Using Available Light To Shoot The First Dance – Image of the Week #417

We are travelling up to Scotland today for one of our Flash Workshops. The reason we teach these is to help photographers feel more confident about all of their available tools – this includes flash guns which for many photographers hang around in the bottom of their bag until they absolutely HAVE to use them. We want to help you make educated and informed decisions about when to add flash to your images and when not to.

For me, I always want to create dancefloor images that reflect what the lighting was like at the time. If it was crazy disco lights, then I will shoot long exposures with flash. The flash freezes the subjects while the rest of the exposure time records the colours and swirls of the venue lighting. If it is cosy festoon lighting, then I’m more likely to use my flash in a more subtle way like bouncing it from a nearby surface.

However, sometimes as Matt Parry so eloquently displays in this wonderful, warm-hearted image from the first dance at a recent wedding, it’s best to shoot a dancefloor with the available light and a high ISO.

This technique has allowed Matt to position a handy guest with their phone light, behind the couple, creating a pretty rim light that helps to add depth and atmosphere. There is a lovely balance of the light that falls on both the bride and groom so that their expressions come across equally. We can also see the faces of their guests, surrounding them with warm, joyful support.

I even love how the lights in the background perfectly frame the bride’s face. We, the viewers are able to see her happiness, plus his as he looks to her. Finally, that firm holding of the hands right in the centre of the frame shows us the deep strength of their connection.

This is one of those frames that gives more and more each time you look at it, as well as delivering a huge emotional punch.

Sony A7III | Sony 24mm GM 1.4 | f/1.4 | 1/100| ISO 8000

Own Preset

What Matt Said…

“I recently started shooting all first dances without flash as it allows me to capture a wider scene and create a different feeling to my “dance floor” images (these are shot much closer with direct flash isolating my subject) It was something I only used to do if it was the light was obviously suitable BUT now I challenge myself to do it however dark it gets.

Experience tells me the on-looking guests will always create some kind of light source and that’s evident here in the bright iPhone light in the background but if you look and keep moving you will always find some ambient light to play with. I got lucky here, I am moving to avoid the bride who has spun towards me, and my movement plus the slower shutter speed has given me a kind of energy that is added to by that high ISO graininess.

So if your entire setup to shooting a wedding is based on keeping it safe and “staying in control” then let loose a little and be open to the unpredictable as ultimately I find the more risks you take…the luckier you become!!”