Shooting Events in Low Lighting without a Flash

Shooting Weddings and Other Events in Low Lighting Without A Flash

Shooting weddings is not an easy task, and to be honest, it scares me sometimes mainly because clients want perfectly timed photos and perfectly lighted photos. I do not incorporate flash photography into my photography. Nothing against using a flash, but I try to use natural light for all my photos, even weddings.

That being said, most weddings are held in venues that are indoors, not including outdoor weddings. Or, in most cases you see the wedding held outdoors and the reception held indoors. The problem with that is shooting photos in the venue. Most of them have decent natural light coming through the windows during the day, but a lot of receptions are held in the evening which makes for dim lighting in which to photograph subjects in. 

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

By not using a flash, I do take a slight bit of risk, especially when shooting weddings and getting timed shots. When I do this I manually adjust my camera to allow for low light shooting. This can be difficult if you don’t have the right photographic gear, and I don’t always, but the lens I invested in and my camera are pretty powerful when shooting in low light. 

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

For example, if I’m shooting in a rather dim venue, I drop my shutter speed down to around 1/60 to around 1/80 of a second. A slower shutter speed lets more light in, but it also allows for blur of photographing moving subjects, which is not always a good thing, depending on the effect you’re going for.  I also stop my aperture down to about 1.4 on my 85mm lens. Not all lenses allow you to stop down this low, but in doing so, the aperture of the lens gets larger which allows for more light to come in through the lens. I sometimes adjust the ISO levels as well, which may make for a more noisy or more grainy photograph, but this effect isn’t always a terrible thing. 

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Reading Your Light Situation

Reading your available light situation doesn’t have to be difficult. Try practicing your low-light photography lighting in different scenarios and locations, and during different times during the day. For instance, you can try shooting different locations during the evening. Go indoors and try shooting without a flash, but also try to shoot in manual mode and adjust your camera and lens to the current light situation in which you are attempting to shoot in. 

Low Lighting Adjustments:

-adjust shutter speeds according to your light situation

-Set ISO to a higher setting, try around 300 or higher in lower light settings.

-Open up your lens! Stop your lens down to its lowest f-stop, usually an f.1.8 or lower, depending on the type of lens you work with. 

-Bounce lighting off of other light sources: For example, window lighting bouncing off a light colored wall across from the window can be an excellent light source for a portrait or a still photograph.

-Don’t be scared of low lighting! Again, depending on your lens and camera, most are adaptable to shoot in low light. This can be tricky to become comfortable with, but practice is key to becoming familiar with these types of lighting situations. 

This wedding I photographed was shot entirely in lower lighted settings without a flash. I worked mainly with window light and ambient lighting to capture these images. To be honest, this was a bit difficult and I did get some motion blur on some of the photos which I wasn’t completely happy with, but all in all they came out pretty good for refusing to work with a flash. 

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Another aspect of low light photography I enjoy is the fact that when shooting without a flash, you get an image that is more grainy and ends up giving a film feel to the photo. In my opinion, I feel as though this look gives the photo more depth and a nostalgic feel as opposed to sharp crisp flash lit images. This is definitely a personal preference though, and usually for weddings, people tend to go with more traditional wedding photographers. 

This website offers more in depth tips and tricks in order to shoot in low lighting without a flash

Don't be scared to shoot in low light situations without a flash. Many people rely on using flash lighting as a crutch in low light, but you can practice and manipulate your available light to your own benefit. Low lighting also has perks, and can add moodiness and mystery to your photos, which is often vacant when shooting with a flash.

Shooting Film Without a Lightmeter

I started off doing photography by using film, and a camera I bought off of Ebay for ten dollars. I used my grandfather’s light meter to set my lighting at first, but eventually started shooting photos without it. If you don’t know what a light meter is, here is a link to one similar to what I used:

Light meters measure the amount of light outside or inside so the photographer knows which f-stop and shutter speed to use in certain types of lighting, hence, resulting in the perfectly exposed photo. Usually. 

I’ve been shooting film so long that I automatically know which f-stop and shutter speed to adjust my camera to. If you have a high ISO film, you are usually better in low light and can eyeball the lighting situation as to which shutter speed and f-stop to set your camera too. 

