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I spent the day yesterday at a wedding in Castlemartyr where my school friend John and his beautiful bride Sara celebrated their big day with family and friends.  I was off duty, photographically, and limited myself to one camera and one lens for the entire day.  I did have the rest of my camera equipment in the car, but it stayed there.  I didn’t even bring in a flash (apart from the pop-up one on the camera, that is).  The lack of a flash didn’t stop me from using off-camera flash though, as I revisited a trick that I first used (unwittingly) three years ago.

It’s actually three years ago almost to the day that I photographed Donna and Michael during the first dance, creating an image that currently resides on the homepage of my website.  And with good reason – it is one of my favourite wedding photos.  I’ve told the story of that image before on the blog, so I won’t re-tell it again here, but since capturing it I’ve tried on a few occasions to achieve a similar effect.

So if you haven’t clicked back to read about that image, I will just say that the basic idea with that photo, and with this one, is to “borrow” someone else’s flash to light your shot.  When you’ve left your own flash in the boot of the car, a long walk away on a cold evening, and when the light levels in the reception room are both very low, and very colourful, having use of a daylight-balanced flash is useful. Even if it wasn’t my own flash.

I don’t know who actually provided the burst of flash for this shot – but when Sara started twirling during her first dance with John, I knew that there would be a lot of people taking photos and the chances were reasonable that one of my shutter openings would coincide with one of the flashes from the cameras off to my right.  I took a burst of 15 photos, and for one, and only one, that prediction proved correct and I captured the frame you see above, which I’m liking more and more as I look at it.

What’s most remarkable about the photo is that it was shot at ISO 6400.  And it’s a very usable image.  Being able to go to that high an ISO allowed me to fill the areas of the photo not lit by the anonymous off camera flash with the ambient (and colourful) light in the reception room.  The balance between the flash and ambient light not only allows the bride and groom to pop from the background, but also adds a lovely (to my eye, at least) colour contrast to the image – something which I’m always happy to achieve.

This photo has everything I think a first dance shot should have – a wide angle view to show the fact that the bride and groom are the center of attention, a good view of their faces to show they are really enjoying it, a real feeling of movement to create a dynamic image, and good lighting.  All in all, a successful photo.

2 Responses to “Twirling bride”

  1. This is a lovely shot. Great to see you mentioning this technique; I had been toying with trying something similar at a wedding I am going to (as a guest) in a few weeks.

    You described the “hit rate” here as 1 in 15: you had to take 15 shots in quick succession to be lucky enough to get one lit by a by-stander’s flash.

    I wonder if one might be able to increase the odds slightly by actively asking another guest to take a couple of shots on your signal?

    You might even be able to use your on-camera flash (dialled right back) to act as that signal to them?

    This later bit is almost exactly a manual version of what the “out the box” off-camera syncing system does on my Canon 7D! The on-camera flash is used as a trigger for off camera ones.

  2. lovely photo, like a still from a film I think. the bride looks like it’s pure happiness on her face.

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