flash for wedding receptions
The Black Hole Effect.

It's the dreaded and all-too-common scenario when your flash lights up your subject but the background is pitch black. The resulting image is flat and uninteresting. Boo. Nobody wants that.

There are a number of fixes for the black hole effect -- one being to add an off camera flash to bring light into the background of your images, thus giving them more depth. But there is another little-known genius trick you can implement that will work even if you don't have an off-camera flash. And it is as simple as changing your shutter speed.

Shutter speed functions a bit differently when you're using flash as your main light. If you are shooting in a very low-light situation where your flash is going to be your main light -- which is the case at 99% of receptions -- shutter speed does not affect the exposure of whatever your flash hits (the subject). This is the one statement you need to understand in order to understand and grasp this tip: Shutter speed does NOT affect flash exposure. The reason this is true, is that your flash fires at a speed much faster than the length of time that your shutter is open (faster than 1/1000 of a second). So you can leave your shutter open for a minute, and as long as there isn't any other light hitting your subject other than the flash, your exposure of the subject will be the same as it would if your shutter was only open for 1/100 of a second. If that doesn't make sense, it's ok. Just know that all of this translates into the effect that your flash freezes what it hits (*as long as no other light is hitting your subject).

You can therefore set your camera on a very low shutter speed when your flash is the main light. Whenever I'm in a ballroom and the lights are turned down, or I'm outdoors after sunset, I automatically set my shutter to 1/15 of a second. This allows so much more depth to the photos because I'm allowing more of the ambient light (like twinkle lights in the background or lights on the walls of the reception hall) in while the shutter is open. This one thing will really help you eliminate the black hole effect.

So just remember -- shutter speed does not affect flash exposure but it does affect the exposure of ambient (constant) light.

For these next two photos, I had my shutter speed set to 1/30 of a second.
flash for wedding receptions
flash for wedding receptions
So don't be afraid to experiment with slowing down your shutter speed when using flash. The trick is to remember to speed it up again if the room lights get turned on or a videographer lights up the subject suddenly. If either of these scenarios happens and you are still shooting at a low shutter speed, you will get ghosting or blurring. So another good tip is to keep the DJ lights or other brighter lights in the room behind your subject.

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 Images 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!
learn flash for wedding receptions
A genius flash trick for brightening your reception images and eliminating the black hole effect
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