Mirror, mirror, on the wall…

I just shot a wedding in the scariest location you could imagine. In fact, I think this place was actually designed to torture photographers. Let’s see, DARK ROOM with TIN-LIKE REFLECTIVE CEILING and lots of GLASS. To top it off, MIRRORS EVERYWHERE!

You couldn’t shoot available light completely clean because the ambient light was around 1/40 at ISO 6400. So, this means using a speedlight. Well, no problem, except this place was like a fun house. No matter where you stood, you were IN THE FRAME. This also meant flash bounce everywhere.

Well, how did I handle this? easy…


I got many wonderful shots simply by using off camera flash in manual mode (about 1/8 power output). I did not have an assistant so I mounted a Nikon SB-900 speedlight on a Manfrotto Tripod with a wireless Paul C Buff receiver in the PC port. I placed the tripod in key locations away from the mirrors and triggered the flash manually. I shot in Manual Mode. The exposures were pretty consistent since I was using manual flash. I could roam around the room and shoot at ISO 1000, f/4, and the shutter range was 1/40 to 1/60 (depending on how far away the subject was from the light source). I was able to stay out of the mirror reflection most of the time.

In my opinion, THIS IS THE ONLY WAY to shoot this location “properly.” I had a waiter there tell me he had his engagement shots done for him there recently and the 2 photographers he hired had a horrible time. They ended up shooting into the mirrors themselves! I’ll give them credit for being creative, but those mirrors were basically acting as a really dirty UV filter! That is not the way to deliver the final product to the client.

You can shoot in any location as long as you have a basic understanding of exposure. If off-camera flash intimidates you…don’t let it. Learn to use it. It is so much better than the harsh results from on-camera flash. More importantly, there were no other options in this location.

Here is a very high ISO shot (no flash) of one of the rooms…

Look at this huge mirror! Off-camera flash was the ONLY way to get a clean image (low ISO) with proper exposure to capture a beautiful moment like this. And look, no flash seen in that huge mirror. The other options were ISO 6400+, which would need a lot of post-processing and still not look as good as this. Or, on-camera sppedlight, which would have been seen horribly in that mirror, even if bounced. My flash was on a tripod 25 feet away from that mirror to the side and I was probably 20 feet away from my flash.

I cannot think of a better example of how we, as photographers, have to learn to overcome major obstacles.

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