Have you ever been shooting a wedding where things were running behind or the weather was gross?? If you have been lucky enough to avoid the above scenario, there will come a day where you get next to no quality time for portraits and have to get creative.
First, let me make it clear that we never rely on ONLY shooting just night portraits as our plan A. Our brand and our brides expect bright and beautiful sunset portraits but sometimes that can just not happen. When that is the case, we don't freak out, because we know we can always do some pictures at night during the reception. Many times, brides even request night portraits or I just want to do some for fun. For a wedding photographer, shooting at night is an important skill to have. Here is how you can get started!
We use these Yongnuo flashes, they are inexpensive and easy to use. They use radio waves to trigger so they don't have to be within line of sight like optical flashes. Also, we always shoot on manual, it is just more consistent and easier to figure out where the light is coming from that way. I am going to tell you my camera and flash settings but every lighting situation is different and I rarely shoot night portraits with the same exact settings.
I don't like to pull the bride and groom out from their wedding for a long time so I usually go outside and scout my location and get set up before I pull them out. Once I find the spot I want, I set my camera for the ambient light (the light that I do not produce with my flashes) I make sure and keep my shutter speed below 1/200th or else it wont capture your flash (unless you have special flashes)
After I get the ambient light correct, I place camera on a tripod and my two bare flashes on light stands and I go inside to find a cute couple :)
I have the couple stand and I turn on channel A (the rear flash)
I adjust the back light to a level I like (usually around 1/16 power)
Then I turn on channel B and get my main light looking good (usually less power than the back light like 1/32)
Try to avoid shooting above 1/8 power. The reason for that is because with most flashes, once you're at 1/4 power or above, your flash takes a bit to recharge and you may miss your shot. If you need more light, get your light closer to the subject or turn up your ISO.
Once I get the main flash where I want it, I take a few seconds to take some good photos of my models and then I head inside to grab the bride and groom.
When they come outside, everything is all set and it literally takes less than 2 minutes to get “the shot” and then they can go back in and party :)
Once you understand how to use flash, night portraits can be a great tool to add to your wedding day arsenal. If you are not confidant with your flashes, I offer one on one photo lessons and mentoring where I can teach you all about on and off camera flash. Click here for more info on mentor sessions as well as many other FREE photography resources.
I think it is important to note that most all night portraits with the stars AND flash are photoshopped in some way. In order to capture stars, you have to capture a lot of light. If your camera is set to capture the faint light from the stars, a flash will completely blow out your subject unless you use a whole lot of neutral density filters over your flash to cut down the power (a flash can only be turned down so much) So what I usually do is put my camera on a tripod and take a picture exposing for the stars (before the couple comes out) then I leave my camera in the same place and turn on my flashes to expose for the bride and groom after they come outside. Then I just stack the photos in photoshop and mask out the sky to reveal the stars of the other image below.
If you want more information on shooting night portraits, check out my Youtube Video below.