Limited Edition Photography
Texas based landscape photographer

Blog-weddings

Natural light vs flash at reception

I've always used a flash at receptions. It's funny, because I hate using flash during ceremony's unless I absolutely have to... I would rather pump my ISO to 12,800 while the Bride is walking down the aisle, because I know it will turn out, so why am I so hesitant to use natural light at receptions? 

I think in the back of my head, I'm worried about not capturing a moment. I'm one of those guys that, "if it's not in focus and sharp - it's not a good picture", but I'm slowly changing my ways. The last wedding I shot, was great for shooting natural light at the reception, because they had stringed lighting that provided a ton of light on the dance floor! I'm always telling you to take a chance, well here I am taking another chance myself ;)

This first shot is a normal off-camera flash. It's what I normally do at weddings with an assistant off to the side holding a monopod and a speedlight.

normal off-camera flash

normal off-camera flash

It's nice, but I felt it was lacking the ambience of the scene.

This next shot was a few seconds later, pumping my ISO to 6400 and shooting at something like 1/100th of a second. I didn't have to worry about lighting placement and concentrated on the moment at hand.

natural light, ISO 6400, 1/100th

natural light, ISO 6400, 1/100th

The natural light gives this pictures so much more presence. You can see exactly how it was while they were dancing.

The next shot was at the end of the reception and I once again, was not feeling my flash and decided to try some more natural light. The first is the flash on camera (which is what I normally do to capture the dancing).

on-camera flash, dancing

on-camera flash, dancing

Here is the same thing, but without a flash.

dancing, with no flash

dancing, with no flash

It's amazing the difference in the last two pictures! You can also see that they were really dancing and I was at ISO 8000 and 1/125th of a second and it caught the action great! I shot almost the rest of the dancing with natural light. 

One of my favorite things about digital, is I can take chances in the moment and correct it. Normally, I would not have tried to shoot so much natural light, but when I took a chance and saw it was working, it was game on! 

If you have a camera capable of these amazing ISO levels, I will challenge you to try it out at your next reception. It's not going to always work and there are many times that flash looks better than natural light, but it's good to know what is possible, so you can change it up to capture the real ambience of a moment.

If you find this information useful, pass it on to your friends... I'll keep posting as long as people are listening.


Joe Hendricks