Wedding + Portrait

Photo Challenge #1: A Dark Wedding Venue

January 5, 2022

By Jacqueline Tobin

With almost every event you photograph, there are challenges involved—like shooting in a dark wedding venue. Which is why we’ve decided to kick off the New Year with a new column outlining the experiences of different wedding photographers from around the globe describing how they overcame certain obstacles during a shoot. First up: Lisa & Neil, Norwich and Norfolk, UK, wedding photographers. They’ve been doing their thing for the last ten years and their approach to wedding photography, as outlined on their website is: “We’ll stand on wobbly ladders, hang off speeding golf carts one handed, ninja our way through candids and lay in the middle of crowded dance floors to get you fun photography that’ll make your heart and eyes smile.”

[Read: Off-Camera Flash Photography: 5 Techniques for Dramatic Portraits]

Follow along as they take us through the obstacles that popped up during a recent wedding gig at a windowless, dark wedding venue—the Theatre Royal in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. 

The Challenge: A Dark, Windowless Wedding Venue

The photographers had to capture moments in the theatre which had no natural light. The house lights were also off, so they had only limited stage lighting and the tiny glow of the seating lights to work with. How did they tackle said challenge? Read on.

The Solution: Off-Camera Flash

“This was an off-camera-flash job for sure,” they say. “Luckily, we’re pretty comfortable with off-camera flash as we use it at just about every wedding in the U.K., from dining and portraits to first dance shots. The 200-year-old Regency theatre this wedding took place in is grand but at the same time quite snug, and the seating arrangements made it really difficult to place our light stands.

[Read: Perfect Your Lighting Skills with These Portrait Basics]

There was a lot of shouting ‘Slightly right!’ and ‘Slightly left!’ back and forth to each other, which the couple found quite entertaining. We’re pretty spontaneous photographers and don’t like to work to a plan too much, so we did a test shot to get the lighting right for the room and then just took turns photographing the couple and tweaked the flash power and shutter speed as necessary.”

Dark Wedding Venue: The Image Standouts

Dark wedding venue with bride and groom sitting in theater.
All Photos © Lisa & Neil (

“Our favorite image is actually the first test shot (above) that we took where bride and groom Meg and Jack are sitting in front of the stage talking to each other. We left them to chill while we sorted our lighting out, and they look so relaxed and candid. The empty stage gives a feeling like something exciting is about to happen.”

bride and groom in black and white photo standing in windowless wedding venue.
color version of bride and groom in dark venue.

“Lisa’s favorite,” says Neil, “is the image where the couple is looking at each other in profile (and we did every shot in color as well for a bit of a different perspective). We placed a flashgun on a stand behind each subject. It’s not perfect—we couldn’t get the distances aligned ideally between the flashguns, the wall and the couple because of all of the chairs! But the side profile and the red coloring around both of them is reminiscent of British postal stamps, which seemed perfect for a British Theatre setting.”

black and white of bride and groom sitting in theater seats where they got married.

“We also really love Meg’s face in this photo above—she looks absolutely gorgeous,” Lisa adds. “Meg actually performs in that theatre and has done so ever since she was a little girl so we really wanted to make sure we did her and the location justice. To take this shot, Neil was holding the flash on a boom (in effect, extending the light stand but folding then holding the feet) over and in front of them to illuminate their faces.” (View more images in the gallery above.)

The Gear

  • Sony a7 III cameras
  • Sony FE 35mm f/1.8 lens
  • Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 G-Master lens
  • Sandisk SD cards (256GB)
  • Godox V860II-STTL flashguns (they use two but carry four)
  • Godox X2T-S Wireless flash trigger (x2)
  • Godox S2 Bowens S type speed light holders 
  • Calumet air-cushioned light stand 

Want to submit your own challenge? Email a link to a specific wedding, and include a description of what your specific challenge was and how you overcame it, to:
Senior Editor:

Love scrolling through wedding images? Take a look back at some of our favorite Wedding of the Week entries from years past here.