How I Shot That: Off-Camera Flashes at a Wedding

How I Shot That: Off-Camera Flashes at an Indoor Wedding Reception

When you haven't shot with a speed-lite before, using these at a wedding or during an event can seem daunting. For this image below, we're going to dissect exactly how I set up my lights and my camera settings to achieve this look, without too much hassle in the midst of a wedding day.  

black and white image of bride and groom on the dance floor with two off camera lights behind them


Speed-lites Used: 

For this image, I used two speed-lites, particularly two Canon 430 ex-ii's. Both of these lights were set up off camera, and I used a Pocket Wizard syncing system to connect my camera to these lights wirelessly. These speed-lites do have a "slave" option that allows them to simultaneously sync when they "see" another flash going off, however, when I'm at a wedding, moving around on a dance floor with unpredictable angles and movements, I always prefer to have a very reliable syncing system (hence, the Pocket Wizards). 

Now before you go and buy a Canon 430 ex ii (or multiple), I do want to mention that since this wedding, I have upgraded my flashes to include a couple newer Canon 600ex ii-rt speedlites. These flashes can easily wirelessly sync one another, meaning I no longer need to use the Pocket Wizard system. These flashes are quite a bit higher priced than the Canon 430 ex-ii speed-lites, so if you're on a budget, I recommend starting with the 430's. 

Below is an example of how this setup gives some beautiful direct flash options as well.


Camera/Lens Used: 

For this image, I used my Canon 5D Mark iii camera body and the Canon 28mm 1.8 EF lens. I believe they have discontinued this particular lens, but of you'd like a similar look, but just slightly less wide-angle, I recommend going with the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L II USM lens, which, from my experience, has incredible auto-focus. 


Speed-lite Positioning: 

For this reception setup, I had my two flashes placed right next to the live-band stage - one directly to the left, and one directly to the right. I choose these locations because they were both safer (less risk of guests tripping over the light stands) and the two, inward-pointing direction of the lights would give me a bit more even light (as opposed to if I were to use just one light pointing inwards, which would create a very harsh, one-directional lighting source). If you're trying this yourself and have 3+ flashes on hand, you may want to try putting one flash on camera bouncing upwards in addition to these two light sources. This will give you just a bit more fill light on peoples' faces, while still having great backlighting. 

I lifted the light stands up very high, then slightly angled the lights down towards the dance floor. When shooting from the back of the dance floor, I got some great back-lighting, then if I decided to shoot from right next to the dance floor, I got some really great direct flash as well. 

* Below, you'll see a pulled back image to give you a better idea of the exact placements of the lights. 


* Below is an example of what this setup looks like when shot from the side (not completely back-lit, but not direct flash either).

Camera Settings:

With this light setup, I shot at 1/200th of a second shutter speed, with an f/stop of f/2.8, and an ISO of 1250. The image did had a bit of grain added in during post-processing, although there was a tiny bit of inherent grain given that I shot it at 1250 ISO. For the direct-flash image, I shot this at the exact same settings, but I dropped by ISO to 320, instead of 1250 to compensate for the extra light on my subject. 


Equipment Used/Recommended: 







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