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Flash Photography Tips For Outdoor Weddings - Part 2 Bright Sun
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Flash Photography Tips For Outdoor Weddings - Part 2 Bright Sunlight

When photographing an outdoor wedding in bright sunlight, I strongly recommend adding fill flash. Please keep in mind that if your ask 5 different photographers how to light an outdoor wedding with bright sunlight, you'd get 5 different answers. Each photographer has his or her preference on how they want their photographs to look and how to achieve those results. Your best bet is to experiment...not only to see what produces the best results, but what works for you. I have tried to light a wedding the way other photographers recommend and typically end up reverting back to my way - it's what I'm comfortable with and what gives me the consistent results my clients expect. What I'll share with you here is what, after over 400 weddings, works for me.

When presented with an outdoor wedding in bright sunlight the first thing I do is look for shade. If you're lucky, you'll be able to photograph part of the formals in that shade. However, it is very rare that you will have enough shade to provide the variety needed for ALL the formals. I'm not a fan of the firing squad method where you find one spot, line them up and shoot them. I like to move around...have a different spot for the groomsmen then the bridesmaids, etc. Overall, this will add much more visual interest to the finished bridal album.

So you've been able to photograph part of the formals in the shade...then what? Venture into the sun! The next thing I look for is great spots to place my subject where the sun is to the side or behind them. I avoid having my subjects face the sun at all costs! It is unflattering, will hurt their eyes and they'll be squinting. Not fun! Yes, this means you will sometimes be shooting into the sun. The lower the sun is in the sky, the more challenging this becomes. I often grab my small white bounce card out of my camera bag to place over the end of my lens. This helps to cut down on any sun glare coming into your lens - essentially giving you a longer lens hood.

Now comes the tricky part - balancing the light. Our goal here is to fill in the shadows on the face caused by the sun...those under the eyes, nose and chin. To achieve this look you want your subject to be lit about 1-1.5 stops brighter then the background. I use a handheld light meter to first meter for the ambient light falling onto my subjects. Then, using a pocket wizard I trigger my flash, adjusting until I have a reading abut 1-1.5 stops above my ambient reading. So say the ambient reading is ISO 200, 250th of a second at f 5.6. I adjust my flash to give me a reading of about f 8.0. My preference is always to keep my f-stop as low as possible. This makes the depth of field small as well which means your background will go slightly blurry which in turn helps to emphasize your subject.

I encourage you to experiment with these flash photography tips for weddings to see what works best for you. Adding flash can be intimidating - it was for me at first. You want to be comfortable with your flash so that the technical side is second nature. Once this is achieved, you can shoot from your heart and gut, not necessarily your head!


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