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Is it Possible to Shoot a Wedding with no flash?

Jon Kobeck , Jul 10, 2011; 06:07 p.m.

With todays high iso DSLRs and fast zooms, is it possible or even desirable to shoot an entire wedding with no flash? I'm curious about this because in my personal work I hate flash and never use it. Thinking about a Nikon D7000 with a fast zoom.



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Marcus Ian , Jul 10, 2011; 06:31 p.m.

It's certainly possible. I've done ones in which very little flash was used, and I probably could have gotten away with none at all.

The more relevant question perhaps is it advisable. In answer to that, I would say a completely unambiguous no(!). While you could explain away (and perhaps very reasonably so) no flash in many, if not the vast majority of shots (depending of course on how you shoot), I find it highly unlikely that there aren't always going to be some instances where flash will be either required or at least helpful, whether it's using the flash as fill to break up facial shadows in harsh daylight, or bouncing it to freeze motion later in the evening. I can't say I've ever been to a wedding where a flash didn't at some point become very very very helpful in making beautiful images better.

As a further comment, this isn't your personal work. I hate flash when I can avoid it, but when somebody's paying me to get the best pictures I can, then I feel obligated to get the best pictures I can take given the limitations of the setting, rules, proper etiquette, and portable equipment. Flash is an essential part of that, and the inability, or unwillingness, to do that is completely unprofessional.

In a nutshell, I guess I'd summarize with: Yes, but don't do it(!) :-)

Robert Cossar , Jul 10, 2011; 06:47 p.m.

It makes as much sense to 'hate flash' as it does to hate light. Flash is frequently needed according to the conditions.....and it would be better for you to learn how to use it as an asset.

Ian . , Jul 10, 2011; 07:24 p.m.

If you have a wedding with perfect lighting conditions, or you are Jeff Ascough, it's easy.
Otherwise, you better have a flash (or two) in your bag and know how to use it.

Jon Kobeck , Jul 10, 2011; 08:42 p.m.

Ian I just had a look at Jeff Ascough's site. The images on his site and blog are quite remarkable!!! Any ideas on what kind of gear he uses and what his technique is? I see no mention of it on his blog, not surprisingly. My guess is high speed film, I see a lot of grain.

Michael Chang , Jul 10, 2011; 08:49 p.m.

Jon, there's a lot of information on this site about Jeff Ascough:

Michael Madio , Jul 10, 2011; 09:08 p.m.

An aspect of flash photography that's often forgotten is that it's more than just something to use when needed, it can be used as a distinct part of your palette. You can use flash to create interesting light that did not otherwise exist. Two very good resources are http://neilvn.com/tangents/flash-photography-techniques/ and http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101.html

To address the original question, is it possible ... yes, but why limit yourself?

Frank Scheitrowsky , Jul 10, 2011; 09:14 p.m.

One could, but I wouldn't. Flash helps the faces and eyes stand out. Not all photos require flash, but many do.

Marc Williams , Jul 10, 2011; 10:55 p.m.

Yes, you can shoot an entire wedding sans any flash. I just did one yesterday. 450 shots. Zero flash.

It was mostly outdoors on a nice day. But a bunch of shots were also inside an old farm house.

Because I didn't use a flash doesn't mean I hate flash or don't know how to use it. Force yourself to learn how to effectively use the lighting tools available to you, and once you master it, you can choose not to use it when you wish.

Shooting available light is not as easy as just not using a flash. It really requires mastering the ability to see the light and use it effectively ... where and how to place a subject ... or in the case of candid work, where to place your self in relation to the subject and the ambient light direction. It means not only seeing where the light is, but evaluating the quality of light that's available to use.

Many, if not all, of the masters of candid photography (aka: Decisive Moment), shot available light. None of them had the tools we have to work with today.

However, be aware of what the pitfalls are: If shooting color, there are a whole other set of things to be aware of when shooting ambient light only ... for example if shooting outdoors in a wooded area, the prevailing cast is green from the foliage ... which can taint the brides dress and produce ghastly skin tones, especially in the shaded areas of the face. You can pretty much forget about using auto white balance in a case like that.

You also have to know how to expose in ambient conditions, especially high contrast conditions. The dynamic range of most popular DSLRs is not up to the task ... so you have to make decisions about the lighting and expose accordingly ... knowing full well that something will have to give on one end of the tonal scale or the other.

Bobbi Petersen , Jul 10, 2011; 11:16 p.m.

um, I would say that I hate using flash too and go without whenever I can. With that being said, I do know how to utilize flash and use is effectively :/ Hating flash =/= hating light.

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