Tips on using an off-camera flash at a wedding
The first thing that you need to ensure is that the flash and the camera are able to communicate with each other without issues. I know some of you with an eye on such things would already be saying PocketWizard. But let me tell you that sometimes these can misfire. There can be a plethora of issues. Too many people using wireless triggers (which is a bit far-fetched, but a possibility), lack of line of sight so on and so forth. Having said that, remote triggers such as PocketWizards can be extremely useful. They help you to communicate with several flash units setup off-camera at different locations of the venue. You can easily adjust power without having to physically tune each one of them separately.
Don’t be afraid to gel your flash
Any kind of light shaping or enhancing tools would be great for shooting at a wedding as long as it is small and flexible. Small softboxes that can be hand-held are great. Gelling your flash is a good way to enhance the light that you are using. A modern flash can be anywhere between 5500–6000° kelvin. Sometimes the light may be a little too bluish for shooting in daylight, especially when you are trying to use it in fill-flash mode. Daylight is usually around 5500 to 6500° kelvin depending on cloud cover and time of the day. To warm the light produced by a flash you need a gel. CTO gels from Rosco, also known as Color Correction gels, are designed for this very purpose. These are cheap, easy to use and very effective.
Bounce the light
Successful wedding photographers know how to use the bounce light technique. Bouncing light means pointing your little speedlight away from the subject and in a different direction to what everybody else is doing. But not just any direction. Towards a wall or a ceiling to bounce the light off from. If the venue has a white wall or a ceiling you can use this technique with good effect. All you need to do is point the light straight up or to the left or right depending on the direction in which the wall / ceiling is and just bounce it.
Make the venue appear bigger using background lights
At certain times the tininess of a room or venue can be disguised by the proper use of lighting. Due to the inherent nature of light, there is a huge amount of fall off over the initial distances. This means while the front of the subject is properly illuminated the background isn’t. This can be a real problem in the sense that the dark background can make the venue appear small and claustrophobic. With the right kind of speedlight you can make sure that this is countered for.
Freeze the moment
The thing about speedlights is that you can literally freeze the moment with them. I love doing that when I have a scene which kind of gives me that overpowering amount of urge to achieve the impossible – freeze a wedding moment when motion is all that is in front of you. I find speedlights to be my most effective weapon.
Speedlights can fire at an incredible speed. But you are very much limited to using a shutter speed of 1/250 or 1/200 because of the sync-speed problem. Careful planning and placement of the lights and essentially timing your shots well will result in memorable images.
Induce blur to signify motion
Having mentioned using a flash to freeze the moment, I will now mention the exact opposite. Introduce motion blur in your images to capture the essence of movement. Sometimes blurring can result in really interesting images. Let’s say the first dance, the bride and her parents, the best men lifting the groom in the air or the bridesmaids taking up the heavy-lifting job! You simply cannot have something like that captured in the true spirit of the moment if you pose them. Tack sharp images of those moments feel like they have been posed and sucks the life out. Call me weird but a slight bit of motion blur is all that is needed to make such photos come alive. To achieve this you will need to use the rear-curtain sync