infographic stating ambient light photography in weddings and engagements

Searching for that extra touch to elevate your photography portfolio? Whether you’re capturing wedding or engagement photos, ambient light photography could be your secret weapon. This powerful technique lets you create breathtaking images without the need for additional lighting equipment. In this blog, we’ll shed some light (pun intended!) on what ambient light is, share inspiring examples from our talented ShootDotEdit customers, and offer expert tips for using ambient light in your photography. With these simple techniques combined with your creative eye, you can make heads turn with awe at your magnificent engagement or wedding photos!

What Is Ambient Light?

a newlywed couple kissing on a beautiful stairwell in their wedding attire
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @robbmccormickphotography

Ambient light refers to any existing light in a scene that is not introduced artificially. It could come from a natural light source like the sun, moon, or stars, or an artificial source like lamps, streetlights, or candles. It sets the overall illumination and mood for your photographs. By harnessing the power of natural ambient lighting, you can enhance the photography aesthetic, create a natural feel to your shots, and capture candid photos without disrupting the moment. As wedding or engagement photographers, understanding the ambient light definition and how it works will help you create splendid, dynamic shots and help you stand out as a photographer.

Suggested Read: 5 Tips To Identifying The Characteristics Of Photography Lighting

Ambient Light Photography: Inspiration From ShootDotEdit Customers

1. Taylor Kemp Photography

a bridal dress hanging on a wooden wall surrounded by rice lights
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @taylorkempphotography

2. Olson Design Photography

a beautiful motion blur image of a wedding couple hugging each other
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @olsondesignphotography 

3. Sara France Photography

a beautifully decorated wedding cake surrounded by little tea light candles in glasses
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @sarafrance

4. June Lion

a couple sharing a drink by a campfire
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @kellyiswilde

5. Apollo Fields

a bride in her wedding attire sitting with the bottom of the skirt spread out
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @apollofields

6. Jorge Santiago Photography

a beautifully lit wedding hall where the wedding couple is dancing in the middle
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @jorgesantiagophoto

Ambient Light Photography Tips For Engagement And Wedding Shots

1. Make The Most Of Available Lighting

a bride standing in a vintage room in her bridal attire
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @photography_by_orlando

Learning how to harness true ambient light in photography can help you produce gorgeous images that will make your clients feel like they stepped right into a fairy tale. Direct light, from the sun, for example, can create beautiful and soft natural lighting during golden hour or provide dramatic shadows at midday. A game-changer when it comes to shooting engagement at-home is window light, which acts as an excellent source of natural portrait lighting.

Additionally, utilizing artificial light sources, such as household lighting like lamps or chandeliers, can create a soft and warm effect in your photos. For a romantic, moody shot, try using streetlights to illuminate your couple as they stand under the night sky. With natural ambient light, you would also need to consider the direction and quality of the light to achieve the desired effect.

Suggested Read: Window Light Photography In Weddings: Tips & Inspiration

2. Choose The Right Lens For Your Shot

a wedding couple holding each others hands and raising it towards a beautiful sunset
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @looyengaphoto

To choose the right lens for your wedding or engagement photography, start by considering your subject and the type of shot you want to capture. For example, if you want to capture a close-up shot of the bride’s dress or the engagement ring, you may want to use a macro or telephoto lens. Alternatively, if you want to capture a sweeping landscape shot of the entire wedding venue, a wide-angle lens may be more appropriate.

Try out different shutter speeds and apertures to find the perfect lighting effect. A wide aperture can create a beautiful, blurred background that isolates the subject, while a slower shutter speed can create a dreamy, soft-focus effect. You can also use long exposures to capture breathtaking nighttime shots of cityscapes and night skies. Experiment with different camera settings to find a balance between capturing enough light and maintaining image quality.

3. Look For Opportunities To Include Props

a wedding couple kissing in the woods holding a lantern in each of their hands
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @melissafechapmanphotography

When photographing a wedding or engagement, be sure to scout the location for lighting opportunities and plan ahead to use them to their full potential to achieve a range of effects, from soft and moody to dramatic and bold. 

Incorporating props like lamps or candles can help to create a unique atmosphere and showcase intimate moments between the couple. For example, during an outdoor engagement shoot, you can use the glow from a bonfire to create a romantic mood. In wedding receptions, fairy lights from the decor setting can create a warm and inviting atmosphere for the couple’s first dance or a detail wedding shot. By being intentional about your use of available light, you can elevate your natural light photos.

Additionally, props like neon lights, lamps, and candles can creatively add a touch of ambiance. For instance, a vintage lamp can add character and depth, while candles can be placed inside lanterns or glass jars to create a cozy and rustic feel.

Suggested Read: Hard Light vs. Soft Light: Understanding Wedding Lighting

4. Use Reflectors To Scatter Light

a black and white image of a wedding couple holding each other while the sun shines from behind
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @erinm_photography

If you’re wondering how to get good lighting for indoor photos, try using bounce lighting techniques with reflectors. These help catch and scatter ambient light creatively, allowing you to add depth and dimension to your shots. You can also place them in the shadow areas of your subject, bouncing light into it to create a more balanced exposure. 

By experimenting with different reflector materials, angles, and sizes, you can create different moods and styles in your images. For example, if you’re capturing portraits in bright sunlight, you can use a silver reflector to bounce light onto your couples and create a more dramatic look or a gold reflector during sunsets for a warm glow. If you’re shooting in softer light, a white reflector can help diffuse the light and create a more ethereal feel. For engagement photos, you can highlight a couple’s unique features, like catching the light on their sparkling rings or creating a beautiful rim light around their silhouette. 

5. Experiment With Different Angles And Perspectives

a wedding couple sharing an intimate moment visible through some rice lights
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @looyengaphoto

In ambient light photography, the right angle and perspective can make all the difference. Using ambient light to your advantage is essential to capture desired photos. Play with low angles and high angles, and shoot from different vantage points to add depth and interest to your shots. Try shooting from a low angle to capture the couple standing in front of a sunset, or use the architecture of the venue to create a dramatic, geometric composition. Another option is to shoot from above, perhaps from a balcony or staircase, to capture the full scope of the scene.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and try something new! Capturing the couple from behind a tree, a wall, or a pillar can add a dreamy, romantic feel to your shots. Similarly, shooting from above, like a drone, adds a whole new perspective to the images and can result in unique and breathtaking shots. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to elevate your wedding and engagement photography game.

Further Read: Profoto: A Lighting Game-Changer For Pro Photographers

Ambient light photography is a great way to create images that evoke emotion and tell a story. Remember to consider the time of day and location when planning your shots. Additionally, gaining knowledge about various types of portraits and how to use key lighting, rim light, fill light, and backlighting photography can help you create stunning and unique images that truly capture the essence of the moment. With some practice and experimentation, you can develop your own style and approach to it. So, embrace the power of ambient light, experiment with different techniques, and watch as your engagement and wedding shots come to life with an enchanting illumination.

At ShootDotEdit, we are passionate about helping you hone your craft! And we help with that by taking editing off your plate with our professional photo editing services, giving you more time to learn new skills. To learn more about how we can help your wedding photography business, check out our pricing plans.

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