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Lighting is one of the first things you need to perfect as you start your journey as a wedding photographer. Learning how to light your subject or subjects - regardless of the situation you are in - can often be challenging. There are several variables to consider, from determining what your flash settings should be, to knowing if and when you should use a reflector, to using the proper placement of your subject in relation to the light. Add a wedding day timeline into the mix, and you can be left feeling quite overwhelmed. We don’t blame you, and to help you understand lighting a little better, in this blog, we share some photography lighting basics that could help you get started.

Photography Lighting Basics 

1. Identify Available Light 

Infographic stating experiment with different lighting techniques to understand how they impact your photographs

When you are on location, one of the first things to do (and one of the photography lighting basics) is identify the available light. If you are indoors, what type of lighting is available? If you are outdoors, what time of day is it and can you use the available natural light? While shooting during the day, are you working with harsh or soft lighting? For night shoots, are there available streetlights or is there any light coming from the sky? When you determine what light is available in your location, you can then decide if you can work with it or if you need assistance in the form of off-camera lighting.

2. Bring A Reflector 

Infographic stating if the light is too bright, use a reflector to manipulate it

Sometimes, the available or natural light is not enough to help you create the images you desire for your couple. To help manipulate available light, and avoid bad lighting in photos, bring along a reflector. A reflector helps you bounce light onto your subject. This is especially useful when there is unfavorable lighting in your location. When shooting indoors, you can work with window lighting or other available light to bounce light from the wall onto your couple. As you shoot outdoors, you can reflect the light onto your couple from surrounding buildings, walls, or ground. With a reflector, you can create studio quality lighting in any shooting situation.

During some parts of the wedding day, you may not want to use a reflector, especially when you are running around capturing fast moments. A reflector is best used while you have more time, especially during the bridal or couple portraits, or even during the family formals. If you work with a second shooter or assistant, train them to manipulate light with a reflector. This can help you move quickly through the shoot and capture images, while your second shooter or assistant helps with the reflector. Most reflectors are simple to use and can create the light you desire in even the most unfortunate of scenarios.

3. Utilize A Scrim

Another important part of photography lighting basics is learning how to manipulate light using different modifiers, including a scrim, which assists you in diffusing the light that shines on your couple. A scrim can work as a softbox. There are various shapes and sizes for scrims, and it can be easily added with the gear you bring on a shoot. Using a scrim is helpful when you shoot in harsh or intense light with your couple because it helps them to keep their eyes open and not squint. A scrim also allows you to avoid blowing out their features and creates a flattering look for your couple. If you are up for it, you could also try creating your own scrim.

4. Use Speedlights For Dark Locations 

Infographic stating in a low light situation, try adjusting the settings on your speedlight to use it as an autofocus device

Some of your wedding shoots will be during the day, and others will happen as it gets dark. And that’s where another aspect of photography lighting basics comes in. When the sun goes down or you just find yourself in a small and dark venue, you can shoot at a higher ISO to capture images with higher exposure. This is when it can be necessary to use some form of artificial lighting. In a lower light situation, instead of using your speedlight as a flash, you can adjust the settings and use it as an autofocus device. When you fire the trigger, your flash will not fire. It will use the infrared beam to focus in the dark. With so many people moving, especially during the reception, you want to make sure your focus is on point. To avoid bad lighting photography, use the speedlight to focus in low light conditions and capture the important images of the day.

5. Practice Lighting Techniques

There are always going to be new lighting techniques for you to use during your shoots, and it takes time to adjust to new skills. Rather than practicing your skills during the wedding day, schedule time to practice outside of a professional shoot. Get better acquainted with your camera and understand what it is capable of. If you are unsure about how high the ISO can go, shoot at different ISOs until you get to the maximum in your camera. Don’t say to yourself, “My camera can’t go above 6400.” Go out and shoot images at 400 ISO, 800 ISO, 1000, until you reach the maximum ISO of your camera. Then, go back and perhaps print the images you shot and decide what the threshold is for your camera and how you feel it handles low light conditions. Essentially, what we are trying to say is that the more you practice, the easier it will be to understand how to make good lighting for pictures.

Start From The Basics

Infographic stating learning basic lighting techniques can help build a strong foundation in your photography career

Learning about the photography lighting basics is just the first step you will take as you continue to explore the vast world of photography lighting in your journey as a wedding photographer. Lighting can make or break your photograph, so learning how to figure it out and sometimes, even control it, is a crucial step. You could choose to become a natural light wedding photographer or you might like what off-camera lighting does for your images; in the end, the lighting you choose depends on the kind of mood you want to create in the photos. From dark and moody to light and airy, you can do it all with the right lighting techniques. Like our last tip said, just keep experimenting! 

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

At ShootDotEdit, we are passionate about helping you grow as a wedding photographer and hone your skills. We also help to free up your time by taking editing off your plate with our photo editing services. To learn more about how we can help, check out our pricing plans.


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