Do wedding photographers use flash?

The internet has revolutionised shopping for anyone who likes to compare products before purchasing. I can get lost for hours researching a $10 purchase, but I’ll be darned if I don’t always end up with a better product/service. And wedding photography services are no exception to the rule. Brides can spend weeks comparing different photographers online, asking questions about their style and process. 

One concern was the use of flash at a wedding. There are some opinions on the use of moment at weddings, and we wish the answer were as simple as “yes I do” or “heck no, never!”. But, like many things related to wedding planning, the answer is not so simple.

A great photographer’s real defining attribute can produce consistent and quality images no matter what space looks like. No doubt, this can be a challenge – and even to well-seasoned photographers, it can take a good deal of technical knowledge and legwork to take the right shot that your client will appreciate. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.

Photographers who mastered the use of natural light sometimes become scared and intimidated when low light situations force them to pull the dreaded, mysterious Speedlight from their camera bags. Many photographers love shooting weddings but get bored when the reception comes around. They don’t like their reception images, and they rarely show them off as a result.

Before you master off-camera flash, you need to master on-camera flash. The basics are a fundamental foundation that you need to lay firmly before you can feel confident to build on it. 

Should photographers use flash at the wedding?

No doubt, there are a lot of instances where flash can hinder a photo and can make it feel inauthentic to the real-life experience. While the harshness of light on a person’s face might suit an editorial magazine piece, for wedding photographers – most of us lean towards taking photos that capture a more natural feel during the day. 

A good wedding photographer uses the external flash at appropriate moments to complement available ambient light. With a flash mounted at all times, you can address any lighting situation without having to scramble when the need arises. Often, the use of a moment creates a distinction between getting the shot or not getting it at all. Therefore, there is no need to be so adamant in insisting that you follow the fad of just using ambient light in your photojournalistic wedding shoots.

Indoor Shoots

Do wedding photographers use flash?

While many couples opt for a casual outdoor solemnization ceremony, some others would prefer to have their traditions conducted indoors, such as in a hotel ballroom or clubhouse, so that they are not at the mercy of unpredictable weather changes. When shooting indoors, it is practically impossible to expect to shoot using ambient light. The use of an external flash here would ensure that your subjects are correctly exposed.

To prevent harsh shadows from being cast behind your subjects, you should–at all times–avoid pointing the flash directly at them. Try using an Omni-bounce or bounce card to soften the beat falling on your subjects to foster an ambient feel and reduce flash evidence. Flash can be bounced off the ceiling, walls, a wedding gown, a guest’s white shirt, or anything available that reflects light well.

Bouncing softens the light source by effectively making the original larger and spreading it out in every direction to eliminate hard shadows. Using a sideways bounce off a wall can also create side lighting in rooms with very flat illumination and a directional effect for simple portraits. Check out our range of wedding photography for your wedding day.

Fill-in Flash For Outdoor Shoots

When faced with a healthy backlight situation, the camera’s exposure settings will automatically underexpose the subject to compensate for the bright background. Using a fill-in flash in such cases illuminates the subject, preventing them from being underexposed. It can also be handy to keep eye sockets from getting too dark or lower the contrast ratio of shadows and highlights in direct sunlight. For best results, you should shoot in A mode and put your external flash on high-speed sync, a function that is available in most TTL flashes. This creates a nicely exposed subject and ambient background. When the issue is close, and the sky is clear or partly cloudy, you can also take advantage of high-speed sync and use a fast shutter along with negative exposure compensation to darken the background, saturate the blue in the sky, and add a little drama to the clouds above. Darkening the ground allows your subject to stand out from the background instead of blending in, creating more depth in the picture.

Contrary to the use of bounce flash indoors, as explained above, direct flash rules reign for outdoor shots–no diffusers or modifiers, no bounce. Here it’s used as either a little fill to get rid of harsh shadows or bring the subject in balance with the ambient light–usually for intense backlight situations. For fill-in effects, try using strobes at about -1 to -2 power on your flash.

Freezing Action

As events in a wedding evolve so quickly, there will be times when you need to freeze action. Some examples include a couple of dancing and a wedding march-in. While shooting without a flash creates the “blurred movements” of an event, shooting with an on-camera flash shows the static action using a faster shutter speed.

Flash Basics For Wedding Photographers

Put your flash on top of your camera. Point it straight up. Add the diffuser to the top. Hook the battery pack to your belt and plug it into your flash. Turn everything on and put your sparkle on ETTL. Take a photo in a low-light situation where your in-camera meter shows that you will be under-exposed according to your camera settings. Notice that the flash puts out the amount of light it judges. It would help if you exposed the scene correctly. I know – this is basic, but hang in there with me.

Now, let’s talk about how shutter speed functions a bit differently when you’re using flash as your leading light. The one statement you need to understand to accept what I’m going to share here is this: Shutter speed does NOT affect flash exposure.

If you are shooting in a very low-light situation where your flash will be your leading light — which is the case at 99% of receptions — shutter speed does not affect the exposure of whatever your flash hits (the subject). This is true because your flash fires at a rate much faster than the length of time that your shutter is open (more closed than 1/1000 of a second). So you can leave your shutter empty for a minute, and as long as there isn’t any other light hitting your subject other than the flash, your exposure of the issue will be the same as it would if your shutter was only open for 1/100 of a second. If that doesn’t make sense, it’s okay.

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Just know that all of this translates into the effect that your flash freezes what it hits (*as long as no other light is hitting your subject). Therefore, you can set your camera on a low shutter speed when your flash is the leading light. Whenever I’m in a reception hall, and the lights are turned down or outdoors after sunset, I automatically set my shutter to 1/15 of a second.