For example, if you’re shooting on a semi-cloudy day with a film ISO of 100, you only need to set your f-stop (depending on your lens), to 1.8 with a shutter speed of around 1000. The following images are all shot on a similar day using ISO 200 or 400 color film, with a f-stop of 1.8 and a shutter speed around 1000. 

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead


This setting is not a rule for cloudy days, and sometimes you have to adjust a little according to the light, but I haven’t had a problem with exposure even without using a light meter. 

The best thing you can do is to play around with settings and maybe shoot a test roll of film or two. Shooting film can become pricey if you don't have your own darkroom, but It definitely is worth it every once in awhile. 

Here is a link to an excellent website if anyone is interested in shooting film or knowing more about it:


Artistic Collaboration Portraits, Part II

I had the opportunity to photograph local artist Jason Pohlig a few weeks ago and document his art process ( Pohlig’s studio, located on the upper floor of Moira Lazarus Juice bar on West Orange street ( is covered in colored splatters of paint, most of them clinging to a canvas that is laid across the floor, a backdrop for Pohlig’s painting process. Work from other artists clutters the walls and baseboards, propped up canvases leaning against each other, creating a colorful jumbled aesthetic that meshes and clashes with the colors in Pohlig’s original paintings. 



In his painting process, Pohlig starts with a blank canvas, and he smears paint across the entirety of it, covering the surface blankly in order to create a starting point for one of his intricate and detailed artworks. He fills the painting with more paint, letting purple and red paint splash and flow over the white, creating valleys and rivulets of color that converge and trail off in various ways. The most fascinating part of this process is watching the artist take hot melted wax and pour it over the paint, trapping the paint underneath the wax, creating texture akin to extraterrestrial galaxies and otherworldly lands. 



When the wax and paint are fairly dry, the artist uses tools and the ends of paintbrushes to dig out even more texture, creating outlines of planets and craters in the artwork on his canvases. 



In addition to the buildup of wax and paint, Pohlig then uses more paint to add even more texture and color to the top of the shapes and craters that have formed as result of the wax pouring process. By using this layered process, he builds up thin layers of wax and paint to create an almost three dimensional art process, which sets his artwork aside from most local artists in Lancaster. He also does a different genre of art in addition to his textured pieces. Pohlig also does ink and watercolor illustrations and astrological portraits which are ink and watercolor pieces based on a person’s astrological sign. You can find examples of his illustrations here:

I had another chance to take photos of the artist a few days ago in his new studio space. Original art pieces were hung randomly on the walls of the vacant building turned art space, which is the location of Pohlig’s studio.  The teal blue colors of the peeling paint on the walls contrast with the colors in the artist's paintings, making the muted colors as well as the neons in different paintings pop unexpectedly. 


In regards to my photography in relation to Pohlig’s art, we are working on a collaboration of both of our talents in order to promote both of our art styles. If you go on to Pohlig’s website, (, you can see that he used my photography and his art and meshed them together to create a header for his website. Instead of keeping our work separate, we are trying to intertwine both of our talents and turn them into one work.


I mainly shoot with purely natural light, so I’m going to run down a few of the techniques I used in this artist collaboration shoot. Although I am a natural light photographer, we did use one fill light to lessen any shadows that may have ruined the images and lighting in the building.

I also shot manually, meaning that I adjusted the ISO, shutter speed, and f-stops to fit the lighting around me. I do not use automatic settings on my camera mainly because when using manual, I have much more control over the lighting and I can control the depth of field and lighting that I want in my images.


I shoot with a Sony Alpha 900. It isn’t the newest camera on the block, but it is full frame and has excellent color pick up and it’s a workhorse. I’ve dropped it, abused it, and used it in all sorts of weather, and it still holds up and works beautifully. 

I usually stick with two lenses when shooting portraits; and 85mm lens and a 50mm lens.  For these artist portraits I used an 85mm lens. I shoot manually with my lenses too, rather than using autofocus. I think it helps artistically and lets me pick out what I want to focus on, rather than letting the camera or lens do all the work. The 85mm lens I use goes all the way to an f-stop of 1.4, which makes it hard to manually focus, but the results are worth it. I’m including a link to f-stops here if you are unfamiliar with the terms and techniques:  This website also includes explanation on shutter speeds and breaks down basic information on lenses in relation to f-stops. 

