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Thread: Flash photography in church wedding

  1. #1

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    Flash photography in church wedding

    Hi,
    I was wondering if I could get some advice on how to effectively use a speedlight in the low light, when shooting wedding in a church.
    I use NIKON D90 with SB700, and previously I went to the church to do some test shots. Didn't really work..
    Was trying to find the tutorial on youtube/web, but no avail...so here goes, maybe someone can help.

    The attached photo was taken inside the church on a very sunny day, at around 15:00 PM.
    I used SB700 when shooting this person, but it just does not really look pretty..
    There isn't really anything you can bounce off your light, so not really sure where to point the flash either...
    I assume I should have used slower shutter speed to allow more ambient light to include more details of the church, but something is telling me there are more issues in the photo.
    Any advice on how to improve the lighting? Any tutorial?
    Last edited by blacksheep; 9th July 2013 at 01:25 PM.

  2. #2
    Flyfisher's Avatar
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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    Hello,

    Maybe will work with off camera flash mounted on a stand and a light disperser like a softbox or umbrella?

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    There will be a number of people who, if they see this thread, will be able to offer much better advice and guidance than I can.

    My question (and I apologise it seems too simple and that you have already addressed the issue) is - Do you have permission to use flash during a wedding ceremony?

    If you do, that is good. But it would be unfortunate if you turned up on the day expecting to use your flash, only to be told that you are not allowed to do so.
    Last edited by Donald; 4th July 2013 at 01:41 PM.

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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    Try this link and think dramatic lighting and mystery when you start experimenting. Shadows can be your friend.

    http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/camera-equipment.htm

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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    I second Donald's point. Many churches will take a dim view (no pun intended!) of flash during a ceremony. Clergy often don't like it and it can be disruptive for the congregation. My son is half Dutch and I have been to quite a few Dutch weddings where flash would for sure have been frowned upon. This is why many pro's use fast glass (f2.8) and high ISO in this environment. I would consult with the minister as well as the couple in your shoes to be safe.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    EXIF Details (or your full description) of the sample would assist. But, it appears that you’ve used direct Flash and the camera, (and Flash) were in an automatic mode.

    A couple of Ambient ONLY shots of the Church Interior would serve as a facsimile reconnoitre and assist specific comment apropos a shoot in it.

    ***

    There are various general solutions.

    A lot depends on: if you can set up gear; if you have an assistant; how much time you have; how experienced you are; how fast you can work and also the distances at which you are working.

    If you are working with One Flash; On Camera Flash, then diffusion or bounce is usually better than Direct Flash.

    Diffusion seems to be more in vogue at the moment, but I used more bounce than diffusion and still do at functions that I now shoot.

    But I do use an off camera cord and move the Flash around with my free hand: this might be similar to what was alluded by John, when he mentioned that ‘shadows can be your friend’.

    My favourite Bouncer is a mitt – like this:
    Flash photography in church wedding

    ***

    The concept of using the SHUTTER SPEED to control the AMBIENT EXPOSURE is referred to as “Dragging the Shutter”. You might research that.

    ***

    I use Manual Mode or (sometimes) Program Mode for any Flash work. I use Canon DSLRs and dedicated Speedlites; but Nikon’s M Mode and P Mode functionality is very similar.

    ***

    The Flash Exposure will require “riding”. This means that the FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation) will be changed during the shoot and the amount of FEC will be (mainly) dependent upon what Colour and Texture is in the majority of the Frame.

    For example – for an Half Shot of the Bride (dressed in a White Gown with diamantes sewn in) the FEC will be quite different to the Half Shot of the Best Man and Groom (dressed in Black Dinner Suits).

    WW

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    PS: This is not a topic which can learnt from a tutorial.

    The essence of attaining the skill of good Flash Work under the pressure of time is:
     Firstly, understanding the functionality of the gear (Camera and Flash) to attain the two exposures (Ambient and Flash)
     Secondly, controlling both the Camera and the Flash quickly to get those two exposures correct.

    The first can be got from a tutorial or reading or listening to instruction – the second can only be got by practice - and lots of it.

    WW

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    Quote Originally Posted by William W View Post
    The first can be got from a tutorial or reading or listening to instruction – the second can only be got by practice - and lots of it.
    That is so, so true and is one of the best bits of advice that anyone aspiring to use flash, could get. I have not put in the hours of practice that I should and, as a result, still have to do a lot of conscious level thinking, which means that 'quickly' is not the word that describes how I work with flash.

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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    I can't recall a wedding that I have shot where flash has been allowed inside. I think the closest was in the porch looking out when it was pouring with rain.

    But do make sure you see the vicar/priest/etc about a month beforehand and also a couple of days in advance so that you can plan your attack. Even this occasionally fails, I once had a vicar give me carte blanche to shoot the wedding (he understood where I was coming from), but during the ceremony the organist out of the side of his mouth was 'much less than helpful'. Trouble is half way through the ceremony, there is no way you can pull rank on him or have a blazing row about access.

    I just had to explain it to the couple and the vicar later who couldn't understand why I didn't move across as planned to get the shot.

