The importance of working with the light on your wedding day and planning your photography around it
Today I want to talk about the importance of light and wedding photography. I watched the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen, out of the window of a rural wedding venue a while ago. I was photographing speeches at the time so the subject matter in front of me was a pivotal and crucial part of the day. I still felt a bit sad that my couple was was missing a spectacular sunset though. If speeches had been an hour earlier or 30 minutes later, we’d have been outside taking some pictures in the most beautiful, golden light.
Light and wedding photography; the impact of different types of light
Light has a massive impact on how your wedding photographs look. Different light creates a significantly different mood, especially in pictures. 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 the picture features, so we can create images with a similar mood.
This will be subject to the light and weather on the day, of course. And if you’re having a winter wedding but have fallen in love with sun drenched images from the middle of summer, we’ll need to work with the light we have. 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.
The impact of 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. Hard light works brilliantly for documentary images and it can be great for creative, abstract portraits. Even if you’re embracing contrast and shadows, it’s often better to wait until a bit later in the day to shoot the majority of your portraits, as the softer light that you get later in the day can 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 faces are in shadow. I really like it but it’s a strong look. This type of light isn’t 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. You’ll find some more examples of hard light pictures below.
The impact of golden hour light on your photography
Characteristics: golden, sunset light
Timings: 30 minutes before sunset and for a short while after
When I tell my couples that I have an iphone app to tell me when it’s golden hour they often laugh at me. Us photographers spend a lot of our lives chasing the beautiful light that we (occasionally!) get around a UK sunset. If you want to do your own checking for your wedding day head here. The weather is so variable in the UK, and I shoot a lot of urban weddings where buildings block the sunset, so when I do see this illusive type of light I get pretty excited. It can be absolutely magical if you catch it.
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. The following are examples of golden hour light pictures.
The impact of dusk light
Timings 15 – 30 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 onwards.
I don’t shoot in this kind of light much, to be honest. The sunset is realllllyyyyyy late in the summer! As much as I love colour, contrast and those bright vibrant tones that you get before the sun vanishes. there’s something magical about the softness and stillness at this time of day. The following are examples of dusk light pictures.
The impact of rainy days and overcast light on your photos
Timings: a lot of the UK weather at any and all times of year!
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 adjacent buildings often reflect light back into the scene. If it’s raining I’d always recommend you brave the rain if you’re up for it. If not we can use directional lighting inside of your venue (from windows from example) to create dramatic and interesting portraits. The next three images below were shot outside on a rainy day. The following two are shot inside using light from a window.
Indoor photos also available in colour! I just like the black and white drama.
The impact of 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. I do this less and less these days if I’m honest. I’m drawn to working with what I’ve got and being present in the moment. Setting up and testing lighting takes me away from that connection and means that I miss other stuff that’s going on. I am still open to it though, if you’re happy for me to take time away from documenting your day. The following are examples of pictures with added light.
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! If you’d like to chat about working with me as your wedding photographer get in touch here.
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Love this piece Laura! Not only are your posts always so helpful for your couples, but also for other fellow photographers. Your photos are inspirational.
Ahh thank you, Jenny x
Great advice, takes me back to my GSofA days!
Love the photos features here, especially the artificial light in the blue tunnel. Very cool.
Thanks, Harriet! x
Super article and that first photo in the dusk light section is just stunning