Create a scene

At this Jasper House Farms wedding, I wanted to create a scene using the amazing copse of trees near the ceremony site. The area was fairly shady but the background had a lot of highlights from where the sun was peeking through, so I knew I needed to underexpose the ambient light a bit, then use some off-camera flash to put some light back onto the bride. This setup reflects how our eyes would normally process such a contrasty situation but a camera hasn’t been made (yet) that can do so. I could’ve foregone the use of flash, and just exposed for the bride, but that would have meant a great loss of detail in the scene and since the bride had obviously chosen the venue for its beauty, I wanted to include as much of it as I could! I had the bride’s mother hide behind the large tree on the right, holding two Canon 600 EX-RT speedlites behind an umbrella that was aimed at a 45-degree angle to the bride, opposite the direction of the sun, then I shot from far away with my long lens (Canon 70-200mm EF f/2.8L II, stabilized).

Jasper House Farms wedding

Jasper House Farms wedding, Eugene wedding photographer, Portland wedding photographer; © Matt Emrich Photo


Backlighting a subject

At this Deep Woods wedding the rain was coming down in buckets all day long. Since the wedding venue is obviously an important place to the bride and groom, I knew I had to get some shots that showed a little of the grounds, even if it was raining. Deep Woods has a covered patio area that was the perfect place to place my subjects. It was quite dark there, with no artificial lighting and a very dark day outside as well. Like I always say, however, I love using all available light so I brought out the lights I had available with me. Placing one behind the bride allowed me to light up her hair and separate her from the background a bit. Another light was setup to the bride’s right, set at a lower power and my last speedlight was on my Canon 5D3. No more dark and dreary day!

Deep Woods Wedding photographer

The Flintstones

This wedding venue had a large cave accessible via a short, but very steep, hike up the hillside. The groom really wanted to utilize the cave in a few of the pictures, making it look like he was a caveman dragging home his new bride (entirely the groom’s idea, not mine!). When we finally had the time for the shoot, the sun had pretty much set which, in a steep canyon, means it got dark quickly. I carried one external flash setup (flash, stand, umbrella) with me as I hiked and was glad I did; it was nearly pitch black up there. The hike down sure was fun 🙂

wedding photographers in Eugene, Oregon


Roses are Red

Trisha and Jordan were married at the Clark Creek Campground this past Saturday; yes, during the Michigan State game! Since there was no power and no cell service we were all able to keep our focus on the joyful celebration of marriage between these two. This shot was made after the sun had already gone behind the hills. Using an off-camera Canon 600EX-RT speedlight, softened through a white umbrella about three feet from the couple, I was able to use the light from the flash to freeze the petals in mid-air and also have enough ambient light to keep the rest of the frame from going completely black. My ISO was at 6400 but my Canon 5D3 was up to the task.

Eugene wedding photographer

Lighting up a rainy day

At this Deep Woods wedding in Veneta, the rain didn’t let up all day. Not only did the ceremony have to be moved indoors, the photography was limited as well; naturally, the bride didn’t want to walk through the woods in her wedding dress! A small patio just outside the reception hall was all I needed. The venue’s wooded backdrop was clearly visible in the background and I had plenty of lights to make the bride stand out. I positioned the bride just under the edge of the overhang and put a speedlight behind her, out in the rain. I really like how that combination made the raindrops visible, as well as providing some nice rim lighting that separated the bride from the darker background. It was completely dark on the patio, under the overhanging roof, so I used another off-camera speedlight to light up the front of the bride, as well as a bit of fill light from my on-camera speedlight (all lights were the Canon 600EX-RT). Without the addition of these extra lights it would have been impossible for me to expose properly for both the bride and the deep woods behind her. Glad I had them available!

Eugene wedding photographer, Matt Emrich Photo

Available Light Photography

There are a number of photographers who eschew anything but ‘available’ light. By this they mean ambient light, using only what’s available without bringing in any of their own, whether on- or off-camera. By all means, I try and use ambient light as often as possible but I almost always add a little flash. Using flash during the daytime is like adding salt to a  meal: a little is all you need or it’ll overpower everything, but without it things are rather bland. Why do I add flash most of the time? Mostly it’s to try and replicate what our eyes see, to create an image that looks like it was only made using ‘available’ light. See, the thing is, our eyes can process infinite gradations of light and dark; we can look at an extremely contrasty scene (half in complete sunlight and half in deep shadow) and still see details in both extremes. Cameras, no matter how expensive they are, simply cannot do this.  If you’re using only ambient light, half of the image will be unusable in this case. This is where flash comes in. In an extremely contrasty scene like the one mentioned above, using flash will create an image much more similar to how our own eyes perceive it. So when people ask if I like to shoot using only available light, I always tell them yes…because all of my lights are always available to me!

In the three images below, you can see what would happen if I only used available light. The first scene is one where no flash was used; it’s completely dark. I suppose I could’ve mounted my camera on a tripod and taken a 10 second exposure, but that’s really not an option with moving subjects. So what did I do? I brought in two off-camera lights, as you can see in the second image, plus I had a third light on my camera. The final image shows what those off-camera lights can do. What a difference! For those who shoot using only ambient light, they have to put away their gear a few minutes after sunset. For those of us who bring our own lights, we can shoot all night long:)


Available Light Photography


Available Light Photography


Available Light Photography