By Michael Carver
As we approach the depths of winter, wedding photographers have to cope with fewer daylight hours and a higher risk of inclement weather on the big day.
Rather than worry, hope and pray that the weather clears for you, using the winter weather and darkness to your advantage can be a great trick to have in your box, allowing you to capture amazingly atmospheric shots that your bride and groom will love.
When it rains or snows I like to wait until the sun has set and darkness falls to allow me to use a flash and start to paint an image with light using my flash and the venue surroundings to create something eye catching.
You can see a few examples here of how you can use a flash to great effect and create something from nothing.
With some practice you can perfect this technique and really start to experiment.
To get you started I have listed a few helpful tips here.
- Place your flash on a stand or mini tripod with some kind of directional reflector pointed back towards the camera – I like to use a rice bowl reflector to ensure all of the light is thrown forward toward the couple. I use a Vanguard tripod to support the flash as it can often be windy, and the Vanguard tripod is more robust, a lot lighter and more compact than carrying a light stand.
- Make sure your couple stands between your point of view and the flash. This way the flash will provide a backlight outline and not spill into view of your lens
- You can use manual flash power, but TTL can work just as well. Note if the bride is wearing a veil, the TTL will put out a lower power as the transparent material can light up very quickly and trick your meter
- Achieving focus in low light can be tricky so I often ask the groom to take a phone of his pocket and light it up allowing me to lock focus down. As I wont be moving and neither will the couple I can flick to manual focus and forget about focus after that
- As you are working in low light you will generally want to set your aperture to the widest available (F2.8 or lower), together with a shutter speed you are comfortable hand holding at (say around 1/125mm at 70mm focal length). With these settings locked down its only your ISO you have to adjust to get the ambient light you want for the scene correct. I usually limit my ISO to 3200 and let the flash do the rest. I have found a higher ISO will really bring out the raindrops though
- Try to previsualize where the light from your flash will fall and how it will paint your scene - surrounding trees, steps, walls and buildings can be used to great effect to help with your framing and composition. Getting low with your camera or the height of your flash can have a huge impact on the light reaching your camera
- If it's really wet, then enlist a groom or an assistant to stand over the couple with an umbrella and jump out of shot as you fire. Alternatively you can use the umbrella as part of your shot too
So don't begrudge a bad day. Turn it to your advantage and experiment. You’ll have great fun and your couple will undoubtedly love something more original and a little different to celebrate their special day.