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Szymon & eneloop

10 tips for using flash at weddings

Photographing weddings is one of the most difficult areas of photography. Not only because everything happens quickly, it all happens only once and no one will repeat it for us, for example, putting on wedding rings or the first dance, but also because of the difficult lighting conditions. Although today's cameras allow us to raise the ISO sensitivity, I advocate the use of flash units. And I don’t just mean those put on the body, but also those positioned throughout wedding halls, where the available light is usually rather dull. Neon lights, coloured ceilings, wooden walls, high ceilings etc. That is why today I would like to share some tips on using flash in reportage photography.

  1. Use counter flash

    I really like it when I have the so-called counter flash, i.e. if I have a beautiful flash in the frame. It is enough to set the lamps in at least two places and shoot dancing couples with the flash in the background.
  2. Use the mezzanine

    If the wedding hall has a mezzanine, I place stands or clamps with flash lamps there and direct the head of the lamps down towards the room. Additional tip: in order not to run too much, I attach Eneloop Pro batteries to the flash lamps on the mezzanines to make them last longer.
  3. Use long exposure times and higher flash lamp power

    When I want to add dynamics to photos from the dance floor I shoot with long exposure times. I increase the aperture, decrease ISO, set the lamp power even to 1/2 and direct the lamp straight and try to get close to the dancing couple that I want to capture. When I press the shutter button, I also like to move the camera to add some creative blur.
  4. When you have an uninteresting ceiling, do not reflect light from it

    I’ve seen wedding halls that have, for example, a red ceiling. Point the lamp at it and you get exactly the same colour on the faces of the guests. If you can, aim the head at the side walls (if they are white or neutral in colour). Additionally, make your task easier with lamps placed on tripods.
  5. Don't flash in the church!

    A church is not a place for flashlights. Firstly: there are usually very high ceilings so light doesn’t reflect off them. Secondly: placing flash lamps in the church is an absolute no-no. Thirdly: you will annoy the guests, the priest and the bride and groom. Just don't do it.
  6. Have a charger ready, or plenty of batteries

    If you flash from several lamps, while you also use series shooting, get a charger that will quickly recharge your batteries at a wedding party or bring plenty of spare sets. Flash lamps consume a lot of power. For the field jobs, I always have a Panasonic BQ-CC55 fast charger with me, and Eneloops are grouped in boxes for quick access. I put used batteries into a separate compartment.
  7. Be flexible and experiment

    Each room is different and you don't always have to use a thousand flash lamps. Have you ever had a situation where only some of your flash lamps flashed and it turned out it gave a pretty cool photo? Sometimes I experiment with one or two lamps, and sometimes only with a body lamp to vary the effect.
  8. Anything can be a tripod

    Sometimes there is no place for a tripod so I have to improvise. Sometimes I use clamps that can be attached, for example, to stair railings, or a lamp stand used by a DJ or band. If this is not an option I put the lamp on the mezzanine, for instance (making sure that it won’t fall down). It is not a very good idea to put a lamp on top of the band's speakers — the bass vibrates and the lamp can fall off.
  9. Carry out lamp tests

    Before you start flashing and working, test the positioning of the lamps and the flash. You don't want to have to run around and adjust lamps or settings when the bride and groom start their first dance.
  10. Point the lamp wisely

    Flash lamps have movable heads in order to use them. If you want other effects, you can aim the lamps at the side walls. Pay particular attention to where you point the lamp because if it flashes into red curtains, for example, this colour will be mirrored. If the ceiling is low then your flash may be too strong and will require adjustment. Pay attention to your surroundings.