Great light leads to great photos. As a natural light photographer, the very first thing I am looking for is soft, even light in which to take excellent shots of my clients. This guide is intended to serve as an aid during wedding planning to help you make informed decisions as to how the time of day and location can affect light, and therefore your photographs. I have experienced how minor tweaks to the timeline or location can dramatically improve the final image. However, in many cases these changes need to be decided upon early in the planning process.
What follows are several of the most common lighting scenarios I encounter on a wedding day and my recommendations on how to best to leverage the light to create the most beautiful images possible.
While taking photos during the getting ready stage, I often turn off all indoor lights, provided there is sufficient window light available. Window light is soft and very flattering on skin, leading to beautiful, studio-quality results.
Mixed light occurs when light of different temperatures (such as sunlight and indoor lamp light) mixes on a subject, which is not very flattering. This scenario frequently occurs during the getting ready stage of the day, which is why I will turn off all indoor lights if possible. In other instances of mixed lighting—such as a ceremony set-up above—very little can be done to improve the overall look due to the competing light qualities.
Full Sun/OPEN SHADE
During midday direct sunlight is incredibly powerful, not to mention very hot. This harsh type of light forms hard shadows on the face and around the eyes, and may force you to squint in your photos. To avoid these unflattering results, I typically move into open shade, which is simply a well shaded area with directional light. On a bright, sunny afternoon, open shade is my go-to, and I highly recommend situating outdoor ceremony sites within shade if possible. If no shade is available, or if we must photograph in a specific bright location, we do our best given the situation.
Dappled light occurs when sunlight filters through tree leaves creating hot spots intermixed with shaded areas on the subject. While this type of light can be used creatively to achieve an interesting and moody look, dappled light can also be distracting, as you see in the image above. This lighting situation could have been avoided with a small changes to the ceremony location, the location to the couple relative to their huppa, or by adjusting their ceremony time.
The light on a cloudy day is generally quite soft and even, which is very flattering on skin. For this reason, I always get excited when the clouds start rolling in.
Golden hour refers to the beautiful quality of light around sunrise and sunset. Due to the low position of the sun in the sky, the light turns softer, with warmer tones. For these reasons I typically schedule engagement and portrait sessions to take advantage of golden hour light. On your wedding day I highly recommend allowing for even five minutes of portraiture during this time.
Many factors can affect reception lighting, but one excellent option I always recommend is stringing up bistro lights. Not only do they create a warm and romantic atmosphere, but bistro lights also provide enough ambient light that I am not required to introduce flash which can take away from the simple warmth and natural look of ambient light. Consider using these lights practically to section off spaces such as the dining area and dance floor.
I can and will work with whatever light I am given, and certainly some of the factors mentioned in this guide are out of our control. Nonetheless, by influencing the elements such as time of day, direction and quality of light, we can increase our chances of working with great light for significant portions of your wedding day, and coming away with amazing images as a result. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions as I would be happy to offer suggestions specific to your wedding day. My ultimate goal is to create images you will treasure for many years to come.