Believe it or not, a lot of work goes into creating a naturally beautiful wedding photo. First, there’s the behind-the-scenes work, like getting to know a couple and what they want from their images. And, there’s the editing and processing work that takes place after all of the photos are captured.
Then, of course, there’s the work you actually see on a wedding day – your photographer properly using their camera gear and incorporating techniques like composition, exposure, and lighting.
Today, I’m sharing some information on lighting because it plays such an essential role in creating a successful wedding photo. In fact, it may be one of the most important elements, as it can shape a photo’s atmosphere, tone, and mood. And, of course, how light or dark the image turns out.
If you want naturally beautiful wedding images (and I’m guessing you do), keep reading for four lighting techniques I use to capture the photos you see in my portfolio.
1| Time of Day and Location
The standard for good wedding photography has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. In the 80s and 90s, lighting and timing weren’t as important as today. For one, they were taking photos on film, which was a challenge in itself. But they were also more concerned with just capturing the subject – the bride and groom in front of the ocean or what have you.
It didn’t matter that the light was awful and that it cast shadows. What mattered was the ocean backdrop and the blissful newlyweds.
We’ve come a long way from those days, but people still get caught up in getting certain photos, despite the lighting. If I had a dime for everytime I hear, “There’s the lake and the amazing view, and you have to get it!”…
Seriously though, I agree that a beautiful backdrop deserves to be captured. And I do make it a point to capture the location to give your photos a sense of place. But trust your photographer’s judgement on the timing and let them guide the timing of when a view will look its best in a photo.
Also, ask your photographer how they plan for less-than-ideal lighting situations. In our case, we know we can’t always guarantee ideal natural lighting. So, my team and I always bring artificial light, just in case – and have the skill and knowledge of how to use it in a way that looks natural.
2| Using Shade Correctly
Another lighting technique we like to use is photographing in shaded locations. One, it keeps guests comfortable during warm-weather weddings. And two, it’s flattering!
But, be aware: not all shade is created equal. Your photographer can’t just walk into a dense grove of trees and start taking pictures. Well, they could, but you shouldn’t expect a spectacular result. Because even if you were backlit by the sun, there would likely be too many shadows.
Long story short, to get beautiful wedding photos using shade, ask your photographer to scope out your location. At MZP, we always like to find the pockets of shade that also have some open sky. That way, the light can reflect onto you in a truly flattering way.
3| Getting Ready Lighting
Getting-ready spaces are beautiful areas to get photos, but they don’t always have the best light sources. In fact, groom’s rooms are often the worst – as they typically don’t have windows and there’s no source of natural light.
Most people think overhead lighting helps a photograph, but it actually makes things worse. The artificial light can cause raccoon eyes or can cause the photo to take on an unnatural tint – neither of which happens when you use light coming in from the windows.
If we’re photographing your wedding and there are overhead lights or spotlights in the bridal suite, don’t be surprised if we turn them off temporarily. Also, don’t be surprised if we ask to take photos of you in other areas of the venue.
Of course, we won’t ask anyone to get ready in a hotel lobby! But if you’re open to moving around to a couple of areas with better light, we’ll grab some photos there. And don’t worry. I always consider the logistics before moving anyone around to ensure no one sees each other before the first look and/or ceremony!
4| Trust the Process
This isn’t a lighting technique, per se, but it does help me get naturally beautiful wedding images.
Something I ask clients often is, “Do you trust me?” Because there are times when a pose or a lighting technique might seem strange or different from the usual way of doing things.
So, I’ll direct the couple and say, “This is going to sound a little weird, but I promise it’s going to look good.” Then, I show them the back of the camera, and they’re amazed.
Trusting the photographer and the process is a huge thing. I’ve taken thousands of pictures in a myriad of locations and lighting situations. And while we would never turn your engagement session or wedding day into some kind of experiment, we will suggest a fun idea or ask someone to do something if it means their photos could look significantly better.
Lighting is one of many techniques we, as photographers, use to ensure you receive the wedding photos you really want. From using natural light that streams through the windows to creating a natural look with artificial light, we’ll ensure your images are lovely and illuminated.
We’d be honored to shine a light on your wedding day photos. Contact us today!