OCF Placement

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ago  blogged about my new found love for the Canon 600 Ex-Rt’s. This is a new flash system that Canon announced in the early 2012 and the flashes have transmitters BUILT IN. So I don’t deal with Pocket Wizards or Radio Poppers or ANYTHING! I just set up my OFC, put my on-camera flash in the shoe mount and sync them with one click! Amazing? YES. I love them! I shoot with my On-camera flash set on Manual and my OCF on ETTL. The only disadvantage of these flashes is that if you’re shooting with a Mark II, you can’t set one flash to Manual and one to ETTL. I know that’s a bummer and it’s keeping a lot of people from investing in them.

So today’s post isn’t directed just towards the 600’s because that post was done HERE. Instead, this post is about the actually PLACEMENT of OCF and how to shoot with a second light source. I’ll be the first admit that I have by no means MASTERED this. Heck no! I’m not a pro at OCF but I have been shooting with it at receptions for a while now and there are a few things that I have learned. Here we go!


Many photographers have emailed about my OFC setup and have asked me to explain the placement of the OCF. This is a great question! So I have one flash on-camera that bounces off the ceiling and one off camera flash pointed DIRECTLY at the dance floor. When your OCF is pointed directly towards the dance floor, that’s how you achieve that pretty, glowy light burst behind your subjects! However, those pretty glow won’t happen naturally, you have to practice YOUR placement. What I meant by that is it matters WHERE you are shooting from. You can’t shoot right beside your lightstand because you would be sending both of your light sources from the same direction and that image is going to be over exposed and super flat! In my opinion, OCF is used to create more DEPTH in my reception images. When I am firing an on-camera flash and an OCF (Off camera flash), I’m adding depth to my shooting environment by painting it with more light!!


Am I rambling yet? Here’s another way to think about it. I’m a NATURAL LIGHT photographer and so I have taught myself over the years how to manage direct light from the sun.  I rarely ever have the sun beaming straight into my clients faces because that’s just not my style and so I think of OCF the same way. I think of my OCF as if it was the sun!!  I like my subjects to be backlit in natural light and so I have learned to shoot them backlit with OCF as well!  Here are some examples of what I’m talking about! :)



Ok, this image below was shot outside as the sun was getting close to setting. I obviously didn’t want the bright sun in their faces and so I positioned them to have the sun just lightly highlighting them from the side.  
This is an image taken with OCF and the same rules apply! I want the light to highlight the couple from the side (creating depth in the image) and so I positioned myself in a way that mirrored what I did earlier with the sun!

I try to setup my OCF close to or right beside the DJ booth or the Band. That way I know that no one is going to trip over it or move it on accident. It just kind of blends into the equipment and going unnoticed. I have included a diagram that may help you visualize what I’m talking about. By staying on the two opposite sides of the dance floor, I make sure that I’m not getting harsh lines of light on people’s faces and I know that the OCF is going to be lighting up the background of my shots. Some have asked if I ever MOVE my OCF depending on the activities that are going on and I do! It’s only one little light stand and so it’s very easy to reposition!

Here’s an example of me moving my light stand AND using a different angle with my OCF.  Because I was shooting an a massive ballroom, I needed to re-adjust my angle of my OCF for the cake cutting!  I did have the OCF on one corner of Brian and Kristen’s dance floor (right beside the band)… you can see that angle below….
But then I moved it over to the right of their cake, making sure that the flash was at a low power so that when the OCF hit their faces, it wasn’t too harsh and overexposed. These two images show the two options of OCF. The image above is backlit by OCF and this cake cutting image is front lit by the OCF. This second image isn’t perfect because something got in the way of my OCF and Brian’s face… but the OCF was soft enough not to create dramatic harsh shadows there. It’s not perfect but it’s definitely still a keeper! :) So do you see what I mean about the positioning of the OCF in these two images?  I prefer to shoot backlit when I can but that’s just personal preference!
Here are some examples from my wedding two weekends ago!! Position is everything when it comes to OCF!!! I hope this was helpful! 

(I moved the light stand outside really quickly before they made their exit! Imagine how dark and “non-glowy” this image would be without all of the light that is filling the background!)

xoxo, Katelyn
13 Comments Ask Anything, Education
  1. larissa reply

    Thank you for your post! Do you put a softbox on your ocf or do you shoot bare bulb?

  2. Vanessa Chupp reply

    Hey Katelyn! Thanks for the post! Hope you are having an amazing time at P31! So wish i could be there! : ) We’ve been playing around with OCF at receptions but something we’ve been struggling is consistently getting that glow look from the flash when using it backlit, and not a more harsh looking flash burst. May be something so obvious i’m missing… Is it what you set your aperture to? And, what does your aperture and shutter speed tend to be at a reception? Thanks!!! V

  3. jamie reply

    i love this katelyn, thank you for sharing. off camera flash is always the hardest thing to master, but i love how you have it laid out here.

  4. Meredith Sledge reply

    This is great, Katelyn! Thanks!

  5. Kathryn Grace reply

    Thanks so much for the tips! Especially the diagram… I would really love to learn OCF – I hate the reception shots I took at a wedding in August and I know it’s because of flat front light!

  6. Rosa reply

    Always SOOOO helpful! I am about to venture out in the world of OCF and your guidance is awesome! Thank you!

  7. Alison Mish reply

    I love your work girl! I do have a high do you have your OCF and what direction do you aim it? Up? Down? Right at the people on the dance floor? I’m trying to work on my reception lighting! Thanks in advance for your help :)

  8. Jordan Mattie reply

    Thanks so much for this blog post Katelyn! I am wodnering – do you have the flash pointing at the floor in all of the OCF example shots that you posted? Some of them look like the flash is pointing out towards the camera, but maybe that’s just the effect that it creates…?

  9. Amy Jensen reply

    Hi Katelyn! LOVE THIS SO MUCH! Quick question – is this the light only set up you use for your wedding receptions regardless of the venue (well lit vs dark venue) – one on-camera flash and one off – just to two flashes? You get such beautiful results and I was wondering if you used more than these two flashes? Thanks so much! xo, Amy

  10. Whitney Luckhart reply

    Thanks so much for this post, Katelyn! I’m curious, will the positioning and lighting be the same for an OCF for an outdoor reception considering I won’t have a ceiling to bounce my flash off of? Thanks!

  11. Haley reply

    how would you do your lighting if your ON camera flash didn’t have anything to bounce off. Let’s say the ceiling is far too high or is black. What’s your next step? I’m finding so many reception venues have the black out ceilings.

  12. Josette reply

    Thank you so much for this post! Ive never photographed a wedding, I don’t know if I ever would but I do wish to dabble with my OCF. I absolutely loved how you put your use of OCF into perspective; comparing it to the sun- BRILLIANT! [pun intended]

  13. Amy reply

    Hi Katelyn! Could you share a little on OCF for outdoor receptions, please? Thank you!!! xo

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