Wedding Photography Lighting Techniques

Author Bertie Roussel

Posted Feb 24, 2023

Reads 2.2K

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Wedding photography lighting techniques are a crucial aspect of capturing the perfect shots on a couple's special day. Experienced wedding photographers like Mark Condon know that mastering lighting techniques can quickly elevate their wedding work to the next level. Understanding how to use both natural and artificial light can help creative wedding photographers create interesting photos that stand out from the rest.

As a wedding photographer, one of the essential skills you need to master is lighting techniques. By using simple techniques, you can take advantage of light creatively and turn even a drab venue into a stunning backdrop for your couple's portraits. In this article, I'll be sharing some of the most effective wedding photography lighting techniques I've chosen to add to my arsenal over the years. By learning these techniques, you'll start taking better photos in any situation and at any wedding venue.

How to use Light Creatively as a Wedding Photographer

Wedding photography lighting techniques are a huge topic, and lit featured photographer Steve Rooney is here to teach us how to use lights creatively. Having a good understanding of camera functions and supplementary lights brings your wedding photography to the next level. To start, learning terminology techniques such as inverse square law lighting ratios is essential for achieving the correct exposure.

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In this simple guide, I've chosen some of the best tips from the world's top wedding photographers and distilled them into two simple steps for creatively lighting an image. Step 1 involves subtracting light by finding the darkest area in your lighting scenario and using natural light or flash remotely to add contrast. Step 2 is adding light by finding the brightest spot and adding a supplementary light source to create depth.

By following these 2 steps, you can achieve stunning results that will make any wedding photograph stand out. With such a wide array of wedding photography lighting techniques available, it's important to remember that creativity knows no bounds. So whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, take some time to experiment with different lighting scenarios and see what works best for you!

1. | Subtracting the Light

One of the most important wedding photography lighting techniques is subtracting the light. As a lit featured photographer Maurizio Arias once said, "I'm sleep-walking people in my mind, I'm quickly scanning for illuminated objects that I'd prefer to have in my shot." This means that you should start by identifying the areas in your wedding venue that are too bright and adjust your camera settings accordingly.

For this, you can use the live view functionality of your mirrorless camera or DSLR dinosaurs. Live view is a hugely underrated functionality that allows you to see what your final image will look like before you take it. You can effectively adjust your camera settings to achieve the desired exposure while keeping the illuminated areas from being blown out. Lit featured photographer Hendra Lesmana recommends turning on exposure preview in live view mode and switching to manual mode to start underexposing. Decreasing light through shutter speed or lower ISO can help achieve chiaroscuro lighting shooting style without losing detail in post-production.

2. | Adding the Light

Now that you've fixed your camera settings and saved them, it's time to add additional light. This is where the big variable comes in: do you use an alternative light source or do you estimate things using ambient exposure? It's worth noting that the quicker you estimate things, the quicker you'll be able to execute the shot.

If you're using an alternative light source, consider the location you've chosen and how far away your subject is. For a rim light, place the light at a frontal angle behind your subject properly. If using flash output, I'd recommend placing it on low-medium power and instructing whoever's holding it to spot it at the exact position you've chosen. Use your camera's live view to adjust flash output accordingly. Once everything is set up, take a test shot with your stand-in subject.

For scenes that involve movement like the dance floor or newlyweds walking down an aisle, use an LED light panel to creatively lit each photo complete. This wedding photography lighting technique may seem like a dirty guide but if done right can lead to incredible work such as photographers like Mark Condon of Gold Hat Photography have produced in recent weddings. After executing these shots consider post-processing which can be done in as little as three minutes!

Enhance Your Photos with a Reflective Surface

Blue Body of Water

One stepping stone in mastering lighting for wedding photography is learning to use reflective surfaces. Artificial light can create harsh shadows, but using a reflector bounces back the light and softens the scene. Reflectors work great on sunny days when natural light is abundant, but they also work well indoors with wedding photography lighting equipment. A shoot-through reflector works excellent for a couple bounce back as it creates an ethereal glow, allowing the couple to look luminous and radiant in their wedding light.

