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Shooting Indoor Wedding Portraits with Off Camera Flash Photography

One of the most challenging aspects of being a wedding photographer is that, often times, you have absolutely no control of the situations you encounter to photograph. One specific aspect of that challenge is the lighting conditions you encounter. Knowing how to use off camera flash can help you overcome these challenging wedding photography lighting scenarios.

In our Off-Camera Flash Techniques for Wedding Photographers Guide, created with SLR Lounge, we discuss a few scenarios that may occur during the getting ready part of the day. Throughout the first post of this series, Pye Jirsa from SLR Lounge and Lin & Jirsa Photography shared his suggestions to set up the lighting for the getting ready scene to help you develop unique and dramatic images. For the second post, he will share how to using off camera flash for indoor portraits can continue to add these effects to your images.

 

Locations for indoor portraits will differ, as will the light you are provided. In some cases, as viewed during the getting ready examples, there is natural light to help with the scene. Other times, though, you may be in an indoor location where there is no natural light filling the scene. While there might be some artificial light provided from ceiling lights, you may not want to only rely on that to be your main source of light. This is when knowing how to add off camera flash into the scene can be particularly useful. Below, Pye walks you through how to take dark locations with low and terrible lighting and transform it to create dramatic portraits.

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groom wedding photography lighting

Image Compliments of Lin & Jirsa Photography

Scenario:

Part of the Wedding Day: Indoor Portraits

Location: Bar

Lighting Condition: Low light from overhead lights, colored backlight

Subject(s): Groom & Groomsmen

In this first scenario of this part of the day, the goal is to focus the light solely on the groom and keep his groomsmen silhouetted. Because the ambient light of the bar in the background is so bright, it will naturally create silhouettes of the groomsmen. Once the groomsmen are silhouetted, the goal is to place the light on just the groom, as you can see in the image below. Pye achieves this look by placing a MagGrid on his off camera flash. A grid helps focus the light spread and avoids light spill onto the background or the groomsmen in the shot.

In the image below, you can see how the light is positioned to only highlight the groom, though overall, the off camera flash is not powerful enough. This causes the image to become warm and the emphasis on the groom is not as dramatic and bright as it needs to be.

groom lighting wedding photo

Image Compliments of Lin & Jirsa Photography

To adjust this, the flash is set for full power and is zoomed in so the light hits the groom’s face. To combat the warmth of the image, the camera white balance is adjusted to 4000 Kelvin. This helps to cool the image down overall. Additionally, the grid on the flash is switched out for a Magmod Snoot, because even with the grid, there was too much light spilling onto the other subjects. From there, Pye captures the image seen below.

lighting for wedding photography groom poses

Image Compliments of Lin & Jirsa Photography

After you highlight the groom in a few shots, you can then highlight the groomsmen in the shot as well. Take a look at the next scenario we share to discover how to create images of the groom and his groomsmen from this part of the wedding day.

Related: Are you using these simple 11 go-to poses for the groom during the wedding day shoot to make him look his best in every image?

Scenario:

Part of the Wedding Day: Indoor Portraits

Location: Bar

Lighting Condition: Low light from overhead lights, bright colored backlight

Subject(s): Groom and Groomsmen

Once you create a dramatic image that highlights the groom, you can use a similar lighting setup to place the light on each of the groomsmen. There are a few adjustments made with the off camera flash photography setup that can be used in this scenario and many others. This is the great part about understanding light and how to use off camera flash, so you can create an off camera flash setup that you only need to modify to capture unique angles and perspectives.

In this second scenario, the goal is to provide even lighting for the groom and his groomsmen. With the bright colored light behind them, causing natural silhouettes, there needs to be additional light to ensure they are properly lit. To achieve this, the groom and his groomsmen are in a similar position as the first off camera flash lighting setup. Pye moves the flash to the left of the group and removes the snoot that was used in the previous shot.

The snoot focuses the light to a specific spot, and since there are four subjects in this image, the use of the snoot isn’t necessary. To ensure the light fills the scene, Pye adds the Fstoppers collapsible flash disc in front of the flash. In the image below, there is a slight reflection coming from the back of the bar. Because the disc is white, it reflects off of the bar and into the shot.

groomsmen wedding photography lighting

Image Compliments of Lin & Jirsa Photography

To combat this, Pye moves the off camera flash and the disc slightly behind a pillar to avoid the reflection in the shot. He then adjusts his flash to 1⁄2 power and shoots from a lower angle. This helps him reduce the reflection seen in the shot, which can be seen in the image below.

groomsmen wedding photography

Image Compliments of Lin & Jirsa Photography

With the knowledge of how to set up the off camera flash for these images, you can use it in other scenarios that provide low light and a backlight. The next scenario walks through how to create flattering light in a terrible location (and with terrible light). Keep reading to discover the way Pye sets up the light in these locations, with the challenging light, to create dramatic and memorable imagery for his clients.

