previous podcasts I’ve participated in, it would seem that the opportunity to sound off in some podcast comes around about once a year. This time I get to chat with Neil Urban and Andy Buscemi who hosts the Wedding Photographers Unite podcast. And I do have opinions!

We touch on various topics, including how the wedding photography business has changed over the years. Neil Urban questioned me a week or so later about a comment I made in the podcast that the days where a wedding photographer could sustain a family just with a wedding photography studio, is waning. I do think that more and more photographers will diversify in future, instead of specializing. Have a listen to the podcast, and let us know what your thoughts are.

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wedding photography: posing and lighting – aiming for a consistent style

The two images were taken about half an hour apart, with entire different lighting setups – yet there is a consistent look.

The photo on the left was shot using video light with an Incandescent white balance. A video light is a small light source, so the lighting is usually quite contrasty – so you need to take care with the posing to have your main subject posing into the light. With a bridal couple, I will nearly always favor the bride for the more flattering light. Hence, I will invariably pose the bride in relation to the light – and then add the groom.

The image on the right was shot with a Profoto B1 portable flash (affiliate), and the Profoto RFi 1’×3 soft box (affiliate). (Check the comments in this article – high-speed flash with the Profoto B1 – to see why the narrow 1×3 soft box is a favorite for on-location portraits. The image on the right was shot through one of those elliptical shaped openings you in the divider screen you see on the left.

When posing a couple, I start with one person first, and then add the second person. This makes it easier to assemble the pose. In the examples here, the pose is quite similar, but changed up because my position (and angle) changed.

Now, back to the theme of this article – how it is entirely possible to aim for a consistent style, even though using a variety of lighting – this is a topic we’ve explored before. For example, in the article adapting the use of light & flash photography, I emphasized that I do mix up the lighting types, depending on what is needed; what is practical; and what is the best option. Similarly, in the article where I used the Profoto B1 portable flash at a wedding, I added examples of using available light; video light; and on-camera bounce flash. Again, I base what I use on whether it is necessary, or most practical or the best choice.

Even though I mix up the lighting I am using as the wedding day progresses, I want a coherent style to be apparent. It will count in your favor if your work shows diversity, but there’s a discipline so that it doesn’t look random or hodgepodge.

Let’s look at further examples from Nicole & Brad’s wedding:

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flash photography: how far can you bounce your flash?

The question regularly comes up: how far can you bounce your flash? The answer is quite straight-forward: It depends on the power of your flash, the bounce distance (and surfaces), ISO and aperture.

Power, distance, aperture and ISO – the four things that control flash exposure. Yup, we can’t really escape this.

So how far can you bounce your flash? It depends on how far (and reflective) the surfaces are that you are bouncing your flash off; as well as how high you’re willing to take your ISO and how wide you can take your aperture. And obviously, it depends on how powerful your flash is – which is why I would always recommend that you get the most powerful flash you can afford. There are advantages to this.

As an example, let’s analyze this image from a wedding, and see what went into creating it.

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slideshow: my favorite wedding photos of 2014

2014 was an incredible year with so much happening. I traveled around the north-eastern parts of the USA to photograph weddings – Connecticut, Vermont, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I even had the wonderful opportunity to travel abroad, where I photographed a wedding in Australia! Of course my photography involved the usual mix of portraits, families and headshots, as well as commercial work and corporate photography. For me though, weddings always stand out because they are such emotional experiences.

As a thank you to all my clients and their families and friends – and also to show off a bit – here is a slideshow of some of my favourite images of the year. Thank you to everyone who made me part of a most special day in their lives.

Also watch the other year-end slideshows of my favorite wedding photographs.
(Click on the Vimeo logo to watch a larger version.)

As usual, some of the images from 2014 weddings have been used in articles on Tangents. You might remember some (or perhaps all?) of them:

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high-ISO bounce flash photography

The last wedding of the year just behind me, I want to use one of my favorite images to touch again on the recent topic of high-ISO bounce flash with on-camera speedlight. I want to show that the results aren’t a fluke – but that with a consistent approach to bounce flash photography, you can get consistent results. However, since we shoot under various scenario changes, we have to adapt a bit.

The venue was this hotel reception room with massively high ceilings … but with the walls closer by. Easy enough to bounce on-camera flash off. The one challenge here were the huge mirrors along the walls. This caused unpredictable reflections. It also flattened the light too much when shooting towards the shorter width of the room. So I ended up shooting as much as I could towards the longer end of the reception room.

