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Wedding photography - Barn Ceremony lighting

I'm looking for some advice.  I am shooting a ceremony this month and it takes place in a barn...   a very dark barn, very small, and all the ceilings and walls are wood, dark wood, no windows!  Oh my!  

I usually bounce my speed lights and with the dark walls, needles to say, it's still dark.  The space is very tight and not much room for speed lights on a stand.  I'm seeking advice.  Normally, I do not use a bracket on my flash to get my speed lights off camera.  I'm thinking of purchasing a bracket, but I must say I really prefer not using one.  

Can anyone offer any tips, maybe what has worked for you in very dark, small conditions?  

Thank you, 


  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited October 2015


    I would still bounce, but open up your ISO to around 2500-3200 and around 1/125th @ f2.8-f4.

    You will be surprised at just how much light will still reflect off the walls, regardless if timber or not, as a lot of time they have been maybe stained or lacquered and light will reflect off that surface still.

    An external battery pack for flash would most certainly be ideal. Also if using a Nikon, you can increase output on flash (only if flash in iTTL and camera body in manual mode) by the flash's compensation button, but also on the camera body it's normal Exposure Compensation so in effect a +6 e/v in total. Only Nikon though as stated.

    Also, have a play around with the flash head zoom, zoom in to it's longest focal length, 200mm on Nikon, 105 on Canon flashes prior to the EX600-RT which will zoom in to 200mm.

    You could also use your flash in manual power mode, but it would require you to fine tune each time you moved or angle of bounce changes, but it would be consistent if correctly exposed you could zoom lens in/out without it affecting light output. It's all a fine balancing act, something once you get used to will become easier as you get more experience.

    I had a job just like that once in a small church, very overcast day, dull, crappy tungsten/fluro lighting and *all walls/ceiling* timber.

    Set your WB to around 3200K for starters, may have to go lower, and you should still be right, you could try gelling with 1/2 CTS and figure out WB then, to help retain a balance. It is tricky but not impossible.

    If you can do a test at the place, see the owners, and take someone with you for a 'dummy' and have lights on as they would be I most certainly would do that.

    Good luck.


  • Good evening Debbie,

    In this situation I would use either my Orbis Ringflash or my Spinlight 360.

    The Orbis can take a regular flash gun and can be held comfortably in one hand giving you the chance to direct your light as you please. The light is fairly soft and simulates a smallish softbox without the need for a clumsy light stand.

    As for the Spinlight 360 I like to use a black card with the half dome. This set up has the affect of blocking the direct flash onto the subject, bouncing the flash and providing just enough fill to open up any shadows.

    The thing I like best with both of these options is the ability to move around freely which usually results in better images as I'm more comfortable and relax.

    Good luck and let us know how you get on.


  • Thank you both so much!  This is very valuable advice!!  

    Trev, may I ask a question?  If I shoot at 1/25th, will I get motion blur?  I usually try to stay at 1/250, but I'm thinking the flash will freeze everything with no blur?  

    Thank you so much, 

  • TrevTrev Moderator


    You misread my Shutter speed above, it's 1/125th, maybe should have just put 125th; and that's just a 'starter' I will go down to 1/60th or lower, depends if necessary, but generally keep it around 125th. Certainly not 250th which would be killing ambient by a stop for starters.

    I presume you have Nikon stating 250th, so your flash compensation and camera body exposure compensation will work hand in hand as I said above if flash set to iTTL and camera body to manual.


  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Debbie - the flash bracket would help to avoid those ugly side-ways shadows. The flash bracket keeps your flash above your lens' axis. 

    You have two options here, imho: 

    Flash bracket with a small softbox on your flash, shooting directly at your subjects. 
    Do bring your shutter speed lower, and your ISO as high as you're comfortable with. 

    The other alternative - multiple off-camera flashes placed at the corners of the barn to give you some kind of separation from your background, and to avoid the background going black. This might be the tougher route to go if you're not comfortable with off-camera flash. 
  • If the shutter speed is too low, does she risk motion blur, or is this a situation to try and have the flash do most of the work?
  • Like Neil suggested I use multiple off camera-flashes placed
    on beams or somewhere high out of the way in the situation you described.  I set the flashes to TTL, the ISO high and
    the shutter around 1/125 or 1/200 as the flashes will be the dominant light source.  With this method the camera will adjust the flash
    power to give you correct exposure while getting separation and natural looking

  • Thank you all again.  The wedding went well.  I managed to bounce my flash and had my shutter at 125th like Trev mentioned above.  I did try to have flashes off camera, but the space was so tight.  What ended up being my biggest challenge was no space.  The barn was small and they have a lot of people and chairs inside the barn.  It was really tuff conditions but I was happy the images came out.  

    Thank you all for your support.  
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Good to hear Debbie, thanks for letting us know.

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