Looking for Light on Your Wedding Day by Los Angeles Wedding Photographer Brandi Potter
Planning a wedding is tough. It’s beyond tough. The last thing that you’re probably thinking about is light and how it can affect your photos. I know it’s a lot to keep in mind, but if you’re at all concerned with how your photos are going to turn out bear with me. For me, every part of a wedding day is centered around light. It can make or break a scene, and I always want it to be a make situation.
And honestly, a non-photographer probably isn’t even thinking about the light and the shadows and what’s going to look the best. It’s the professionals jobs to explain these things, and I feel like a lot of “pros” do a very poor job about educating their clients.
When I hear the phrase “The Sun is out, it’s the perfect time for photos/a wedding!” I want to beat my head against the wall. This literally couldn’t be further from the truth. Bright sunlight in the middle of the day is no one’s friend when it comes to creating shadows and harshness in photos. It isn’t flattering, and it’s pretty hard to shoot in because of sweat, squinty eyes, and shadows.
I definitely prefer when my clients get ready in a place with big and open windows. Not only is the light better for photos, it’s better for makeup application as well. I know this isn’t always possible, but if it is whoever you hire will thank you. Even if you get ready in a hotel room, make sure to set up your makeup area near the window.
Fluorescent lighting can create orangey skin tones and look pretty flat in photos. It’s also not great for makeup application. If you do have to get ready in a room with fluorescent lighting make sure to try and open some windows to help get some nice natural light in the room.
First Look & Bridal Party
The first look can definitely be tricky because it’s normally early in the day. If you’re doing it anywhere before 2-4PM I suggest finding shade or doing it indoors. Mid day sun is not your friend. It can create wonky shadows on your faces and just be really harsh. If there isn’t any shade we’ll basically be working with backlighting or direct light, depending on how high the sun is. Hopefully if this is the case there are some clouds in the sky to diffuse the light that we do have.
I also really love trying to shoot the bridal party during sunset/golden hour. It adds a whole new element to the typical group shot, which I love.
The whole reason that I’m at your wedding is because of your ceremony. It’s arguably one of the most important parts of the day, if not the most important. In a perfect world outdoor ceremonies would either be under beautiful trees with pretty golden light coming through or be overcast so the light is nice and even.
A midday ceremony can create all kinds of issues with the lighting. It can be harsh and create weird shadows on faces. Depending on where the sun is, one of your faces may be all shadows, while the other is getting hit directly with the sun. If there are sparse trees one side of the bridal party can be in complete shadows and the other side in bright harsh sunlight. I really want to stress having your ceremony in a shaded area or to do it 2-3 hours before sunset so you do get the best photos.
Bride & Groom Portraits
I will shoot in whatever light is available, but I REALLY want to shoot all bride and groom portraits during golden hour and blue hour. Golden hour starts 1.5-2 hours before sunset and has the most perfect light. Even if there aren’t any clouds in the sky it’s still so much easier to work with the golden light than it is during midday. I’m always trying to get my couples to go out for 10-15 minutes (at least) for golden hour/sunset photos, and most of the time it works. I do have some people though that reference these photos and want them but don’t want to give me time to shoot. They don’t want to leave their guests or to let reception events to run to long, but I promise you that your guests won’t care if you sneak out for a bit, and that you won’t regret pushing events back a little.
Unless I’m taking really cool dancing shots while dragging my shutter, I prefer not to use a flash during the reception. I love getting the natural ambiance of the space when shooting receptions and I always feel like using a flash can take away from that. That’s not to say that I don’t use it when I need to though.
I love when there are string lights or a chandelier that’s bright enough to light the room. Receptions are one of my favorite parts of the day because the emotions are high and everyone is just having fun. I want to be able to capture that in a real way for my clients.
I love being able to push myself and make something even more unique for my clients. Night portraits are the perfect way to achieve that, and even though we might not have a lot of natural light, it’s still completely doable to get a nice portrait. I rarely get a chance to do night portraits but when I do it’s a chance to stretch my creative muscles and learn more and more about lighting my clients.
Like I mentioned earlier I will literally shoot in whatever light is available. If we end up having to do portraits in the middle of the day in bright sunlight it may give us an opportunity to play with the light and make some cool shadows. It’s all about perspective and how you can use the light to your advantage, just because I prefer to shoot in nice golden light doesn’t mean we can’t make some cool images in the middle of the day. You just have to trust me or whoever your photographer is to make something worth hanging on your wall.