Happy Wednesday, friends!

Do you struggle with off-camera flash at receptions? Would you like to have more confidence taking detail shots in dark ballrooms? If so, you’re in the right place! Because we’ve got a quick and easy tip that’ll help make your reception detail shots brighter and better than ever before!

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At this weekend’s wedding, we were faced with a situation we encounter quite often in the southwest that we didn’t encounter at the wedding in the photo above:

1. A reception ballroom with enough window light to take natural light detail shots of the centerpieces near the window.

2. A dark background because the light from those same windows can’t reach that far or deep into the room.

The result?

Well-exposed detail shots of the centerpiece near the window, but a dark background that just looks, well, kinda sad, because the image has two totally different exposures. One part of the photo is much brighter. The other part is much darker. For us and our style, we prefer that the background exposure (brightness) be as close to the foreground exposure as possible.

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So, how do we solve that problem on a wedding day? Simple! We just add artificial light (flash) to the background. Here’s a quick before and after shot so you can see the difference.

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At weddings, we each have one Canon 600 EX-RT Speedlite on camera and one Canon 600 EX-RT Speedlite on a light stand off-camera. Our on-camera flash is the master and the off-camera flash is the slave, which means we can control the power of the off-camera flash from our on-camera flash. Since we already use this system for wedding receptions, it makes this quick tip a cinch.

Click here to see all the gear we use on wedding days.

Here’s a shot where, if you look closely, you can see the flash source in the left corner.

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Now, let’s get practical. Here are the steps:

1. Get a natural light exposure for the centerpiece near the window providing the softest and most abundant amount of light.

2. Turn on your flashes and sync them.

3. Keep your on-camera flash powered on, but turn off its ability to fire flash.

4. Place your light stand in the background, outside the frame and at a 90-degree angle.

Here’s a diagram Jordan drew at our kitchen table to help you visualize it better.

Keep a few things in mind when looking at it.

1. Jordan’s strength isn’t drawing.

2. Sometimes, it might make more sense to angle your off-camera flash at 45 degrees either facing toward you or the wall. It just depends on the room. But we like 90 degrees as a starting point. You can adjust from there.

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5. Adjust your manual flash power for the off-camera flash until you like how it looks. Boom. You’re done.

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Bonus: If the room is REALLY dark and you have a second off-camera flash, set it up on the opposite side of the first off-camera flash to fill both sides of the background evenly.

Final Tip: This trick works well, too, if you’re in a ballroom without windows and you’re using an on-camera flash with a diffuser to light your centerpieces.

Good luck, friends! We hope this helps!

And if you’re looking for free ways to take your business to the next level, we have a gift for you! A one year subscription to the Monday Minute, which is packed with education you won’t find on this blog that’s delivered straight to your inbox each week. You can join thousands of other photographers in our email community by clicking here.  We hope it’s a blessing to you and your business.


filed in: Education

    Jennie karges

    I use the same set up for receptions but never thought about it for getting detail shots! Thanks for the awesome share! I'll be using it at my next wedding this weekend

    Amy & Jordan


    Jill Gum

    Yes!! So helpful- I also use this setup and never thought of this! I will have to look up how to keep the on camera one from flashing! Thanks for this great post!!!

    Amy & Jordan

    Oh good!! You are so welcome!


    This is great! I have a question for y'all! Where do you fit time in the timeline to get reception detail photos before the guests are let in? I find it so hard to get the time to leave the bride and go to the reception area even if they're in the same spot. Usually when I DO have time it's not fully set up yet, like flowers aren't there yet!

    Amy & Jordan

    We take reception detail shots 30 minutes before the ceremony while our brides are hiding :)

    Joel and Amber

    Thank you for this! We were just talking the other day about how to light reception details better, and I came across this! You guys are awesome, as always. <3

    Amy & Jordan

    So glad!! Thanks, Joel and Amber!!

    Do you ever get guests complaining about the flash going off during the reception? What do you do in that situation?

    Amy & Jordan

    Hi Savanna! We can't remember a time when that's happened. That's probably because we don't point the flash directly at people and we also use very low flash powers. If you've had trouble with guests complaining in the past, try bouncing the flash off a wall or using a diffuser over the bare bulb, so it's not so harsh and direct. If you do that and lower the flash power a bit, the guests shouldn't even really notice it :) Hope that helps!