Photography – Natural Lighting Versus Off Camera Flash

I get questions all the time about my photography and what sets me apart from most photographers. A lot of it has to do with the lighting and I thought I’d show you a few photos side by side so you can see the difference. All these photos were shot one frame apart and are simply a product of a light’s misfire. It doesn’t happen often, but I thought I’d show you so you can see the difference between “natural lighting” and “off camera flash” photography.
Check out the amazing difference a portable light makes to this photo;


I see that a lot of wedding couples are looking for “natural light” photography. That’s what this looks like;
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The photos with added off camera flash have more contrast, more “pop” and a lot more drama. It’s also the only way to insure you can get sky into a scene the way our wonderful eyes see it.

 

Here’s another example from a wedding with and without off camera flash. What your eye would see in real life is closer to what the off camera flash produces (without quite as much drama obviously). It’s harder to catch moments (and I still shoot those regardless of perfect lighting or not), but once you get used to seeing light look spectacular, it’s awfully hard to go back!

off camera lighting for wedding photography

off camera lighting for wedding photography

Using off camera flash to improve wedding photography!

Using off camera flash to improve wedding photography!

Here are a few samples with seniors;

or do you prefer this natural version?
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Off camera flash, even on a cloudy day will fill in the shadows under the subject’s eyes. It also lets me shoot into the sun so my clients aren’t stuck facing the sun as the only way to light a subject.
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This was a cloudy day and the difference is much more subtle, but still noticeable.
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A portable flash, or off camera lighting also evens out shadows in my background for a cleaner look. Again, this is a subtle difference, but having beautifully lit photos is one of the many things that sets my work apart from those that don’t know how to make light do exactly what they want… every time and within two shots.
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Hope you enjoyed the tutorial so you can see what natural light photography looks like versus using off camera flash in your portrait photography.

Stand Up Comic and Improv Destination Wedding

What happens when NYC professional improv and stand up comics come to Michigan to get married? Well, they have a TON of fun, of course! Not only are Caitlin and Calvin hilarious and goofy beyond all reason, they also happen to be madly in love. They managed to convince all of their friends and family to come to the Metro Detroit, Michigan area for a destination wedding, so you know their sense of humor and irony is abundant.


Wedding Location: Private home lakeside in Waterford, Michigan.
Reception Location: White Oaks Country Club Golf Course, White Lake, Michigan.
Co-ordinator: Nicola Wilson of Simply Brilliant Events.
The bride
Perhaps the only normal wedding type photo I have of the bride getting ready at this stand up comic

The groom and the groomsmen give the bride the heimlich maneuver as they hug the comedian during a group hug.

The groom and the groomsmen give the bride the heimlich maneuver as they hug the comedian during a group hug.

The groom checks his teeth in his mirrored sunglasses at this comedy duo

The groom checks his teeth in his mirrored sunglasses at this comedy duo’s Detroit wedding.

An awfully normal photo of this NYC wedding couple in Detroit, Michigan.

Two comedians and the bride. Yes, even their dog is funny!

Two comedians and the bride. Yes, even their dog is funny!

How does a bride cool off with her posse of friends and fellow comedians? They camp it up, of course at this Metro Detroit comedian

How does a bride cool off with her posse of friends and fellow comedians? They camp it up, of course at this Metro Detroit comedian’s wedding.

The bride cools off using a borrowed cell phone with a fan during her fun metro Detroit, Michigan wedding

The bride cools off using a borrowed cell phone with a fan during her fun metro Detroit, Michigan wedding.

The dog decided to exit shortly after her entrance at the wedding ceremony of two stand up comics from NYC at their lakeside wedding ceremony in Michigan.
Beautiful lakeside wedding for this destination Michigan wedding.

The officiant declares the two comedians are now officially wed at this lakeside wedding in Metro Detroit, Michigan.

The comedian officiant declares the two comedians are now officially wed at this lakeside wedding in Metro Detroit, Michigan.

The groom

The groom’s grandmother dances down the aisle after her comedian grandson’s lakeside Michigan wedding.

Following the dog

Following the dog’s lead lead the extended family to also stick their tongues out at this comic’s Detroit wedding.

A beautiful traditional bridal lift on beautiful country club grounds at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Club in White Lake, Michigan.

And this is a MUCH more normal pose for this comedic couple on beautiful country club grounds at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Club in White Lake, Michigan.

And this is a MUCH more normal pose for this comedic couple on beautiful country club grounds at the White Oaks Golf Club in White Lake, Michigan.

A beautiful traditional bride and groom pose on the beautiful country club grounds at the White Oaks Golf Club in White Lake, Michigan.
Walking off the golf course at the beautiful country club grounds at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Club in White Lake, Michigan.

