A Photographer’s guide to light on your Wedding Day or Portrait Session
How to plan for photography on your Wedding Day or Portrait Session
Light is such an important aspect of photography and understanding how to use it no matter what the conditions are is what I’m here to do as a professional wedding and portrait photographer. If you were to ask me what my favourite type of light was a few years ago then I would have most definitely have said “backlit photos during the sunset golden hour.” Experience however, has taught me to love all types of light, rain or shine, and to make the most out of every opportunity. I still do love my sunset photos though! Since we cannot control the weather (I wish I could offer ‘controlling the weather’ as an add on to my packages) I thought it might be a good idea to give a brief guide to light for your Wedding or Portrait session. Hopefully it’ll help you understand what to expect, ease your anxiety about a cloudy day and assist in your planning when it comes to scheduling your Wedding day or Portrait session.
Backlit Sunset Portraits
The golden hour is a beautiful time for photography giving your photos a very warm and glowing feel. I love to place the sun behind you to give that golden glow or even get a bit of artistic flare from the lens to give the photo a more cinematic feeling. To make the most of this light, it is best to start about 1 hour before the actual sunset time. 30 minutes before would also be sufficient but be warned, time does go quickly and Weddings often run a bit late - we wouldn’t want to miss it!
You might be surprised to hear that photographers are often hoping for a cloudy day! This is because cloud acts as a giant soft box / light diffuser which gives us beautiful soft light which is really flattering. This is in contrast to a bright sunny day where the light can often be harsh and create unflattering shadows. So, if it’s a cloudy day, look on the bright side - it’s great for photos! It’s absolutely fantastic in nature and really helps to make the green colours of a forest just pop!
Clear Blue Skies and Bright Midday Sun
I totally understand that for some of us, taking photos in the midday sun is the only option available due to time constraints. It also doesn’t help when sunset isn’t until 2130 in the peak of the British Summer. Whilst it is still possible to take photos during the midday sun, I recommend that you push the portrait session to the late afternoon if possible. This will give some direction to the light which we can work with. The main issue on days like these are harsh shadows on your face which are not so flattering - not to mention squinting and sweating on those hot Summer days.
However, this type of light does lend itself to some striking, high energy and vibrant photos. It can also be really good for some creative shots using shadows and streaks of light which you can often find. If you prefer a softer look to your photos then I will look for some shade (see the final image with the couple surrounded by lush greenery for an example of this).
Night and Indoors
Although I always prefer to work with natural light outdoors, I am always ready should we need to take some portraits in the evening (especially for those Winter Weddings). I will most likely use flash to create the light I want or alternatively use whats available around me - a hallway light, lamp or even a Christmas tree! Don’t be worried about me using flash - I will use it in a way to create the most natural look possible, effectively imitating natural light as best I can. Please allow a bit of time for me to set up my lighting in advance since it can be a bit tricky getting the balance right in a short space of time.
It happens. It doesn’t need to ruin your day. Bring some umbrellas and let’s have fun! If it really is torrential rain then we can always switch to an indoor environment or wait for the worst of it to pass. I’ll let the pictures below reinforce the statement - “it doesn’t need to ruin your day.”
What should I think about for my portrait session or Wedding Day when it comes to photos?
If you are planning your Wedding Day, ideally we would plan the portrait session to be closer to sunset or late afternoon. My personal preference is to avoid the midday sun, especially on a bright sunny day in an open space. If it’s a cloudy day we can be more flexible since we can shoot at any time, but again, late afternoon is better (especially as we cannot predict things so far in advance when doing our planning).
If we know that it is likely to be a rainy day during your Wedding, please contact your venue and see if they have umbrellas on hand and if not, bring some! Simple colours work best.
For portrait sessions we can afford to be a bit more flexible and if the weather is truly awful, we can reschedule to a different day. I still recommend avoiding the midday sun for photoshoots and instead opt for late afternoon or early morning to get the best light. Again, if it is a cloudy day which it often is in the UK, we can be much more flexible regarding start time.
Despite all this, you’re hiring me to work with any light we may face and I promise to get the best possible photos I can no matter what the weather is. I hope this little guide has helped you to understand how important light is to your final photos and how different light can give a completely different feel to a photo. It’s really important to factor the light into your planning. Just let me know if you have any further questions and I’ll be happy to help. I can’t wait to tell your story!
Sam spicer is a natural kent wedding photographer and portrait photographer based in canterbury
offering photography services for weddings, family portraits, couples, engagements, pre weddings and surprise proposals in Canterbury, Margate, Whitstable, Faversham, Kent and London