March 25, 2021
Lighting creates memorable portraits. In photography, and in cinematography, one of the most important mantras to remember is to “find the good light.” You can be one of the most inexperienced photographers and cinematographers on the planet. But, if you know how to light a scene or to use light to your advantage, you’ll create a beautiful image.
When filming my latest project “He Leadeth Me,” we had very limited resources. Whenever we could, we used what we had as often as humanly possible: we used ALL natural light and rarely, if EVER, set up anything artificial. And when we DID use artificial light, we regretted it. It’s not that lighting directors don’t know what they’re doing. They do! We just didn’t have a lighting director. We had to fend for ourselves and improvise a LOT. Some of the most beautiful scenes in the entire film in my opinion look stunning because we practiced the use of natural light.
If you are NOT a photographer nor a cinematographer, that’s ok. If you’re a bride planning her wedding, it might seem to you that none of this applies! But, it truly does!
Let me explain.
Consider all of the different environments needed on your wedding day for photography. There are SO many things, moments, and people that a photographer captures for you. It’s his or her job to find those perfect angles that utilizes the natural light around them. But, it can be quite challenging if the environments given to them have little to no natural light at all. For a natural light photographer like myself, it can mean the difference between a stunning portrait and a mediocre snapshot.
What it really comes down to is this: how can YOU select environments throughout the day that will provide your photographer with the best lighting scenarios possible? I know that YOU want the peace of mind that comes with giving your photographer (and anyone else taking cellphone photos, camera snapshots, etc.) the best lighting available to them on that day. I think most people do!
Allow me to offer a few suggestions:
1. Details. When shooting your details (shoes, jewelry, perfume, etc.), I need a clean, uncluttered space with access to a window. This allows your freshly-polished items like your wedding rings to SHINE with natural beauty. I might even take your details outside to have the most direct access to natural light as possible. A porch is perfect!
2. Dress. An uncluttered room with a place to hang the dress and floorspace to spread the train and/or veil allows me to capture the entire piece without intrusion. Look for the biggest windows! Overhead lights (which I will turn off) can detract from the true color of your dress. Again, there might even be the perfect location for these portraits outside!
3. Getting Ready. We all know what these rooms look like! “Getting Ready Rooms” are usually FULL of food, fun, and fellowship! But, they are not the greatest spaces in which to photograph you getting dressed. Distractions take away from your mother lacing you up. Wouldn’t you LOVE a portrait of the “big reveal,” standing in front of your bridesmaids for the first time in that gown? Think of this: these “getting ready” portraits do not need to be shot in the same room everybody gets dressed and primped in. You can get dressed before these portraits take place because we can always re-stage some of those precious moments!
Remember to select a clean, uncluttered space with plenty of natural light to prepare these memorable events! Not only will your portraits be clean and uncluttered, but your experience of doing so will ALSO be clean and uncluttered! How fresh and exciting is THAT?
4. The First Look. This is one of my FAVORITE parts of the day. I delight in helping brides choose the perfect location for this very special moment. Outdoors is always preferable. Epic and clean backgrounds are ideal. You might have a very special, memorable location in mind for this, but consider lighting when you choose. If you want your portraits to be light and airy, heavily wooded areas in the background will give you a different look. If you don’t want an industrial feel to your First Look, avoid areas with lots of buildings. The more clean and simple the environment is, the more the moment and the images I shoot become just about you.
5. The Ceremony. First and foremost, select a place that means the most to you. This is the BEST part of the day! You are committing to this beloved person for the rest of your life, and THIS is what it’s all about! BUT, if you are even a little indifferent to the location in which the ceremony takes place, consider renting or using a church, event center, or outdoor location that lends to your photography. Bright, open, and well-lit areas (again, well-lit by natural light) will make it so much easier to capture lasting, gorgeous ceremony portraits.
If you choose an outdoor location, consider what time of the day the ceremony will be and at what angle the sun will be in relation to your set-up. It truly does matter! Also note: if you get married outside, consider ways to brighten the platform or area you’re standing on. Grass will cast green on your skin and clothes, but light pebbles or rocks or even a wooden platform will actually bounce light up into your faces. It’s reflective magic!
6. Just-Married Portraits. This is the part of the day when everyone just wants to party! But, it’s also a valuable time (immediately following the ceremony) to capture a few husband-wife portraits and, perhaps, for the first time with the veil. This location should be close to the ceremony site. Again, a location outdoors is preferable. The lighting will have changed drastically from the time of your First Look to now, so adjustments will need to be made. It’s also a wonderful time to capture some sunset portraits, if your day is waning!
7. Family Portraits. These may or may not take place right after the ceremony. Some couples opt to do these prior to the ceremony, and that’s totally ok. I recommend an outdoor setting with a clean background (no heavily wooded areas) where we can simply pose families in their groups quickly and efficiently. I will be looking at the direction of the sun and will position your family and friends accordingly. It is even more vital to consider a clean space, because these portraits aren’t about any sort of epic landscape: they are only about the people in the portraits who are at the wedding to celebrate YOU. Let’s create clean, well-lit portraits that any parent and grandparent would be proud to display!
8. Reception. It can be difficult to find a well-lit reception location, if one is not carefully considering the reasons for doing so. This may or may not be the most important part of your day, but it is still a very BIG part of your day and it’s so FUN! This is when your friends and family get to vocally celebrate you! They get to approach you, hug you, and play games with you. Choose a fun and meaningful place for you to celebrate your tribe, but consider light as an important part of your decoration. Chandeliers, Christmas lights, candles and big windows all lend to gorgeous event photos that will only compliment your other portraits. Here are some great ideas!
In some ways, LIGHT becomes an even more valuable decoration item than anything else you might invest in aside from your flowers! I also recommend creating a portrait location. Family and friends LOVE this. Why? If someone comes to them and says, “Hey, I want a photo with you!” they know exactly where to go to get just that. If you choose to build something like this, use light and reflective fabrics/materials (especially if you are in a darker reception location) to assist the photographer. Keep it clear of overly distracting props. If you want to utilize furniture, less is more. And, always be respectfully prepared for your photographer to make other suggestions. They know what’s needed to give you the best portraits possible!
Overwhelmed? I hope not. Just “look for the good light” and let your photographer do the rest!
Contact me, even if you already have a photographer booked, and I can help you be absolutely SURE, no matter what the weather, your wedding is full of good light!