How to Use Off-Camera Flash to Light Any Wedding by Chelsey & Jordan

For those that don’t know us, we are Chelsey and Jordan– married wedding photographers who aim to give other photographers practical tips for success! Today we are going to be chatting about how to use off-camera flash for weddings.

Off-camera flash for wedding photography. It CAN be scary. But it doesn’t have to be! We use ONE FLASH. Yes. You heard that right. Only one off camera flash. When we first began in wedding photography, Off-Camera flash intimidated us. We threw up three of them and hoped for the best. This resulted in images that were overly bright, unnatural, and sometimes hazy and blown-out. It did not resemble the timeless and clean imagery we wanted to be known for. Once we finally nailed the off camera flash setup (widely known as how the amazing Justin and Mary Marantz teach flash) we felt SO much more confident in our photographing skills and our ability to deliver a beautifully consistent gallery to our clients. 

Related: How to style wedding day details 

Reasons We DON’T Use Multiple Off-Camera Flashes:

1. It’s time consuming to set up multiple flashes perfectly and even more difficult to move in short notice. Things go quick on wedding days. Because of this, we need our flash system to be easy, streamlined, and quick to move. 
2. The backlight flash is difficult to nail perfectly. We constantly got lens flare and it affected where we could stand and what angles we could shoot. Multiple flashes prevented us from delivering really consistent results. 
3. It doesn’t make sense to use anywhere other than the reception. We found ourselves struggling in certain getting ready rooms with limited natural light, but we didn’t want to break out the whole setup for when we just needed a pop of extra light in these scenarios. 

Reasons We Use ONE Off-Camera Flash for Weddings

1. There is only one sun when shooting outside, which means when you take photos outside there is only ONE lightsource! I know that some of you may argue that you can backlight when you’re outside. And this is true. But the pros definitely outweigh the cons when deciding on one flash vs multiple.
2. One OCF is more natural and timeless; these images create natural, soft looks to them, as opposed to bright flash bursts in the background. 
3. It’s quick and easy, which is essential on a wedding day.
4. You can still pull in ambient lighting for a glowy look instead of the harsh “flash” look.

Related: Gain confidence when posing couples

Gear We Use During Reception

1. Profoto A1 flashes on a stand with a white 18 inch umbrella. The umbrella spreads the light out in a nice even way.
2. We BOTH use the Profoto connector device on our digital cameras. We don’t shoot film during receptions.
3. We have Nikon D850 cameras. I shoot with the 50mm and Jordan shoots with the 85 mm for the most part during receptions. During open dancing we both use a 35 mm lens. 

Related: What’s In Our Bag? 

Settings for Off-Camera Flash

1. Our goal is to ALWAYS have a high ISO to let that glowy ambient light in. This illuminates the background of our images and avoids a “black hole” behind our subjects. Depending on the area, we shoot between 1200 and 6400.
2. Low aperture (usually between 2 and 2.8). This also helps bring in as much ambient lighting as possible. It helps with that pretty background glow. 
3. Low/Medium flash power. Our goal is to just add a soft pop of light on our client’s faces to expose them correctly. We really want to avoid that harsh flash look!
4. All of these settings create an image that is still glowy because of the ambient light in the background. Your subject has even flattering skin tones without the “harsh” flash look. 

Our Off-Camera Flash Setup for Getting Ready Rooms 

1. We try to use natural light as much as possible, but we will add an OCF if necessary. 
2. If there is only one small window, we will actually use that as a “backlight” and have our clients stand in front of it to get glow. 
3. We put the flash on the stand with an umbrella and set a low flash power with an iso around 1200.
4. If you don’t add a flash and you shoot into a window, there will be haze you can’t fix, muddy skin tones, and your images will not look clean, crisp, and timeless.
5. When you put up a flash, you’re able to create a beautiful glow around your client and they will have clean, even skin tones! 
6. You can also create a light source with your flash if there is nothing but overhead lights and no windows! Just be sure to turn off all ambient lighting and use your flash. In this example, it was a dark room with yellow walls. We put a flash up at a 45 degree angle to the right and created beautiful portraits! 

Off camera flash getting ready
Off camera flash getting ready
Off camera flash getting ready

Our Off-Camera Flash Setup for Bridal Party Entrances

1. We find out where the bridal party will be entering from and set up our OCF. 
2. We give them instructions on where to walk and where we will be standing. 
3. We position the flash at a 45 degree angle to the door they’re entering in from. 
4. Only one of us photographs this because there isn’t usually a great spot for both of us to use the off-camera flash.  

Off camera flash reception
Off camera flash reception

Our Off-Camera Flash Setup for First Dances

1. We put the flash with the umbrella directly next to the DJ booth because we never want the DJ booth in our shots. It’s also out of the way here and has less of a chance of being knocked over.
2. We each stand directly to the left or right of the umbrella.
3. We don’t move! We let the pair who are dancing rotate to us. 
4. We both connect to the same flash. 

Off camera flash first dance
Off camera flash first dance

Our Off-Camera Flash Setup for Speeches

1. We determine where each person is giving their speech. 
2. We direct them to stay in that general area and not move around a lot .
3. We position the umbrella at 45 degrees to them. 
4. We stand on either side of the umbrella.
5. Jordan photographs tighter with the 85 and I shoot with the 50 mm.
6. We sometimes have to move the umbrella depending on what the person giving the speech does, but this is EASY and you don’t have to worry about a second flash!

Off camera flash speeches
Off camera flash speeches

Our Setup for Cake Cutting

1. We set up the flash at 45 degrees adjacent to the couple. 
2. You can shoot many angles for this, so choose the one you like the best! 
3. We both photograph it for a variety of angles and shots. 

Off camera flash cake cutting
Off camera flash cake cutting

Our On-Camera Flash Setup for Dancing/Party Part of the Reception

1. Once all the big events are done, we put away our flashes on stands! 
2. We both use on-camera Yongnuo flashes using a bounce card. 
3. We use a 35mm lens each to capture the best dancing shots.

Off camera flash reception

Our Off-Camera Flash Setup for Sparkler Exits

1. We set our camera to a high ISO to pull in the ambient light from the sparklers (3200-6400).
2. Put our OCF on TTL because the couple is moving, so the flash determines the strength of the flash instead of us having to quickly change settings as the couple moves towards us. 
3. Only one person photographs this while the other moves the flash on the stand if needed. 

Off camera flash sparkler exit
Off camera flash sparkler exit

BONUS! Our Off-Camera Flash Setup for Family Formals

1. We use this same system for family formals too! A lot of times they’re taken in a dark ceremony space or a church with harsh canned lighting. We use a higher ISO, medium flash power, and an f-stop of around 4 to be sure to get everyone in focus.
2. We put the OCF at a 45 degree angle to the group of people being photographed.
3. I use a 35 mm lens and don’t move while Jordan arranges the family formals!

Off camera flash family formal

We hope these off-camera flash tips help you guys become more confident with your flash skills! Don’t be afraid to pop up your flash and practice in your house before your next wedding! 

Related: Gain Confidence When Posing! 

How to Use Off-Camera Flash to Light Any Wedding

for photographers

FOLLOW THE JOURNEY

@CHELSEYJBARHORST

@JORDANBARHORST

Download our
free Cincy wedding vendor guide!

We're Cincinnati wedding pros! Check out our FREE list of favorite vendors – from our favorite videographers, caterers, DJs and more!

GETTING MARRIED IN CINCINNATI?

SEND IT TO ME!