Planning Lighting on Your Wedding Day

I’m a natural light photographer with a long love of sunsets and the way light reflects off the ocean on a bright day. On a wedding day, I use only natural light until the sun has gone down and, only then, will I shoot using flash. I leverage natural light because I want to capture the mood--the precise feeling--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.

Preparation

Every wedding tells a story of the day and the perfect start is while the bride and groom prepare. There are so many beautiful moments happening and memories being created, and good light helps capture everything beautifully. When it comes to making lighting plans, please consider:

+ Dressing in a room with large windows.

+ Windows should have enough light coming through to light the room.

+ Light-colored walls

+ While hotel rooms are lovely, don’t underestimate the beauty of renting a home on Air BnB or getting ready at a bed and breakfast. Hotel rooms are usually filled with busy carpet choices, no smoking signs, and really orange light. Finding an, off -the- beaten-path location might be exactly what you needed to start your day o right.

planning lighting

+ If you’re planning to prepare at a church, please take the time to visit the prep room in advance. Often times these rooms are windowless or classrooms with brightly colored walls and fluorescent lights (not to mention the Noah’s Ark mural painted in the background). The colored walls and windowless rooms run the risk of casting unflattering light, so planning in advance will help achieve securing a room with the best options.

Portraits

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 or portico) 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.

Ceremony

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.

Sunset Portraits

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.

Reception

Let’s keep this simple: the more lights you add, the better. Uplighting, pin lighting, Italian strung lights, 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 affect a photo in the worst way (making skin appear purple or creating a blue light across a wedding dress? Yup...I’ve been there.).

Overcast Day

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. It’s one, 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.

Author: Jasmine Star

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