In 99% of my weddings I only use flash at receptions. I don't use fill-flash outdoors for portraits. Ever. It's ok if you do, I just don't like how the fill tends to flatten the light in the image. Instead I just make sure to pick my portrait locations carefully based on the best use of natural light available.

But every once in awhile I do break out the OCF for details or indoor portraits. In all of the instances I am going to be giving throughout this post, I only use one off-camera flash; no on-camera flash at all.

There are two set-ups I use, depending on the situation. For both, I have one of my Canon 600EX-RTs in my camera's hot-shoe so that it can control the OCF. Set-up 1 below is only used for indoor family portraits. Set-up 2 is used for details and indoor portraits of couples. We're going to start by talking about the instances in which I use set-up 2.
Detail Shots

I don't always use OCF for detail shots. I move portable details like the bouquet and shoes to good light before shooting them. And many non-portable details like the cake and table-settings are often well-lit, so I don't feel the need to add light. But sometimes a little OCF can do wonders when shooting details if the available light just isn't cutting it. Both of the cake photos above were shot with set-up 2 and I love how the OCF adds to the three-dimensionality of them. For all photos taken with set-up 2, I have my non-shooting assistant hold a Canon 600EX-RT with my MagMod Bounce attached to the top of it. I don't use a lightstand for these because they are quick and require easy mobility of the light. I also like being able to ask my assistant to stand at different angles in relation to the details in order to get different effects. You can tell from the shadows cast in both of the cake photos above that I had my assistant about 45 degrees to the right of me, which was perfect for creating a nice shade gradient over the face of the cake.

Even though we are only using one flash in these instances, all of the principles of exposure explained in this post still apply. The nice thing is, the variable of flash to subject distance is easier to tweak in set-up 2. If you need a little more light, have your assistant move closer to the subject; if a little less, have her step back. Settings for the cake photos are -- on R: ISO 100, f2.5, 1/30sec. OCF power approx. 1/64; on L: ISO 640, f1.4, 1/80sec. OCF power approx. 1/128.


Indoor Portraits of the Bride & Groom

Whenever possible I like to do wedding day portraits outside in natural light. But in the case of these next three photos, the wedding receptions were at the Phoenix Art Museum and it just made sense to take the opportunity to photograph the couples with some of the art.

Each of these images was taken with the help of my assistant and set-up 2 pictured above. For this first one, the museum lighting was illuminating the art installment behind the couple but I needed to add light to them in order to match that of the background. My settings were ISO 1000, f1.6, 1/125 sec., OCF power approx. 1/64. My assistant was standing just to my right.
For this next image, my assistant was around the corner standing behind the bride. You can see the couple's shadow cast on the wall. My settings were ISO 640, f4.5, 1/125 sec, OCF power approx. 1/64.
Can you guess where my assistant was in this next image? Look for the light....that's right -- she was squatting down behind the bride! Just a fun experiment that ended up working out well :).
Indoor Family Portraits

Every wedding photographer, at some point, will have to take family portraits at the front of a church. I do what I can to avoid it because I don't think it's generally a great location for portraits, but I inevitably need to do so three or four times a year. OCF GREATLY helps family portraits taken at the altar. It can't transform the background to make it less distracting, but it can add some much-needed light to your subjects.

For indoor family portraits I use set-up 1 pictured above. A 60" convertible umbrella is attached to the light stand via an umbrella bracket. A cold shoe is attached to the top of the umbrella bracket upon which my Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT is attached. The flash is pointed at a 90 degree angle into the center of the umbrella. Plugged into the flash is a Lumedyne HV Tinycycler Battery Pack which helps the flash recycle faster. The light stand is set at arms length to the right of me and is raised to a height that is about 2 feet taller than the tallest person. The umbrella is angled down so that everyone in the portrait can see into the center of it.

Here is the effect. My settings for this image were ISO 320, f4.5, 1/40 sec. OCF power approx. 1/128.
Here's an example of the same set-up with a larger family photo. I love how each face is well-lit. My settings for this image were ISO 500, f5.6, 1/100 sec., OCF power approx. 1/64 sec.
If you found this post helpful, and are interested in learning more, click here to opt-in for my free video series -- 6 Hacks to Eliminate Boring Low-Light Photos and Get You Creating Reception Image you LOVE! In it I share my best 6 tips for shooting with flash. If you are intimidated by flash and wanting to conquer it once and for all, this is a great place to start!
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