October 1st 2015, Planning your Wedding Photography
The importance of light and planning your photography around it
I watched the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen, out of the window of a rural wedding venue a few weeks ago. I was photographing speeches at the time so of course the subject matter in front of me was a pivotal and crucial part of the day. I still felt a bit sad that I was missing such a spectacular sunset though and if those speeches had been an hour earlier or 30 minutes later, I’d have been outside photographing my couple’s portraits in the most beautiful golden light.
Light has a massive impact on how your wedding photographs will look. Different light creates different moods in pictures, so if you’ve seen particular images in my wedding photography portfolio that you love, it’s worth planning your photography around the type of light I’ve used, so we can create images with a similar mood.
It’s worth noting that this will, of course, be subject to the light and weather on the day. And of course if you’re having a winter wedding but have fallen in love with sun drenched images from the middle of summer, I’ll be really happy to talk through what’s realistically achievable on your wedding day.
Here’s a little bit more about different lighting conditions and how they’ll impact on your wedding photography.
Type of light: Hard Light
Characteristics: Strong contrast, hard shadows
Timings are variable depending on time but roughly from 10am to 6pm or 7pm in mid summer
Hard light is basically direct sunlight, when the sun is high in the sky. Lots of couples wish for sunshine all day on their wedding day but direct sunlight is often the enemy, unless you work with it creatively. Even if you’re embracing contrast and shadows, it’s still often better to wait until a bit later in the day to shoot in direct sun, as the softer light that you get later in the day will lead to more vibrant colours and softer shadows.
The first image below is an example of a shot taken right in the middle of the day. The sun is directly over head, so their faces are in shadow. I really like it but it’s a strong look.
When shooting in a documentary style in this light works really well but it’s not great for family group shots, as you’ll have a whole bunch of people with harsh shadows on their faces, squinting into the sun. Because of this if we have a beautifully sunny day, I’ll usually move your group shots into open shade.
Type of light: golden hour
Characteristics: golden, sunset light
Happens: 30 minutes before sunset and for a short while after
When I proudly tell my couples that I have an iphone app to tell me when it’s golden hour they often laugh at me, but it can be magical if you catch the right light.
Because the weather is so variable in the UK and because I shoot a lot of urban weddings where buildings block the sunset, when I see beautiful golden hour light I can’t help but get a bit excited.
If you can schedule at least 15 minutes of your portrait session to happen just before sunset, it will totally be worth it if the weather plays its part.
Type of light: dusk light
Time of day: 15 – 20 minutes after sunset
Characteristics: soft, diffused light with a cool colour tone that leads to muted tones and pastel colours
Dusk light happens after the sun has dipped below the horizon and you get beautifully soft light that’s diffused in all directions. You have to move pretty quickly because it gets darker and darker from that point.
I don’t shoot in this kind of light much, to be honest as I love colour, contrast and those bright vibrant tones that you get before the sun vanishes. I do like the softness of images captured at this time of day though.
Type of light: overcast light / rainy days
Time of day: any time
Characteristics: soft and even
Based on the above you’d be forgiven for worrying about what happens if it’s raining or overcast. Fear not because, actually, overcast light is some of the most flattering to shoot in. The sky turns into a giant softbox and you’re evenly lit with with soft, wrap around light.
If we’re shooting in an urban environment in overcast light, there’s the added bonus that adjacent buildings often reflect light back into the scene, so it might be a miserable day but your pictures won’t look like it. For Steve and Mariko’s elopement below it was raining on and off the whole time we were shooting.
If it’s raining I’d always recommend you brave the rain if you’re up for it but if not we can use directional lighting inside of your venue (from windows from example) to create dramatic and interesting portraits.
Type of light: artificial light
Time of day: any time
Sometimes the light that’s available just doesn’t cut it or doesn’t give the results you’re after. In strong lighting conditions or situations where there’s not much ambient light I’ll sometimes add my own lighting to get a specific look.
You don’t really need to worry about this in relation to your timings, as if I have an idea for a lit shot I’ll just grab you when I need to and we’ll spend five minutes or so creating a fun portrait.
I hope this gives you a good overview of different lighting situations and how they’ll affect your photography on the day. If you have any questions let me know in the comments and do check out the rest of my planning series.