I am shooting a wedding for a family friend, and one of the shots she would like is of them both standing on a balcony over a stairway. It's an old building they're getting married in, and it is a beautiful idea for a photo. I took a test shot and the room and stairs are covered in dark wood, making the light terrible!

The idea is I will be down below, looking up at them to take the photo, so a flash would be useless. Is it just a matter of asking them to stay as still as possible, use my fastest lens, slow down the shutter and turn up the ISO if necessary as well? Or is there something I haven't thought of.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In addition to the links Michael left, here's some good 'Lighting 101' reading: strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101.html \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Mar 23, 2018 at 15:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Corey Strobist is great, but devoted to manual only flash. In a wedding environment TTL often comes in very handy. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Mar 23, 2018 at 16:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelClark, indeed, which is why I +1'ed your answer. OP seems new to the world of flash, and I agree fully that a good working knowledge of TTL, off camera flash, sync speed, and how to adjust exposure comp and flash exposure comp on the fly will be FAR enough learning to prep for the event. But, I dropped the link in case OP wants to continue the learning streak. \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Mar 23, 2018 at 17:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Starshell !!! :-) \$\endgroup\$ Feb 24, 2023 at 11:53

2 Answers 2


The idea is I will be down below, looking up at them to take the photo, so a flash would be useless.

Only if you limit yourself to a camera mounted flash.

The key to such a shot is to get the lights off the camera and onto the subjects from angles other than the optical axis of the lens. You'll probably need at least a couple of off-camera flashes with appropriate modifiers (softboxes or other translucent screens) and maybe a reflector or two.

An entire course in how to light such a shot is beyond the scope of an answer here, so here are a few links to get you started.

Simple Off-Camera Flash Techniques for Stunning Photos!
Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash at Weddings
Easy Off-Camera Flash For Wedding Photographers
Top 5 Tips: Off Camera Flash Setup Strategies For Photographers
FAQ : Off Camera Lighting at Wedding Receptions

We also currently have 237 questions here with the Off Camera Flash tag. You might find many of them useful. There are also many other questions about specific wireless flash and triggering systems and how to get them to work the way you desire.

  • \$\begingroup\$ those links look great, I've got my weekend reading :) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 23, 2018 at 14:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wonderful! I thought even an off camera flash would sill be awkward. I'll get reading! :D \$\endgroup\$ Mar 23, 2018 at 15:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it just me, or is the lighting in most photos behind your first link simply horrible? \$\endgroup\$
    – jarnbjo
    Mar 23, 2018 at 16:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jarnbjo I think the lighting is ok, while perhaps not everyone's bag. The photos look like they've been processed for print with soft proofing turned on, or maybe it is the way the server for the article has compressed them, but they illustrate well the idea that getting light off camera can have a dramatic effect on the look you'll get. Note that they have some kind of weird reduced contrast effect when you hover your mouse over them (that may be the default way the image is presented if you're viewing via mobile). Click through to the images themselves and they look much better. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Mar 23, 2018 at 17:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ I will agree that the lead image would not have been my choice for use in the article, much less for the lead image. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Mar 23, 2018 at 17:26

In addition to what Michael has already stated, depending on the configuration, you may want to create a composite. Long exposure for the scene only and then add the lights and couple to overlay on the scene you already took. This eliminates the need to hide the lights in the shot.

If the space is large, you aren't likely to get it all lit artificially, and it may require a long exposure to get a proper exposure (and possibly a more natural look with respect to how it's lit).


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