How to plan for the perfect light on your wedding day

Bristol engagement photographerChasing the light

Us photographers can be a funny bunch.  Obsessed with the weather, chasing the soft, golden light that comes (sometimes) in the late afternoon, excited when it snows (amazing backdrops) and up for experimenting creatively when it rains.

Natural daylight is important to me, because it’s always my aim to create genuinely beautiful wedding photographs, however the variance of light on any given day is huge and this will impact your wedding images – something you probably haven’t had to consider or be aware of before.  So here are my tips on how to plan for the perfect light on your wedding day, as a little prep can make all the difference. 

UK Bristol Becky Male PhotographyNatural light conditions

A sunny wedding always seems ideal, because rain somehow doesn’t feel right for such a happy occasion – Wrong. With an average of 156 days of rain a year in the UK there is a high probability it may well get a little wet when you say ‘I DO’.  Don’t worry about it, it’s part of the day and in all honesty it presents a great opportunity to be creative.  Rain can make colours look more saturated, so the green of the trees looks greener and generally colours look more vibrant, so embrace the weather whatever it’s doing.

However, here are a few pointers on how the natural light conditions affect your wedding photos, whatever the weather – and I’ve been to plenty of weddings where rain hasn’t spoiled the occasion at all!

Mid-summer sunlight – between 10am-3pm – creates harsh highlights, with strong contrasts and shadows affecting how facial features appear on your photos – if you are not photographed correctly during a hot sunny day you’ll notice unflattering harsh shadows under your eyes in your images. To reduce the impact, I’ll shoot photos at this time from a shady spot, and recommend we take more of your portrait photos later in the afternoon to achieve a softer light. On the plus side, it can result in a bold, bright dramatic look for your photos, because colours are more vibrant in the hard light.  I may also use a little flash at times to ‘fill’ and reduce the harshness of this light.

Autumn-winter sunlight – between 10am-2pm – creates a softer, more flattering light than mid-summer, because the angle of the sun is lower. The days are shorter and the nights draw in faster, so the amount of available daylight is obviously more limited for weddings taking place later in the year.  If you’re getting married during the winter months I’d recommend scheduling your ceremony to earlier in the day, midday ideally to maximise the available light.

Golden light – for a softly diffused, golden hue on your photos, we’ll need to be shooting outside in the hours just before sunset.  This magical light is really special, as the daylight is redder and softer than any other time of day (aside from the first hour after sunrise).  When we talk about photographers ‘chasing the light’ it largely refers to this later stage of the wedding day.  If you’re starting to plan your timeline then definitely take in to consideration when golden hour occurs, try  the Golden Hour calculator to help you.   This light doesn’t last long and to make these work I work fast!

Dusk light – if the mood you’re looking for is soft, grey and romantic, we can get outside and chase the light through from sunset into dusk.

Overcast light – for a photographer, a cloudy sky can be a blessing. It acts as an enormous soft box, because the light is diffused gently. So, definitely don’t worry about average British weather, your wedding photographs will still look bright and cheerful to reflect the smiles of the day!

And if its raining or really wind and cold?  Calling it quits and not going outside  before even attempting a photo is a mistake. As with anything in life, your attitude is very important and if you’re flexible and willing to take advantage of what we have to play with it’ll only ensure you come away with more interesting images.  After all, rain equals puddles equals reflections and a chance to get creative.

How does the light affect timings on the day?

To make the most of the natural light conditions described,  consider the running order of your day, my tips are based upon having attended many weddings over the years:

Getting ready: although the light is beautiful at sunrise, most brides don’t want to be getting up so early to get ready! To get the best light in the photos, choose the setting for your preparations carefully. Hotel rooms can be cramped with furniture, so have a think about alternative spaces, which might suit you and your party, a large room with big windows is ideal.  Melissa and Ed chose to rent a property via Air B&B where Melissa got ready on her wedding day, it was spacious and had an abundance of natural light – perfect for her photographs.

Fulham wedding

Ceremony: this will depend on the availability of the officials, however, you’ll have some choice if you’re booking your wedding far in advance. A morning ceremony gives you scope for planning photos at intervals with good natural light, however, it makes it a long day for you; late afternoon limits the time you’ll have to relax, before the evening party starts. In winter time, it’s far better if there are a couple of hours of the midday light – so I’d recommend a midday ceremony, 1pm as the latest start time.

Meeting and greeting: I can take plenty of candid shots while you greet your guests, and we can plan when to do your first shots as a couple around how long this typically takes. Once I know more about your plans, and the number of guests, and group shots you’d like, my job is to think about how we best fit those in – whilst avoiding the harsh sunlight conditions of midday.

Wedding meal, cake and speeches: if you like the idea of your portrait photos in the golden sunset glow, you’ll need to think about timing your wedding meal, speeches, and cake cutting, so you’re both available in the hour or so, before the sun disappears. If your guests have already eaten, it is easier to slip away, so we can spend some time together on capturing some scenic photos outside and around the venue.  This shot of Conrad and Hannah was taken moments after their speeches ended, we literally had three minutes of perfect, golden light – enough to capture this lovely moment.Cotswold wedding photographer

Churches can be particularly dark, yet I’ve plenty of experience to choose the best angles for capturing those precious moments of your wedding service. Florescent lights are extremely challenging to work with, because of the greenish tinge they give people; thankfully most venues already avoid these! For your wedding party venue, you can choose to add other lighting – tea lights, candles, fairy lights and strings of festoon lighting for the evening – which will create a fabulous bokeh effect in the background of your photos.   A fun addition to add colour to your dancefloor and to get everyone raving like its the 90’s is the addition of glowsticks!!

You’ve got to cherish your photos long after the ceremony is over, so do have a look through my gallery to see which you like and if you want to talk more about your wedding plans and how I can create beautiful, natural images of your big day – whatever the weather, then do get in touch

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