Behind The Scenes: The Role of Lighting by Bradley Hanson

In photography, light is everything, even over composition. Light can dictate composition, control mood and determine where the eye is drawn to in any frame. The difference between a memorable image and a forgettable one is usually the role of light in altering how that photograph is perceived.

There are a number of reasons I didn't use flash in this image:

1. It would have destroyed the sense of depth.

2. It would have removed the most important component: the light on the groom's face, projected from the DJ's spinning lights, as well as minimizing the halo of lights from the ceiling.

3. A little movement is more romantic to me than harsh two dimensional lighting, particularly with dancing. In this case, I was handholding 1/15th of a second at f2.

4. Evening out the light with a pop of flash would have made the bride's back white, losing the importance of the eye light on the groom and the contour of her right bicep.

5. Because the groom removed his black jacket and is only wearing a white shirt, flash would have removed the contrast between his shirt and the shadow on his wife's back.

6. Using supplemental light would have also ended my ability to be invisible to the couple in this scene. The darker the room, the wider the pupils. Low light flash, in conjunction with dilated pupils means your bride and groom are seeing stars after only one shot. This is not a recipe for success or getting a good second shot.

While I prefer to work without flash, sometimes it is not only required, but like natural light, well-used flash can make or break an image.

This film image was used by Women's Health Magazine in April of 2009 as a double-page spread about life after marriage. The editor that contacted me about using it specifically cited the light on the groom's face as conveying the mood she was looking for with the text of the article.

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To see more Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN portraits, wedding photography and weddings all over the world, visit my main portfolio on or email me at or call me at 206-393-8292 and we can discuss your wedding plans in detail. My speciality is shooting family portraits in an unposed, natural style and wedding photojournalism. I photograph weddings as they happen rather than direct the action, which is often referred to as documentary style wedding photography. I’ve photographed weddings in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Seattle and many countries around the world.

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