Hiring a wedding photographer can be a pretty daunting task! Particularly since so many of us love to use terms that the typical bride or groom don’t understand, it can be hard to ask the right questions. I suddenly have an engaged sister and in trying to give her photography advice, I realized I’ve been wanting to write an article about this but haven’t yet had a chance to fully flesh it out. So here goes: Why you need to hire a wedding photographer with skilled lighting knowledge, the portrait edition.
To be very clear, in over 10 years of photographing weddings we’ve probably come up against every lighting situation you can imagine. For sake of clarity, I’m going to focus on only wedding or engagement portraits and save ceremony and reception lighting for another article soon. Even in just the portrait time, though, we’re often under heavy constraints of time and location. Sometimes the day runs late and our wonderfully-timed sunset portraits are no longer an option. Other times we never had a chance for portraits during the pretty golden hour – and they’re either scheduled for harsh midday sun or after sunset in the dark. Earlier on that would have scared us a bit, but not these days. Why? We know our lighting. We know when to use natural light with no adjustments, we know when to augment with flash and we know when to completely drown out the sun with flash altogether.
Sometimes we’re just given a gray day and no amount of wishing or praying will give us that golden glow we so love. Check out an engagement session from last year – in the left image you’ll note I’m placing a lighting stand to give more contrast to an otherwise very flat photo. On the right, the finished product has rich tones and dimension.
Similarly, we added a faux sunset glow to another engagement session back in NY several years ago. Note how “blah” the colors can be on a flat, cloudy day without a bit of enhancement?
Rachel and Brian’s wedding day was also gray. The day before included rainfall and puddles were everywhere. In order to make use of them and show definition in the reflection, we popped a bit of extra light to the side to create a show-stopping image for them.
Knowing how to light properly also means knowing when to not add auxiliary lighting! In the following images we didn’t light a thing, using the sun (or lack of it) to set the tone for the image. That’s the thing with experience, knowing when to go for it and when to let it go.
At Nick and Renee’s wedding, we missed the sunset glow for their portrait time since they were saying goodbye to guests. Renee really wanted some sunset portraits so we added a bit of light for her. Note the sky is the same in both images, but one with flash and one without. This is what we’re able to do with a bit of extra work for you on your wedding day.
We love night portraits. While we’ll always try to schedule a time earlier in the day for some photos, sometimes it’s not possible due to church restrictions. Other times we have a full portrait session previously and ask you for just a few minutes at night. Why? To give you great variety! In every one of the photos in the following collage, the couple has daylight portraits as well. We give you a few extra for fun! All four of these were lit with either a constant light (like a flashlight) or off camera flash.
And then, sometimes we just don’t have any opportunity at all for daylight photos. Eric and Katie’s January wedding was late in the afternoon and by the time their ceremony finished it was already into twilight. We did create a few natural light images just after their sunset but the majority of their wedding portraits were indoors, safe from the rain and cold. We love the collection we made for them!
We still love a good sunset portrait. In fact, they’re consistently the easiest photography we do and we love photographing at that time of day. Whenever possible, we’ll encourage you to schedule your portraits around that time to ensure the best variety, quality, and ease. If it’s not possible, we understand — the wedding does not revolve around us! It’s your day and we’ll do whatever we can to have the wedding you want. And if that means making excellent portraits at other times of the day, we’re up for it! We love a good challenge.
Check out Part II of this article – lighting the moments of the day and why we sometimes do just that.