Let’s talk about lighting your wedding! Sound boring? I promise it’ll be worth the read!
If you’re like most people you likely don’t think about light all that often. Unless you’re installing new fixtures in your home or trying to read in a dark room lighting probably doesn’t cross your mind. On the other hand, if you are a wedding photographer like me, your whole world revolves around light! Photography is quite literally (according to Webster’s) the art or process of producing images by the action of radiant energy and especially light on a sensitive surface. With any old light source we can make a picture but when we have access to GOOD light… whoa… the game changes.
A good photographer should be able to create a decent image no matter their circumstance but when our clients make awesome lighting choices it can make a big difference in the look & mood of your photos. I’m *hopefully* going to help break it down for you with some tips to help you make the most of light throughout your wedding day. Keep these in mind and your photographer will love you SO MUCH. Trust me.
Phase 1 – Getting Ready
This is a big one. Most people book their prep spaces based on convenience & cost – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! Unless of course, light is scarce. A dark hotel room or home often means that natural light is limited and additional lamps are needed. Mixed lighting never looks as good as even light. Some things you can look for when making plans are big windows, open floor plans, plenty of natural light, and neutral tones.
Phase 2 – The First Look
Not everyone opts for a first look session, if you’re not doing one you have my permission to scroll past this section ;). If you ARE doing a reveal this likely means that you’ll be seeing each other for the first time earlier in the afternoon. You may have heard the term “golden hour” which is the hour before sunset and most photographers will agree they love this light the most for portraits. Golden hour doesn’t happen at 3pm ;). So, if you’re gathering ideas for your first look location I’d recommend a spot with open shade or again, lots of window light. Harsh lighting can be really cool when we can control how it’s being used but first looks are unscripted moments so planning ahead to avoid squinting & raccoon eyes helps a lot.
Phase 3 – The Ceremony
I’m splitting this in half – first up, outdoor ceremonies. Shooting outside can be the best EVER but it also means there are a lot of variables out of our control. For instance: midday sun or dappled forest light creating unflattering shadows, people squinting or having their faces hidden behind sunglasses, the list goes on. If you’ve ever been outside at noon in July you know it can get pretty harsh out there! For starters, a later ceremony means you’ll automatically get softer light (I’m talking after 4pm, even later during long days of summer). It’s also helpful to find a ceremony location with open shade as well as placing the bride & groom with the sun behind them.
If you’re more of an indoor kinda couple that’s ok! Or if you’re outdoorsy with a rain plan (aka smart) there are some things to think about. Old churches & rustic venues can be preeeettty dark so asking if there is pulpit lighting or if you can add candles for added ambient light may be beneficial. You’ll also want to ask your officiant if flash is permitted! Actually, ask them about all their photo restrictions BEFORE you book them. You should also ask whether your photographer can set up external light if need be. Some photographers prefer to use only available light while others use a lot of flash so it’s nice to know this stuff ahead of time.
Phase 4 – The Portraits
My biggest tip when it comes to portraits is to TRUST your photographer. We want you to look awesome (cuz that makes us look awesome) so trusting that we’ll know where you look your best is huge. Have a rain plan in case the weather isn’t perfect. Include your photographer in the creating of your wedding timeline so that they can advise you on the best time to shoot these. If you’re having a noon church wedding you’re probably thinking of doing photos right away but that might not be the best thing, so ask ask ask – there are no dumb questions.
My favourite part of a wedding day is sneaking my couples out of dinner for some romantic portraits when the light is ooohhh so gorgeous. This also means they get to take a breather and enjoy a moment together to take it all in. Great light + all the feels = magic.
Phase 5 – The Reception
BRING IT ON!!! As mentioned before, rustic or older spaces can be pretty dark but with some ambient reception lighting they can also be soooo beautiful. I can’t speak for other photographers but I love shooting with as little light from flash as possible. I can and will use whatever I need to but my preference is to use available light. Candles, chandeliers, pin lighting, lanterns, string lighting, suspended bulbs… get creative with light that suits your style!
So there you have it! I could talk about lighting all day so if you have questions feel free to drop me a line. It should be noted that every photographer has a different preference and I can’t speak for everyone. If you’re looking for a specific style be sure to communicate what you like and how you hope your images to look. Even more important than good lighting is finding a photographer who’s work fits with your vision. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and trust your gut!
xo ~ Jen