Hamming it up in the bridal suite at the White Oaks Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

Hamming it up in the bridal suite at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

Hamming it up with the wedding party at the White Oaks Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

Hamming it up with the wedding party at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

The groom

The groom’s grandmother performs a dance around the comics at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

The bride and groom react very differently to the toasts at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

The bride and groom react very differently to the toasts at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

The bride wipes away tears at the White Oaks Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

The bride wipes away tears at the White Oaks Golf Country Club Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

The groom and his mother enjoy their first dance together at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

The groom and his mother enjoy their first dance together at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

The bride and groom enjoy a very non traditional first dance at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

The bride and groom enjoy a very non traditional first dance at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

Guests enjoy dancing on the dance floor of the White Oaks Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

Guests enjoy dancing on the dance floor of the White Oaks Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

The groom flings the garter at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

The groom flings the garter at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

Now this is the photo that totally speaks to the bride and groom

Now this is the photo that totally speaks to the bride and groom’s comic chops at this sunset wedding photo at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

And this is what I saw as I left the wedding out on the curb at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

And this is what I saw as I left the wedding out on the curb at the White Oaks Country Club Golf Course wedding in White Lake, Michigan.

Jam Handy Wedding in Detroit!

Congratulations, David and Josh!

Same sex wedding at the Jam Handy, across the street from the "bleeding rainbow" in Detroit, Michigan.

Same sex wedding at the Jam Handy, across the street from the “bleeding rainbow” in Detroit, Michigan.

So by now, most of you can either guess or you know that blogging is my LEAST favorite part of my wedding photography business. It takes a LOT to get me motivated and inspired to add extra hours into what is always a long process to get photos ready and delivered to my clients. But there were a couple of things about Josh and David’s wedding day that was unique. It’s always a great day (in the world according to Marci) if I can see something new, try something new and learn something new.

Jam Handy Wedding location with siblings.

The groom and his siblings snuggle during their photos at the Jam Handy wedding venue in Detroit, Michigan.

Same sex wedding couple on stairs at Detroit Michigan's Jam Handy wedding venue.

Wedding couple on the staircase at Detroit’s Jam Handy wedding venue.

Wedding party during ridiculous wind during a wedding in downtown Detroit at the "bleeding rainbow" spot.

Wedding party during ridiculous wind during a wedding in downtown Detroit at the “bleeding rainbow” spot.

A couple is reflected in their officiant's eyes at Detroit's Bleeding Rainbow wall.

A same sex couple are reflected in their officiant’s sun glasses while taking photos at the “bleeding rainbow wall” in Detroit, Michigan.


Gusty winds made standing still difficult during wedding party photos in Detroit, Michigan.

Wedding party men are being blown away during wedding party photos at the “Bleeding rainbow wall” in Detroit, Michigan.

For starters, Josh and David’s wedding was at the old Jam Handy building just down the street from the Fisher building. You wouldn’t think twice about it and would probably drive by it without even realizing it’s there. But that’s the place that brought my father in law to Michigan to start his career back when they used to produce and create industrial movies. The owner/manager of Jam Handy, Simeon, was available throughout the day for questions and helped to coordinate all of our comings and goings. Very helpful chap to have around, indeed. The space is industrial and has four spaces (well, five if you count where they set up the kitchen). It took me a while to figure out what was on the walls at the Jam Handy’s windowless room where they held the reception. They are dark gray with what appears to be dark chicken wire holding stuff to the wall. Ah… it must have served as soundproofing back in the day when they were using it as a “sound stage”. I loved the main room and the planner, Andy Keina from “Top That Table” really made the joint stand out and soften the industrialness (not a word) for this amazing wedding.

Front of the Jam Handy building is great for wedding photos in Detroit, Michigan.

Wedding couple snuggle outside of the Jam Handy before their wedding in Detroit, Michigan.

Back alley provides color for wedding photos at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

Back alley of the Jam Handy is nice for small groupings of wind blown groomsmen at the Jam Handy for weddings in Detroit, Michigan.

Jam Handy wedding location set for farm table style seating for wedding.

Farm table style set up for Jam Handy wedding in Detroit, Michigan.

Up lighting with chilled champagne.

Chilled champagne set out in front of up lighting at the Jam Handy for a same sex wedding in Detroit.

Wedding cake with yellow uplighting at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

Wedding cake set out at the Jam Handy shows off the yellow uplighting at this Detroit wedding venue.

