How do you shoot a wedding in low light?

Have you just been hired to shoot your first wedding? Have you been told that you cannot use your flash during the ceremony? Are you freaking out because the wedding is inside and the lighting is terrible?

Quite often, wedding photographers are asked not to use a flash during the actual wedding ceremony. Imagine a flash popping every five or ten seconds as guests and the bride and groom are trying to enjoy this particular moment. The flash can be a complete distraction. But without it, things can get dark in a hurry. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.

When it comes to taking beautiful wedding pictures, one of the biggest challenges is poor light conditions. This can include a light that is too low and also harsh, overbearing light. This post deals with taking wedding photos in low light, whether portraits, group pictures or even close-up pictures of floral arrangements or rings.

Wedding Photos in Low Light Conditions

The following are things you need to know about getting good shots in low light. Professional wedding photographers make it their business to take amazing photos no matter the conditions. Still, soft lighting in churches or other darker venues can present problems for even the best. If you are doing a DIY wedding with no professional photographer, low-light photography will be one of your biggest challenges. With that said, it also allows you to get soft, beautiful and unique wedding pictures you couldn’t get with a flash.

Use wide aperture lenses.

Prime lenses offer the widest apertures, the most excellent depth-of-field and the best bokeh. While an f/2.8 lens is perfect, being able to reduce the f/stop to f/1.8 or even f/1.4 will give you a much better chance in poorly lit situations. The downside of the prime lens is that you have to move more often. Your legs are the zoom if you are using a prime lens.

Wedding photography is fast-paced, and if you could only carry one lens, it should be a zoom lens. But you’ll love to have a Canon 50m f/1.8ii lens when stuck in a low light situation.

On our wedding zoom lens wish list are the Canon 17-55m f/2.8 IS USM, the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, and the Canon 10-20 f/3.5 USM lenses. Great prime lenses for wedding photography include the Canon 200mm f/2.8L USM, the Canon 85mm f/1.2L USM and the Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM.

Find the best light.

How do you shoot a wedding in low light?

This low light wedding photography tip may seem obvious, but this is why someone is paying you the big bucks to take pictures at their wedding. Find places where there is a great light and do everything you can to move your subjects into that light. A great lens can help out in many ways, but you always have to be looking for attractive lighting, even with a great lens.

Some apparent choices for better (if not great) light is a foot or two away from a window. The bigger the window, the better when looking for indoor light. You can underexpose or overexpose the background to make your subjects stand out. Your photographs will be your most treasured wedding keepsake. Not sure where to start when it comes to looking for your wedding photographer of choice?

Use a tripod

Here’s another low light wedding photography tip. Sometimes the only way to get in more light is to use a tripod. 

If you are shooting with a DSLR, a tripod will help you get shots in low-light wedding pictures. During the ceremony is the perfect time to take these photos. The tripod enables you to get good wedding photos in low light conditions because it eliminates the camera shake that causes blurry pictures. If you are doing wedding portrait photos after the ceremony, you’ll use the tripod for this as well.

Unless you’re a pretty steady fellow, any shutter speed slower than 1/40th may give you a blurry picture. Lenses with image stabilisation are beneficial, but they are not miracle lenses. Tripods can be a pain (just because you have to carry them around), but when you need stability for the full second exposure, you get it with a tripod.

Once you have mounted the camera on the tripod, you might as well take advantage. This would be an excellent time to get some shots with movement. Maybe the bride walking by as her dress flows past your slow shutter speed.

During the ceremony, you can take advantage of the fact that there is a lot of standing still going on. This is an excellent time to use a two or 3-second exposure and possibly avoid blurring from people’s movements. 

Longer shutter speeds are your friends.

Keeping that shutter open for a longer time is how you’ll capture those low-light shots. With that said, the problem is blurry photos. If anyone moves during the exposure, the image will be blurry. During the wedding ceremony, look for times when the couple is still to take photos. If you are doing this, you will want to use the tripod too.

Know your camera’s iso performance

One of the first things you will do to get more light onto your camera’s sensor is to increase the ISO. Before you crank it up to ISO 12,000, you need to know how well and how poorly your camera performs. To understand how well your camera’s ISO performs means you must practice. Take test shots. Delete them. And then take some more test shots.

Check out the details. Zoom in tight and pixel peeking. At some point, you are not going to accept the deterioration of the image as the ISO increases, and then you will know not to shoot higher than that ISO when taking pictures of people getting married.

In general, the more expensive DSLRs have the best ISO performance. But technology is crazy fast, and mid-level or amateur cameras can bring adorable images at higher and higher ISOs. For wedding photographers who cannot use a flash during the ceremony, this one feature (excellent ISO performance) may be more critical than lens choice. But it would help if you never forgot how vital your lens choice is.

The Canon 6D is a great full-frame camera because of its low light (and low cost) supremacy. We have the best wedding photographer in Yarra Valley to capture your beautiful moments on your wedding day.

Your smartphone is also your friend.

In some cases, the camera on your smartphone could yield better low-light shots than your point and shoot or DSLR camera! It’s true. With that said, don’t rely solely on your smartphone because you won’t be able to capture all the wedding photos you’ll need with that alone (although it is possible to shoot an entire wedding with a smartphone — it’s been done). You won’t be able to zoom in and get tight shots, so keep that in mind. Ideally, you won’t use the zoom feature on your phone; it dramatically decreases the shot’s quality. You’re better off cropping in the editing phase. Remember that many images can be cut, cleaned up and improved with photo editing apps!

Low light photos: edit lightly.

Now is not the time to use your HDR edits or to overdo sharpening. Edit lightly and in a manner that does not distract from the subject of your photography. 

