Lighting is everything: the secret component to the wedding photos you love

Ever since you got engaged, you've probably spent a good deal of time pouring through Pinterest and the galleries on wedding photographer websites, loving all of the eye candy. You fall in love with a photographer because you want photos like you see on his or her website, you sign a contract and you just know the photographer will show up on your wedding day and you'll end up with photos just as beautiful as those. 

And in all likelihood, you will, if you've hired a professional photographer. But there's something in the photos you may not realize you're seeing, and it's the secret component to any beautiful photo:

LIGHT.

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So often, wedding timelines and shooting locations can work against a photographer. And a skilled wedding photographer is prepared to create beautiful photographs on any timeline in any environment. But there are ways to make your wedding day more photo-friendly, ensuring you're providing an environment conducive to creating those gorgeous looks you're after.

Timeline & golden hour

Crafting a timeline with light in mind is pretty important. We always recommend ensuring your portrait time will fall within golden hour, which is the hour before sunset when the sun is laying low on the horizon, casting a beautiful soft glow. It's natural to assume taking photos in the middle of a bright, sunny day is ideal, but the truth is, such lighting conditions are actually not going to yield flattering portraits of people. 

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I took this handsome model outside today to demonstrate how photographing a person at the right time of day can make such a difference. It was a bright, sunny, beautiful day in Eastern North Carolina. The photo on the left was taken at about 1:30 in the afternoon, the sun is high in the sky. The colors in the landscape are certainly saturated, but the shadows are harsh and Victor is squinting in the sun. If I had him standing any closer to the large tree in our yard, he would have had harsh shadows all across his face and body (so imagine having a couple standing in their wedding ceremony facing each other, right in front of an arbor - shadows, shadows everywhere). The photo on the right was taken about an hour and a half before sunset, the sun had dipped low on the horizon just below the trees surrounding our neighborhood. The harsh shadows are gone, you can clearly see Victor's eyes and he doesn't have to squint. There are no more intense shadows cutting across the landscape in the background. The light is soft and even, pleasing to the eye and altogether flattering. I use the example of the wedding ceremony for good reason - when we're just taking portraits of people we tend to have a lot more control of all of the variables by introducing our own light, positioning our subjects, choosing the locations, etc. A wedding ceremony is completely out of our control, which is why we recommend scheduling an outdoor ceremony & portrait time for as close to golden hour as you can reasonably get. 

This ceremony site at Litchfield Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC was photographed at golden hour. The sun is low on the horizon and the this spot has been left in open shade, making the light even and beautiful.

This ceremony site at Litchfield Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC was photographed at golden hour. The sun is low on the horizon and the this spot has been left in open shade, making the light even and beautiful.

"Getting ready" location

Planning all of your wedding day locations (where you're getting ready, ceremony, portrait spots, reception) with light in mind is huge. Large rooms with lots of natural light are perfect for getting ready photos. Don't forget that where you're getting ready is not just where photos will be taken of you putting on your dress, but all of your pretty detail shots of your shoes, earrings, bouquet, invitations, etc. If you can make a pretty "getting ready" location happen, we promise it's worth it. 

The Merrimon-Wynne House in Raleigh, NC is a great example of a venue with a notoriously beautiful bridal suite flooded with natural light.

The Merrimon-Wynne House in Raleigh, NC is a great example of a venue with a notoriously beautiful bridal suite flooded with natural light.

Trust your photographer

When we arrive to any venue, one of the first things we like to do is scope it out. We're looking at potential shooting locations with interesting textures, colors, backgrounds and most importantly - beautiful light. This may mean that we choose a spot that isn't immediately obvious to clients. We want to show off the beauty of your venue, but try to place some trust in the fact that we're working to create the absolute best images for you. 

The Country Club of the Crystal Coast in Pine Knoll Shores, NC is a good example of a venue where we like to use a spot that's a little less than obvious for portraits. The Club sits overlooking the water, so the natural inclination is that all of the day's portraits should be taken with the water in the background. And, we always make time to do so. But we find that summer wedding ceremonies sometimes end well before sunset, when the light out on the open lawn is still pretty harsh, so we shoot some of the day's portraits (especially family and wedding party) in the shade of a large live oak tree to the side of the Club. The sun casts a beautiful glow on the trees in the background and creates a beautiful lighting opportunity for photos. Even lighting is even more important in family portraits, when you want to avoid squinting eyes and harsh shadows. Later, closer to sunset, we run to the beach with the couple and finish portrait time with photos on the waterfront behind the Club. It always works well.

The Country Club of the Crystal Coast in Pine Knoll Shores, NC is a good example of a venue where we like to use a spot that's a little less than obvious for portraits. The Club sits overlooking the water, so the natural inclination is that all of the day's portraits should be taken with the water in the background. And, we always make time to do so. But we find that summer wedding ceremonies sometimes end well before sunset, when the light out on the open lawn is still pretty harsh, so we shoot some of the day's portraits (especially family and wedding party) in the shade of a large live oak tree to the side of the Club. The sun casts a beautiful glow on the trees in the background and creates a beautiful lighting opportunity for photos. Even lighting is even more important in family portraits, when you want to avoid squinting eyes and harsh shadows. Later, closer to sunset, we run to the beach with the couple and finish portrait time with photos on the waterfront behind the Club. It always works well.

Light up your reception

A good number of the photos you receive of your wedding day will be taken during your reception, which is why we always like to see couples adding lighting to make a dark space more dynamic for photographs. Candles, uplighting, and cafe lights can go a very long way.