tip for using flash at wedding receptions
Who knows what I'm talking about when I reference the "black hole effect"? It's the dreaded situation where your flash lights up your subject but everything behind them is pitch black. Your image is flat and uninteresting. Boo. Nobody wants that.

There are a few solutions to the black hole effect -- one being adding an off camera flash to light up the background of your images and give more depth to them. But there is another little-known trick you can do that will help even if you are shooting with only on-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. The one statement you need to understand in order to accept what I'm going to share here is this: Shutter speed does NOT affect flash exposure. 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). 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 reception hall 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 ballroom) in while the shutter is open. This one thing will really help you get rid of the black hole effect.

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

For these next two photos, I had my shutter speed set to 1/30 of a second. You'll notice I was also using off-camera flash, but even if that wasn't there lighting up the background of the photo, there would still be a lot more depth in these images than if I had my shutter set at 1/150 - which is probably what I would have needed to do to freeze this action if I wasn't using flash.
tip for using flash at wedding receptions
tip for using flash at 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 there is another light on your subject 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
Simple hack for eliminating the black hole effect when shooting with flash
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