How Windows Can Make or Break Your Experience

Windows can be your best friend or worst enemy when it comes to wedding photography lighting techniques. A sun window creates soft flattering light that is perfect for capturing the bride and groom, while side lighting placing can add depth and dimension to your shots. However, windows can also be frenemies, intentionally blowing out your shots with too much brightness or casting unwanted shadows on your subjects. When shooting in a room with overhead lights, the problem of wide-angle shots becomes even more apparent. To combat this issue, photo editors often use the gradient tool and make white balance adjustments to ensure an accurate adjustment of the window light throughout the entire shot.

Wedding Photography Lighting: Natural or Artificial?

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One of the most common questions wedding photographers face is whether to use natural light or artificial light. While natural light can create a distinctive set of images, it's important to remember that technically correct sharp images require lighting gear. Photographers aren't permitted to have a flash check during the ceremony, so it's essential to know how to use existing light in order to avoid ruining a quiet moment with invasive pops. In the bridal preparation room, a nice large window will give beautiful leave when the window light hits just right. If flash is required, using it with existing light can add interest and create dimensional lighting. On a cloudy day, wedding photography can be tricky, leaving an underexposed couple with an overexposed sky; however, balancing ambient light and using flash turned down to its lowest power can add catchlights and help freeze action allowing for slower shutter speeds and gorgeous existing light shots. To learn wedding light means to learn how to create stunning images no matter what type of lighting situation you are presented with.

Other Things to Consider about Your Wedding Photo Lighting

When it comes to wedding photography lighting, there are a few other things to consider besides the techniques themselves. One thing to keep in mind is that every couple will have their own shooting style personal preference level. Some may prefer natural light while others may opt for artificial light, and both options can yield great results. It's important to choose what works best for you and your partner.

Assorted sweets on table with blooming flowers on wedding day

Another thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to wedding photography lighting. Some photographers have strong opinions about which type of light is best, but ultimately it comes down to what works for you and your photographer. Don't feel pressured into choosing one over the other if it doesn't fit with your vision.

Last but not least, wedding couples deserve a photographer who will work hard to capture all of the important moments of their special day. Whether you prefer natural or artificial light, make sure your chosen photographer has experience in that area and knows how to create beautiful images with whatever lighting they are presented with. At Image Photography by Shandro Photo and Striegler Photography by Bryan Striegler - a wedding photographer who loves superheroes sports and kids - they both specialize in capturing stunning photos using natural light in Northwest Arkansas! In his free time he's constantly searching for his next great Netflix binge.

Learn & Grow!

Wedding photography is all about capturing the perfect moments of the big day. This requires not only a good camera and a talented photographer, but also proper lighting techniques. Off-camera flash is one of the most effective ways to capture stunning wedding portraits. By using this technique, you can create a more natural look and avoid harsh shadows on your subjects' faces. To make 10 amazing wedding portraits, it's important to ask your photo clients questions about their preferences and style. You can also use 5 photography prompts to get creative with your shots and make sure you capture all the special moments throughout the day. Additionally, proposal photos tips are essential for engagement photographers who want to deliver memorable images that will last a lifetime. Keep learning and perfecting your craft - there's always something new to discover in wedding photography!

Why Using a Bare Flash Could Be Hurting Your Photography

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Using a bare flash or naked flash can create harsh unflattering shadows and simply looked awful in wedding photography lighting techniques. This small powerful light can be effective outdoors, but when it comes to indoor weddings, the light can be awful hard and simply unflattering. Flash diffusers like plastic caps, magmod diffuser, inexpensive flash softboxes are great tools to create nice soft light; however, they don't stay put and will fall off with movement. Ceiling bendable flash panels or rogue flashbender might be useful for wedding photographers who want the perfect bounce angle as they allow for more control over the direction of the light.