This allows so much more depth to the photos because I’m allowing more of the ambient light (like twinkle lights in the background or lights on the ballroom walls) in while the shutter is open. This one thing will help you get rid of that effect where the subject directly in front of you is lit up, but everything behind them is black (the black hole effect). So shutter speed does not affect flash exposure, but it does affect the direction of ambient light.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with slowing down your shutter speed when using flash. The trick is to remember to speed it up again if the room lights get turned on, or a videographer lights up the subject suddenly. If there is another light on your topic and you are still shooting at a low shutter speed, you will get ghosting or blurring.

The “Natural Light Photographer” Problem

Natural light photography is the art of using, well, natural light as the only source for illuminating the subject and scene. While this is a preferred approach by many photographers, because why not use the natural light available if it is available? But what happens when the natural light that is present isn’t all that good? Or worse, if there is hardly any natural light at all?

These are pretty significant questions when you think about them.

While something is inspiring about using the natural light available, it can be impossible to photograph certain parts of a wedding day without knowledge of flash photography. While typically professional cameras can handle high ISO’s or use low apertures to increase the image’s light, you will be met with excessive grain after a certain point that would render an image unusable.

Is it possible to shoot a wedding without flash?

To directly answer the question: yes, it is possible to shoot a wedding without flash.

However, you need to consider what the image quality will look like, and even more importantly, you need to consider what the wedding venue(s) will be like. Some platforms enable more flexibility in the area of flashes – such as an outdoor ceremony site and a bright white reception hall. These are spaces where shooting with the naturally available light can be suitable!

Do wedding photographers use flash?

Unfortunately, not every ceremony site is outside, and not every reception hall is bright and filled with white walls. The darker the venue, the more likely you will want to use flash to supplement your photography. While you could shoot without flash in a space like this, and maybe some photos might even turn out to be usable, why would you want to?

In our opinion, the ultimate question is: Would you want to shoot a wedding without using a camera flash?

We should always keep into consideration the comfort of our clients in all of this. Flash photography can be intimidating. Weblink just seeing our flashes go off. With clients who often feel anxious before having their photos taken and just being in front of a camera, adding a second (and all the bells and whistles) could increase this feeling. This is why, when it’s possible, stick to the natural light.

But, when there is no other option – or accepting grainy images due to pushing our ISO’s too high is not an option, shoot with flash. Our flashes are a tool that supplements our photography.

When used correctly, they add a lot of value to our images that our clients notice and help elevate our approach to photography as a profession requiring some technical expertise. Wild Romantic Photography has the best range of services of wedding photography Yarra Valley. Check them out here.

Use your flash to balance the exposure of your photos.

Sometimes, depending on the wedding, you’ll have to photograph the couple, or guests, during the middle of the day. This can be due to the ceremony and reception scheduling that cannot be changed.

Using your flash during this time may help you to fill in light. That way, you’ll get more even exposures. This is helpful when you are photographing people outside.

If the light in the background is brighter than your foreground, a flash can help pop light back onto your subjects. It’ll keep you from over-exposing the ground. If you are competing with midday sunlight, try and pose your couple with the sun behind them. Use the flash to compete with the sun to fill in light.

If you’re using flash in ETTL, that means that the moment will meter the light. It will output the amount of light it thinks it will need for the scene. If you photograph the flash in manual mode, I suggest setting your moment, beginning with, at 1/4 power. Adjust from there depending on your scene. Also, make sure that in the manual, you are using the high sync function. That way, you can photograph the stage with a faster shutter than 1/200th of a second.

Use a bounce or some diffuser if you have one. The light you’re using from the flash won’t be too harsh or create harsh shadows on your clients’ faces. It’s not required. But it will soften the light and create more uniformity in the exposure as well.

Use Flash for Drama or Lighting Effects

Flash isn’t only to fill light. You can use a flash to add a more creative flair to your photos. For example, you can point your moment at an adjacent wall during getting ready photos rather than the ceiling or your client. It will give you a creative and beautiful sidelight.

This will create shadows and add depth to your portrait. You can make it dramatic by making the clouds more prominent. 

Placing the flash behind the couple can give you exciting sunbursts and creative lighting during the day. During the night or when there is less available light, use the moment behind the couple. This can give you lots of bright light behind the couple. It will flood forward and create ethereal looking lighting behind the couple.

If you have more than one flash available to you, use them in opposite corners of the frame. This will create more than one sunburst in the same image.

You can use a flash to create drama indoors as well. In dark buildings or venues, a moment can come in handy. It’ll light the space a specific way so that you can create unique photos for your clients. We have an exclusive range of wedding photography Mornington Peninsula services. Check them out here.

Use Flash for Better Group Photos

It’s best to use flash on a flash pole for group photos. You can strategically place the moment so that the light hits all in the group photo.

If you don’t have a flash pole, don’t worry. You can still light your group with the flash on the camera.

Using the flash at an angle with the bounce card can disperse the light across the whole frame. This is essential for group photos with five or more people. You can also use two flashes, one on your second and one off-camera. This will create even lighting within the group photo.

Using this method can also help use one flash to light the group and light the scene if ambient lighting is scarce.


It’s essential to communicate with your client beforehand to determine their shooting preferences. They may be okay with using flash photography during the ceremony and overusing flash during a reception. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.

Photography flash technique is an art in itself. When used appropriately, it produces stunning photos that will delight all of your customers.