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Wedding Wisdom: Light on your Wedding Day

September 11, 2017

Light on your Wedding Day by Dallas Wedding Photographer

LIGHT on your Wedding Day!

Most couples I work with place a high priority on their wedding day photography! I am often one of the first vendors they’ve researched and hired – and I love that!  As a Dallas wedding photographer, this gives me the opportunity to provide some insight that might otherwise not be considered.  So today I’m talking about photography lighting on your wedding day!

When it comes down to it, photography is all about light. Have you ever noticed that when you take a picture (even with your iPhone!), your photos always look best in front of a window with nice, soft light spilling through? And also how dark and grainy images are when you try to take a picture when you lack any extra light? For photos that represent your big day in the best way possible, you really want to pay attention to the light at your venue – not just natural light, but also any additional lighting that needed during the reception (when it can be a big darker).


1. Lighting for Getting Ready/Prep Photos

One of the best things you can do to assist your wedding photographer is to have a naturally lit space for your getting ready photos. Many venues now have stunning bridal suites as a part of their inclusive package. All-white walls and open windows allow for the best light possible! Keep a spot cleared in front of and around the window so that you don’t have fast food bags/water bottles/clothes bags in the background of your photos!

Getting ready photos and bridal details in front of natural light from window

Another option is to have a hotel room booked for your getting ready photos. Again, make sure to keep the area around the window cleared out. I’ve even had brides book a separate room just to keep clear for photos – this is a fantastic idea!

Of course, I realize that the suggestions above aren’t always realistic. In this case, perhaps you can create some wiggle room in your timeline to take some planned “getting ready” photos in a spot that has a bit more natural light around your venue. You’d be surprised at how many of those “Pinterest worthy” getting ready photos are actually staged!

Lastly, if you’re planning on getting ready at your church in a room with no windows, make sure your photographer is comfortable with flash. You’ll want that extra bump of light for the best possible photos.

Blue and gold bridal details in natural light


2. Lighting for the Wedding Ceremony

Everyone loves a gorgeous outdoor ceremony! If you’re tying the knot outside, there are two big things to consider. The first is where the sun sets in relation to the planned “altar.” Backlit (allowing the sun to set behind you and your groom) is usually best for photos. The second is the time of day that your ceremony will begin. I recommend a ceremony start time of 2-3 hours before sunset. This will give a backlit angle to the sun and also provide a good amount of daylight for portraits afterwards.

Outdoor Wedding Ceremony by Dallas Wedding Photographer Outdoor Wedding Ceremony by Dallas Wedding Photographer

Indoor ceremonies can be just as gorgeous, whether inside a rustic barn, a classic chapel, or the striking architecture of a cathedral. If you would like to plan an indoor ceremony and are hoping for that rustic barn look, I’d recommend a venue that has lots of windows to allow some natural light inside. Otherwise, be sure that your photographer has camera gear that can adjust for the darker indoor settings and can compensate for the lack of light. This is especially important in cathedrals which, while stunning, are oftentimes very dark.

A note on flash photography during wedding ceremonies: this is something I try to avoid if at all possible and would recommend other photographers to do so as well. However, with permission from the couple and venue, I have had to use it in a pinch. If flash photography is something that may be necessary, be sure to discuss this in advance with all parties involved.

Indoor Catholic Mass Wedding by Dallas Wedding Photographer


3. Lighting for Portraits (Family Formals, Wedding Party, Bride and Groom)

This is usually the easiest part of the wedding day in terms of photography because I can control a bit more of what is happening at this point.

Family formals can either be done inside or outside, and both can look beautiful. Outdoors is great because it usually doesn’t require any additional lighting.  Zero setup means that these photos go a lot faster!  Plus, by the end of a wedding ceremony, the sun has usually gone down enough so that the light is soft and flattering. However, my couples who get married indoors often want to have their family formals taken at the altar, which I totally understand! I carry my own lighting gear for these types of situations and will set up two stands with flashes and umbrellas. This gives an even, well-lit look to the photos while showing off the pretty altar in the background.  In the three images below, the first two show an example of outdoor family photos.  The last image is an example of family formals taken indoors with flash – I love that you can see the dinosaur fossils in the background, which was actually their wedding ceremony altar!  SO cool!

Outdoor Family Formals after Wedding Outdoor Family Photos after Wedding Indoor Family Photos at Perot Museum of Nature and Science

I recommend at all possible costs ensuring that your bride and  portraits are naturally lit. Even if it is just fifteen minutes, I will move heaven and earth to ensure that my couples get this time together for naturally lit photos. These are the images that you’ll be framing on your walls, so please try to heavily emphasize this when you are building your timeline! (A few “signature photos” with flash can give an editorial look, but I try to keep it to 2-3 shots.)

Bride and Groom Portraits in Natural Light Bride and Groom Portraits in Natural Light Bride and Groom Portraits in Natural Light


4. Lighting for the Wedding Reception

It is super important to consider what the light is going to be like during your wedding reception!  Not only does the light set the mood, but it will also inform the technical choices your photographer makes.  Most receptions I shoot are lit very sparsely with just some added accent light (cafe lighting, uplighting, candlelight).  Sometimes it is possible to capture the reception without added light, but most often it requires some adaptability.  That is why I feel it is very important to make sure that your photographer is capable of using flash photography to preserve the romanticism and drama of the evening.  I suggest asking your wedding photographer to see examples of their work from a wedding reception.  That will give you a good idea of their style and capabilities.

Avalon Legacy Ranch Wedding Reception Perot Museum Wedding Reception Morgan Creek Barn Wedding Reception Morgan Creek Barn Wedding Reception


Trust Your Wedding Photographer

If wedding photography is a top priority on your list, it is definitely beneficial to learn and consider the lighting throughout your day.  The best thing you can do is to hire a wedding photographer whose style and capabilities you love and then discuss the lighting with them.  Your wedding photographer will be able to help you make the best decisions to ensure your photos come out just beautifully!

If you’re recently engaged and looking for Dallas wedding photographers, I would love to discuss photographing your special day!  Visit my website to view more of my wedding photography or click here to contact me!  I can’t wait to hear from you, and look forward to connecting!

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