As a self taught photographer, I took the long hard road of learning my camera by…ahem READING MY MANUAL! Yep!! That was the first step of many, but it began my journey. My children were my guinea pigs and I would take them outside and shoot and shoot. Then I talked my friends into it. And slowly but surely, I began to learn how to control my camera, and not the other way around. I began to choose every option to create the image that I saw in my minds eye. I began to understand how placement of my subject effects the image. How light works with or against an image. How the sun affected my images.
But what took me the longest to even get around to…Flash, Off Camera Lighting and Strobes!!
I bought a flash fairly quickly after beginning my photographic journey, but I didn’t learn how to actually use it for years! It wasn’t until I began to shoot weddings that I thought “I should know exactly how to use these contraptions!”
My favorite lighting will always be natural. But knowing how to use flash, off camera lighting and strobes are so important as a Wedding Photographer. My clients needs to know that I will be able to capture their reception with as much confidence as I capture their portraits in the beginning of the day.
Our setup is fairly simple. Again we are mostly natural light and we are not trying to do anything fancy, we simply want to be able to create beautifully lit images no matter what situation we find ourselves in.
At every wedding we have 4 Flashes (we use 3 SB910‘s and one SB600… only because that was my first flash and it works great still!). We set two up on tripods and have one on each of our cameras. I got the 910’s for their internal transmitters…but unfortunately they are not super reliable and we found it more of a headache to try to use them at a reception, so we use the Yongnuo transmitters, which we have found to be really reliable for a surprisingly low cost! They do however run battery power really quickly, so that is a big downside.
My flash is normally pointed at a 45 degree angle up and behind me so that it can bounce off of walls etc. The two flash stands are normally near the dj stand and opposite of wherever that is. Depending on the setup sometimes we choose to keep them pointing straight forward (they are pretty high up) or sometimes we have them pointed at a bit of an angle up to bounce off of the ceiling.
Our settings my surprise you also! If you are a natural light photographer, then you are used to keeping a shutterspeed that is at least double your focal length (unless you’re shooting a 35mm then much more than that!). But with artificial lighting, you actually need a fairly long shutter release.
On Camera: My ISO is normally at 1600, my shutter speed ranges from 1/100-1/25…yep thats not a typo! 1/25! I still keep a fairly open Aperture, around F3.2 is where my favorite spot is.
On my Flash: I start it in Manual at usually 1/32 and sometimes go down to 1/16 if needed.
Most will wonder why I need my ISO to be 1600 if I’m using flash. I do not want my flash to be powering at the highest power. For a couple of reasons, one being that it will run thru batteries very quickly. Another is they get very hot at full power (1/1) and I can’t help but think that is probably not good for them. At 1600 ISO with flash going, I have never had an issue with grain. And to me it’s worth it to be able to use a lower power and not run out of battery during an important moment!
I do not claim to know everything, and I am definitely still learning, but once I learned these simple things it took my reception lighting game to a whole other level! I hope this helps you too!!