How to take portraits against the sunset

19th October 2011
I was photographing a wedding recently and suggested to the bride and groom that we take some portraits with the sun setting behind them. They thought it sounded like a lovely idea except the groom was concerned that they’d either be silhouettes (not necessarily a bad thing...

...or the sky would be washed out. This is because the sky is so much brighter than the landscape.

Of course if I simply pointed and clicked at the sunset then he’d be dead right, but there is a way around the problem and it creates beautiful photos...

Switch your camera to manual mode and turn on your flash. You can now expose your photo for the bright sky (which would normally render your bride and groom as silhouettes), but use the flash to breath light back into the happy couple.

I can’t really give you the exact settings to use because it all depends on the light and how close you are to the couple etc. But as a starting point I would put your shutter speed at 1/250 second (don’t go faster or it won’t sync with your flash) and then use the appropriate aperture to get a decent exposure. Then adjust the flash power up and down until you’re happy with the way the couple are lit.

I attach a flash diffuser on my Canon 580EX speedlight to make the light of the flash less harsh. Alternatively you can diffuse the flash by bouncing it into a reflector, if you have someone who will hold it for you. You can of course use the standard on camera flash, but try to use as little of the power as possible to avoid the effect looking too harsh.


Photo comment By Debbie: Thanks Dan, As always so helpful! What would we do without you!!!!!!!

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