working in challenging lighting conditions

Many photographers know the struggle of working in wedding venues, many have restrictions in place in terms of when flash can be used (most won't allow during the ceremony) some may not permit the use of flash at all, this can often be compounded by the fact that many wedding venues we visit or that our clients choose may be poorly lit, maybe there are numerous lights but perhaps they all emit different color temperatures or perhaps there is very little to no additional lighting.

This is where off camera flash can often come in handy, or even on camera flash it doesn't have to be direct lighting.

Modern technology allows us the ability to place flash/lighting units where we please (within reason of course).

We can bounce the flash off a nearby surface or even a ceiling producing a nice soft flattering spread of light that looks more natural and pleasing to the eye, but be mindful of the color of the surface as this effects the color of the light reflected.

We can supplement the available light but again being mindful of how this is implemented as a photograph with no shadows and flat light shows no depth (in all honesty it can look like a crime scene photograph) .

Perhaps you have strong back light to contend with? people and proceedings aren't always placed in accordance with photographs in mind and often you may be rooted to one spot with limited room for movement so as not to interrupt or distract from the ceremony going on in front of you! if you have good available light perhaps a reflector will do, if not and reflectors are not an option perhaps a quick splash of light to balance the scene would be more appropriate.

Many think of a lack of light as being the most challenging scenario but I think of it more as an opportunity, an opportunity to shape and craft the light I would like.
one of the most challenging scenario's for me as a photographer isn't the lack of light for me it is harsh light, how do you deal with this? we could place a scrim or diffusion material shading our couple from the harsh sunlight.... or alternatively use off camera flash to balance the scene


Before and after's are not something I particularly share however a recent inquiry from a potential couple got me thinking, hey there may be an opportunity here to put a little knowledge out into the world because I know for sure I'm not the only wedding photographer out there who faces challenges with lighting and I'm also sure there are other potential couple's thinking oh dear the venue we have chosen or the time of year we have chosen doesn't offer the best available light.

Of course as with anything photography related there are a multitude of ways to reach the same or similar results with the dynamic range (the value between light and dark our sensors can capture)  of modern day cameras we could massively under expose everything and fix it in pot production and that is a perfectly valid method should you choose, however I choose to add the odd bit of light where possible.

Which method you choose is entirely up to you, however if you choose to go the post production route it is wise to know the limits and capabilities of your camera, when you know those limits there are always ways and means to overcome them, does your camera have a better capability of recovering details from the shadows or is it a highlights monster that allows you the ability to draw those details out of over exposed areas.