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5 Characteristics of Wedding Photography Lighting Every Photographer Needs to Know

characteristics of wedding photography lighting

Here at ShootDotEdit, we know the struggles you face when it comes to wedding photography lighting – it’s unpredictable and every shoot brings something new. Seasoned wedding pros and educators, Justin and Mary Marantz, have spent years refining and mastering their lighting techniques. When it comes to understanding lighting, these two are some of the best in the industry. Today, they are sharing the 5 characteristics of light you need to know to bring with you on every shoot.

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  • Do you ever find it hard to identify what “good light” looks like when you’re using a flash?
  • Do you wish that you could make the flash feel more natural?
  • Do you ever wonder what it is besides being “bright” that makes natural light look like natural light?
using photographer lighting techniques

Image Compliments of Justin and Mary Marantz

For most photographers, when they think about what makes light good, tend to think of it only in terms of “brightness” or what we’re going to call Intensity. They see a bright image with a lot of pop to it or backlighting pouring into the image flooding it with a light and airy quality and they feel like that is everything that goes into an image having good wedding photography lighting. But there is SO much more to it than that! In fact, we identified 5 Different Characteristics of Light you should take into account when determining good light. They are:

  1. Intensity
  2. Direction
  3. Relative Size of the Light to the Subject
  4. Contrast
  5. Color

Like we said, most photographers (when they are getting started with light) learn how to manage the first characteristic. They equate “bright” with a good quality of light (which make no mistake it certainly can be….if the other characteristics are there too!), and they focus in on managing that intensity by teaching themselves to shoot in manual and nail the exposure in camera every time.  They manage the Intensity of their images every time. And that’s such an important ability and skill to develop! But it accounts for only one of the 5 characteristics of light that we should be thinking about every time.

In our J&M Lighting Guide, we break apart each of these characteristics and show you they affect each other, and how to ROCK each one…every time you shoot! But for now, here’s a quick definition of each.

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1. Intensity

Intensity is basically how bright or dark the light is in relation to your exposure goals with ISO, shutter speed and aperture. For example, is this getting ready room so dark (low intensity) that I have to push my ISO to a point where I’m now getting noise/grain? OR, is this high noon First Look so bright (high intensity) that I’m going to have to start stopping down my aperture in order to get an image that isn’t blown out?

Related: How can you utilize off-camera flash and create dramatic imagery for your clients during the wedding day?

2. Direction

Directional light is light that rakes across the subject from side to side, from the perspective of the photographer so it creates a rich dimension and tonality from the pattern of highlights and shadows it creates. We believe direction is maybe the MOST important of the characteristics because it can literally make whatever you’re photographing appear more beautiful simply by moving your feet and changing that dimension.

Related: Are you comfortable identifying and manipulating light in any scenario?

3. Relative Size of the Light to the Subject

Most people, when they think of “harsh” light, think they are talking about contrast. But the truth is, what they are really seeing is the size of the light source. Simply put, the larger the light source the softer the light. And of course the opposite is true: the smaller the light source, the harsher the light.

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4. Contrast

While relative size determines how “soft” the light appears, contrast is the one you want to pay attention to if you want to maintain a “light and airy” look while also benefiting from the pattern of highlights and shadows caused by direction. That is achieved by managing the fill (like with a reflector or white pillow) on your shadow side while exposing for the highlights.

5. Color

Finally, there is color. Color comes into play, both in choosing a white balance that creates clean white light on your subject that feels like natural light and also in making sure that you don’t have mixed color temperatures (like from tungsten overhead lights while also adding in a flash) at the time that you take the photo. Because that mixed light can’t be fixed later in Lightroom.

Ok, so once we know the 5 Characteristics of Light, next we have to think about WHERE we want to place that off-camera flash all throughout the wedding day to be able to maximize those characteristics. That’s why we put together a download for you guys to grab that walks you through 7 of our own go-to favorite lighting diagrams Justin and I use ALL throughout the wedding day (from the getting ready to the sparkler exit!) that not only shows you where we put the light, but WHY we put it there to begin with! And the best part is….it’s totally FREE!! Just click HERE to grab your copy and get started right away!