By using all these techniques and the types of photography gear I choose, makes it easier for me to shoot the type of images I want to create. It also helps to have friends and acquaintances who are open to collaborations and creating artwork together. If anyone wants to work with me or needs more tips and advice, feel free to email me:




Salvation Army Backyard Bash Block Party

Last month I had the opportunity to shoot a community block party event for the Salvation Army. It was a fairly warm day for September which meant perfect weather for the block party, which resulted in a great turn out. The event focused solely on community and bringing people together which in turn, created an amazing community based event for residents of Lancaster City. 

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

(The photo above shows children and parents participating in a game that involved candy).

The event , the Backyard Bash block party, featured a variety of games for the children in the community to play. Some of the feature games consisted of a bean bag toss, throwing game, ducks in a pond, and the list goes on. More games and activities are seen in the photos I attached below, because pictures can explain a lot better than words can…right?

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

(A young girl sets up cans for the throwing game in the photo above.)

Some of the main activities also featured a magician, who seemed to stun the crowd on multiple occasions, as well as live music that many people had fun with and appreciated. 

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

(Above are photos of the magician and the live musician who were present).

Activities weren’t the only things going on. There was also food and drinks and free popsicles being given out from an ice cream truck. Other stands offered freebies as well. One stand was giving out personalized airbrushed t-shirts created by airbrush artists. This stand was quite popular judging by the long lines that formed quickly in front of the stand. 

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

(Image above depicting one of the airbrush artists who were present at the block party).

Aside from all the fun, activities, and live performances going on, there was also an air of camaraderie and friendliness in the air, something that isn’t seen everyday. People were conversing and laughing together and everybody appeared to be having a wonderful time, children and adults alike.

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

Photo by: Rachel Adshead

(A group of children smile for the camera in the photo above).

The community focus and feeling of togetherness in Lancaster city is amazing. I tried to encompass that feeling in the images I shot for this event and I wanted to bring out the good in humanity, which does exist, as well as the fact that humans can treat each other with respect, kindness, and dignity in this world which sometimes comes across as cruel, cold, and calculating. 


Hello, it's me.

I usually hide behind my camera and prefer to focus on the subjects in front of it, but I’m going to attempt to introduce myself and my art in the best way that I know how.

My name is Rachel Adshead, and I’m a digital and film photographer. I do not consider myself incredibly professional, but rather a photographer who is always learning and experimenting. To close off one’s mind to learning new things in regards to photography, is never good, hence, why I haven't yet called myself a professional. 

I started out shooting film, which then lead into digital photography(mainly due to the cost and quick turnaround of digital images), but my heart is still one with film and I try to emulate the look and feel of film even in my digital images.

 Below are a few of my black and white film portraits, as well as a few digital ones. I hope you enjoy my blog and the photos I post! Feel free to check back for new and upcoming creative collaborations that are coming in the incredibly close future.

Joel: Black and White film

Ashlee: color film

Ashlee: color film

Ryan: digital image

Salvation Army event, Queen street, Lancaster PA (digital image). 


Location: Lancaster, PA.  Model: Ryan Gentzler

I never get to do shoots in the rain, mainly because it's hard finding people who actually want to model in the rain, walk around for hours, and get soaked, but once in awhile it works out, thanks to some amazing humans, weatherproof cameras, and artistic dreams. I've been trying to channel my dark days into my art in order for pain to turn into something with a purpose. Even negative energy needs an outlet. Enjoy the photos.

Solo hikes/Contemplation.

Location: Shiprock Woods Nature Preserve
This week has been rough, in more ways than one. I've fallen down and struggled to get back up, over and over again. Lately I've been feeling as though it takes more strength to get back up, and the disappointments I face feel colossal, and myself, too small to fight them. My mind has been running over itself and I crave solace and being away from humanity. Humans are sometimes the most cruel beings on the face of the earth, and I need to distance myself from the way people use each other and hurt each other. 

I decided to start solo hiking again. I'm going to find a different hiking location every time that I'm off from work or have some complete off days. I brought my backpack, a camera, and some food, and the pictures below are all from today. I'm worn out, but my mind feels more clear and I think nature is helpful in healing and sorting out the mind. I tried to take photos of fascinating things and included a blurry self timed photo of myself, just to prove to myself that I still exist. (dissociating over here...). I hope you like the pictures.