Planning Lighting on Your Wedding Day
I’m a natural light photographer. On a wedding day, I use only natural light until the sun has gone down. Only then will I mix in flash photography. I leverage natural light because I want to capture the mood of the moment, not artificially alter it. Because of this, I encourage my brides to plan for good light, which in turn creates flattering photos. The more you plan, the likelier you’ll be blown away by the results.
If you’re planning on having photos taken outdoors between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., please ensure there is space away from direct sunlight. Midday light is extremely harsh, so having a location with open shade (under a tree or awning) would be ideal. Harsh light can lead to dark shadows under the eyes and nose, as well as constant squinting, so plan for a location in a shaded area or schedule photos for later in the day. Take a look at the photo above for an example. Like the photo on the right better? Me too.
Outdoor ceremonies are a photographer’s dream to photograph, but if your ceremony will be between the hours of 10 a.m and 3 p.m., please ensure there is some form of shade. Not only is it insanely hot standing under direct sun, it causes harsh shadows on your face. So when is the best time to plan a ceremony? I’m glad you asked! Ceremony photos with the most favorable light is about 2-3 hours before sunset.
If we’re working together, there’s a good chance you were attracted to the golden, soft light I leverage during sunset. If this is the type of light you prefer on your wedding day, you need to make time for portraits around sunset. Depending on the time of year you marry, these photos can be taken during cocktail hour (in the fall/winter) or by slipping away from the reception for 20 minutes (in the spring/ summer). Photos taken in an empty field or along the water’s edge are the prettiest with 20 minutes before sunset.
Let’s keep this simple: the more lights you add, the better. Ambient light, string light, candle light...all of it! The more light you add to a venue (indoors or outdoors), the higher chances a photographer can capture the exact feel of the evening. If it’s too dark, I rely heavily on my flash, which is fine, but doesn’t exactly document the environment as well as I’d like. Occasionally the DJ will provide lights for the dance floor, but please refrain from using them during the first dance as colored or moving lights can ruin this special photo.
Some brides get worried or sad if the sun isn’t shining bright on their wedding days, but I want to take a second and state that a cloudy day is a perfect day. Grey skies are a big softly illuminated space and we’re free to roam wherever we’d like for photos. Rest assured I’m not worried about clouds in the sky. On a wedding day, clouds can be a photographer’s best friend.