    Vicar said he would 'sort the organist out later'

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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    Quote Originally Posted by shreds View Post
    I can't recall a wedding that I have shot where flash has been allowed inside. I think the closest was in the porch looking out when it was pouring with rain.

    But do make sure you see the vicar/priest/etc about a month beforehand and also a couple of days in advance so that you can plan your attack. Even this occasionally fails, I once had a vicar give me carte blanche to shoot the wedding (he understood where I was coming from), but during the ceremony the organist out of the side of his mouth was 'much less than helpful'. Trouble is half way through the ceremony, there is no way you can pull rank on him or have a blazing row about access.

    I just had to explain it to the couple and the vicar later who couldn't understand why I didn't move across as planned to get the shot.

    Vicar said he would 'sort the organist out later'
    Back when I was doing weddings (before there was dirt) in the early 1980's, it varied from minister to minister (all inclusive) on whether one could use flash during the wedding ceremony. Most Roman Catholic churchs did not allow flash; however in the 1990's one wedding photographer who I was assisting was allowed to take pics in a Catholic church during the ceremony with a flash from the rear of the church.
    In regards to lighting, I used a handle mounted Sunpak flash with a battery pack. I never did have any problems with the pics regarding lighting. I should say I was a photojournalist type of wedding photographer.
    I never did receive any complaints, that I remember, from the bride (and her mother) on the photos I took. Was probably lucky.

    Bruce

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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    Hi!
    Ummm, I do not have enough equipment to go for offcamera...I know that would give a very good result though

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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    Yes, I am allowed to use the flash in this church This person in the photo is from the church

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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    Thank you for the link!

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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    Sorry! I shot this in the manual mode (I can only use Manual mode..) at f/3.5, SS1/125, ISO400 with D90+Zoom lens 18-200. I also have f2.8 35mm lens, but I thought I wanted to capture the wider angle with the zoom first when the couple is walking on the aisle, then I would change the lens to 35mm fix. (Wong idea?)
    I cannot really go for a full off camera, but I think I can borrow a mini-softbox on the flash when using oncamera.

    I'm going to google “Dragging the Shutter”!

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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    I've just noticed that my replies are not very clear to whom I'm responding...sorry!
    To sum up, thank you all for a lot of advice. I have now a lot to practice/google on

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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    Mariko,

    This is great advice and I am glad that you can use the flash in the church. I just hope you get plenty of chance to practice before the big day, as the last thing you want to be worried about is the flash settings. They say that the big day goes very fast for the bride and groom; it goes about three times faster for the photographer.

    If you can avoid it, try not to change lenses. I did on one occasion and even though it should not have worked, the lens wasnt properly mounted but carried on working but not taking the shots. Lost about ten frames before I noticed. You cant lose ten frames on that kind of shoot, although luckily I got away with it. Nowadays I always have a second shooter as cover, and preferably have two bodies for the different lenses.

    With regards flash, the best 'gun I have ever used for this stuff is a Metz 76 hammerhead with dedicated Nikon module, beautiful light and massively consistent without having to be always changing batteries, especially with the add on battery pack.

    If I was using Speedlights, then setting them up off camera with Pocket Wizards is the bees knees for effects.

    Sorry, I am setting you up with a wish list, which should be spread over a number of years. Still you can then do weddings to pay for it all!

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    Quote Originally Posted by blacksheep View Post
    Sorry! I shot this in the manual mode (I can only use Manual mode..) at f/3.5, SS1/125, ISO400 with D90+Zoom lens 18-200. I also have f2.8 35mm lens, but I thought I wanted to capture the wider angle with the zoom first when the couple is walking on the aisle, then I would change the lens to 35mm fix. (Wong idea?)
    I cannot really go for a full off camera, but I think I can borrow a mini-softbox on the flash when using on camera. I'm going to google “Dragging the Shutter”!
    OK, Thanks.
    A few more points for consideration:

    • It is probably best to focus the discussion on what gear you have to use and how you can employ that gear, rather than you considering an ideal, but unobtainable shopping list.
    • Any information that you share is potentially useful to getting quality advice. It is unclear to me: the reason for the task at hand; your experience at doing the task at hand and the gear you have to use for the task at hand.
    • Every choice you make will have its pros and cons which you need to evaluate.
    • I had a closer look at the test shot - I'd guess that you are about 4~5 stops underexposed for the Ambient Exposure. As I have already advised you should test that, but I reckon F/3.5 @ 1/15s @ ISO800~ISO1600 would be about correct for the Ambient Exposure of that test shot.
    • (based only on the test shot) you'll get a nice warm Ambient of the Church if you drag the shutter to around 1/15s, but as the Flash falls off, you can get Subject in Movement in the Background.
    • As you go to higher ISO, then to slightly underexpose the Ambient, is fraught with danger.
    • It looks to me that the Flash Coverage is Vignetting at 18mm
    • If you borrow a soft box then borrow it well before the event and practice with it.
    • The Higher the ISO you use the less drain on the Flash - think about this apropos the Ceremony Proper, especially key points of the Ceremony, such as the Processional and Recessional. You'll need to evaluate and then know the Flash Recycle Time.
    • I would suggest you NOT change lenses during the Ceremony Proper.
    • If you are the “only” Photographer: then I’d advise a second camera and second Flash.
    • IF you choose to use the zoom, then be aware that it is a VARYING MAXIMUM APERTURE ZOOM: you might be at F/3.5, when at FL = 18mm but you will be at F/5.6 at around FL = 90mm.
    • The 35 Prime will be a (much) faster lens than the zoom – for example what’s the ‘Plan B’ if there is suddenly no Flash – if having a choice of only those the two lenses, I would use the 35 Prime, but that’s me and I am used to working quickly, with fast Primes.
    • You have the OK to use Flash inside the Church and for the Ceremony Proper. What about your freedom of movement? Being able to move and knowing where one can move is integral.
    • As general advice, if the scenario is that you are to be “THE Wedding Photographer” - then consider employing a Professional to cover the Ceremony Proper: for one or two hours.

