It always makes for a great ending….

Rather ironically, my first post is entitled ‘It always makes for a great ending….’.  Of course, what I mean by this is in reference to the Bride and Groom’s first dance on their wedding day.

As a photographer you can always bank on getting some genuine, natural Bride & Groom interaction; loving expressions and more often than not some laughs too.   Easy, we just need to be on hand to capture that, right?

Well, what can we generally expect at this point? Low light conditions, dark, often large venues, lots of incandescent lights, a moving subject and, quite frequently, an unpredictable light show from the DJ.    Not as easy as it sounds! So where as a photographer do we start?  There are a couple of essential pieces of equipment required; a fast lens (F1.8 – 2.0 territory), a high ISO capable camera, a powerful flash gun with a 180 degree rotating head, a ‘flag’ for the flash (I use the Spinlight 360) and a gel to warm up the flash light.

Lets handle the dark, cavernous, conditions.  There are 3 camera settings which impact ambient exposure; aperture, ISO and shutter speed.  Increasing any of these will in turn increase the exposure of our photograph.  In this scenario our flash will be the main source of light for our subjects, however, we want the ambient light to register to a degree in our photo in order to provide setting context and to avoid the commonly found ‘black hole’ background.  To do so we could increase any of the aforementioned camera controls.  Historically slowing the shutter speed was the ‘go to’ method of doing this, as this as the only independent control of controlling ambient light when using flash .  In turn, movement such as a dancing couple could cause motion blur in our final photo.

With digital cameras and TTL flash guns we do not have to be restricted in using shutter speed alone.  We can increase ambient exposure by using aperture and ISO in order to maintain a relatively fast shutter speed.  In turn, our TTL flash gun will add the ‘correct’ amount of flash based on these settings.  How much  ambient exposure we allow to register by is down to personal taste.

Settings for the final photograph above were f1.8, ISO 1600, 1/80. Flash TTL

When flash light is a large contributor to a photo I always try to avoid direct flash light.  As a result the flash was bounced behind me, off a rear wall, at an angle I would want the light to come from in order to provide some directional lighting.  In addition, the cold light of the flash is warmed with a 1/2 CTS gel to help the flash light blend in with the warm ambient lighting.  My flash gun is ‘flagged’ using a black card via the Spinlight 360 modifier to tightly control the direction of light.

The result? I hope you agree, is a very naturally looking flash-lit photograph coupled with a loving expression of a very happy Bride & Groom.

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