So enough about the Jam Handy building as the “newest” cool location for Detroiters to hold cool weddings and on to what was perhaps the most amazing wedding ceremony I’ve ever seen. Josh and David offered up a lot of firsts for me as a wedding photographer. Their parents joined in for the family photos and DIDN’T stand by their children! They mixed and matched and didn’t want “our photos” and “their photos”. Never seen that wonderful family dynamic before. Also, when I went to see what they were doing before the ceremony, all the siblings and Josh and David were playing games from youth group camp. You know, the kind that involve standing in a group, laughing, concentrating on a task and then eliminating each of them one by one. I’ve never seen that as a way to keep each other occupied before heading into a ceremony!

Wedding day speech written out.

Notes one of the groomsmen was working on for his speech before the wedding ceremony at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

Camping it up in the loft at the Jam Handy before the wedding ceremony in Detroit, Michigan.

While the groom’s try to spy on their guests through a crack in the curtains at the Jam Handy, the rest of the wedding party camps it up!

View of Jam Handy set for a wedding from their loft area in Detroit, Michigan.

View of the Jam Handy from the loft where the wedding party was spying on their guests in Detroit, Michigan.

Two grooms before their wedding ceremony at Jam Handy in Detroit.

The grooms have a nice quite moment shortly before their wedding ceremony at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

Wedding party plays games before their ceremony begins at the Jam Handy in Detroit.

The wedding party plays at camp game for some fun distraction JUST before the wedding ceremony begins at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

So the ceremony. Ah… the ceremony. They did many things in their own unique way. One of the main differences was that they had one friend officiate / mc the order of things. But they ran the show. Each of the grooms had three friends and/or family members come up and speak about them, their relationship to them and their relationship as a couple. It was lovely. It was heartfelt. They weren’t your typical speeches (aka toasts), but rather a way for everyone to learn something about them and to get a sense of them as a couple. And then there were the vows. Unique, funny, insightful, joyous, intellectual and sob inducing all at once. Quite an act to follow, gentleman! I’ve had many of my couples ask about where to find officiants for same sex couples and honestly, whether you’re gay or not, if you don’t want to have a religious officiant, this is an amazing way to accomplish having an intimate, heartfelt ceremony done on the couple’s terms and imbued with their personality.

Laughter during the wedding ceremony at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

One of the couple’s lifelong friend cries as she delivers her speech during the wedding at the Jam Handy in Detroit cracking everyone up.

Wedding ceremony at the Jam Handy.

One of the groom’s mother smiles during the wedding ceremony at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

Cambodian Buddhist wedding ceremony at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

One groom gets a hug from his husband’s mother during a traditional Cambodian buddhist wedding ceremony at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

Groom reacts while reading his wedding vows in Detroit, Michigan at the Jam Handy.

Amazingly touching and poignant wedding vows at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

Grooms exit their Jam Handy wedding ceremony.

The grooms exit their Jam Handy wedding to tears, cheers and applause in Detroit, Michigan.

A string is tied onto the groom's wrist after their wedding ceremony at the Jam Handy in Detroit.

A wedding guest at the Jam Handy ties string onto one of the groom’s wrist after their wedding ceremony.

The dancing all took place in a small side room. You’ll see I included two photos that are very, very similar. I couldn’t pick a favorite of Josh and his mom and my photo editing hubby could not pick a favorite, so… you get to see both of them. Besides Josh’s great expressions, what really makes this series of photos (and is SO sadly unique) is that all of their friends and family in the background are a) watching them, b) reacting to this wonderful moment and c) NOT TAKING FREAKING iPHONE PHOTOS!!!

A string of lights decorate the venue at the Jam Handy.

The grooms with their string of lights used to decorate their Jam Handy wedding venue.

First Dance for same sex couple at the Jam Handy.

The grooms share their first dance in a side room at the Jam handy in Detroit, Michigan.

Mother and son dance at wedding in Jam Handy.

One of the grooms dances with his mother as his husband looks on at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

Groom dances with his mother at Jam Handy's in Detroit.

One of the grooms dances with his mother as his husband looks on at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

Mother of the groom cries during her dance with her son at Jam Handy.

The mother of the groom tears up during her mother / son dance at Jam Handy’s in Detroit, Michigan.

Dancing at the Jam Handy for a wedding in Detroit, Michigan.

The mother of one of the grooms has a dynamic conversation with one of the guests during a wedding reception at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

wedding guests on the dance floor at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

A couple take a “selfie” on the dance floor during a wedding at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

Loved this wedding! Hope you do too!

