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Top 5 Tips for Utilizing Off-Camera Lighting

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When you think about all of the different elements that compose a strong photo, what is one aspect you have the most trouble with? For many photographers, lighting can be challenging to master, especially when it comes to utilizing off-camera lighting. The key to enhancing your wedding photography images is to understand how light works and how you can apply any type of lighting to your shoots.

In our Mastering your Off-Camera Lighting Webinar with Pye Jirsa, he shared simple tips for you to succeed with off-camera lighting. Here are the top 5 tips from Pye’s webinar to help you continue your education on lighting techniques.

1. Overcome the Myths of Flash

If you consider yourself a natural light photographer, you may have heard misconceptions about using flash in your photography. In our webinar, Pye explains the most common myths about flash:

  • Myth #1: Flash is difficult to learn, too complicated and time-consuming to use. With the gear you already have, you can start incorporating flash techniques to your shoots. Practicing with flash can actually help you speed up your shoot (mostly because you will know exactly what look you want and how to achieve it).
  • Myth #2: Flash cannot look natural and it will always overwhelm your photos. Flash photography helps you highlight your couple in the images. Depending on how you use it, flash can look completely natural or dramatic (based on your preferences).
  • Myth #3: Flash photography is expensive and requires too much gear. Instead of purchasing expensive gear, you can start learning how to use flash with the equipment you already have. Using your camera’s flash can help you practice creating dynamic images without making any purchases.

Understanding exactly what flash can do for you will give you the ability to shoot in any scenario, regardless of the lighting situation.

2. Create More Natural Lighting

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In many instances, you may think flash cannot look natural, because when you first start practicing, your images may look over processed with flash, or too dark and dramatic. In order to overcome this and create lighting that looks more natural, you need to understand how your off-camera lighting works with the ambient lighting available. To create natural effects with your flashes or strobes, analyze the amount of ambient lighting in your location and reduce the power on your flashes to create a more natural look. Your flashes will act as a fill light, rather than producing an overly dramatic image.

Related: We’ve pulled 26 key tips from Roberto Valenzuela’s Picture Perfect Lighting – use them to advance your lighting knowledge!

If you are in a darker location and want to create lighting that looks similar to ambient light (such as window lighting),  consider the angle you place your flashes or strobes, along with the power level. By analyzing these items, you can create a scene that looks like it was photographed in natural lighting, even if it was entirely created with off-camera lighting.

3. Learn Common Light Patterns

For you to understand lighting, it can be helpful to learn the most common key light patterns. The 5 common key light patterns are flat lighting, butterfly lighting, loop lighting, rembrandt lighting, and split lighting. When you know exactly how each of these light patterns operate, you can go into your shoot with a mindset of what you want to achieve, rather than capturing a look without knowing why you did it. Effectively using off-camera lighting can give you the ability to achieve your vision, as well as recognize why you want to create certain lighting effects in your images. The faster you can set up lighting which flatters your couple and the background, the more you can shoot within a shorter timeframe.

4. Understand Various Light Qualities

Similar to the common key light patterns, there are specific light qualities that can help you capture the perfect light for your couples. When dealing with hard versus soft light, you are looking at the size of the light. The smaller the light source is in relation to your couple, the harder the light will be and the more defined shadows will become. Conversely, larger light can help you achieve a softer look, which can be placed close-up and can develop flattering shadows on your couple.

When working with diffused or specular light, you are focusing on specific light modifiers. Diffused light creates soft highlights, which can help create a smooth look for your couple’s faces. Specular light is reflected light, and this creates more exaggerated highlights. By understanding the various light qualities and how they will affect the final outcome of your images, you can know exactly what you want to create (and how to achieve it) before you begin shooting.

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5. Produce Light for Large Groups

During the wedding day, you may be faced with needing to shoot groups of people in dark spaces, such as family formals in a church, or the wedding guests in the reception venue. When this happens, there are a few ways to overcome this obstacle. Try placing two off-camera flashes in different corners of the room. This technique helps you get more power and light out of your flashes, helping you light the room (this can also provide for some great rim lighting if your couple is lined up properly in-front of one of the flashes!). Additionally, you can find a large light source in the room, such as the ceiling, and bounce the light off of it. This will help to create butterfly lighting, casting an even light on your subjects.

Related: Do you have difficulties shooting the wedding party?

Tip: Another way to combat dark locations is to create a boom stick (place a flash and diffuser together on a monopod or light stand) and have your second shooter hold it in your desired location.

When you have the ability to create stunning light in any shooting situation, you will have the confidence to take your best photos. Sending your images off to wedding photography editing company can also help your images look their best.

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During every shoot, there are various scenarios that require off-camera flash to solve a lighting issue or to help you develop dramatic images. How can you control and create light with off-camera flash in any location, regardless of the scenario? Our Off-Camera Flash Techniques for Wedding Photographer Guide, created in conjunction with SLR Lounge, walks through simple off-camera flash setups, the reasons why they work, and how you can quickly use them to transform a location. Download it today!

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