tips for shooting in a dark location

tips for photographers. shooting in a dark ceremony location. edmonton wedding photography tips. by Cheryl Lukasewich

I recently asked on my Aeris facebook page if anyone had any questions about my work or photography in general and was asked this question: "What kind of settings did you use in the church when you were shooting without a flash? Your indoor photos are so bright!"

First off, I have to admit that I'm pleased that this person didn't notice that I was indeed using a flash! It's nice to feel like my shooting isn't as big of a distraction to guests as it sometimes feels :)

Why didn't he notice my flash (as much)? Because I point it straight up :) Although the photo below (please excuse the awful quality of the stock image :/) shows it slightly angled forward, I tend to shoot with my flash point directly up or pointed slightly back so that the light bounces off (in most cases) the ceiling. The results of bouncing your light as opposed to shooting with your flash pointed directly at your subjects are numerous but a main example would be to avoid harsh shadows and the "deer in a headlight" look. There ARE ways to shoot with your flash facing straight at your subject; it does very much change the look of an image and can add dynamic effects if done correctly however I simply don't shoot that way. Maybe I will someday but the style you see reflected throughout my portfolio doesn't include "fill flash" (aka a forward facing flash).


At times when I'm using my flash I also may pull up my white card (a built-in card on certain flashes) that reflects a small amount of light forward even if I'm bouncing my flash off a ceiling. Below are images of both a flash with a built-in white card as well as a "make your own" version if your flash doesn't have one :)


Although I used my flash throughout this ceremony it often still needs a little "umph" in post-processing. Churches/ceremony locations often cast odd colors onto an image due to things like a "yellow-y" wood paneled ceiling/walls, paint colors, pew fabric colors, stained glass, etc. - all of which end up changing the overall tone of an image (If I shot in a room with red walls and a yellow ceiling things may come off looking a little yellow/red, yes?). So, in post, I can correct those tones/change my white balance to better reflect the actual colors that were present rather that objects/people with odd color casts on them. You can also adjust your white balance in-camera prior to shooting in a specific location but again, I usually tweak it in post.

Here are two examples of images I shot at a recent wedding. The images on the left are SOOC (straight out of camera) and were taken with my flash bounced off the ceiling (see specific settings under each image). The images on the right are after I tweaked them in post. 2013-05-26_0002.jpg ISO 1250, f2.2, 1/160 2013-05-26_0001.jpg ISO 1250, f2.2, 1/160

Do you have any questions? Contact me and perhaps I'll do a post on it! Please note that I don't by any means consider myself an expert on photography. I know what I've learned so far and, as I plan to never stop learning, I hope I'd have an even better answer in 2 years, then 5 years, etc. :)