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  • Writer's pictureGiovanni Rusconi

Exposure in wedding photography

Exposure in wedding photography

It all starts with exposure in photography: the amount of light you let into the camera and hit the sensor. For great image quality, you just need the correct amount of light. Too much light creates a washed out image with bright highlights, and too little light results in an image that is too dark with no shadow detail. Camera sensors are constantly improving, and while you can, to some extent, save overexposed or underexposed images in the reprocessing process, they will turn out better if you use the camera better (and spend much less time on the computer).

There are three main ways to control how much light hits the sensor: exposure time (how long the shutter stays open to let light in), aperture (the size of the lens opening), and ISO (the level sensor sensitivity). Each exhibition is a balancing act between these three elements. For any lighting condition, there are countless combinations that yield correct exposure, but how you combine them will have a profound impact on the appearance of the image.

Take a tour of our gallery to see how we know how to play with light by manipulating exposure in wedding photography.

Exposure time in photography and movement

The shutter is that mechanical device that allows light to enter the camera, and the shutter speed is the length of time the shutter remains open to allow light to enter for a specific shot. Shutter speed is measured in fractions per second, so 1/500 sec is a very fast shutter speed (the shutter stays open for much less time) than 1/8 sec.

Shutter speed affects the final appearance of the image and determines whether there will be any blur due to movement – either of the subject or the camera – during the exposure. A fast shutter speed (for example, 1/500 sec or more, depending on how quickly the subject is moving) will freeze the subject's action. During a wedding, when the couple is leaving the ceremony or making a formal entrance to the dinner, I use a pretty fast shutter speed – so either way, they can move really quickly!

At slower shutter speeds, around 1/50 sec or less (depending on how fast the subject is moving), you may catch some blur – intentional or unintentional – due to subject or camera movement while the shutter is open . Blurring resulting from subject motion can be isolated to a single portion of an image. If the blur is due to camera movement (known as camera shake) then the entire image will be blurry. You can intentionally use motion blur to create a variety of effects.

It can be very effective for conveying a sense of movement in an image. Usually you want to avoid camera shake, but sometimes it can provide a softness that doesn't necessarily distract from the image – it can even heighten its emotional impact. But to avoid unintentional blurring, which ruins the image, you must first know the speed at which you can photograph handheld without shaking, and then always be aware of the shutter speed at which you are shooting to ensure you don't go over your limit. I know I can photograph well handheld at 1/15 sec. Or even at 1/8 sec., but at 1/30 sec. Whether or not I certainly feel more confident in avoiding inadvertent camera shake.

To minimize camera shake at very slow shutter speeds, try leaning against a pillar or wall if possible; or place the camera on a stable surface, such as a table. Inhale, exhale and take it in your hand; then press the shutter button. I often take many photos in a row, hoping to get one perfectly clear one. Unless my subjects are perfectly still, I have to remember that their movement can also result in blurred motion in the image. I wonder if that's the effect I want, and if it's not, I adjust the shutter speed accordingly.

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