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2 Simple One-Light Techniques for Gorgeous Day/Night Wedding Portraits

You have your ideal outdoor wedding portrait scene, but there’s just one thing that you can’t quite nail: The lighting. You don’t need a whole arsenal of flashes. Here are two gorgeous images that required only one light and the correct flash techniques to achieve. You can use them for normal portrait photography too! (Reported by Takenao Anzawa)

Night wedding portrait against Yokohama cityscape

EOS-1D X/ EF70-200mm f/2.8 L USM/ FL: 95mm/ Manual exposure (f/2.8, 1/80 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 1600


A grand proposal against a grand nightscape: Create alluring silhouettes using light from behind


Equipment layout for night time wedding portrait

Lighting diagram

Set up the monolight directly behind the bride
Adjust the flash so that it is angled slightly towards the bridegroom


My setup

I set up a monolight directly behind the bride. The flash direction was angled slightly toward the left to create beautiful highlights on the face of the groom.


Incorporating the gorgeous night scenery

For this pre-wedding shot, the bridegroom had requested to replicate the scene of his marriage proposal. I chose a place with a gorgeous night view as the location of the shoot to add a dramatic effect to the photo.

To make the scene look more natural, I adjusted the lighting to match the effect of the surrounding streetlights as much as possible. The resulting image was accentuated by light that emanated beautifully through the wedding dress.


The finer points of composition

To balance out the composition, I made sure that the bridegroom’s hand overlapped with the empty space between the buildings when he reached out to the bride with the ring.

Also, there were a lot of obstructions in the surroundings which made it difficult to compose the shot. I used a telephoto lens to help crop away the unwanted objects for a neater background.


Right before the sun sets: Creating dramatic shadows with daylight sync

Daytime wedding portrait before sunset

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 24mm/ Manual exposure (f/6.3, 1/60 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 200


Equipment layout for daytime wedding portrait

Lighting diagram

Speedlite 600EX II-RT
Output: Manual 1/2 flash power/ Directed at the bride and groom


My setup

I placed my off-shoe flash in front of the subjects, to their diagonal left (see diagram). This lighting angle helps to create shadows that add a stylish feel to the wedding photo.


In scenes like this, a fill flash is absolutely necessary

This shoot took place immediately after sunset. For scenes like that, if you depended on natural light alone, you wouldn’t be able to capture the blue sky and clouds in the background—your picture would show just the silhouette of the couple.

For that reason, using a flash is a must. Here, I used daylight sync, a technique that takes the natural light into account and balances out the contrast in brightness in the image.

For instructions on how to perform daylight sync, check out this article:
[Part 1] Capturing a subject standing against the sun with daytime sync

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Genkosha Co.

Genkosha Co.

A publisher that specializes in books and magazines about video, photography and illustrations.

Takenao Anzawa

Takenao Anzawa

Born in 1975, Anzawa grew up watching his photographer father work at his family’s photography studio. His aspirations to follow in his father’s footsteps drew him to drop out from university and enter the Nippon Photography Institute. Upon graduating, he joined Hakuhodo Creative, Inc. (now known as Hakuhodo Products, Inc.) for a few years. Hoping to pursue wedding photography further, he left for the United States in 2006 and became a student of visual artist Shinichi Maruyama. Upon his return, he established An’z Photography (“Anz Photo” since 2009). In 2012, he was involved in establishing the Japan Wedding Photographers’ Association, of which he is the current President. When he is not shooting weddings, Anzawa is a full-time lecturer at the Nippon Photography Institute.