The Wedding Photographer’s Mind: Flash Photography

“I don’t like flash photography!”

I hear this fairly often from couples (and other photographers) – a dislike of ‘flash’ photography. I’m not sure where it comes from. Perhaps they have some bad memories of unflattering photos in the past where the flash made everyone looked washed out and flat. Maybe they’re thinking of how bad the flash on their cell phone camera looks.

I have sometimes heard other photographers say, “I’m a natural light photographer. I never use flash.” Well, if I have access to beautiful, complimentary natural light – OF COURSE I am going to use that. The problem is that you don’t always have access to wonderful light on a wedding day.

Personally, I think a flash is a very important tool in a wedding photographer’s kit. Not only is it important to know when to use it, but how to use it properly! Want to

Fill It In

Even when you’re outside on a nice sunny day, the light might not be ‘great’. Depending on the position of the sun, you can have unflattering shadows under people’s eyes. So, you use a little bit of flash to fill things in. No big deal. Just a little bump.

Brotherhood Winery wedding by Casey Fatchett -

Is It Dark In Here or Is It Just Me?

The human eye is a remarkable piece of equipment. It naturally adjusts to lower light conditions. As amazing as they are, your eyes can fool you into thinking that the room you are in is brighter than it actually is – and make you think a flash is unnecessary.

You might be thinking, “But, Casey, digital cameras have advanced so much! All I have to do is use a low light lens and bump up the ISO as far as it can go and I’ll still be able to get pictures.”

For those who aren’t familiar with camera jargon, ISO is a setting to adjust the light sensitivity of a camera (in digital cameras, it’s the measure of the sensor’s sensitivity – ISO is a holdover from film speeds). The higher the ISO, the more sensitive it is to light.

Well, when you increase the sensitivity of your camera in very low light situations, there are two things that happen. One, you start to get grainier/noisier photos. Two, you start to lose color depth – the colors start getting muddier and not as lifelike.

Pierre Hotel NYC wedding photographed by Casey Fatchett -

I like to bounce the flash off the ceiling or use a diffuser to soften the light and make it seem more natural.

Why Does My Skin Look Blue?

This is a continuation of the point I just made. Another problem you can run into at a wedding reception if you don’t use a flash and just crank the ISO up is that any lighting in the room can get picked up by the camera. For example, if your DJ is using lights, you can end up with spot lights all over the pictures. Or, if, as another example, you decide to use blue lighting on the walls, the light can be reflected on your skin, giving it a blueish hue.

You need to lower your ISO to a point where the camera is not picking up the unwanted colors, and use enough flash power to light your subjects. Done properly, you still get the ambiance of any lighting in the room, but it doesn’t reflect on the people in the photos.

Massachusetts barn wedding by Casey Fatchett

Freezing the Moment

Things happen fast at weddings, and you don’t get to go back and redo them. Even when there’s enough ambient light to take good pictures with a low light lens, this might mean having to use a slow shutter speed.

That means you can’t ‘freeze’ the action. People moving quickly will end up being blurred and unrecognizable. There are so many great moments at a wedding – you don’t want to miss any of them!

Jewish wedding at The Carltun -

This is in no means a diss of ‘natural light photography’. Like I said, if it’s available. I will use it.

All I am saying is DON’T FEAR THE FLASH! It can be your friend.Bride and Groom -

So, if you’re looking for a photographer who can handle a dark reception venue – or you’re a wedding photographer interested in learning more about flash – get in touch with me! I’d love to talk.

self portrait

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