planning around light
how light affects your photos
Lighting, the time of day, and the time of year have a huge impact on how your wedding day photos will look. Many wedding days will have a range of lighting conditions throughout the day from sunny, to overcast, and sometimes even a little rainy. We work mainly with natural light for portraits, so we adjust to the lighting conditions throughout the day to deliver the best possible images. Each lighting condition is unique, and while it’s not entirely possible to control the weather on your wedding day, it is smart to plan for the best possible version. This starts with the scheduling of your day. If the portraits of you and your fiance are the most important to you, it’s wise to plan your day around this part of the day to maximize the light.
The following information shows how different light, weather and time of day affect your portraits. This may help you decide if you’d like to do a first look or wait until you walk down the aisle to see one another. We’re happy to offer guidance on your wedding day scheduling as the time of year also greatly impacts when you should plan your portraits. For example, the sun sets much earlier in the Fall and Winter months than Spring and Summer months. This means that it may be pitch black outside by the time your ceremony is over leaving no time for natural light images if you have chosen to wait until the aisle to see each other.
Another scheduling detail to take into account is that seeing each other before your ceremony allows us to take as many photographs as possible before your wedding so that you can get to your reception quicker! While we work with any timeline, waiting to see each other until the aisle means all wedding party, family and your portraits as a couple must be done following the ceremony. This can sometimes cause a rush through the portrait time to keep your guests from waiting too long.
Please let us know if you have any questions after looking through the examples!
golden hour, late evening
golden hour (just before + during sunset)
This is the most ideal time of day for portraits as it casts a beautiful, even glow which is universally flattering. Golden hour occurs about an hour before sunset. To plan for portraits during this time, we usually recommend seeing each other before the ceremony so that you can have a first look and we can photograph wedding party and family portraits before your ceremony. Your ceremony should end about an hour before sunset (leaving enough time for travel to the location we’ll be photographing at, if applicable). This leaves an ample amount of time for pictures of the two of you in the best light of the day. If it is an overcast day, this time of day will still be beautiful, even lighting even if there is no golden glow.
Most couples wish for sunny wedding days. While this is beautiful, it may not always be ideal for photos. Sunny, overhead lighting can cause squinting, harsh shadows under eyes and in unflattering places. Overcast lighting may appear drab, but in your photographs, it will look anything but. Overcast lighting is often the best possible lighting condition to work with as it provides even, flattering light and we can use many more locations this way as we aren’t avoiding any harsh sun. Overcast lighting allows us to take photos at any time of the day, so just be sure to plan enough time in your day to allow for photos before or after your ceremony. See the link at the end to see how long each type of portrait typically takes.
If there is very harsh sunlight during portrait times, we try to find shade. While this seems counterintuitive, shade will allow us to capture incredibly flattering, even lighting that still has a warm feel without the harsh shadows underneath your eyes. If your portrait time is during hours of the day with high sun (depending on time of year 9 am - around 5 pm), we will scout for locations at your portrait location that have a good deal of shade to work with. Large areas of shade also allow us to take your family portraits outside as well.
Rain can be detrimental to certain wedding day plans, but it doesn’t mean your portrait time will be ruined. Having a back-up plan for portraits such as an indoor location or covered spot is always encouraged. Typically if you are getting married at a church or your outdoor venue has a building, we can find some window light to make some great portraits. If the rain is light and you’re up for it, we always encourage you to brave it as we can get some romantic, beautiful portraits without ruining hair and make-up. Plan to bring a pretty umbrella (clear is best as it allows light through).
Hard light is direct sunlight. While overhead light is great for documentary photos throughout the day, it can be difficult to work with as it creates hard shadows and can cause squinting. When working with overhead sun, we look for locations that best control the shadows so you don't end up with dark, uneven shadows on your face. Overhead sun occurs anytime between 9 am and 5 pm depending on the time of year. It’s usually best to plan your portrait time for a little later in the day to avoid overhead sunlight. Or, if waiting until later in the day is not an option, be sure that your portrait location has plenty of shade to work with. If you have any questions about when to plan your portraits to avoid shooting in direct sunlight, please ask us. We’re happy to provide any guidance to ensure you get the best possible photos!
If photographing outside is not an option on your wedding day, we will look for locations indoors at your venue. When planning your wedding, be aware of locations indoors that can be usable in the instance of severe weather. We can accomodate any location, but if time is an issue, knowing a couple options ahead of time will be beneficial. The outcome of these images depends a lot on how much natural light is coming in through windows. Below are three examples of different lighting conditions indoors.
All natural light streaming through window mid-afternoon. This was during a first look. The couple planned a secondary location ahead of time in case of rain, and when it did rain, we had a beautiful location to work with.
Natural light coming through windows during afternoon with added light from our flashes. This couple was married in a traditional church and their reception was also held here. The church windows let in a good deal of light despite the fact that it was hailing and raining! This couple chose to wait until the aisle to see each other. Their ceremony was early in the day (around 2:00 pm) which allowed ample time afterward to take natural light pictures of the two of them. The sky cleared and was beautiful.
The church this couple was married in was fairly dark at the time of family portraits. Very little natural light was coming through the windows, so all the lighting was done with our lighting set-up.*
*Please be aware that if you are planning on waiting to do your couples portraits until after your ceremony and there is no natural light outside (i.e. late ceremony or winter months), your portraits will likely need to be lit this way. This method requires addtional setup so if time is limited, variety may be lacking. We are predominantly natural light photographers, so we always encourage couples to plan their day so their portraits have the option of natural light. This may mean choosing to do a first look so we can maximize daylight or planning your ceremony earlier in the day if you are set on waiting until the aisle to see each other.
should we do a first look?
One of the decisions you’ll make is whether to see each other before the ceremony or seeing each other for the first time when you are walking down the aisle. Understanding your timeline is a good start to making this decision. The last thing you want to be on your wedding day is rushed, so if you are planning your ceremony at dusk and there will be limited natural light afterward, we recommend you have a first look.