Beautiful Light = Beautiful Wedding Photos
Lighting is one of the most important aspects of photography. You could have the most amazing emotional moment, but if it’s in bad light, then you’re not going to see it properly in your wedding photos. Bad light can cause an image to be too grainy or create shadows that are too harsh. I can explain it even more simply:
Beautiful light = beautiful photos
I am a natural light photographer, using flash in the evening when it’s dark and the sun has gone down. Even then, I’ll only use flash if I have to. I will try and use natural light as much as possible throughout the day because I find it to be far more beautiful than artificial light. Natural light creates mood and contrast and beautiful wedding photos and does not feel fake or unnatural. To be clear, I don’t want to recreate the light using light-boxes and huge flashes – that’s definitely not my style and takes up way too much time! Instead, I will the existing natural light for 95% of the wedding photos I take – unless there is very little available light (such as when the sun has gone down).
As a wedding photographer, I never want to dictate the timeline of the wedding day, but I’d love to share a few tips to help you plan for lighting at different times during your wedding day that will make your photos extra gorgeous.
Before I get into things – you don’t have to incorporate all or any of these tips. Weddings are about love and family and emotion. Great storytelling photography is about capturing moments and any experienced photographer will be able to handle tricky lighting situations. However, no matter how good the photographer is, a photograph taken during a sunset will always look better than one taken at midday. Light does matter, so any consideration for lighting will absolutely affect how beautiful your wedding photographs will look. Fact.
Getting ready images are a perfect way to start the story of your wedding day. Some of my favourite wedding moments happen during the preparations, and having good lighting for these photos will make the images from this portion of the day look both elegant and beautiful.
Julia getting ready at her bridesmaid’s beautiful home
Norwood Park bridal suit with large windows
Bride getting ready in beautiful window light with white walls
The best conditions for lighting would be a room with large windows and enough light coming in through the windows to light the room evenly with the lights off. An ideal getting ready area would be an interestingly decorated space with windows and light-coloured walls for lots of reflective light.
This is why I recommend looking at renting out homes on AirBNB or looking at holiday cottages to hire. These buildings have larger windows, have interesting decorations. Using the AirBNB website for the area you’re looking for getting ready in gives you more control over the look and feel of your preparation photos.
For example, I absolutely love this AirBNB property in York which is literally right next to the Minster. If you were getting married at the Minster you could walk out of the home and straight across the street. It also sleeps 8 and has plenty of space and really interesting decor for wedding photos. As a York wedding photographer, I would much rather photograph in a space like this than a typical hotel because the light, decor and overall feel for the space is so much more beautiful than a hotel room.
Some people assume that a Holiday Inn for example, would work well as it’s just a room to get ready in. However, generally these kinds of hotels (Best Western / Holiday Inn / Travelodge) have low ceilings, strange coloured dark walls (usually purple for some reason) and very small windows. Which means that in order to see well, you need to use the orange lamps and lights above. It’s not as obvious to the naked eye, but in photos, orange/yellow tungsten light which are plentiful in hotels lead to odd or orange skin tones. As such, all of your beautiful moments from the morning preparations end up looking a decidedly dingy and orange.
Of course, this doesn’t matter for the black and white photos, but for the colour images, it can be very difficult to shoot in. Whereas, photos taken in a room with large windows, light coloured walls and no tungsten light (or at least having those lights switched off) will look infinitely better.
Groom getting ready in window light
Kyle getting ready in window light at Saltmarshe Hall
A good Airbnb or holiday cottages can cost less than hotel rooms and have space for bridesmaids or family as needed. Failing that, do you have a friend/bridemaid with a beautiful home? Getting ready at a friend’s home can be a good compromise.
Good – large windows, well lit rooms without lamps or overhead lights, light coloured walls, lots of space
Bad – small rooms, small windows, purple walls, red carpets, fluorescent lights, mixed light
Outdoor ceremonies are my favorite, but if you’re going to be in direct sunlight (no shade or just spotted/dappled light from a tree, try to avoid the hours between 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Mid-day is not only the hottest time of the day, but it can also leave harsh shadows under eyes (making you appear to have dark circles under eyes) and noses (shadow mustaches! it happens). It also makes for more interesting landscape photos of the ceremony site if it’s a bit later in the day and the sun is a little lower, but not necessarily at sunset. In summer months, the ideal time would be about 2-3 hours before sunset.
If you hired your photographer because want glowy dusk photos or portraits in a field or other open area, you’ll need to make time for portraits at sunset. If you’ve allowed yourself some time for portraits during the first look earlier in the day and sunset isn’t until 7:30, consider taking 20-30 minutes out of the reception to go out and take some beautiful portraits during the golden hour (the last hour and a half or so before the sun goes down).
There are so many variables here and lighting varies stylistically from person to person and venue to venue, but my vote is always natural looking, warm light. Italian string lights are a beautiful way to add pretty bokeh (the out of focus orbs in the background of photos) to backdrops. 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.
If you’re having a ballroom wedding, it’s best to avoid overly warm colors (red and orange) if you’re choosing to do uplighting for your reception space, although my personal preference is spaces that are lit more naturally. DJ lights can lead to colored splotches on you and your guests, so use caution when discussing lights with your DJ.
And if you’re having a small wedding, consider booking a well designed cafe or restaurant that has lots of window lighting and light fixtures that you already love — unlike wedding venues that are a little more of a blank-canvas for you to build on, restaurants and cafes are branded and designed with lighting taken into consideration and might be an easy, more flattering venue if they can accommodate your party size.
Try to plan for harsh light but if you’re worried about it being overcast on your wedding day, don’t! It’s just like a giant soft box in the sky. Overcast light is light that you don’t have to worry about at all, it makes everyone look great and timing for portraits doesn’t have to be as crucial because it will be consistent for most of the day.
We’re photographers because we love light and we photograph weddings because we love weddings. If you have questions about your timeline, you just have to let us know! We’re happy to help.