Yes, the photo above was lit with a single on-camera bounce flash, shooting at a high ISO.

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high-ISO bounce flash photography

One of the misconceptions about bounce flash photography that many photographers cling to, is that you absolutely need a white wall or ceiling near you. While it does help, this shouldn’t stop you from trying to be a little adventurous with on-camera bounce flash to see if it gets you the results you want. There have been several articles on the topic of bouncing off various other surfaces, or, not any particular surface nearby:

Let’s step through another recent example: Gaby and Michael’s wedding reception was at a winery, with the reception venue a huge area with stone and cement walls. It was a beautiful venue, but dark. The top-heavy lighting didn’t help either.

Sometimes … actually, very often … you just need to add additional lighting to the mix to get the results you and your clients want. Simple as that. Then it is up to you to figure out a way that best serves that need – good lighting while retaining the look and feel of the place.

I’m hesitant to use multiple flashes in the corners of a venue – the cross-lighting can look wonderful when it works, but very often leads to weird cross shadows. I prefer predictable results. So for me, multiple light sources wouldn’t be a first choice.

I tried the Profoto B1 as a bounce flash into the area, but it wouldn’t give predicable results, or … it would mean that my assistant would have to scurry around and help match the direction that I am shooting in. This can get a little hectic.

I then did a few test shots with on-camera bounce flash to see if it was feasible. And at full manual power, and selectively bouncing, I could get pretty good light at high ISO settings and wider apertures!

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using the Profoto B1 portable flash at a wedding

With wedding photography, there are nearly inevitably time-constraints. It is therefore imperative that you, as the wedding photographer, are able to keep everything running as smoothly as possible on your side. Which implies that it is important that you (and your equipment) are adaptable. And it is also hugely important that your gear is easy to set up, and very reliable.

Karissa and Rory’s wedding was the first where I pulled out the Profoto B1 battery powered flash (vendor). I’m even more impressed with it now, than I was when I first tested it for my review: Profoto B1 500 AirTTL battery powered flash.  (And if you’d like to buy my previous AcuteB 600R kit, let me know.)

When using additional lighting, you ideally need a few things from your lights:
power! 
– and yet, a delicateness to the light when necessary.
speed of use is essential.

At 500Ws, the Profoto B1 dumps sunlight-levels of light, but you can pull it down 8 stops, to where the light can be used in subtle ways.

With off-camera flash, I’m mostly working with a specific distance, and then manual flash makes sense. The  Profoto B1 (vendor) offers TTL as well, and this might seem superfluous to some. But it really makes it easier and faster to get to correct exposure. You can do an initial exposure via the TTL mode, and then switch to Manual if your exposure is correct. This gives you the speed of TTL flash, and the consistency of Manual flash.

Here are more images from this wedding, with examples shot with the Profoto B1, as well as other images using various types of light ….

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wedding photography – macro photography: options and alternatives

With wedding photography, I mostly use a macro lens just for detail images at the bride’s place – rings & jewelry. I do use a macro lens for detail photos of the rings. However, during the early part of the day at the bride’s place, I try to bring as little equipment as possible. Then carrying a macro lens for just a few detail images might just add too much bulk to the shoulder bag. Also, if your budget is constrained, then it might seem a bit much to spend that much money for a lens that will see so little use. There are other options though than a full-blown macro lens.

A macro lens attachment that I often use, is the Canon 500D 77mm Close Up Lens (vendor). Screwing this onto the front of a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens like a filter, gives you very good macro results!

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non-photography goodies in my camera bag / roller case

Work as a wedding photographer isn’t just about taking photographs of key moments, or about the photo gear. Often enough it is up to you as the wedding photographer to help guide the day’s time-line and flow, and also just to help.  For me, wedding photography isn’t just a passively observed event where I take photographs. And if you shoot with a photo-journalistic style in mind, it doesn’t mean you have to remain uninvolved.  I’m there to record the day’s events, but also to help, if necessary, making it a spectacular day.

In the photo above, I took over from the maid of honor when her fingers weren’t strong enough for that final button and clasp at the back of the bride’s dress. My fingers were stronger, so I finished the last button. So as a photographer I’m often called on to do more than just take photographs.

With that in mind, here’s a look into my camera bag, and the non-photography related goodies I keep handy:

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