flash photography techniques
using video light for photography  ~  just ambient light  ~  flash photography elements

At this point I just want to show that I’m not actually addicted to using a flashgun, (all evidence to the contrary), and actually do know when to switch it off … especially when the officiant states that no flash will be allowed during the ceremony. An understandable sentiment.

Also, when the available light is perfect, there is no need to try and enhance it or control it with light from a strobe. And then there are times when using flash would destroy great ambient light.

And as with the other pages, the idea is that we be very aware of the quality of the light and direction of the light.

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With this wedding, the rabbi informed me a few minutes before the ceremony, that he won’t allow flash. That is when those f1.4 optics come in really handy!

Specific settings: Nikon D2H; Nikon 85mm f1.4
1/100th @ f1.4 @ 500 iso / manual; matrix metering / ambient light only

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Here I asked the bride and groom to dance along the path, away from me towards the grass. I took a series of photographs, and in this one image, the dress lifted perfectly. In this scenario I didn’t bother using flash since I knew they would be some distance from me. Also, this image is more about the movement and gestures, rather than details in faces.

Specific settings: Nikon D2x; Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR
1/500th @ f4 @ 400 iso / manual; matrix metering / ambient light only

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This photograph was taken in the hotel lobby, using only the tungsten light mounted inside a strip, as part of a pillar.I asked the bride to lean in towards the pillar of light, and then had the groom snuggle in closer.  Flash would’ve been completely superfluous here and destroyed the mood.

specific settings:
Canon 1D mk2N
Canon 24-70mm f2.8
1/125th @ f5 @ 640 iso
manual; matrix metering
ambient light only

I kept the WB purposely very warm here, since it adds to the mood – instead of aiming for a ‘correct’ WB.

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I took a series of photographs here using flash – on-camera and off-camera strobes – but when the videographer moved behind the bride and groom, I switched it all off, and used the video light as back-light.specific settings:
Canon 1D mk2
Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS
1/125th @ f2.8 @ 800 iso
manual; eval metering
ambient light only

Once again I kept the WB purposely very warm. It just looks so much better than the ‘correct’ WB where the veil is white again.

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Here too I used the videographer’s light – and it helped a lot in that it created a spot-light effect on the couple’s faces.The rest of the light was just the available incandescent lighting of the room.

specific settings:
Canon 1Dmk2
Canon 50mm f1.4
1/80th @ f1.4 @ 1250 iso
manual; eval metering
ambient light only

 

as a recap:  the essential elements of flash photography

 

video tutorials to help you with flash photography

If you like learning by seeing best, then these video tutorials will help you with understanding flash photography techniques and concepts. While not quite hands-on, this is as close as we can get to personal instruction. Check them these and other video tutorials and online photography workshops.


 

photography books by Neil vN

Amazon USA

Amazon UK

 

newsletter / forum / workshops & seminars

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If you need more direct help or instruction on flash photography,
I regularly present photography workshops & seminars.
I also offer individual tutoring sessions, whether in person or via Skype.

 

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kevin August 31, 2009 at 4:59 pm

Hi Neil,
I like your creative use of the videographer’s light as an asset when shooting with ambient light. I was wondering how those non-static lights affect you throughout the reception when you’re simply trying to capture the shot, whether with flash or not. Do you find yourself having to meter and re-meter or reconsider light direction more often when they are around? It seems like they would put out enough light to at least be a minor annoyance.

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2 Neil vN November 17, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Kevin, you do have to be fairly nimble with your camera then to keep up with the changing ambient light levels. When using (TTL) flash though, the automatic flash metering does make it much easier. Then you’d keep the ambient light under-exposed to some extent, and let the (TTL) flash take care of the overall exposure.

Neil vN

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3 Alfredo Medina March 16, 2010 at 6:03 am

In the photo of the couple next to the pillar of light, where you to meter to get the correct exposure?

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4 Neil vN March 17, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Alfredo .. in that example, I would be guided by the histogram, and also the blinking highlights.

Neil vN

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5 Tara April 5, 2010 at 10:30 am

Hi,
My problem is I don’t have a lens that will go less than f4. Any suggestions for shooting with what I have for ambient light??
Thanks
Tara

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6 Neil vN April 5, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Tara … if you don’t have a lens with a wider aperture than f4 then I have great news for you .. you’re going shopping!

A 50mm lens is an inexpensive entry into a lens with a fast aperture, whether f1.8 or f1.4

What system do you use?

Neil vN

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7 maria August 17, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Hi Neil: I’m about to buy a book just for weddings. Do you have any that I can buy? I really love your pictures!!!!

Thanks,

Maria

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8 Neil vN August 17, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Maria .. I have a book on flash photography techniques for weddings, but also check out this link for other books specifically on the topic of wedding photography.

Neil vN

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9 Carlos September 20, 2010 at 12:17 am

Neil,
I am starting to work as photographer; I have a Nikon D60 and plan to change it as soon as I can (planning to get a D90, or a D7000 if it were possible); definitely cannot buy a D700 or D3 as I would like.
My doubt is mainly about lenses: I really like “available light photography” but cannot afford expensive, bright zooms. My idea is -then- to use two main lenses, a AF-S 35mm 1.8 DX (already have it), and buy an (not so expensive) AF 85mm 1.8D, and switch between them as needed and…walk backward and forward! (Cartier-Bresson said “my zoom are my legs”). I know this decision has several drawbacks but…is this or nothing.
Thanks for sharing your experience!

Carlos.

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10 Neil vN September 20, 2010 at 12:46 am

Carlos … that sounds like a sensible progression. Best of luck!

Neil vN

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11 Geoff October 17, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Very nice- just stumbled on this site and I’m way impressed.

I just got a Canon T2i and will be getting my 50mm f/1.4 this week.

I’m just wondering about the ambient light pics (like the pillar pic) – Do you white balance to an off color, do a shift in camera, or alter it in post?

Thx,

Geoff

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12 Neil vN October 17, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Geoff .. I usually use one of the WB presets, and then adjust the RAW file in post. Simple.

Neil vN

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13 Michael Donovan November 11, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Neil, I fell really dumb… Ii have your site amongst my bookmarks for close to a year and in preparation for one of my first weddings I stumbled back across it. All I can say is what was I thiking not taking the time to read up on this sooner. Ordered your book the other day and can only hope that it is as good as the rest of the info within the folds of these pages!

This just makes so much more sense…the balancing of light and it is all about the light, the direction, type, power, etc.

Well I am not too bad behind the lens, but now feel like I can take my shots another notch higher!

Thanks for all you do

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14 tom blackburn August 13, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Hi Neil:
I have a couple of questions. Do you use a flash bracket for flash,to eliminate red eye and eliminate shadows,and do you you use red eye reduction setting in camera.I just got my d-800 and learning to use it.
Thaks tom

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15 Neil vN August 15, 2012 at 4:22 am

I don’t use a flash bracket, because for my work, I mostly rely on on-camera bounce flash indoors. So I’m not plagued with red-eye problems.

But it would depend on the kind of work you do. If you’re a red-carpet photographer, and shooting with direct flash in low light, then you’d need a flash bracket.

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