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50% Off Your First Month of Blogging with Fotoskribe

Did you know that consistent blogging can…

  • Help you create trust and build relationships with your target market?
  • Drastically increase your reach on multiple platforms?
  • Strategically place your images in front of the right clients?
  • Create strong connections with vendors and other photographers (which means more referrals)?
  • Bring in bookings throughout the year (with minimal work on your part)?

It’s true. Your photography business will thrive with consistent and SEO-focused blogging. Fotoskribe can do all those things for you. Fotoskribe is outsourced blogging that works. That is why we acquired them earlier this year. And, we’ve got just the way to ensure you receive those great benefits. For 48 hours only, you can receive 50% off your first month with Fotoskribe, plus zero start-up costs with code grow17.

Use code: grow17

Feel free to give us a call (415.692.3669) with any questions. We’d love to chat! 🙂

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Off-Camera Flash Techniques to Create Dramatic Wedding Reception Images

off camera flash techniques wedding reception

One of the most challenging aspects of being a wedding photographer is that, often times, you have absolutely no control of the situations you encounter to photograph. One specific aspect of that challenge is the lighting conditions you encounter. Knowing how to use off-camera flash can help you overcome these challenging wedding photography lighting scenarios.

In our Off-Camera Flash Techniques for Wedding Photographers Guide, created with SLR Lounge, we discuss a few scenarios that may occur during the getting ready part of the day. Throughout the first and second post of this series, Pye Jirsa from SLR Lounge and Lin & Jirsa Photography shared his suggestions to set up the lighting for the getting ready scene and indoor portraits to help you develop unique and dramatic images. For the third post, he will share how to using off-camera flash techniques can help you create memorable and dramatic wedding reception images.

As you move through the wedding day, one of the last lighting scenarios you will come across is the reception. Of the scenarios you will face, the reception can often provide multiple challenging lighting situations to overcome. With low lighting, uplighting, and other conflicting light sources, off-camera flash techniques are a great way to capture the necessary moments from this part of the day. Below, we share a technique for photographing table decor, along with 3 quick off-camera techniques you can use during the reception.

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wedding reception table decor

Image by Lin & Jirsa Photography

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Guide: The Keys to Pricing for Wedding Photography Business Owners

The Keys to Pricing for Wedding Photographers Guide

As a wedding photography business owner, dialing in your pricing is one of the most important things you can do. If your pricing is confusing or complicated, you risk working for less than you are worth or even losing out on bookings altogether. How can you set up pricing for your photography business that is clear and concise for clients, and that fairly compensates you for your products and services?

We interviewed Luxury Wedding Photographer and industry expert, Vanessa Joy, to help unveil which wedding photography pricing model is best for your business! Created in conjunction with Adorama, we believe this guide will help any pro wedding photographer increase their bookings and profits.

The Keys to Pricing for Wedding Photographers

Keys to Pricing for Photographers

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4 Amazing Lead Magnet Ideas for Wedding Photographers

lead magnet ideas for photographers

More and more, there are unique options available to help you create a wedding photography marketing plan geared toward your ideal clients. Each of these techniques allow you to attract ideal clients to your website and blog. Since there are so many, how do you know which one is best for you, and will help you bring in more photography leads? We reached out to wedding photographer Mark Condon of Shotkit to hear his suggestions on the best lead magnets for you to use for your wedding photography business. Read on to discover his top 4 ideas.

*These ideas and more can be found in Shotkit’s More Brides: Modern techniques to make more money as a Wedding Photographer.

mark condon of shotkit

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Lead magnets are an online marketing tool to attract leads, i.e. to incentivize a website visitor to provide their email address. Whilst lead magnets can be a somewhat aggressive technique to quickly grow email lists, they can be used in a more delicate way to attract your next wedding photography client.

wedding photography sunset

Image Compliments of Gold Hat Photography

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8 Free Wedding Day Timeline Templates for Photographers

8 free wedding day timeline templates

Let’s face it… the wedding day shoot is stressful – and that is for both you and your couple. With so many moving parts and people to coordinate with, there are plenty of opportunities for the day to fall behind. When the day falls behind, you often have to shoot important moments quickly and your stress levels increase (and so do your couple’s). How can you simplify and streamline the process before the shoot to help minimize time-crunches and create a stress-free wedding day for you and your couple? We connected with 5 wedding pros to bring you their personal recommendations for timelines to use for success!

