wedding photography: using high ISO and flash to retain ambience at the reception
Chatting with other photographers at the recent WPS convention in Chapel Hill, NC, I was again struck by how there are so many different ways of approaching lighting. In this case, lighting at the wedding reception. The one photographer I was chatting to, set up multiple speedlights around the reception room, and then controls which are fired, from his on-camera Master speedlight. Very impressive.
In recent years, the wedding reception venues where I’ve shot on the East Coast of the USA, have moved away from being the dark-hole large rooms, by adding up-lighting, and making the places generally more vibrant and colorful. Coupled with the astonishing high-ISO capability of the last two generations of cameras, I really haven’t felt the need to set up additional lighting to lift the general light levels, like I would have in the past, as described in this article:
– wedding photography: TTL flash with off-camera manual flash
Here is a recent wedding at the same venue as the above link … where I was able to effectively light the entire place with just one on-camera speed light.
– bounce flash photography & the inverse square law
By using a higher ISO, and carefully bouncing my flash, I could get away with a much simpler set-up of a single on-camera speedlight.
Here’s an example of a recent wedding, where the reception was in a glass-house style conservatory. By shooting against the DJ’s lights, I was able to NOT have a dark background, but something colorful instead.
camera settings & photo gear (or equivalents) used during this photo shoot
1/60 @ f3.2 @ 2500 ISO
on-camera TTL bounce flash, gelled with 1/2 CTS gel
This is a simple technique that I constantly use when photographing the wedding reception – I look for brighter areas in the background, and *I* move around so that I can place my subjects against that. The colors and shapes in the background helps place my subjects in context of the wedding … as opposed to a dark background that they blend into.
It means I do move around and look at my backgrounds specifically.
Now, about the area where I bounced my flash … a glass house with white structures. For the two photos above, I was bouncing my flash off the entire area that you see there in the center of the image …
… looking towards this direction.
At first it doesn’t seem realistic to get enough light from a single on-camera speedlight there just by bouncing it behind me … but with a high enough ISO, it is quite feasible, and actually looks very good. Then it becomes a matter of finding the right aperture and shutter speed (along with that high ISO), to allow enough ambient light in to give context and a sense of mood.
- bounce flash photography & the inverse square law
- high-ISO bounce flash with on-camera speedlight
- high-ISO bounce flash photography (part 2)
- bounce flash examples – wedding receptions
- bounce flash photography tips
- more articles on wedding photography
- Ashley & Michael – wedding – Madison Hotel, NJ
video tutorials to help you with your photography
If you like learning by seeing best, then these video tutorials will help you with understanding photography techniques and concepts. While not quite hands-on, this is as close as we can get to personal instruction. Check out these and other video tutorials and online photography workshops.