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Capturing the unforgettable moments of a couple's special day is what wedding photography is all about, and the right lighting is key to creating those magical images. Candlelight or sunlight, every element plays a pivotal role in setting the scene and elevating your creative vision. That's why we've put together five wedding photography lighting tips to help you master the art of lighting and create stunning shots! From understanding the different elements of light to choosing the perfect location for optimal natural lighting or working with different artificial lighting, we've got you covered. Say goodbye to dark and poorly lit photos

Wedding Photography Lighting Tips

1. Learn Circumstantial Light Elements

a bride in her wedding attire looking up at a ceiling light in a dimly lit roomImage Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @erinm_photography

Everything in your environment changes how the light behaves. So, wherever you place your subject, everything around it (the buildings, floor, cars driving by or parked) will affect the quality of the natural light it receives, making light circumstantial - understanding which is key to capturing those timeless moments. These include:

(A) Source and direction of the light source. This describes the light's origin. See where your lighting reference point comes from, and does the lighting on your subject complement this reference point or contradict it? Knowing the source of the main light and its direction can help you understand the characteristics of the fill light and get your desired shot. 

(B) Look for light modifiers. What is the texture, color, shape, material, and size of the objects in your location? You can use those objects to reflect light onto your subject. See if your main light sources illuminate a flat object. These can act as reflectors in your image and help to produce flattering light. 

(C) Identify shadows. Can you identify where the shadow line is and its source? When looking at the shadows, see whether there are dark shadows with harsh edges or lighter shadows with soft edges. Understanding hard and soft wedding lighting can help you set up your desired shots more easily by changing the position of your subjects.

(D) Take note of the background. Does your backdrop have minimal distractions or help draw more attention to your subject? Understanding this will enable you to make the image more robust and less cluttered by going with the latter option when selecting the perfect background. Ensure your background setting is adequately lit to complement what is in focus. Try finding a location where the intensity of light can create separation between the background and the subject for a distinct visual. 

Suggested Read: Top 5 Tips: Photography Lighting Basics For Any Location

2. Experiment With Natural Lighting Techniques Outdoors

a newly wed couple kissing while the sun's flare shine behinds themImage Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @brandiallysephoto

Applying natural lighting technique can create stunning shots but only with the right knowledge of sunlight and shadows. Natural lighting provides warm and inviting tones that can set the mood of a photo. So if you're looking to add romantic touch or create a dreamy photos, take advantage of mornings and evenings when the sun is lower in the sky and casts a softer, warmer light over your subjects than in mid-day. 

  • Pay attention to how natural light interacts with objects in focus. Take advantage of the golden hour and highlight the background; while ensuring that your subjects remain illuminated by sun's soft rays.

  • When taking photos outdoors on a sunny day, seize the opportunity to play around with shadows. See where your subject's shadow lands and use it to add depth your shots. However, harsh light is unflattering but to make the most of it try moving your composition around the light. 

  • Use reflector and other diffusers to capture stunning outdoor pictures. Time your session right so you have enough exposure without losing quality. Move around, try different angles, and try experimenting with silhouettes.

Suggested Read: Shadow Photography Inspiration From ShootDotEdit Customers

3. Window Light Techniques For Indoor Wedding Photography

a newly wed couple kissing in front of a large window in a low light settingImage Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @apollofields

Knowing how window light works will help you manipulate it to establish the perfect balance between natural and artificial light within the space. Here are a few wedding photography lighting tips for shooting indoors:

  • Position your couple directly in front of the window to capture the beautiful morning or afternoon sun streaming through. 

  • Take advantage of  shadows - keep it balanced and not overpowering or distracting. 

  • Do not shoot directly into the sun as it  can cause harsh shadows on your subjects. Instead, position your subjects at an angle to take full advantage of the soft diffused light. 

  • Leverage artificial light with external flashes and other lighting equipment to create the perfect ambiance.

4. Add Helper Light

infographic stating create stunning photos hassle-free using different helper lights

Helper light can be flashes, diffusers, reflectors, or video lights (anything that can assist the fill light) and offer endless possibilities allowing you to achieve stunning wedding photos hassle-free! Whether you’re posing your bride indoors by the window or taking couples portraits outdoors, using a diffused reflector can brighten shadows and give dimension and shape to your photos.

Add a reflective surface such as a white or silver/golden reflector or panel to bounce the light at an equal angle, while providing contrast and making images look more flattering. Additionally, you can use the reflector to illuminate any dark area. 

To get creative, try using multiple reflectors in different positions and experimenting with their angle; lower them for sunlight shots (for example, dusk or early morning) or keep them higher for midday sessions so that shadows appear soft yet defined. When dealing with weak light, avoid using a high ISO. Instead, add more light with flashes. 

5. Assist The Ambient Light

a wedding couple dancing in front of a giant i do signImage Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @jperrymanphotography

To master lighting for wedding photography, learning how to work with ambient light is necessary. With a sharp eye for finding the perfect backdrop coupled with using lenses of various focal lengths and assessing different lighting situations is key to capturing all the special moments for your wedding clients. Through careful assessment and quick adjustments to camera settings in real-time, it's possible to navigate even the most difficult wedding reception lighting scenarios!

Whether you’re shooting outdoors or capturing wedding receptions at night, carry your lighting equipment and reflector kit in order take flattering portraits in difficult lighting situations. When working with limited light sources, use a rim light, speed light, or off-camera flash for backlighting subjects. When outside in the sun, lens filters are a great tool to even out exposure levels. Additionally, adjusting the white balance can help render perfect color temperature and make your photos look stunning! Lastly, turn off the built-in flash on cameras to avoid over-exposure, red eye, and flat images.

Further Read: On-Camera Flash Techniques For Weddings

Work with your couple and scout the venue beforehand to examine the various existing lighting setups, so that you can plan using different wedding photography lighting techniques accordingly. Creatively utilize the natural light streaming through windows, skylights, or other indoor glass openings through, and don't forget to capture those beautiful backlight and silhouette shots. The soft golden hour can add an extra romantic touch that will stay in your couple's hearts forever.

At ShootDotEdit, we help take editing off your post-production workflow with our professional photo editing services, giving you more time to learn new skills and hone your craft. To learn more about how we can help your wedding photography business, check out our pricing plans.

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