8 Free Wedding Day Timeline Templates for Photographers

wedding day timeline templates for photographers

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Top Photography Website Plugins Every Wedding Photographer Needs

As a photographer, one of your main goals is to attract ideal clients to your wedding photography website. Since there are many platforms you can use to attract new photography leads, we reached out to Scott Wyden Kivowitz from Imagely, a leading provider of WordPress products and services for professional photographers, to learn more about his suggestions for top photography website plugins that help you generate more leads for your business.

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In the last article about the best 4 visual WordPress plugins for wedding photographers, I mentioned that the article was part one of a series. So here is part two, which is on lead generation plugins.

Lead generation is the act of obtaining a person’s information from website visits. There are many ways to do so, and there are many forms of leads. There are social leads, email leads, qualified leads and so on. Like before, I want to make sure you understand that almost all the plugins I’m recommending are free but have paid counterparts and services.

city engagement session

Image Compliments of Bōm Photography

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Get Discovered – SEO Techniques for Growing your Photography Business

As a wedding photography business owner, understanding Search Engine Optimization is a crucial part of your success. When it is done correctly, the right audience will see your content and access your website and blog. If it is done incorrectly, you risk missing out on the clients who matter. Because the rules constantly change and are often complicated, how can you implement SEO techniques that go beyond the basics, without spending all your time on it? We have partnered with one of the top SEO pros in the industry, who has done the extensive research for you!

RSVP: Get Discovered – SEO Techniques for Growing your Business

Wednesday, July 12th

10am – 11am PDT

wedding photography boat image

Image Compliments of Ablaze Photography

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Challenges Wedding Photographers Face During the Bridal Prep Photos

challenges during the bridal prep photos

More often than not, wedding days are hectic. Running behind, forgetting things, too much to get done in too short of a time period – all of these are too common on a wedding day. And, often this starts before the wedding ceremony ever begins. It starts early on the morning of the wedding, when the bride and her family and friends gather to start getting ready.

For a wedding photographer, the getting ready section of the day can produce some of the most intimate and artistic images from the entire day. However, there are a lot of challenges that can come with shooting the getting ready images. Today we want talk about 4 of the biggest challenges that happen during the bridal prep photos, and solutions to overcome them.

Problem #1

The room is a disaster.

You walk into the room the bride is getting ready in, and your heart sinks. You look around and see a mess everywhere. It could be the byproduct of a hotel room that is way too small for the number of people it has in it. It could be a byproduct of everyone running behind and not picking up after themselves. Either way, the room is a disaster, and you have to create lasting images with a challenging backdrop.

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4 Time-Saving Apps for Wedding Photographers

Time-Saving Apps for Wedding Photographers

As a wedding photography business owner, finding ways to speed up your workflow is key to your success. It’s also important to maintain organization in your personal life, as well. The more optimized your systems and processes are in both areas, the easier it becomes to work on the items you must to grow your business. One way to save time is to use apps that help keep you organized and on top of the tasks you have to manage. ShootDotEdit Wedding Pro, Vanessa Joy, is back with her next post to share the apps she recommends for your photography business.
Vanessa Joy Headshot

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Running a business has so much to do with work-life balance and managing your time. It is, in fact, key to be good at it so that you can do more of what you became a photographer to do; shoot. With life constantly throwing new tasks at us, new social media sites to keep up with and, hopefully, more clients to respond to, it can be very overwhelming. Finding shortcuts are crucial to managing it all and below are 4 apps, that I personally use, that I’m sure you will find do just the thing.

wedding photography sunset image

Image Compliments of Vanessa Joy Photography


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