Planning for the best possible lighting is essential to a good photo session. As talented as any photographer may be, there is no way they can control natural light. Yes, we can use reflectors and some other tools to help, but there is no substitute for a beautiful, natural glow or clouds that serve as the perfect soft box. Hopefully these tips will help you plan your session / wedding day well, so that you can get those gorgeous images you’ve been dreaming of.
Embrace the Glow
The best times of the day are right before sunset and right after sunrise. There is no substitute for the glow of the sun as it nears the horizon, casting an even light and a “halo” on its subjects. Be sure that you choose the right time of day (90 minutes after sunrise / before sunset) if you want this effect ( & if weather allows). For important photos like portraits of the Bride & Groom on their wedding day / an outdoor ceremony, be sure you think about the light and time of time. The close to sunset or sunrise, the better.
Avoid the Mid-Day Sun
The hardest lighting challenge for most photographers is mid-day sun. Great photographers can often find ways to make the mid-day sun work, but there is no secret formula to create the perfect lighting scenario out of a light source that comes from directly above its subject. Basically, when a light source (in this case, the sun or overhead lighting) comes from directly above, it casts shadows on everything below it. Here are a few issues that arise when working with a light source from directly above:
- Harsh, unflattering lighting on the subject
- Dark eyes caused by a shadow from the subject’s eyebrow
- Harsh shadows that can cut across the subject or just serve as a distraction to the eye in random places
The message of this tip is basically to avoid harsh, overhead lighting at all costs. If there is ever a situation where you absolutely need to shoot mid-day (perhaps bridal party photos before a ceremony?), it is best to find a shaded area with a shaded background.
Beware of Blown Out Backgrounds
Whenever a background is significantly lighter than where the subject is standing, there is going to be a challenge with lighting. This often happens when there is a big window behind a subject or when you are seeking shelter from the summer sun in a shaded area. This lighting is optimal for silhouettes, but not for traditional photos where you’d like to see the subject’s facial expressions. If this is a concern, just ask your photographer about this and hopefully you can find a solution that will work best for your event & the time of day that it is taking place.
Just Say No to Florescent Lighting
Obviously it isn’t always possible to avoid florescent lighting 100% of the time, but any time you can – do it. For times like getting ready or situations where you need to be inside, look for locations with lots of natural window light. Florescent lighting does not only cause an issue with overhead lighting as we discussed above, but it can also cast an orange hue, making it difficult for a photographer to get the proper white balance in a photo. Natural window light is your friend.
Here is an example of some beautiful natural window light:
Churches often do not have the Most Ideal Lighting
This one is really more of a warning than a tip. If you choose to get married in a church because it has significance to you, then do just that. But, as a photographer, I need to give fair warning – the lighting may be rough. Often times church lighting leaves an orange hue in photos that is hard to remove in post-production. Churches also often have lots of overhead lighting, creating the list of issues we discussed above. Churches can be lovely, their lighting – not so much.
Find a Photographer who Understands Light and how to Manipulate it Properly
Last but not least – this is the biggie. The reality is that no photographer can create the natural glow of a sunset, but a great photographer should be able to manipulate the light, find a beautiful shaded area, or come up with a solution to give you the best possible scenario. Sometimes in poor lighting situations, the best possible situation may not be the ideal situation, but a good photographer will be able to find you a better option than standing in the mid-day sun with no cloud coverage ;).