    WW

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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    Assuming that you are permitted to use flash in the church in question my query is ... a moderate use of local tone mapping in editing after selecting out the main subject and inverting the selection gave me this which seems is enough to avoid the coal cellar result as you posted. Is that enough church detail for you?
    Flash photography in church wedding
    Edit
    I am aware that I only have one photo to treat while you are likely to have several dozen but I think a lot of them probably would not need treatment as they will have less depth as in this test shot and the light fall-off will not be so obvious.
    It only took me a couple of minutes to do this, most of that was opening my editor ... at least it always seems slow when I want to try something

    Edit 2 I wonder if tone mapping just raises shadow detail without unduely burning out highlights ... I don't understand/know the way it works ...the windows raise and suggest this question to me.

    Edit 3 I first tried tone mapping the whole picture which made the guy look horrible which wasted time until I twigged the need to select him out of the treatment area.
    Last edited by jcuknz; 4th July 2013 at 10:42 PM.

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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    Quote Originally Posted by shreds View Post
    Mariko,

    This is great advice and I am glad that you can use the flash in the church. I just hope you get plenty of chance to practice before the big day, as the last thing you want to be worried about is the flash settings. They say that the big day goes very fast for the bride and groom; it goes about three times faster for the photographer.

    If I was using Speedlights, then setting them up off camera with Pocket Wizards is the bees knees for effects.
    Though my first reply was curing the problem of one photo in editing the clue I think has been given above without the reasons. Which for all I know you may be aware of already but worth repeating.

    Firstly working with most light sources the light falls off at the inverse square of the light to subject distance.

    This means the worst place for the light is on the camera and the only exception to this is when you use the on-board flash as a fill light to fill-in or better partly fill-in the shadows caused by another light source.

    The solution is to have a greater distance between the lamp and the subject so that relative to the light the distance between the main subject and subject matter behind them is proportionately less than with the light on the camera.

    The danger in a 'joyful' occasion such as a wedding is that the shadows cast by an off camera light will be unpleasant and here I see you using the on-board [ built-in] camera flash as a fill light and in my small experience of modern flash work cameras seem to work it all out for me provided I dial back the on-boards strength or proportion to the other light source. [ I am not sure quite how the cameras are working it out for me]

    So I echo the person above suggesting a remote flash fired by a Wizard or similar system so long as it permits you to also use the 'on-board'. I don't know if that is possible because from what I have seen from adverts the transmitter sits in the hot-shoe which in turn stops the on-board from working. There must surely be a way to overcome this problem which I don't know about. It is such a basic and obvious need???

    I have read the comment which makes sense to me that diffusing gadgets added to the flash unit do not more than in a small way help to soften the light. The further away the subjects are the less effective they become because softness comes from the 'wrap-around-ness' coming from the relative size of the lightsource to the subject ... a flood at twenty feet will be as hard as a spotlight up close.

    If it is not possible to use the on-board as a fill light then the combination of remote/Wizard and subtle use of tone mapping in editing may be an answer. But whatever get the flash off the camera unless you are using the on-board which gives a nice flat lighting.

    A final comment ... it is the bride's day and the groom is simply there becuase it takes two to get married so any lighting needs to favour the bride and make her look wonderful
    Last edited by jcuknz; 5th July 2013 at 02:37 AM.

  20. #20

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    Re: Flash photography in church wedding

    Quote Originally Posted by shreds View Post
    I can't recall a wedding that I have shot where flash has been allowed inside. I think the closest was in the porch looking out when it was pouring with rain.
    A bit earlier in time when I shot weddings regularly the only shot inside the church was taken from the back at a moment when the minister wasn't looking .... with one notable [ for me] exception when at the Catholic Basilica in Wellington was a priest coming to me and pointing out the access to the 'Nun's Loft' to get a shot of the party from up high and face on. Sadly in those days all I had was a 50mm ... but for the period it was a nice shot .... so I guess I rate priests rather higher than the numerous others I encountered. They seemed to appreciate that showing the wedding in the church was an important record to be made .... so luckilly times have changed over the years.

    The only problem with allowing the photographer to use flash is that the P&S'ers may start blazing away, to no great purpose, which staggered me when I was filming back in 1996 in the Citadel Charleston. Though it did encourage me to move around and make a much better video than discretely standing at the side

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