When it comes to wedding photography, lighting plays an integral role in how your wedding photos will turn out. And it just so happens that lighting is also wildly variable depending on the setting (indoors versus outdoors), time of day (morning, mid-day, dusk, evening), and the weather. So, how do wedding photographers ensure that the light at any given event works to their advantage? We asked four pros to tell us what they wish every bride and groom knew.
You have to make a pre-wedding day game plan.
"Work with your planner and photographer to create the best plan of action for the day that will give you the look of the photos you want to achieve," says wedding photographer Heather Waraksa. She notes that you'll even need to take the time of year into account, as winter weddings will have far less daylight than a celebration taking place in the summer.
You can harness the sunlight to create an ethereal glow.
"A majority of our weddings are outdoors with beautiful open-air ceremonies, and we always encourage couples to arrange the ceremony site in a way that will create beautiful, soft lighting," says photographer Lauren Fair. "You want to keep the sun almost directly behind you, which we call backlighting. Instead of having direct sun falling on your faces when you're up at the altar, creating uneven shadows and squinting, arrange your ceremony focal point so that you're illuminated from behind—this creates a glow that looks entirely magical in your wedding photos!"
Shade and ceremonial structures can soften the sunlight.
"If you do have your ceremony outside during the day, try planning it in at least partial shade," says photographer Rebecca Yale. "A tree can provide great shade, and if that's not an option, creating some sort of structure for you to be under—whether it's a chuppah or an altar with a covering—will help to get better photos. You don't want it to be too dark, but sheer fabric will make a big difference to diffuse the light on your face during the ceremony."
Give yourselves time to slip away during magic hour.
"Thirty minutes to an hour before sunset is the magic hour when the light is your photographer's best friend," says Waraksa. "I like to encourage couples to take five minutes to sneak off during that time for a few quick photos. They make for some of my favorite photos of the day and it gives the couple a chance to have a quiet moment together, breathe, and take in the day."
Remember that reception lighting matters, too.
"Once the sun goes down don't forget about lighting!" says Yale. "Hiring a separate lighting team can make a big difference to get the light you want for your reception, whether it's string lights for an outdoor event or an elegant ambiance inside your reception venue. I advise going with neutral colors for at least the beginning of your reception; amber is nice as it resembles candlelight. Having multi-colored lights will make your images look more like a dance club, which can be fun for late night or an after-party, but you want your first dance and parent dance photos to have a classic, timeless feel."
Be prepared for Mother Nature's surprises.
"Having the right gear at all times is crucial," says photographer Eric Kelley. "I've had two weddings in the last few years where my hope was to shoot mostly film, but come wedding day, we had hurricanes approaching. Had I not had a wide array of cameras and gear, and only relied on my film cameras, I would have done a terrible disservice to the couples. Just make sure you choose a photographer with a great tool belt so that they can get the best possible photos on your wedding day—no matter what Mother Nature delivers."
Your photographer's instincts are right.
"I have a favorite venue I shoot at occasionally and everything is on point except for the bridal suite," says Waraksa. "It looks more like cramped conference room with very little natural light and leaves little to the imagination, so I typically suggest to the bride that she put the dress on in another space that has gorgeous window light that frames the moment perfectly. The results are images that are perfectly in sync with the rest from the wedding."