Balancing Indoor and Outdoor Light Tips for Photographers on How I Took It

The idea for this photo first started because the bride’s mom asked for it to be taken. Because it wasn’t something I had initially come up with, I had to figure out how to create it to fit all the mom’s requirements – shooting from the outside of the church all the way to the back side of the altar.

Balancing Indoor and Outdoor Light for Portraits at an Antioch Baptist Church Wedding in Haymarket VA | Kelly Ewell Photography

First off, I knew I’d have to use a long lens, so I popped my 70-200mm lens onto my camera. From where I’m standing there is a long patch of grass that is the end of the parking area (cropped out), a stone fence, a driveway, the church entrance, a small church “lobby”, the bride and groom, the aisle behind the couple, and then finally the altar. The longer focal length I’m using compresses the photo so that the couple looks like they’re right in the doorway and then the altar looks like it’s right behind the couple. I ended up shooting at 95mm because I wanted to still get the full framing of the church entrance in the photo along with the stone wall at the bottom.

The second issue I had was the drastic changes in brightness of light. Outside, the sun was shining and things were quite bright even though the doorway was on the shaded side of the building. Lights were on inside the church, but their brightness was nothing compared to the sun. If I wanted to be able to see the couple, I knew I’d have to light them with off camera flash. I set up a flash with an umbrella to diffuse the harshness at a 45-degree angle in front of them to the right. I used a Pocket Wizard so I could trigger the flash when I fired my camera shutter. How did I know how much flash to use? Well first I set my exposure for the outside of the church since that would determine the overall exposure. I had just been shooting family formals inside the church, so luckily the flash was already set for the inside. Had it not already been dialed in, I would have started with a fairly low power since theflash was quite close to them. I don’t remember what I was on but if I had to guess it was likely about 1/16 power. So one light on a light stand was all I used!

The last issue was that I was so far away from the couple, that it was more difficult to communicate what I wanted them to do and when. Nothing a little yelling and hand signals can’t fix though!

So that’s how I took it! Let me know what you think and if there are other types of photos you want me to talk about by leaving a comment. Or better yet, sign up for my newsletter below and get free photography tips sent right to your inbox!


Meet the Photographer: Hey there! I’m Kelly Ewell, a Northern Virginia wedding photographer who specializes in engagement, wedding, and anniversary photography. I live in Leesburg, VA with my husband and rescue pup, Piper. When I’m not at weddings, you can find me at the local wineries or renovating our farm, 48 Fields! I’d love to connect with you on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

How to Balance Indoor and Outdoor Light | Tips for Photographers
  • Morgan - Wow! This requires some thinking, and it’s impressive that you were able to think this fast on you’re feet during the wedding day- at least I’m assuming you did because that’s how wedding day’s roll. Round of applause- this photo is beautiful!

  • Kelsey - Love this style of post! I might have to steal this idea for my own blog 😉 Love this photo!

  • Meghan - SO much respect for wedding photographers. I can only imagine how stressful that gets to capture someone’s perfect day…a day they dream about forever. That photo is so gorgeous – looks like you’re doing an awesome job 🙂


  • Liz Cook - Wow… this is definitely impressive!! Nice work!

  • Nevica Vazquez - Wow what a cool shot! I am not a photographer but this shot is awesome and seeing how much thought went into getting it right just shows how much you care about your craft!

  • Emilia - Beautiful!!

  • Jackie Phillips - I can imagine how difficult it was to get that photo! It turned out gorgeous!

  • Shalene - Ooo! Fancy photographer secrets!
    Me likey! 😉 lol

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