Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Much as I dislike using flash, outside the studio, there are times I must, when doing weddings, where there is too little ambient light on my subjects.  However, I Never use direct naked, (unmodified) flash on people!  I ALWAYS have something on my flash (the Stofen cap in the past; then the Gary Fong modifiers) and I still do not point my flash directly at my subject. I start with it tilted up 45 degrees and as I get closer to my subject I tilt up more.

#3)  Flash mixed with available light; Dragging the Shutter.

This technique goes way back and at its most basic it’s just doing a slow shutter speed sync with your flash to pull in the ambient room light—to avoid a black void behind your subjects.  When doing dance images at the reception you can just put your flash in TTL, slow your shutter to something below 1/30 sec., and wing-it, but for portraits I want more precise control of the lighting. 

Most of the time I employ this technique when I want to use the room’s ambient light (to light the room), but I don’t want the room’s mixture of color temps to pollute the bride and groom’s skin tones. So, the on camera flash (diffused with a Stofen cap or Fong modifier) is used moderately just to get realistic skin tones.  Then to blend the flash with the room’s light I drag the shutter. This technique is the single most useful photographic/lighting technique you must learn for wedding photography!  It’s the ONLY way to achieve this…

f.5.6 @ 0.3 sec., ISO 800 , Lens: 8mm Fisheye
This technique is really easy if you have a incident meter (hand-held) that will measure flash in addition to ambient light; Here’s how:
  1. Pick your f-stop; based on how much depth of field you need. I know that with my 8mm fisheye that f5.6 would give me lots!
  2. Meter the ambient room light at your subjects and adjust your meter’s ISO to get you to the f-stop you want with a shutter speed you  can live with.  That depends on how still your subjects can be and how steady your hands are! I had to go up to ISO 800 ad use a risky 0.3 seconds! (my camera’s on a tripod for this one)
  3. Now, put your flash in manual mode and make it give you f5.6 at your subject’s position. Done!
On the other hand, when you’re in a room with more light so you can hand-hold you will only be dragging the shutter a little with no need to meter the scene. In the following image I picked my        f-stop, guessed my shutter speed (check the back screen—it looked good) and went for it!

 f6.7 @ 1/30 sec., ISO 400
With the above image I was watching the light on the cake (it had overhead flood light on it) so, I was careful not to use so slow a shutter speed that I lose detail on the cake.


Now we’re down to the last resort—when there’s virtually no light.  It’s night time outside where there are no other lights or you’re in a room in the same situation. In the example below they were in a gazebo with a small overhead light (at least my auto-focus could see to work!) and 5-minutes later we moved to another location for their garter/bouquet toss.  So, no time or inclination, to set-up off camera lights.

f4.0 @ 1/60 sec., ISO 800
The image has good, soft, coverage (look a the cake) because I have the Fong modifier on my flash, which is tilted up at 45 degrees with no cap on it.

Another area, where this flash modifier excels, is in close-up work at the cake table.  In the image below of the rings placed in the midst of the cake table decorations, I pointed the flash straight-up (with NO cap on it).

f8.0 @ 1/60 sec., ISO 400
So, that about covers it, from pure natural light to pure flash and everything in between.  I hope this little primer helps those photographers looking to do weddings in a more natural style, using less flash, with the goal of capturing the style, mood and ambience of each location.

“Till next week…should you have comments or questions don’t hesitate to post…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photog., CR., Certified
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

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