Backlighting the first dance with flash

At the recent wedding of Sarah and Gareth in Liverpool I decided to try a new technique that I’d seen other photographers do, but had never attempted myself (after all, a wedding is surely the best time to start experimenting with a new technique that you’ve never done before, and one that has the capacity to go completely tits up. Isn’t it? Gulp.)

The technique in question is backlighting the bride and groom for the first dance, to create an attractive rim light around the couple, instead of firing the flash (modified or otherwise) straight at them. At the top of the page is an example of this technique.

It’s a fairly straightforward technique, if truth be told. The ambient light in the room at the time was pretty much non-existent, so I worked with a shutter speed and aperture I was comfortable with and within my maximum sync speed, and adjusted flash power manually to taste (none of this swanky TTL malarkey here, oh no). Out of interest, the exposure settings for all the following photographs were as follows: f4, ISO3200, 1/200s, 85mm.

As for the flash, I placed a solitary unmodified speedlight on a flash stand shoulder height, and around 10-12 feet behind the couple. I then manually (phew, hardcore eh?) set it to 1/32 power and fired it using a wireless trigger. And Bob’s your Dad’s brother.

Of course, the couple have to be directly in the line of sight between your camera and the flash, otherwise things can go a bit Pete Tong (also notice incorrect sync speed in this photo, resulting in black band along the bottom. Naughty photographer.)

Backlighting the first wedding dance with flash

However, when you get it right magic ensues. Here are a couple of other examples from the same wedding:

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