Wedding photographers cover a lot of ground in a single day. They capture countless portraits across several locations, and they typically do it under near-impossible time constraints. Through it all, however, the expectation to deliver amazing images never wanes.
While it sounds like a tough gig, we can actually use simple techniques and lighting setups (aka “recipes”) to make quick work of our wedding portraits. With just a couple off-camera flashes and some well-designed modifiers, we can turn any location into the perfect backdrop and make our couples look their best.
Below, you’ll find five easy off-camera flash recipes for couples portraits that you can use to create incredible images anywhere, even when time is limited.
Let’s get to it.
Here’s a list of the gear we used in the following five portrait recipes:
- Camera (Canon R5)
- Lens (Canon RF 28-70mm f/2)
- AD200 Flashes + Remote Trigger
- MagShoe 2
- MagGrip 2
- MagGel Full CTO
- MagSphere 2
- MagGrid 2
Portrait Recipe #1: Wrapping Backlight
For the first recipe, we’ll go with a simple backlight setup. It’s quick and easy to do, and the backlight will give your subjects a beautiful and moody glow.
Because we’re in an unspectacular parking garage, we’ll want to dial down our ambient exposure so that we don’t really see much of anything in the frame before adding our light. Here’s what the “before” shot looked like:
With the ambient exposure set, we can jump into our first lighting recipe.
All that’s left at this point is to pose your subjects and capture the shot. For this technique, we used a closed pose in which the couple faces each other at a close distance, sometimes touching foreheads.
Notice the flash placement in the image above. You’ll want to position the flash directly behind the groom’s shoulder, just above the waist, and angle it upward. When fired, the light from the flash should wrap around our subjects as it bounces off their clothing and skin.
28-70mm at 70mm, 1/200, f/4, ISO 50, Flash Power = ½ (100 watt seconds) | Special effect created by holding a split diopter up in front of the lens.
Portrait Recipe #2: Hollywood Two-Light
Next, we’re going to up the drama with a classic Hollywood Two-Light setup, which is named as such because it’s a common lighting pattern used on production sets. As the name implies, you’ll need to set up two flashes to practice this technique. If you plan to try this out during midday, be sure to find some shade. Otherwise, save this recipe for when you’re shooting at night or in dim light. We’ll use an open pose for this shot and pose the couple so that they’re standing next to one another and looking in opposite directions.
Portrait Recipe #3: Double Backlight
Now, since we already have a two-light setup in place, we’ll give the double backlight technique a try. The double backlight technique works especially well for wide angle images that highlight both subjects.
Like last time, we’re going to use one flash for each person. Instead of placing the lights just off to each side of the couple, however, we’ll place them 10-20 feet behind, around shoulder height, and aim the flashes at the back of our subjects’ heads. The change in position and placement will affect the lighting pattern and create more of an edging or rim light effect. Make sure the flashes are hidden from view.
To add a bit of action to the shot, we asked the couple to do a sort of dance floor twirl.
Portrait Recipe #4: Softbox Shortlight
This one-light short lighting technique uses a corner of a wall to create a unique silhouette look. We use it often to great effect.
Use these recipes on your next portrait session and surprise yourself and your clients with how great any scene can look with a bit of creative composition and modified lighting.