Dark and intimate receptions

 There’s a common misconception being spread around that unless you shoot with an off camera lighting set up then you can’t/shouldn’t shoot these beautiful dark and intimate receptions.

Now is this  Fact -OR- Cap? Us Tiktok users are familiar with that phrase correct?

I wanna shed some light on the topic (get it, haha) by saying that for the most part this is CAP. Now if you’ve never been told this, you may be wondering…

What is off camera lighting or for short ‘OCF’ ? Well, it’s where a photographer uses a trigger on their camera to fire several flashes that they have set up around your reception hall.

The fact is that most, if not all receptions are generally low light but not all reception halls are equal. Some questions you might ask yourself to help you know for sure if your venue is darker than most during the reception.

A couple questions to help you know:

What color(s) are the reception hall (walls, ceiling).    A. Dark (black, gray)   B. Orange/red (wood & brick)   C. White/light & airy

How high are the ceilings?  A. 15-20 feet      B. 20-30 feet       C. So high that I have no clue the measurements

The truth behind OCF that those photographers that swear by it wont tell you.

  1. It’s a lot of extra work to set up & test, it takes a minimum of 30 minutes before the reception. Most of those that stand firmly in using it will also forgo it if the timeline doesn’t end up giving them time to set it up. Understandable yes, a venders fault, not really… BUT it just proves my point. Selling clients on its NECESSITY just isn’t cool. When it’s really more of a preference.
  2. It’s a science- given there are several flashes syncing together, they often don’t work as easily as they should. Which can leave us in a HUGE pinch in the middle of important moments. Not having an ON camera back up during this time could mean moments not being captured.
  3. Setting up in a wide or narrow environment is also a science to figure out the perfect placement to get decent images. Whether setting a flash 5 feet away or an entire reception hall away one can’t just run over and move or fix things immediately.

Many photographers prefer shooting with the natural elements of the reception hall & often times I am one of those! I know I can count on my on camera flash, I don’t have to worry about it syncing the same way and I keep a 2nd handy in the matter of mere seconds just in case anything happens. What’s more is, I do have the ability to shoot OCF as well. Ultimately my opinion after 9 years of being a wedding photographer is that a professional should be able to use their mounted camera flash to provide you some amazing images even in your dark and intimate reception hall. At the end of the day there IS a time & place for OCF & I am by no means saying amazing images don’t also get produced by using it.

So when is it absolutely necessary? When your reception venue has HIGH ceilings and is extremely wide -OR- an outdoor night time reception/wedding. Why is this? It’s because an on camera flash needs something to bounce off of. If the walls and ceilings are too far apart or too high there is nothing, so OCF is necessary. Same concept with the outdoors. 🙂

You know what they say though, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ & ‘the proof is in the pudding’.

So here you go a dark and intimate reception hall and my images in tow.


Reception at the Biltwell

dark and intimate wedding receptions in Indianapolis, Indiana


 Drop your name and info in the box below & let’s talk all about your intimate wedding

 -Stacey Burt


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