Lighting is key in photography, and to be completely honest, planning for lighting on your wedding day can be the difference between ordinary looking photographs and really memorable ones.
Most of the photographs that you see on my portfolio or Instagram are only made possible because of having good light. That being said, most people aren’t sure what to do to make the best out of their wedding day in terms of lighting.
So here are some tips for you.
Getting ready images are often so important in setting the tone for the wedding day. It’s a time where everyone is in a more relaxed mood before things pick up and get a little crazy.
Having a nice, clean and bright environment plays such a big role in capturing the moments in a more impactful and elegant way. The best places for getting ready will be in front of, or beside a large window where natural sunlight can light up the room. It’ll make your make-up photographs look much, much prettier too.
For this reason, I often recommend couples to book an AirBnB for their preparation than a small hotel room (which unfortunately are usually full of no-smoking signs, sprinklers, and questionable chairs and carpet choices). In most cases, my brides have to get ready at their own home in the early hours when the sun hasn’t risen. Instead of getting ready in your bedroom, perhaps have your make up done in the living room or balcony instead. This way, there will be more context and interaction with your family and bridesmaids, and this will show in your photographs as well.
One last thing about getting ready. Most hotels and homes use fluorescent light, which often casts a bluish green tone on the skin. It’s the reason why daylight is much more flattering on photographs. One other alternative is to ask your make up artist if she has a LED light that she can use during the make up session.
The first look
About half the weddings I photograph include a first look. A first look is when a couple sees each other on their wedding day before their wedding ceremony and enjoy a private moment away from the eyes of family and friends. This normally happens in the morning between 7.30am – 8.30am, or in the evening between 5.00pm – 6.00pm, when the light is softest. We often do the bride and groom portraits after the first look as well, and you won’t have to worry about setting aside time afterwards.
Tea ceremonies are often held at home where the lighting can be pretty flat. For this reason, I’ll recommend organising the tea ceremony at a brighter part of the house with clean walls as a background. Remember also to clear away all the distracting bits that will show up in photographs – eg. red plastic bags, hanging bags and belts etc.
Outdoor ceremonies are always my favourite but can be a little tricky sometimes. Try to avoid the time between 10am – 5pm as the light can be really harsh (which means sweaty foreheads and squinty eyes). Also try to make sure that you are both either in the shadows or in the sunlight. Try to avoid having dappled shadows on your faces resulting from the leaves of a tree, for example. The best times for an outdoor ceremony are between 5pm – 6.30pm. That way, the light is softer on the faces and it also makes for more interesting landscapes of the ceremony site.
If you are having your ceremony indoors, check with the church or hotel to make sure that there are no spotlights shining on either of your faces or body parts.
Almost all of my portrait sessions are done in the morning or in the evenings – that creates the warm glow in the photographs and make them look a little magical. The best times to plan your bridal party and bride and groom portraits are between 7.30am – 9am, and between 5pm – 6.30pm. If you have the luxury of doing both, consider having your bride and groom portraits in the morning, and bridal party portraits in the evening or vice versa.
There are so many variables for reception lighting and it changes from venue to venue. Personally, I prefer venues that have a slightly warm atmosphere and isn’t too dark. If you are having your reception outdoors, strings of festoon light bulbs will create a great mood and brighten up the place well (so that guests can actually see what they are eating). 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, resulting in really great photographs!
On this note, it’ll also be good to know that fairy lights are actually not bright enough for outdoor receptions and tend to give off a flicker due to their frequency (which means that some parts of the fairy lights won’t be lit up in the photographs).
Most of the weddings I photograph are in cafes and restaurants. The upside to this are that most of these places are designed with lighting taken into consideration and already have a certain style or theme, and you won’t have to do it up as much as compared to ballrooms which are a blank canvas.
If you have a dance floor, consider asking the DJ or band if they can bring in lights or smoke machines, it makes a whole lot of difference to the ambience and to the photographs!
Lastly, some things you just can’t plan for, like the weather.
Sometimes it rains, sometimes it doesn’t.
But sometimes the best moments and memories come from dancing in the rain, than worrying about getting wet.
And if you are going to be dancing in the rain, you can be sure that I’ll be right there with you too.