Beautiful light at The East Dulwich tavern

When you’re planning your wedding – you think about everything – all the little details; the dress, do the hankies match the bridesmaids dresses? Is the signage in the right font, etc, BUT do you think about the light? It is hands down the most important thing on your wedding… OK. Actually that might be a slight exaggeration – but it’s very important and you need to understand why!

Light is everything to a photographer. You have probably seen hundreds of photography websites all filled with breathtaking, golden sun drenched photos. It’s because we are obsessed with it. We literally can not get enough of it. It’s like photographer crack!

Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.

George Eastman

..and he should know – he invented Kodak.

Light obsessive

I’m a light obsessive. I look for light everywhere I go, I bore my kids endlessly with telling them to look at the light on the tree tops as we drive along, or the sunset, or dappled light through the trees, or make them stand in the luminous window light so I can take a picture. They yawn, looked bored. I squeal and get excited! I love harnessing the beautiful, natural sunlight wherever I can use it to it’s best ability (and mine)!

And yes, I can use flash. I like flash. But it doesn’t give me the warmth and beauty that natural light does. And mostly you can’t use flash in churches or registry office weddings.

So, I wrote this guide as a way of hand holding you through your wedding day, from a light point of view. Sorry. I know it’s even more stuff to think about – but this is the really good stuff and makes a massive difference to the photos you will receive from your photographer.

And of course – there will be times during the wedding day when we just can’t control the light. There are always some difficult situations. Some registry offices can be a bit on the dark side, some barns can be “challenging” to say the least, but as professionals we do our upmost to get the very best out of each and every situation. We find the interesting angles, use things that reflect light, we use ambient light or controlled light from flash, both on and off camera. There’s a lot to think about other than just taking a few snaps!

1. What time of day are you getting married?

This is actually really important, particularly if you are having a winter wedding and want to have some photos in actual daylight. Choose an early ceremony time – say midday or 1pm and that will allow you to have a portrait session and a few group photos outside (well, that’s if it isn’t raining but that’s a whole other issue – let’s stick to the light here).

**You can read all about how to plan for a rain on your wedding day here**

bride in the window light in france

Timeline for a summer wedding* Roughly

  • Ceremony – 3pm
  • Group photos and a few minutes of couple shots – 4pm
  • Reception drinks – 5pm
  • Speeches 6pm
  • Dinner – 6.30-8pm
  • Golden Hour photos – 8.30
  • 9pm – First Dance
  • 10pm – Evening Photos

Timeline of a winter wedding

  • Ceremony – 1pm
  • Group photos and photo session – 2pm
  • Reception drinks – 3pm
  • Speeches 4pm
  • Dinner – 4.30-6pm
  • 7.30pm – First Dance
  • 8.30pm evening photo

These options are very general – but it starts you thinking about the light and how it could affect your day.

So – lets go through your day and think about how light will affect you and your photos.

2. On the day – The getting ready

Ideally you want to choose the biggest room available to you, with the largest windows! Window light is hands down my favourite type of light. It has a beautiful luminous quality – so perfect for having your make up done near one.

NOTE: Often when I walk into a room I am known to turn off any lamps and other lights. It helps me to see where the light is falling naturally and then I can see where I want to stand/shoot from and around. Mixed lighting (i.e., window light and artificial light) is not a great combo – one or the other is best.

Beautiful light in a church. Bedfordshire Wedding

3. Indoor Ceremonies – (churches, barns, registry offices etc)

Wherever you choose to have the official part of your wedding day, you generally can’t control the light. It happens where it happens! And generally most photographers aren’t allowed to use flash at these times either – BUT we do have super doper cameras that can go up to very high ISOs, so if the room is dark we can cope.

The one thing I would stay about ceremony rooms is that if you do have a choice about where you can stand try and make sure that you are facing the light – rather than having your back to it. Window light is beautiful and you’ll get far better pictures if the light is falling onto you – rather than behind you.

Destination Wedding Photographer - Chateau de Queille

4. Outdoor Ceremonies

I love them! But if you are getting married in summer maybe think about having the ceremony later in the day – maybe 4 or even 5pm. The light will be softer and you’ll be so much cooler! Or if you do want an earlier wedding, maybe think about having the ceremony in the shade where it’s cooler and the light is more even.

Chenies Manor House have the prettiest garden for your outdoor ceremony

5. Receptions

Coloured uplighters are not your friend! They can add a nasty overpowered tinge of *pink/purple/blue etc to the whole proceedings or worse they can make it all look like a scene from The Blair Witch Project! Instead, opt for pretty, twinkly candles and fairy lights – these add a much more subtle light to the ambiance.

Outdoor parties at night are made prettier with lots of fairy lights

6. The Portrait Session

My favourite time of day for your portrait session is Golden Hour. Often elusive but oh-so-beautiful. Your skin will look luminous, and the light is soft and subtle. Of course, it all depends what time of year you are getting married – but normally the hour before sunset is bang on… We’ll keep it simple and go for a walk around your venue or find a local field or pretty spot nearby. And please be warned, Golden Hour is not an exact science! If you’re up for making some beautiful portraits – I may have to pull you away from dinner for 10 minutes – but it will be worth it – I promise!

Light on couple at the Asylum, London Wedding Photographer

7. Party time!

As the day draws into evening and the DJ arrives, please can you them to keep their crazy coloured lights to a minimum – particularly during the first dance. No one wants to look like they have measles! But only for the First Dance – after that – anything goes!

Dancing man in a towel

8. Night time photos

Once the dancing is in full swing, and when you are happy to take a break, we’ll head outside for 10 minutes for some night time portraits of you and the venue. We can add sparklers, fairy lights, or some off camera flash to make a WOW photo that you’ll remember forever.

And please remember – these are just tips. It’s your wedding and you can do whatever you please, but I hope these tips will help you get the best out of your photographer.

Under the stars - Buckinghamshire Wedding Photographer

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