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
A wedding from earlier this year, at the same venue … where I was able to effectively light the entire place with just an 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.
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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 back “wall” 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.