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The Friday Fight-Out: Wedding Photography – Flash Vs Natural Light

Ohhh yes… we went there. Photographers it’s time to weigh in with your thoughts on a debate that has raged throughout photographic history. Battles have been fought over it, wars have raged over it, or, alternatively, people have occasionally said “do you use flash?” “yes” “oh right… Cool.”

The use of flash in wedding photography has obvious benefits, namely that you can have light where there is none…or little at least. You can also get certain effects with it that aren’t possible without but we’ll go there later… But it’s definitely not without its problems…

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the big Friday Fight-Out Flash Vs Natural Light debate!


IN THE RED CORNER, sticking with natural light and refusing to pick up a flashgun (possibly because it just won’t fit in her shoot sac! It’s Dom “The Tog Bride”

IN THE BLUE CORNER, as a lighting designer he’s been crafting artificial light to best effect for years and so charged (get it!) with fighting Flash’s corner, it’s Matt “The Gormless Groom”


Matt: In low-light situations flash just gives you the extra bit of light on faces that you need to make the shot. Without it people can just blend into the background too much.

Dom: The latest cameras have such good ISO’s that you don’t NEED flash to get a great image except in extreme situations. Flash may illuminate the face but it can also seriously flatten images and can look terribly out of place with the rest of the pictures.


Creative use of natural light by York Place Studios

Matt: The use of flash is about complimenting the light that is already there, not replacing it completely. Indirect flash can actually add extra sculpture to the image and change the wrong type of light for the shot into a stunning image.

Dom: Flash is incredibly distracting. You can’t be a discrete wedding photographer shooting flash! The moment you take a photo everyone knows exactly where you are and you’re never going to get a natural image. Using flash during the ceremony is particularly distracting and takes the couple out of their moment which is definitely not the idea when shooting documentary!

Matt: Sometimes the use of flash is the difference between getting the shot and not getting it. Is it worse to have a moment of distraction and capture a key moment or to let events unfold in front of you without taking any usable shots?

Dom: The time you’re most likely to want to use flash is in the evening on the dance floor. This also happens to be when people are looking a little more dishevelled and often sweating which flash accents dreadfully! If you can capture it without the use of flash it’s going to be a much more flattering image and consequently often a better picture.

Matt: Flash can be used to great effect when done correctly and actually create lighting effects that are otherwise impossible. For example with flash you can highlight the subject in the middle of the image perfectly sharp in the brighter light and have everything else twist and blur out of focus. Capturing that naturally relies on happening to come across the perfect lighting conditions which is pretty rare!


A dynamic use of flash by Ed Peers

Dom: However you disguise it and however much you bounce the light Flash still looks artificial and largely wipes out textured shadows leaving you with a very plain image. If you need to add extra light then manipulating the surroundings or even moving the couple into a better lit area can present more interesting opportunities.


Matt: Flash offers you the security of knowing that regardless of the lighting conditions you can get something, and if you’re an expert at using it properly it can give you some really interesting effects. Flash is not there to replace ambient light, simply to compliment it, and without it you risk having nothing usable at all.

Dom: Flash gives an obviously artificial look to your images and wipes out the beautiful textures created by natural light. It can be highly distracting, prevent you from getting those incognito shots and lead to some rather blinded members of the wedding party! It’s not a bad tool to have in your toolkit for emergencies, but with modern camera technology they shouldn’t really be necessary.

Well, those are the arguments (or at least all the ones we could think of) but where do you stand? Keep the debate raging by leaving a comment, tweeting us with the hashtag #fridayfightout or catching us on Facebook!

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  • Jay Mountford - December 21, 2012 - 1:03 pm

    Oooooo controversy! Ok, I’ll go first, mostly because I’m a chicken sitting on the fence. 😉

    I actually LOVE the effects of flash, and when done with skill and taste, I think it can look amazing. I love whipping out my flash for the disco dance floor shots, doing that crazy stuff similar to (though not as good as!) the image above by Ed Peers.

    That said, there is a time and a place for flash. For me, the majority of a wedding day doesn’t need it. Unless it’s stupid dark and you’re determined to not turn on the lighting in the room for whatever reason, then I think cameras and photographers today can do without. (What’s to say though that fully flashed weddings don’t become an actual trend in years to come?)

    What would be better is if more of us (photographers) learned to use it properly. 😉 xxxReplyCancel

    • bridevsgroom - December 21, 2012 - 1:21 pm

      Well said Jay! Although for the purposes of debate we have to present the strongest arguments we can think of for our designated side of the argument I think we were both actually somewhere in-between on this one! I’ve very rarely seen Dom use flash and I know she adores natural light, but she certainly carries a flash just in case. As a videographer myself there are definitely times when a little more light would make it a better shot, although constant video lights are so indiscreet that we again avoid using them unless we absolutely have to!

      As you say though trends change all the time and Flash used creatively could very easily take off further as a style rather than as a necessity in the future!ReplyCancel

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