Please don’t overdo it with all of the background blurs and vignetting. Every photo editor is different, and I have no idea how you edit your pictures, but here’s one editing tip; keep it light. Be careful that you don’t over contrast during editing. A softer look is often the better look.

Churches that allow no flash pictures

Wedding venues don’t always have the best lighting. If the ceremony is in a church, the light is often low, and many churches don’t allow flash photography. Even if it’s allowed, it can be distracting and take away from the moment, so it’s best to forgo the flash during the wedding ceremony. 

Avoid Backlight

Using light is the key to getting good photos. Be aware of the light that comes from behind the subject. This will only darken them. For example, if there is any lighting behind the couple during the ceremony, you’ll end up with pictures that don’t work. You may need to position yourself somewhere else so that you can use the lighting to your advantage. After the ceremony, look for sources of light that you can use for portraits.

When taking Wedding Photos in low light, look For Alternate Light Sources.

Candles, light streaming through a window and other ambient lights can help you create beautiful shots. You’ll have to get in close to capture the image, but you can develop some unique wedding ideas using creative light sources. For example, stand the bride in the light streaming through a church stained glass window, or capture the couple lit solely by candlelight. It’s essential that you use a tripod for these shots and that the subject stays very still. Planning your dream wedding and don’t want to miss out on the special moments on your big day? Worry no more, Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.

Shooting Silhouettes

Taking wedding photos in low light is an opportunity to get creative! The one time when annoying backlighting is your friend is when you want to capture a silhouette. You’ll position the subject in front of the light source to make this shot. To get the subject completely dark, you need to trick your camera meter. Point it at a light source, then press halfway down to lock the exposure. Frame your subject and take your shot.

Use what you have and benefit from the lighting conditions. Whatever type of camera you use and situations you find yourself in the present an opportunity to get creative! It’s essential to take as many photos as possible because the more you take, the more likely you will get those “Wow” shots that the couple will ooh and ahh over.

Lighting Tips For Wedding Receptions

How do you shoot a wedding in low light?

When it comes down to it, receptions can prove to be the most challenging part of a wedding with the presence of so many uncontrolled variables. You are stuck in a low light scene, forced to work with the DJ’s light setup, and you have no choice but to adapt. At Wild Romantic, we have the best wedding photographer in Mornington Peninsula to capture every single moment on your wedding day.
Here are tips to help you overcome any possible lighting hurdles that get in the way of delivering exceptional images to your clients:

Assess The Situation & Place Your Lights

Walk into the scene and address where the problem areas are; you are setting yourself up for success by merely preparing for what’s to come. Most lighting situations cause photographers stress due to a lack of preparation for the scene they’re shooting in.

Place flashes in the far corners of the room, where you know you will need a bump of light or in areas that require a backlight to pull subjects out from dark backgrounds. Raise them to about 6 feet to avoid having shadows cast from any of the seated guests, and zoom them to prevent any light spill.

Match the Colour of Light

There is no point in adding in light if it isn’t the right kind. Match your on-camera flash and off-camera flash to the existing light in the room. Depending on the ambient light’s temperature (Tungsten, Daylight, etc.), dial in a Custom Colour Temperature setting in-camera to balance out the light in your scene.

Light Modifiers

Since your additional primary light is most likely going to be your on-camera flash, you might want to consider using a diffusion method so you won’t have strong highlights on your subjects. On the other hand, you’ve placed your off-camera flashes in the far corners of the room on low power to avoid any light spill and give you light direction. You have the option of gridding your off-camera flashes to create a more guided and directional light source.

Dial-In Your Camera Settings

This step is left to preference since it will vary depending on your available ambient light and your camera’s power. In low light situations, we like to shoot at around 1/200th of a second, anywhere from ISO 800-3200. Your aperture is dependent on which lens you are using but keep in mind you want a wider gap to let in more light.

Bounce Your On-Camera-Flash Off of Ceilings and Walls

Most photographers assume that they are getting the most out of their on-camera flash by bouncing it off the ceiling. In most venues where there are low white ceilings, this proves true. However, you may find yourself at a venue with dark wood or painted ceilings, in which case you need to make use of your surroundings and find walls or objects to bounce your light off of. Learn more about the basics of bouncing and modifying your on-camera flash in our Lighting 101 workshop.

Overpowering DJ Lights

After you have put in your song request for the night, talk to the DJ about which lights will stay constant and added later on throughout the night. The point here is to avoid any surprises during grand entrances, first dance, parent dances, etc. Cover all your bases so you can focus on creativity and not worry about anything unexpected.

Where are you about your subject?

Assessing the room and placing your lights is just the first step in creating your image. Figuring out where to stand to either utilise or avoid problematic lighting is a part of the trial and error process that comes with creating multi-point light setups.

Flash Control

Adding in on & off-camera flashes put the control in your hands. While the DJ and the venue control their lighting setup, you hold the power of implementing additional light sources to benefit your overall product. Having a full-featured flash or flash trigger that operates as a master and controls your off-camera moments gives you the ability to decide when necessary to add light to your scene.

Foreground Lights for Creative Effects

It gets mundane capturing the same moments over and over again at weddings, maybe sometimes even at the same venue. Creative effects make for perfect foreground bokeh to add just a bit of flair to your image. If that’s not your thing, find objects to shoot through to provide interest in your photos and create more diverse compositions.

Direct Flash

Don’t all cringe at once! Direct flash has a place in this list of tips because it can be your saviour in times of need. When the dance floor is slowly dwindling, and you find yourself left with three people to photograph, slow down your shutter and use a direct flash to freeze them in motion while sending the background into a blurred frenzy.


Wedding receptions can be filled with challenges, but it is solely up to you to plan to arrive at the shot you want. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography. Understanding what lights you need and where they need to be placed will lay the foundation for the rest of your night, so make fair use of these tips before your next shoot!