OCF & Specialty Shots

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being SO intimidated by ANYTHING that had to do with FLASH or off-camera lighting. 3 years ago, I had good reason to be intimidated because I didn’t understand flash or off-camera lighting like I do now. I’m no genius when it comes to artificial light but I do know more now!! I’m creating well exposed images consistently when using flash and I actually understand WHY they are turning out well instead of just shooting and praying that something good will happen. Shooting and just hoping for something decent to be captured isn’t a very professional approach and so if you’re in that place,

it’s ok… just decide not to stay there! I had to work hard to learn about why certain things were happening with my flash and why my images weren’t turning out like I had hoped.  Trial and error is the BEST way to learn with OCF (Off Camera Flash). If someone just told me “Go do this, this and this”, I wouldn’t have learned anything. You need to practice this stuff!! You can’t skip on the hard work and expect big changes. With that being said, lets keep going!

Before I bought my Canon 600 Ex-RT flashes, I was so frustrated with my Pocket Wizards.  They made it so hard for me to learn because half the time I was just trying to get them to sync! Now, I know dozens and dozens of photographers that have MASTERED the pocket wizard world… but for this natural light photog, I personally despised them. So when Canon came out with flashes with built in transmitters, my world was changed forever!!!

The more comfortable I became with the flashes, the more confident I was with coming up with ideas and challenging myself!! And that’s the reason for this post!! During this wedding season, I decided made it a goal to try to attempt at least one special shot with OCF during the reception. It didn’t happen at EVERY single wedding but if it didn’t happen that’s probably because there was so much awesome-ness taking place that I didn’t have time to set something up!!:) I have recently titled these shots  “Specialty Shots” and by committing to always trying to come up with something creative with my flashes, I have really improved my understanding OCF! Please notice that I said I have “improved”… I’m not the master of OCF! Keep that in mind as you finish this post!

So here are some characteristics of a “Specialty Shot”:

– They are normally posed and set up. This means I have to go get the couple and set these shots up, they aren’t candid. 

– Quite often they are unique to the venue. If the venue doesn’t have a cool ceiling or interesting element that I can use, I may use something that the couple brought in (ex: furniture, props, backdrop, classic car, etc).

– These shots are always practiced first. I learned early on that I needed to set these shots up perfectly and then take my couple away from their party and snap it super fast! The newlyweds don’t want to spend 20 minutes away from their party waiting for me to figure out what’s wrong with my flash. I always practice these shots first! 

– I’m usually using three 600’s for these shots. One on-camera, one behind the couple and one off the side at a 45-90 degree angle pointing at the couple. The on-camera flash is really just used to trigger the other two flashes for these shots. 

– These are shots that make receptions challenging for me. I have heard from several photographers in the past (myself included) that receptions aren’t creative to shoot and I used to agree with that statement until I started pushing myself to really use my 600’s! 

– Not EVERY single specialty shot was taken with a OCF setup. For a few of these, I just used the available light that I had because it worked well without a flash!! 

So here are some of my favorite “Specialty Shots” so far from the 2013 season!!! Enjoy!!

50mm f1.6 iso 1600 1/200

85mm f1.8 iso 2000 1/200

85mm f2.0 iso 1600 1/200

24mm f2.2 iso 1600 1/160 




xoxo, Katelyn
21 Comments Ask Anything, Education
  1. Retha reply

    Hi Katelyn, thanks so much, can you please share your ISO and/or shutter speeds for some of the photos please?

  2. Stephanie reply

    i’m wondering if you use any type of modifier to soften the flash? Thanks :)

  3. Stephanie reply

    i’m wondering if you use any type of modifiers for the flash to soften the light? Thanks :)

  4. admin reply

    @stephanie No modifiers but I tend to use low flash power and high iso to replicate my style (bright, colorful and sharp)

  5. Rebekah Hoyt reply

    Oh my goodness!! So much pretty!! And this is seriously such a great challenge to push myself to do something AMAZING and not just accept “documentation” as the only job during the reception. LOVE this so much!!

  6. Morgan reply

    How do you not get a super grainy photo with such high ISO? Also how do you best capture the ambiance of the creamy lighting that receptions have while using a flash?

  7. Danielle Brooks reply

    Great post and a challenge to other photographers to use OCF.

  8. Paula B. reply

    Was your flash education only trial and error, or did you read any books / take any courses that would be helpful? Thanks!

  9. tiffany heidenthal reply

    This post makes me super excited for the lighting intensive course I’m taking with Justin and Mary next month! Thanks for the gorgeous inspiration!

  10. Chris reply

    When you say one flash is behind the couple, how far is it behind them? I’m a beginner when it comes to flash.

  11. Carrie Logan reply

    SUCH a helpful post!! “Specialty Shots,” I LOVE THAT!! So much gorgeousness here!!

  12. Anna Grace reply

    LOVE these!!!! You make each shot look so different it is beautiful!

  13. Matoli Keely reply

    Wow! These are just so beautiful!! I still have a lot to learn about OCF, and frankly it scares me sometimes! It is great to see such beautiful work produced from hard work and practice! I hope to get there soon:)

  14. Dana reply

    I have a hard time getting my canon flashes to communicate and trigger. Sometimes they work and it looks awesome and sometimes i look like an idiot since my ocf won’t recognize the other! Has this ever happened to you? I typically shoot on manual or ettl – depending on the setting.

  15. Tangie reply

    Beautiful shots with OCF! My question is what about the flash on your camera – is it firing off or no?

  16. Sydni Jackson reply

    you’re amazing!!

  17. Kristina W. reply

    Your hard work is such an inspiration Katelyn!

  18. Rob reply

    Nice work. Fight the fear! Love the image second from last!

  19. Jill reply

    These images are SO stunning, and flash IS so intimidating as a (new) wedding photographer–next season will be my first as the primary shooter … this is SO inspirational as something to aim for in the future!!! Thanks for this wonderful post!!

  20. Katie reply

    SO SO SO BEAUTIFUL!!! I’ve been thinking so much about OCF lately, and I really want to step up my game! Thanks for this post Katelyn! :)

  21. Kimber Wassenberg reply

    The third photo from the bottom is probably my favorite…I love it! Thanks so much for sharing your tips…they’re helpful! :) I’m at that point where I’m really intimidated by flash, that I know I need to get more experience, it’s just now I’ve got to get out there and do it! I love your OCF pictures!

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