One area where I have the most fun with the style of onelight is in low ambient situations. In weddings I mostly encounter low ambient lighting during the reception, which tend to be later in the evening and indoors. Combine the indoor location with low ambient mood lighting or dance lighting, and the room is near darkness.
In low ambient type situations I tend to put the flash in one location and work around it. The placement might be one corner of the dance floor, behind the wedding couple’s table, or tucked off to the side of the room. From there I will work around the flash to produce different lighting angles and appearances to the images as I shoot. A favorite of mine is back-lighting the couple especially when on the dance floor. There are so many touching moments that occur as the couple interacts and those emotions can be enhanced by striking the right balance of detail between the ambient and back-lighting.
This style also makes for dramatic shots of all the action on the dance floor. With large groups it is good to capture more detail and expression so side-lighting is typically more pleasing rather than strong back-lighting. The mood and emotion is captured along with the fun and lively atmosphere making for fantastic reception shots.
On occasion I will drop the shutter speed to allow for more ambient light, also referred to as dragging the shutter. This has the effect of creating movement and action within the image while still maintaining the detail of the subject. While the effect is interesting, an entire set of images shot in this manner could very quickly become obnoxious, so I use this technique sparingly.
I carry over many of these same principles when shooting the ceremony. Next week I will touch on the ceremony aspect of the wedding day, and how I approach using onelight in those situations.
First a bit of clarification on the terminology of onelight as used here. CAUTION - start total technical geek talk> since photography is built around light, the use of light is essential to great photography. In most situations natural ambient light would be present and could play a role in the exposure of the image. Ambient of course can be eliminated by using flash strobes and lighting equipment, and you will see many photographers who shoot this way especially in portrait type situations. My reference to onelight is the use of one artificial light source, or flash strobe. More specifically it is the use of that flash off camera, in other words, not attached to the hot shoe on the camera as you would traditionally see. I am technically not using just one light source since the ambient light typically plays a role in the image, but as an industry, photographers have embraced the “onelight” moniker to identify the style of using one flash off camera. <END total geek talk
So how does this apply to the bride and groom on their wedding day? Onelight has helped shape my wedding photography style. It has added a sense of dimension and drama to the images giving them a dynamic atmosphere. Outdoor settings are where I put this to use most effectively. I oppose flash against sun in an effort to overpower the strongest ambient light available. I am not really trying to overpower the sun completely, only to balance the light within the composition and give dimension to the subject. Sure this could be done with the flash on the camera, but that results in very flat light and no drama. Moving the flash off camera allows me to create shadow and depth; it allows me to bring atmosphere. Refer to one of my recent posts for an example.
The onelight style of photography is prevalent in most of my shooting. In the coming weeks I will touch on the different areas and how I use onelight specific to the situation I am in and the look I am trying to achieve.