Come Shoot With Me: How To Photograph A Wedding Ceremony Without Flash

Welcome back to the Come Behind The Scenes With Me series! If you’re new here, be sure to read last week’s post on photographing bride & groom portraits!

Today though, we’re talking all about what to do if you’ve ever been in a situation where you have to photograph a ceremony and you’re not allowed to use flash and you’re wondering how to navigate it. 

Tip #1: Select Your Gear

Before we dive in, I want to set the stage of the church where the ceremony was and what the conditions were. There was a little natural light coming in from the windows, but it was mostly artificial light. It was pretty dark.

So, the first thing you want to think about when photographing a low-light ceremony is your gear, especially in selecting it with intention. I would first recommend that you shoot with a full frame camera body. It’s often better equipped to deal with low-light. 

Your second focus should be on the use of prime lenses. This will allow the aperture to open up a lot wider and let more light in. But you will see that I switched over to the 70-200mm because I had to be at the far back of the church. Warning: it is very heavy. My arms were paying for it the rest of the day. It was so worth it though because I was able to zoom all the way in. 

Tip #2: Choose Your Settings Wisely

Next, you want to think about your settings. We talked about this a little bit with your aperture and your prime lenses. You want to make sure you are shooting with the widest aperture that you possibly can. This way you can still get the image that you want and your subject in focus, but you’re letting the most amount of light into your camera body. 

You also want to pay attention to your shutter speed. I like to go as slow as I possibly can in my shutter speed while maintaining a sharp subject. I want to get the light into my camera. Now, I do raise my camera ISO a lot in order to get good exposure without flash. 

Tip #3: Use A Tripod or Monopod

Another tip is you might want to use a tripod or a monopod. This will help you go lower in your shutter speed and reduce that camera shake. But also, it will save your arms. If you’re standing at the back of a church for thirty minutes to an hour like I was, it will definitely come in handy. 

One thing you’re going to see is as soon as I shot their first kiss, I knew they were going to walk back towards me. So, I immediately switched cameras, turned on my flash, pulled up my white balance card, and started getting my camera settings dialed in. That way when they came back towards me, I could use my flash. Whenever I can use my flash during a ceremony, I do so that it won’t be distracting.

Tip #4: Thoughts on Grain

I have some other thoughts on grain and noise. I know this is an error of concern for a lot of people when photographing a low-light ceremony. First, always shoot in raw. That’s going to give you the best file size. It has all the information you need so you can go in post-production and make all of the corrections. But, I will say more importantly, you want to get your exposure right in camera and not rely on post-production to change exposure. This often lends itself to more grain in the end.

Next, the light room actually has a noise reduction panel, where you can get rid of some of the grain. Just know it’s not going to take everything away and will alter the way your images look. So, I use it sparingly, but I do use it.

I hope these tips were helpful. If you enjoyed them, you’re going to love what I have for you next week as we continue the “Come Shoot With Me” series. And if you missed it, be sure to catch the first blog of the series: Bride & Groom Portraits. 

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