What Is Good And Bad Light For Wedding Photography?

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I am primarily a natural light wedding photographer. I can use a flash if it comes down to it but I prefer not to. I love the soft natural light coming in through a window and as you can tell from many of my pictures, I am in love with the Golden Hour: the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset when the light is soft, luminous, and glowy, as I like to call it.

Now, I know that not every picture I take can be in the Golden Hour. I can't always have perfect light. If I could, then photography would be too easy. And nothing good ever came easy. There will be florescent reception halls,  bright sun over an outdoor ceremony,  and the oh-so-wonderful "golf course green" color cast from a lawn. 

That being said, there are certain measures to take when planning a wedding and choosing the venue, before you ever speak to a wedding photographer. Here are some tips to get you started thinking about good and bad light. This will help you ensure that your wedding photos turn out just like the ones you Pin to your Pinterest boards. 

 

I just can't quit with the Golden Hour, y'all. 

I just can't quit with the Golden Hour, y'all. 

 

Avoid planning a ceremony for the middle of the day. The worst, worst, worst light (in my opinion) is mid-day light. This is when the sun is directly overhead. This creates harsh shadows on people's bodies and faces. Your wedding dress has a greater chance of looking like a white blob. You won't be able to see your eyes in photos. Instead, you'll have black shadows formed under your brow bone. Pleasant, right? If there is open (un-splotchy) shade and a lot of trees at your venue, this shouldn't be a problem but Amarillo has like zero trees and not a lot of shade. 

Think about the light when choosing a venue. Many Amarillo wedding venue owners think it's a good idea to build a shed out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but flat fields surrounding it and call it a "wedding venue." At venues like this, there are absolutely no good places to take photos and your final wedding images will suffer. There is no open shade and photos taken any time in the early and mid-day will have that harsh shadowy look. Think long and hard about this when choosing a venue. Try to opt for a venue that has beautiful grounds with trees, landscaping, stone structures, etc. attached. My favorite venue in Amarillo is the Amarillo Botanical Gardens

 

 

An Amarillo Botanical Garden wedding in the Golden Hour. Perfection. 

An Amarillo Botanical Garden wedding in the Golden Hour. Perfection. 

 

Plan a ceremony at least two hours before the sun will set. (If your wedding is all outside) This will give you about a 1/2 hour for the ceremony, an hour after the ceremony to take formal bride and groom shots, full wedding party pictures, and family pictures, and then a 1/2 hour of light during the reception so important shots like the first dance will be during the best light ever. 

Dimly lit reception halls and ceremony sites are not as romantic as you think. I see this a lot in indoor weddings. This is what happens if your photographer is forced to take photos in darkly lit rooms: Light going into a camera is affected by three things: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Aperture is how wide the shutter opens (wider=more light coming in), shutter speed dictates how long the shutter is open (longer=more light coming in but possibly blurry pictures), and ISO is the camera's sensitivity to light. So if we've got our aperture all the way open and our shutter speed set so that pictures are as light as they can get without blurriness, but the pictures are still dark, something's gotta give. We've got to crank up our ISO to allow our camera to be more sensitive to light. However, the higher the ISO goes, the grainier the picture gets. This can look appealing sometimes but not in every. single. photo. 

Like I said, I will use flash when I have to so photos aren't crazy grainy, but I don't want to. Stylistically, I don't like the look of flash and it doesn't reflect my portfolio. It's better to choose a ceremony location with clean, natural light and a reception location with plenty of good artificial light, not just a few candles or a string of Christmas lights.

 

The Belltower Chapel and Garden in Fort Worth has an amazing reception patio with plenty of light. 

The Belltower Chapel and Garden in Fort Worth has an amazing reception patio with plenty of light. 

 

For indoor portions of the day (getting ready shots, some ceremonies, and some receptions), consider opening up the curtains and turning off the indoor lights for a little bit. The mixed lighting scenarios that occur from natural light streaming in through the window and artificial, yellowish, greenish light that comes from light bulbs is a nightmare for photographers and will negatively affect image quality. But if you delete the bad light source, you're all good!

 

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This wedding had glorious light in the hotel room where the bride and her bridesmaids were getting ready. 

K

 

Let's talk about your wedding. 

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