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outdoor weddings
overcast skies
shutter speed
overhead light
outdoor wedding
wedding photography
wedding photos
depth of field
Flash Photography Tips For Outdoor Weddings
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Part 1 - Overcast Lighting Adding fill flash to your outdoor wedding photos can yield wonderful results. The bulk of my wedding photography is done in Oregon where overcast skies are the norm. We have a type of natural, outdoor soft box if you will. But don't let overcast skies fool you! Yes, the light is softer and not as harsh as direct sunlight. But it is still, just one, big overhead light source. Can you imagine lighting this way in the studio? With just one diffused light coming from directly overhead? Of course not! In the studio, we're always adding light to fill in and compliment the face. Why would we not take the time to light this way outside? Overcast lighting, just like bright sun, creates shadows in the eyes, and under the nose and chin so we need to fill in those areas with a little light.

As with life, the key to any lighting situation, is balance. The fill flash should compliment your subject not scream " I USED FLASH!" The foreground and background should blend well together. If one stands out more than the other, you did not achieve balance. Ideally, you want your subject about 1-1.5 stops brighter then the background. Using a hand held light meter, flash slaves and tripod or assistant will take out the guess work.

First, I meter for the ambient light. Let's say it's at ISO 200, 250th of a second at f 4.0. (Note: I typically keep my shutter speed as high as I can go and still sync with my flash. This allows me to keep my f-stop low, thereby reducing the depth of field, thereby making my subject stand out.) I adjust my flash to give me a reading of about f 5.6. This will fill in the shadows and, you guessed it, achieve balance. Balance between my subject and background.

Keep in mind that the less light you have to work with the trickier this becomes. If dusk is approaching and your light is falling, be mindful of how much flash you use. Same goes if you are in a very shadowed area. Too much flash and your background will easily go dark. You may only want to go about 3/4 of a stop brighter than your background.

I encourage you to experiment with these flash photography tips for outdoor weddings to see what works best for you. Practice with friends before the wedding, placing them in all types of lighting situations. If you are comfortable with your flash, you'll be able to concentrate more on the artistic side of making great images, and less with the technical.


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