The Belle Epoque – to flash or not to flash ??

paul atherton belle epoque photographer 03 The Belle Epoque   to flash or not to flash ??

The Belle Epoque in Knutsford has to be one of my favourite locations in Cheshire but the very reason why so many couples choose it for their wedding celebrations – cozy, intimate, and very chic – can be a bit of a challenge to the photographer trying to capture all the atmosphere without killing it with the overuse of flash.

My style of wedding photography tends to be very natural and unposed, so a big burst of flash can really spoil an intimate moment so you have a choice – to flash or not to flash !! There are also some photographers who refuse to use flash as it is so intrusive in the way that they shoot. Thankfully these days it is an awful lot easier to shoot documentary wedding photography without flash thanks to the incredibly high settings (ISO) that can be used on todays professional digital cameras. Back in the old days of film it was almost impossible to shoot a dark venue without flash.

Im somewhere in the middle. I prefer to shoot without flash but sometimes – as long as it is used sensitively and doesn’t over power the natural lighting – it can really enhance the scene. Take the image above – this was shot on an original Canon 5D with a fast 50mm 1.4 lens which meant that I could catch the ambient light and the reaction of Milena almost putting the ring on Simon’s wrong finger ! Flash here would have completely ruined the moment.

In this next shot – of Jo’s dad caught between his daughter and new son in law – flash would have blasted out the foreground detail and ruined the shot

paul atherton belle epoque photographer 06 The Belle Epoque   to flash or not to flash ??

The next few shots show how using the natural light can add to the atmosphere of the intimate lighting of the Belle Epoque

paul atherton belle epoque photographer 04 The Belle Epoque   to flash or not to flash ??paul atherton belle epoque photographer 05 The Belle Epoque   to flash or not to flash ??paul atherton belle epoque photographer 07 The Belle Epoque   to flash or not to flash ??paul atherton belle epoque photographer 08 The Belle Epoque   to flash or not to flash ??paul atherton belle epoque photographer 09 The Belle Epoque   to flash or not to flash ??paul atherton belle epoque photographer 10 The Belle Epoque   to flash or not to flash ??paul atherton belle epoque photographer 12 The Belle Epoque   to flash or not to flash ??paul atherton belle epoque photographer 13 The Belle Epoque   to flash or not to flash ??

When it comes to the speeches at the Belle Epoque there is a choice – in winter when there is virtually no light coming in from outside there is the choice of really pushing up the ISO or filling the room with a couple of carefully place flash guns on stands in the corner of the room. Using a remote transmitter means that I can walk around freely and shoot as I would do if the wedding was being held in the summer. The next few shots show how the different seasons can affect the lighting

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If you are looking for an experienced Belle Epoque photographer please give me a call to discuss your special day – and I promise not to flash too much !!!

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Graham Nixon -

A well thought through explanation of something that a lot of people find difficult to understand. I like to use the Groom’s speech as an example. For each 5 minutes of speaking I will usually take around 40 photos. That would be 40 flashes going off which would be off putting for an already nervous Groom… and a bit annoying for the guests. Instead what I do is take a few wide shots with flash (of the top table and the room) and then cover the rest of the speech using just the ambient light in the room, bumping up the ISO as necessary. Obviously this can create “digital noise” so in very dark rooms the only realistic solution is to go completely black & white which by happy coincidence is perfect for capturing the atmosphere of the speeches. Happy days :)