Discover the Benefits of Opting for Manual Flash

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One of the biggest benefits of using manual flash in wedding photography lighting techniques is the ability to control light output. Unlike half TTL or auto mode, manual flash allows you to adjust your flash based on your subject and environment. This means that if your camera doesn't have a lens that automatically adjusts its aperture when using a camera flash, you can still achieve properly exposed photos without harsh shadows or dark shadows. By learning manual flash, you can start with a powerful start at quarter power and work your way up to higher flash power as needed. This will help you achieve better exposure and balance between existing light and ambient light, resulting in photos with a bit higher quality.

Tips Before You Buy Wedding Lighting Equipment

Over the years I've learned that having the right wedding photography lighting equipment can make a big difference in the quality of your photos. Before you invest in any lighting equipment, it's important to consider your specific needs and what type of wedding photography problems you may encounter. For example, if you're shooting an outdoor wedding, you'll need to have portable and waterproof lighting equipment.

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When deciding on what lighting equipment to purchase, it's important to do research and read reviews from other photographers who have used these products. This will give you an idea of whether or not the product is worth investing in. Additionally, consider renting equipment before making a purchase. This will allow you to try out different types of lighting equipment without committing to a large investment.

Finally, remember that having the right lighting equipment doesn't necessarily guarantee great photos. It's important to practice using your new equipment before the big day and experiment with different settings and techniques. This will help make things easier when it comes time for the actual shoot. With these tips in mind, you can ensure that your wedding photography lighting techniques are top-notch and produce stunning results for all of your clients.

My Favorite Lighting Equipment

As a wedding photographer, I've tried out a lot of different lighting equipment over the years. However, there are two pieces of gear that have stayed with me for the longest time: my Nikon brand flashes and my Flashpoint brand flashes. Years ago, I used to hate dealing with AA batteries in my Nikon flashes, but since switching to rechargeable batteries in my Flashpoint flashes, I've been extremely happy with how these flashes work. The Flashpoint XPLOR 600 and the Evolv 200 are both great things that I highly recommend to anyone looking for reliable flash accessories. Plus, the built-in magnet system on these flashes makes it easy to quickly attach them to a light stand or other surface. When it comes to continuous lights, the popular continuous light known as the IceLight is one of my favorites. I've also had great experiences with the Dracast BoltRay - both lights are adjustable in terms of color temperature and can easily fit into any space you need them to for couple portraits or other shots. Overall, while choosing lighting equipment can be extremely overwhelming at first, finding what works for you is key when it comes to achieving great results like those captured by Shandro Photo!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Best Lighting for outdoor photography?

The best lighting for outdoor photography is during the golden hour, which is the first and last hour of daylight. The soft, warm light creates a flattering effect on subjects and adds depth to landscapes.

How can I improve my wedding photography?

To improve your wedding photography, invest in high-quality equipment, practice composition and lighting techniques, communicate with the couple to understand their vision, and capture candid moments throughout the day. Ongoing education and mentorship can also help you refine your skills.

What is the best light for photography?

The best light for photography is natural light, specifically during the Golden Hour (the hour before sunset or after sunrise). This type of light is soft, warm, and creates beautiful shadows and highlights.

What is wedding photography lighting?

Wedding photography lighting refers to the use of artificial or natural light sources to illuminate and enhance the quality of photos taken during a wedding event. It helps create the desired ambiance, mood, and aesthetic appeal for capturing timeless memories that last a lifetime.

How to use light effectively for weddings?

To use light effectively for weddings, it's important to consider the time of day, location and desired ambiance. Use natural light as much as possible and supplement with artificial light sources such as string lights or candles to create a warm and inviting atmosphere.

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Bertie Roussel

Writer at The Filtered Lens

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Bertie Roussel is a passionate writer who has been crafting blog posts for years. She has a unique perspective on life that she shares through her writing, which often focuses on the intersection of technology and humanity. Bertie has always had a love for exploring new ideas and learning about different cultures.

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