Lastly, I’m including lots of photos of Jam Handy because there aren’t a lot of good wedding images of the Jam Handy online! What I have seen doesn’t often include off camera lighting, so it looks weird, so I wanted to post lots of photos that show what it can look like when it’s properly lit with extra lights and a bit of technical know how!

view of two rooms during a wedding at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

View of the Jam Handy during a wedding showing the main room versus the dancing room with two different colors of uplighting in Detroit, Michigan.

Overall view of dinner being served at the Jam Handy in Detroit during an event.

View of dinner being served during an event at the industrial event space, Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

Jam Handy event photo of a dinner in Detroit, Michigan.

Same view of a dinner, but from a catwalk at the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

Jam Handy event photograph in Detroit, Michigan.

View of the Jam Handy from the doorway during an event in Michigan.

Dinner service at event venue Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

Dinner being served farm style at urban industrial event venue the Jam Handy in Detroit, Michigan.

Got some love from Michigan Homes today…

I was recently featured on Michigan Homes who interviewed me about how I approach my Michigan wedding photography so clients moving to the Ann Arbor, MI area might learn more about my wedding photography while checking out their real estate! Check out the article here: Marci Curtis Photography Is Covering Weddings With a Photojournalistic Approach.

Steven Lelli’s Inn On The Green wedding in Farmington Hills, Michigan

Angela & Jason’s winter wedding at Steven Lelli’s Inn On The Green in Farmington Hills, Michigan

I closed out my wedding season just before the snow storms hit last weekend. This was a new location for me, and I didn’t see anything from this location online, so I’m posting more than usual of this Lelli’s location so that any other Michigan brides and Detroit area wedding photographers looking at Steven Lelli’s Inn on the Green in Farmington Hills, Michigan can get a pretty good idea of what the space looks like when they are planning and photographing winter weddings there.

Michigan winter bride is escorted down the aisle at Steven Lelli

Michigan winter bride is escorted down the aisle at Steven Lelli’s restaurant in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

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Angela and Jason are about the most laid back couple I’ve worked with and I loved that they were willing to go with the flow concerning wedding photography. The restaurant (Lelli’s) was closed for the ceremony (at 4:30), but they opened it at 5:00, so that left no place and no time to take family photos or wedding party photos. The ceremony ended around 5:10, so we were scrambling to take photos so they could start dinner service for the guests. I was worried we might all freeze out in the enclosed terrace out back, but they had at least 3 heaters blowing hot air (on or off were the options), so it the staff were switching them off and on constantly. If you were too warm, you simply had to move. Needless to say, it was our first cold Michigan night and they were able to keep people from freezing!

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I’m not sure if the room would normally look this great…. maybe it’s always so nicely decorated? I do know that the bride’s mom, Cathy, worked miracles within 4 months to make the place look stunning!

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A word to other Metro Detroit, Michigan wedding photographers who might have this as their wedding venue to photograph… Steven Lelli’s Inn On The Green is one of the darkest, most challenging wedding ceremony sites in Michigan I’ve ever shot in over 1,300 weddings. The walls at Lelli’s are black and so is part of the ceiling, along with a beautiful, but lighting challenged tray ceiling, the space is super tight and the spots to put your lights (and you will need multiple lights) is extremely limited. Angela had originally hired a photographer that is strictly a “Natural Light” photographer (which is often code for; does not know how to use off camera lighting). She wisely knew after looking at the space that there was no way you could pull that off in this location. The terraced, reception area did offer cool twinkle lights (not sure if that was Cathy’s addition, or if those are always there), so I was able to create some really cool, ambiance filled “winter” type images from the dance floor.

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Upside? The wedding food at Lelli’s Inn On The Green is AMAZING! The staff is kind and efficient.

Downside? Lelli’s accommodations for wedding ceremonies and places to take portraits of more than just the bride and groom is non existent and couples should know that and be prepared to have a first look and take all their wedding photos beforehand either at Lelli’s restaurant (if they are indeed closed) or take them off site. All of us were caught off guard that they hadn’t left any time or space for us to take photos and there are some holes in the shooting due to lack of time and space.

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Lastly, this is my favorite shot of the day. It’s not technically superb, it’s not a wow, but it’s still my favorite. Cathy, the mother of the bride, was overseeing all those details for the wedding reception at Lelli’s restaurant when she came downstairs to get dressed. This was the moment she realized HER DRESS WAS MISSING! In all the hoopla, she’d left her dress on the bus and it was gone. This is a true, behind the scenes photo that captures any drama the day of PERFECTLY! Sure, the ceremony started about 15 minutes late, but I’m pretty sure not too many people knew why. Everything was gorgeous and went smoothly except this little, bitty hitch!

Winter wedding photos from Steven Lelli

Winter wedding photos from Steven Lelli’s Inn On The Green restaurant in Farmington Hills, Michigan.