Scenario:

Part of the Wedding Day: Indoor Portraits

Location: Conference Room

Lighting Condition: Terrible light from a terrible location

Subject(s): Bride

Often times, you have to shoot in a location where there is a terrible room and terrible light to go along with it. These are unavoidable elements for some of the weddings you will shoot, and it is necessary to find ways to create light to help you shoot and capture moments.

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The key to overcoming this and creating the images you desire is to choose what to show when it comes to ambient light versus off camera flash. No matter how dark the room, or how dimly lit, understanding the balance between the two can help you create dynamic wedding photography. Plus, this knowledge can continue to build your confidence when it comes to lighting, which allows you to quickly set up and shoot during the various scenarios that occur.

In this scenario, the goal is to create dramatic light in a terrible location. If the ambient light in the room you are working in is not flattering, reduce your exposure to only allow a slight amount of ambient light into the shot. In this case, Pye wants to slightly emphasize the wood background, so he sets his ISO to 200 and places his shutter speed at 1/50th of a second. The key to controlling the light in this situation is to control the spill that happens with the light by using grids and gels.

Pye first starts by placing the bride in front of the wall and with one flash to the left of her. Another flash will be added to create the final image. Before adding a second light, Pye focuses on attaining the proper exposure with the light directed at the bride’s face. In the image below, you can see how the light is focused on the bride, though some of the highlights are blown out.

wedding lighting setup for bridal portraits

Image Compliments of Lin & Jirsa Photography

As Pye adds in the second light, he will also work to soften the light coming from the first flash, which is set to 1/32nd power. In the image below, the second off camera flash set for 1/128th power is positioned so the light lands on the bride’s left shoulder. This is meant to create a beautiful, soft rim light.

Tip:  This is a great time to use the Depth of Field Preview. When the flash is on, it can be set up in the menu to pulse the flash to help you see where the light falls. This is useful in situations with low light because the flash can be seen and the Depth of Field Preview can be used as a modeling light to see where it is landing on the subject.

To soften the light coming toward the front of the bride’s face, a large reflector is added in to assist. To diffuse the light, it is important that the reflector is held far enough away from the flash. This allows the light source to fill up more of the reflector and become softer. As a final touch, a bouquet is added into the image to give the bride something to do with her hands, and the image below is created.

lighting for wedding bridal portraits

Image Compliments of Lin & Jirsa Photography

Related: How can proper lighting and posing during the wedding day shoot help you create memorable images clients will love?

Scenario:

Part of the Wedding Day: Indoor Portraits

Location: Conference Room

Lighting Condition: Terrible light from a terrible location

Subject(s): Groom

One of the great things about the off camera flash photography setup used in the previous example is that it can also be used with the groom. And, by making a few simple adjustments, a Rembrandt light can be added to the groom’s face for a dramatic portrait of him.

To do this, the off camera flash to the groom’s right is moved forward to be slightly in front of him. Additionally, this flash is adjusted to 1/8th power, and the ISO is reduced to 100 to create a better balance of the light coming from both flashes. With the lighting dialed in, the final step is to make sure that when shooting the groom full-length, the unflattering carpet is minimized as much as possible. To do this, Pye positions himself at a lower angle and shoots upwards toward the groom, and the image below is created.

groom portraits wedding photography

Image Compliments of Lin & Jirsa Photography

By using these basic wedding photography lighting setups, a terrible room can be transformed, and beautiful lighting can be achieved in any situation. Learn more about how to photograph the couple portraits with this workshop.

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When you understand the benefits of using off camera flash during the wedding day shoot, it can help you quickly create images your clients will love. These are just a few wedding photography lighting tips you can use throughout the day, and are meant to help you feel confident and shoot quickly to capture dramatic images (regardless of your location).

In our free Guide: Off-Camera Flash Techniques for Wedding Photographers, created with SLR Lounge, we share additional how-to image setup examples for the indoor portraits. You will see how the shots are set up by Pye and how he got to the end results you see above. Throughout our guide, we also share how using off camera flash setups during the wedding reception and outdoor portraits allows you to deliver stunning images to your clients (without having to spend too much time figuring out how to set up the light). Grab your copy to advance your lighting knowledge!

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