Monday, October 11, 2010

Weddings - Flash or no Flash

If you are like most people (and like me), your camera probably sees the most amount of work during weddings. And if you are like most people, you probably have an aversion to using the on-bard fill-flash because it produces harsh and unflattering exposures. This, of course, becomes all the more important if you are attending one of those weddings were the bridal party, or more likely the case, the officiant, requests that no flash photography be taken.

Just as an aside, if you are considering getting married, the officiant/priest/pastor/etc is dead set against flash photography, my kind suggestion is to find one who isn't. The worst memory I have was the minister of a church who insisted that none of the guests use flash during the ceremony.... including the official photographer. I suppose this was not to violate the sanctity of the wedding ceremony...of course, my opinion was that this particular minister had completely lost touch with what weddings were supposed to be about, a shared community experience. (And just as a poke, I have been of a lot of religious weddings over the years, many much more theologically deep and satisfying than his one. The only thing the venue had going for it was stained glass and pomp and circumstance.) I spoke with the photographer after wards... this was when most wedding photographers were using Nikon D200's... he had been forced to use ISO 1600 and looked like he was in a lot of anguish over how the pictures were going t turn out.

But enough about that. The point is, if you are shooting at a friend's wedding, don't be afraid of your flash, because it will save you big time. Here's a quick use/don't use suggestion. (Assuming you don't have a flash unit like a SB-600 that will bounce off the ceiling.)

Wedding Procession - Don't Use
You'll probably be surrounded by gusts with compact point and shoots, which will invariably need to use flash. When exposing a picture, one flash is good; more than one flash from multiple sources is bad. I prefer not to use flash out of respect to the bride, who is probably  bundle of nerves anyway. 

Ceremony  - Don't Use
This is a no brainer. The bride and groom are relatively stationary, and the chances are that you will be able to stabilize your camera on the pew or chair in front of you.

Presentation of the Bride and Groom - Use
With the formal ceremony over, the bride and groom will move pretty fast down the isle. I prefer to use smaller apertures and flash to get plenty of light and depth of field.

One Person - No Flash
With one person, no flash is less intimidating to pose for pictures.

Multiple People - Flash
Don't even try to use wide aperture with multiple people, you won't have enough depth of field to get all of the faces in focus. Aim for something past f/5.6 and use flash to compensate for the loss of light. Even if the exposure turns out to be a bit harsh, it will still be better than a nicely exposed out of focus picture.

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