Truth be told, lighting is key in photography. I live for gorgeous natural light. I don’t want to create the lighting on the wedding day; the goal is to capture a wedding’s warmth; how it feels. There are a few times where a little preparation can make for more flattering photos. Since lighting is too often overlooked on the wedding day, I wanted to bring this topic into the limelight (haaaaa… I’ll stop).
As a wedding photographer, I never want to help with the timeline of the wedding day to ensure you have the best light at all times! I’d love to share a few tips to help you plan for lighting at different times during your wedding day that will make your photos extra gorgeous.
The best conditions for lighting would be a room with large windows and enough light coming in through the windows to light the room evenly with the lights off. An ideal getting ready area would be an interestingly decorated space with windows and light walls for lots of reflective light.
This is why I recommend looking at renting out homes on AirBNB or getting ready at cozy bed and breakfasts instead of stuffy hotel rooms (which unfortunately are usually full of no-smoking signs, sprinklers, and questionable chairs and carpet choices).
Lighting to avoid: anything with mixed light (example: a little bit of daylight coming in through the window + orange tungsten bulbs, tungsten + fluorescents lights, daylight + florescent light, etc).
It’s hard to see with the naked eye, but in photos, it can lead to odd skin colors. Venues often provide rooms to get ready in, but it’s generally a good idea to look at the space before deciding to get ready there, if you have the option. Often, the bride’s or groom’s chambers end up being classrooms with bright colored walls and florescent lighting. If you take anything away from this, just know that florescent lighting is not the most flattering in general (it’s a bit blue-green – and no one wants green skin!), so if there are other options that are just as easy.
THE FIRST LOOK
An honest majority of the weddings I photograph include a first look and I love them. First looks are a break from tradition and can be a wonderful way to get a moment together before you stand in front of 100 of your closest family and friends, but even if you want to set one up, it might not be the ideal scenario to plan to do all the bride and groom portraits at the same time if the first look will happen too early in the day.
Lighting between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. is pretty harsh sunlight (which can lead to shadow-under eye circles, nose-shadow mustaches, and squinting eyes), so in that case, you’d want to look for an interesting backdrop that can be used to shade yourselves and family/friends in group photos, or plan to do these photos at a later time of day.
Let me save you from a crucial mistake. Once a ceremony is set, printed and mailed off to all your nearest and dearest on your invites, that’s it. There’s no going back. Picture this – a 4PM ceremony in July (when the sun sets at 9pm) Both of you in your finest, sweating like animals at the front of a blazing hot aisle while one of you squints at the other. Not only are you uncomfortable and sweating in unmentionable places, buy one of you has your back to the sun and the other is facing right into it. Not only can I see every drop of sweat but your photographic result will be less than ideal because your partner’s face is totally shaded while you are as bright as the sun you’re under. No matter the best photographer in the world, we can only fix things so much!
Things to keep in mind:
– Time of day
– Time of Year
– Location of Ceremony in relation to the sun and surrounding area (directional, trees, etc.)
This will also depend on geographical location. Certain parts of the world are known for their overcast skies. Things like mountains, trees, and especially bodies of water will also have an impact on light. Don’t worry though! I am here to help you figure it out!
If you are opting for an indoor ceremony, beware of artificial lighting. We realize there are some spaces that might not have any windows, and that’s ok! Just make sure the lighting added isn’t florescent colors or shining right on someone’s face. If there are windows, your photographer may ask the venue to turn off all the lights — don’t be scared! Trust them. Creative tip: Go all-out and embrace dim lighting with candles or string lights. Just make sure your photog is aware so they can prepare accordingly!
If you hired your photographer because want those glowing dusk photos or portraits in a field or other open area, you’ll need to make time for portraits at sunset. If you’ve allowed yourself some time for portraits during the first look earlier in the day and sunset isn’t until 7:30, consider taking 20-30 minutes out of the reception to go out and take some beautiful portraits during the golden hour (the last hour and a half or so before the sun goes down).
There are so many variables here and lighting varies stylistically from person to person and venue to venue, but my vote is always natural looking, warm light. Italian string lights are a beautiful way to add pretty bokeh (the out of focus orbs in the background of photos) to backdrops. They’re ideal for outdoor yards, to make a borders around dance floors and eating areas, and they help to light the perimeter of the reception in a beautiful way.
And if you’re having a small wedding, consider booking a well designed cafe or restaurant that has lots of window lighting and light fixtures that you already love — unlike wedding venues that are a little more of a blank-canvas for you to build on, restaurants and cafes are branded and designed with lighting taken into consideration and might be an easy, more flattering venue if they can accommodate your party size.
Try to plan for harsh light but if you’re worried about it being overcast on your wedding day, don’t! It’s just like a giant soft box in the sky. Overcast light is light that you don’t have to worry about at all, it makes everyone look great and timing for portraits doesn’t have to be as crucial because it will be consistent for most of the day.
We’re photographers because we love light and we photograph weddings because we love weddings. If you have questions about your timeline, you just have to let us know! We’re happy to help.