I am sure one of the last things you are thinking about for your wedding day is the lighting. We all wish for sunshine and clear skies, but is that really the best for pictures? Depends! Use this guide to help navigate your wedding day timeline when working with a natural light photographer.
WHAT IS NATURAL LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY?
Many of you have never worked with a photographer before, so what exactly does "natural light photographer" mean? This can vary photographer to photographer, but I can help you out by telling you my personal description.
For myself, I generally work solo on a wedding day; this means I have no second shooter or assistant to help. As only one person, I only have so many arms to carry gear. You won't find me with large lights or soft boxes being set up around your reception. Instead I work with the window light I am given. Once reception rolls round and the sun has set, at most I will pop a tiny flash on the top of my camera to fill in the shadows.
My motto is "What you see is what you get" so if you have an intimate outdoor reception with only candles to light the scene, that will be represented in your photos. (See image above for example).
Where you get ready matters!! Avoid a basement or dark motel room. Instead try to find a location with big open rooms, lots of windows and white walls. Windows are the most important part to achieving soft and natural light.
Having a bright room dedicated to your getting ready photographs is key. You want to make sure this room has a big window that you can easily stand in front of. If furniture is blocking this light, it is suggested you move it for your big day.
View the photos below to see an in-home getting ready set-up. Notice how the lighting changes when she is in front of a white wall compared to a backdrop with no windows? It goes from a little more dark and moody, to light and airy.
If your location does not provide enough space or natural light, your photographer may choose to move you outside to capture the getting ready scene.
Make sure there is a set up right outside of an easily accessible door; that way the bride doesn't have to go too far. Your best location is somewhere covered from the morning light.
Check out the images below using a home porch. Notice in the far right image you can see how bright it is outside, where the sun is hitting the grass. But because we have a covered porch we are able to keep the bride in the shade for even lighting.
Outdoor ceremonies can be tricky! Make sure you test out and view your ceremony location on a sunny day at the exact time your event is scheduled. This helps us avoid having direct and harsh lighting on your wedding day. We want to avoid having the bride or groom facing the sun to ensure neither parties will be squinting from the brightness.
The sun is positioned to the left, so high trees will not block the harsh light
Notice how the groom is facing directly into the sun
This is an afternoon wedding, the sun is tucked behind these trees putting everyone in some shade
Look how even the light is on both the bride and groom. This is perfect!
You have 2 basic options when doing an outdoor reception, covered or uncovered.
When working with a natural light photographer, you may find an uncovered reception too moody/dark, after all there is minimal light to work with. With a covered (tent) reception, your photographer is able to bounce the light to highlight the scene better.
This outdoor, uncovered reception was only lit by candlelight, notice the orange hue to the images?
This first dance was lit by twinkle lights
This covered set up is perfect for bouncing light for a bright scene. The white curtains help keep the couple from blending in with the dark sky
The DJ lights used in the tent create a pink hue onto the white surface.
Indoor receptions are okay not to have natural light or windows, since we will have a ceiling to bounce a compact flash off of. However, windows do add a beautiful backdrop.
One thing to be cautious about when having an indoor reception is "DJ Lighting + Spotlights". These are fine to have once your photographer has departed, however, be aware that during photo coverage a lightbulb can change your skin tones and how you appear in photographs.
These pink lights are causing unnatural skin tones and colouring
White walls will absorb colour changing how your scenery is captured
Subtle twinkle lights and natural window light adds a warmth to your photos
Notice how natural their skin tones are and the white walls remain white
Understanding that camera's read and adjust to light differently than the human eye is key to determining what kind of lighting you want for your wedding.
Some venues have a spotlight or chandelier lighting for first dances, which may be gorgeous to your eyes, but to a camera, this can cause more moody scene with harsh shadows.
The venue only had a chandelier on, they provide uneven lighting and harsh shadows on the couple
Here is the exact same spot with all lighting remaining turned on.
This first dance took place under a couple spotlights. Notice how the light doesn't reach the scene and only the couple
This lighting is perfect to avoid capturing the busy reception background so your eye can focus on the couple
Possibly one of the most important parts of a wedding day is getting your family members involved in family portraits. These often take place right after the ceremony when the sun is still high in the sky. Our best options are to make sure there is a location where large formal groups can all stand in even shading.
This is best case, lots of even shade and some gravel to reflect light back onto our subjects
You can see by the sun leaks that this was a bright day, but with lots of even tree coverage we are able to get even light on all family members
With no available shade, our best option was to place the sun BEHIND our subjects, notice their shadows for light direction
We tried our best, but you can see the light leaking through the tree's and causing uneven lighting on faces and clothes
Some couple's are lucky enough to have me steal them away for 10 minutes to capture some last minute sunset glow to wrap up the wedding day.
Sunset portraits, during the summer, happen around 8-9pm. Make sure if these portraits are on your photo check list that you have your photographer booked til sundown.
Pay attention to the outdoor scenery at your reception location. If you are surrounded by high trees we will need to plan sunset portraits BEFORE the sun dips below the tree line. For more open scenery, such as the beach, your sunset session will happen right before the sun hits the horizon.
The sun BEFORE it hit below the tree line - golden hour
The sun once it hits below the tree line and portraits are complete - moments before blue hour
The sun BEFORE it hit below the horizon - golden hour
The sun once it hits below the horizon - blue hour