infographic stating lighting styles 101 wedding photography tips and techniques

The art of wedding photography is a delicate balance between capturing timeless moments and creating stunning visual narratives. Among the many essential elements that contribute to the success of this craft, lighting styles hold much sway to your photograph. Whether it’s the soft, romantic glow of golden hour sunlight, the enchanting play of shadows in a dimly lit reception hall, or the ethereal ambiance of a candlelit ceremony, lighting can make or break the final result. In this blog, we’ll explore different lighting tips and techniques for your wedding photo style to up your skills and impress clients like never before!

Different Lighting Styles In Wedding Photography

1. Natural Light Photography

a couple posing in the bright sunlight holding and looking into each others eyes
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @loversoflove

Natural light photography uses the beautiful illumination of the sun to create romantic and timeless images. Whether you’re capturing the gentle light of sunrise, the soft hues of sunset, or the shade of a tall tree, this approach requires careful consideration of the available environment and how to use it to your advantage. To make the most of natural light in wedding photography, take note of the direction, quality, and intensity of light, adjust your camera settings accordingly, and be mindful of your subjects’ positioning and movements.

2. Flash Photography

This lighting style is for every professional photographer! You can use this style in multiple ways, from using it as the primary light source to using it as fill light to balance out uneven lighting to create various effects, including soft, diffused light or dramatic contrast. Applying flash photography tips can further create different photography lighting styles like directional, diffused, and bounced lighting. 

Particularly important for indoor weddings where natural light may be limited, you can use flash to create a softer, more natural look. For outdoor wedding shoots, you can use a fill flash to reduce harsh shadows and add depth.

3. Creative Lighting Techniques For Wedding Photos

the best man helping the groom light a cigar beside a beautiful lake during the sunset
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @looyengaphoto

A. High-Key Vs. Low-Key Lighting Style

The high-key lighting technique involves evenly distributing light on the subject, thereby creating a bright and even background. Essential when capturing romantic and soft moments, you can achieve this through a variety of lighting setups, including the use of softboxes, reflectors, and umbrellas. Conversely, low-key lighting is perfect for those dramatic, moodier shots. This technique involves selectively illuminating only specific areas of the subject, thus creating shadows and a more intense contrast. 

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

B. Rembrandt Lighting

Named after the Dutch artist Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, this lighting style creates a triangle of light (using a single light source positioned at a 45-degree angle) on the subject’s cheek. You can use this to create depth and enhance shadows to create more dramatic portraits of your couples and wedding photos that showcase emotion.

C. Split Lighting

Split lighting requires one light source placed at a 90-degree angle to the subject, creating a strong shadow on one side of the subject’s face. Using this lighting style, you can split your subject’s face diagonally with light and shadows, creating a more artistic look by effectively highlighting the unique features. It’s ideal for capturing detail-oriented pictures such as wedding dresses, suits, and shoes, and it’s an excellent technique for showcasing vivid colors and texture.

a black and white portrait of a bride in her beautiful wedding attire
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @flavio_d_photography

D. Rim Lighting 

Rim lighting style in wedding photography involves placing a light source behind the subject, which creates a beautiful halo effect around their silhouette. Using this, you can add depth and separation, making your subject stand out from the background. It’s particularly effective for outdoor sunset or twilight shots, as it accentuates the natural glow of the scene.

E. Butterfly Lighting Style

Butterfly lighting, or paramount lighting, is a classic and flattering technique commonly used in wedding photography to highlight the subject’s features. It involves placing the primary light source, often a softbox or beauty dish, directly above the subject’s face. This creates a butterfly-shaped shadow under the nose and emphasizes the cheekbones, creating a soft and elegant look.

Suggested Read: The Ultimate Guide To Wedding Photography Lighting

Wedding Photography Lighting Tips For Different Lighting Styles

1. Utilize Ambient Light Sources

a couple posing in front of a wall where the shadow is falling diagonally
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @kellyiswilde

One of the easiest ways to achieve stunning shots without any additional lighting equipment is through ambient light sources. This refers to natural or existing light sources in your area, such as window lighting or lamps. With ambient light photography, you can also experiment with different angles to capture the unique dimension that potential light sources add. On a crowded dance floor, for example, aim to utilize the overhead ambient lights to highlight the couple’s dance moves.

2. Find Creative Ways to Use Flash 

Adding artificial light to your photographs can create a world of difference by adding texture and depth. One way to do this is by using on-camera flash techniques or off-camera flash photography. Experiment with angles and placement because the further you move the light, the softer transitions become, reducing harsh shadows and enhancing the overall effect.

3. Embrace Backlit Images

a wedding couple holding hands and raising it towards the sun shining from the horizon
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @looyengaphoto

Backlighting is a technique wedding photographers use where the light source is behind the subject. An excellent technique for capturing dramatic portraits of your couple, you can create an appealing glow and separate them from the background. A helpful tip using backlight is to aim for a narrower aperture to help you focus more on your couple and create an intentionally blurred background.

4. Experiment With Softboxes 

Softboxes help create even lighting from the front, softening the shadows and creating a cleaner photograph. These give you complete control of light direction, as they can manipulate the lighting in any way that suits their creativity. You can use the softboxes to highlight the beauty of the dress, capture the soft profile of the bride, or illuminate the beautiful details of the bridal preparation.

5. Create Dramatic Scenes With Spotlights 

You can use dramatic directional lights and spotlight to capture a unique wedding atmosphere or highlight specific areas of your subject. These are perfect for creating a moody look when you shoot wedding receptions or in the evening when you have a limited amount of light. Don’t be afraid to play with the angles and distance of the light source to help create the perfect mood in your shot.

Further Read: Top 5 Wedding Photography Lighting Tips

a creative perspective of a bride sitting with one leg on the train of the wedding dress
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @brandiallysephoto

No two shoots are the same! Whether you’re capturing the bride and groom walking down the aisle or candid shots during the reception, you need to find the perfect balance between illumination and aesthetics. With easy lighting setups, like off-camera lighting and strategically placed light stands, you can transform even the most challenging conditions into your canvas using different lighting styles. Whether using fill flash to balance shadows or natural light as a backlight to create a glowing effect, try experimenting with other wedding photography lighting techniques to see what works best for your subjects and the lighting conditions.

At ShootDotEdit, we are passionate about helping you grow your wedding photography business. A part of how we do that is by lessening your post-production workload with our professional photo editing services. To learn more about how we can help your wedding photography business, check out our pricing plans.

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