June 30, 2023

How to Handle Lighting Situations

Wedding Photography Lighting Tips

As wedding photographers, we run into many different lighting scenarios. When the lighting is difficult, our job is much harder! I am going to address some of the situations that you might run into. I will also show you examples of different lighting so that you will know what to do when they arise in your wedding photography.

1. Natural Light

Natural light does NOT mean easy! Difficult situations can still arise. Here are some tips when using natural light:

📷 When using natural light, turn artificial light (lamps, overhead, etc) OFF! If you leave artificial light on while using natural light, you will get a mixture of colors, since natural light is blueish and artificial light gives more of a yellow/orange tone. If you forget to do this, you may have to do all of the photos in black and white – which we don’t want! 

📷 If you can use window light 🪟, DO IT! It really does make your images look better!

📷 When photograph with window lighting, make sure that there is light on ALL subjects. Don’t be afraid to ask your subjects to move around if you need them to so that the photos will show them in the best light. 

📷 When photographing details, you want to be sure that your lighting is coming from more than one direction. You will want some light to come from the front and sides, even bouncing off of the walls onto the subject. If you only have one window, put the light at the top of the details. Since window light can be harsh, it is helpful to have an assistant with a reflector. You can also have a video light to keep things even. 

📷 If shooting outdoors 🌳and there is not shade, I suggest doing a back lit image at 45 degrees. Position the lighting behind the subject so that their shadows are in front of them. This really creates a bright, dreamy, airy look for the photography. 

📷 Don’t be afraid to walk around your client in search of the best possible lighting, especially if it is overcast. You don’t want dark shadows around their eyes, making their skin tones look anything other than the absolute best. 

📷 It is OK to ask your clients to move around, even if the better lighting isn’t exactly where they wanted their picture. Explain how the images would come out, or even show them examples of how they would look being photographed in the different locations. Light will ALWAYS prevail over locations. Your clients will want to look their best in the photographs. 

📷  DO look for tree covering and back light. 

📷 DON’T look for shadows and light that make the skin look less than ideal. 

2. Receptions

Sometimes the ambient light is not ideal at a reception. What can you do about it? Here are some hacks for reception lighting. 

📷 If you can’t use the ambient light at the reception (because there isn’t enough or it just isn’t good), then you can use a speed light. Put it on your camera with a bounce card or a diffuser of some sort. When I do this, I am able to fill in the shadows in my photography. 

📷 When shooting at receptions with my 24-70mm, I usually have my aperture set on 2.8 and my shutter speed below 1/250 because I am using a flash. I will also adjust my ISO as needed. I try to let in some ambient light so that I capture the feeling of the reception in my photography, but I am able to fill in the shadows with my flash. 

📷 If the ambient lighting is too harsh, you can dial it down and create what some people refer to as the “black box”. Turn off your flash and any artificial light. This will make your camera image dark. Turn down the ISO, turn up the aperture, and bump up your shutter speed (just don’t go too high because you still want to sync with the flashes when you turn them back on). 

📷 If the ambient light is too dark or there isn’t enough, turn your flashes on and use that to light your subject. It cancels the ambient light and relies on the artificial light that you are providing in that space. I really like to mix ambient light and artificial light at receptions, because it really gives a sense of what it actually looked like while still filling in the shadows, lighting the subject, and making the client happy in the end.

3. Shoot in RAW

Shooting in raw will give your images the most information and the most editing capabilities. You really want to have the flexibility in the post processing part to edit them and be able to produce the best results. 

4. Scouting

I recommend going to any new locations and “scouting” it out in advance to see what you will really be working with. 

📷Scouting can really help you plan ahead for difficult lighting situations.

📷 Go to the venue at the same time and during the same season that you will be photographing. This will really help you to see what the lighting will be on the day of the wedding at specific moments. 

📷 If you aren’t able to scout in advance, try having the client visit the venue around the same time  and send you a video and pan around in the space that you will be shooting. Then you can look at the video and determine what will work for the wedding day. Look for neutral settings and things that don’t have a lot of color casts so that the client’s skin tones look accurate and beautiful. 

As a photographer, you will run into difficult lighting situations. It is your job to see the light and understand how to produce the most beautiful images (covering your camera to prevent sunflare, moving your client over so that the best light is hitting them and they don’t look hazy, etc.). The more you do this, the better you will get at seeing light and noticing the little things. 

At the end of the day, it truly is a matter of practicing, observing, and understanding the lights. As a wedding photographer, we are always looking to get better! 

If you are interested in learning how to price your base prices for photography, check out the Pricing Guide below. ⤵️

Get the pricing guide!