The Lighting guide
Hello and I'm so excited to be working with you on your wedding day! It means the world that you trust me with your wedding photos, and I'm here for you every step of the way.
I want to make sure that we're collaborating on every aspect of your wedding, which brings us here - the lighting guide to your wedding day. The most important aspect of your wedding photography is lighting. Lighting is everything. It can make indoor weddings feel intimate yet dramatic, it can make outdoor ceremonies look like magic from another world, it can emphasize moments and turn pretty photos into phenomenal photos.
Lighting is a collaboration, and I'm here to answer any questions you may have. By no means is this guide a list of "have-tos" - the day of your wedding, I'll work with any lighting that we have. My hope is that this guide serves as an aid to help us work together to make the most beautiful wedding photos we could ever make by helping you structure your wedding day around great light.
1. Ceremony lighting
Clearly your ceremony is one of the most important pieces of your wedding day. The ceremony is a part of your wedding that in the moment, I don't have much control over as far as lighting goes.
Outdoor ceremonies are almost always going to be the best option for lighting. Indoor ceremonies can be just as beautiful, but it depends on the location. Windows are key to indoor ceremonies and mixed or dark lighting in an indoor space can be just as hard to work with as crazy bright sun in an outdoor venue.
We'll walk through a few different lighting scenarios briefly and address some ways to ensure your ceremony lighting is on point for the wedding day.
As you can see from the photos below, side lighting can be hard to work with as huge shadows can block faces. The shot of both of them is very unbalanced, making it almost impossible to get both of their faces in one constant exposure. The light on the groom's face is pretty as he's being backlit but there is direct, bright sun on the bride's face, causing shadow from the groom, standing in front of her. You can see that many of the bridesmaids on the bride's side had difficulty keeping their eyes open in the face of this crazy bright sun.
Mixed lighting typically happens indoors where there is a bit of natural light peeking through a window (usually closed or small) with overhead lights in the indoor space being the main light source. Usually these indoor lighting temperatures tend to be very yellow/orange. The natural light will appear very blue in comparison to the indoor lights, giving us a mixed light feel that isn't the most flattering for skin tones, even after post processing.
Almost all indoor ceremonies will have mixed lighting - the ideal situation would be big windows in an indoor ceremony space that would offset any unwanted yellow tones.
Backlighting is when the sun is directly behind the ceremony site, causing the bride and groom to be backlit. Backlit images create soft, expressive photos that are dramatically beautiful. That being said, backlighting isn't the best for ceremony lighting as it changes quickly and can be unpredictable.
Direct lighting is when the sun is shining from the back of the ceremony site, directly onto the bride and groom. It can work, depending on the situation, but can make skin tones appear more vibrant than they actually are (and can cause shine marks on faces if too harsh). Often direct lighting causes very harsh and deep shadows.
Dappled lighting is when the sun is shining brightly but objects in front of the subject are blocking the rays, casting dappled shadows on the bride and groom. While this can be pretty in some portrait and first look scenarios, it's definitely not something I would ever choose for a ceremony as I want both faces to always be visible and clear of any distracting light marks.
Even lighting (the best option!)
Even lighting takes places in shadows or a space where light is diffused or evenly spread across all subjects. It's the best for ceremonies because it allows a range of movement and emotion within the same exposure and is flattering on all skin tones.
2. How do I find even light for my ceremony?
There's a few things you can do to ensure you'll have good, even lighting during your ceremony. I always suggest going to your venue a few weeks before the wedding at the time of day your ceremony (I'm always happy to help with this!) to check out what it will look like the day of. Picture where your guests will be sitting and where the altar is, and then where the sun will be in relation to both.
If your ceremony is outdoors, you then have the option to talk about moving or angling the ceremony in a different direction to give yourself either even light or backlight, depending on where your venue is. It can be an easy fix to change the angle of your ceremony site so that you don't have harsh side sun on your face. If your ceremony is indoors, you can make a note to make sure the overhead lights are either turned off (if there are windows) or look to see what they look like on.
Finally, think about what time your ceremony will be. If you're planning on having an outdoor ceremony at 2pm in July, you'll probably have very harsh direct lighting or side lighting. If you're able to move your ceremony back until 4 or 5pm (maybe you do all your photos before, instead of after) that will give you that gorgeous, magical lighting you're looking for.
3. Portrait lighting
There are many options for when we'll take portraits of you and your new spouse, but I always recommend scheduling these portraits an hour or two before sunset on your wedding day. This ensure that we'll either have overcast skies or that dreamy soft light at dusk to work with. The photos of you two together are the most important that we'll take, so if we need to schedule bridal party photos or family formal photos earlier in the day when the sun is brighter, we can do that to save the best light for you. I always am up for grabbing some sunset photos right as the sun sets too, so if you're up for leaving your reception for a 10-15 minute adventure, let me know and we'll plan on that.
Tentative Timeline (based on lighting that would occur in June in Nashville)
9am: Brunch/Yoga/Morning hike (Check out the getting ready guide here for additional tips for the morning of your wedding!)
10am: Getting ready begins
3:00pm: Bride in dress
3:30pm: First look (If applicable)
4:00pm: Bridal party photos
4:30pm: Family formal portraits
6:30pm: Dinner served
7:00pm: Sunset photos of bride and groom
9:00pm: Dance opens
Again, every wedding is different and the above is only an option for you to consider when planning out your wedding day. You're not required to use any of this information, I just want to give you as many resources as I can. I'm always here to answer questions, look at pictures of your venue and help you as we talk about lighting.
Thanks so much for reading through this lighting guide! Cheers to lighting and to planning the best day ever.