Manipulate Light For Stunning Wedding Photographs
© Brett Harkness

There are a number of reasons photographers can charge large numbers for occasions such as weddings if they wish: the convenience for the bride and groom, the knowledge that their pictures are in the capable hands of a professional, and the skill that comes with this task doing it full-time.

Technically, anyone can pick up a camera and call themselves a photographer, but it’s just as important to have skills to match the equipment.

One of the differences between a good and bad photographer is how they use lighting – both natural and artificial. Overcoming this can be done with a mixture of clever equipment selection as well as clever manipulation to control exposure and white balance.

There is something about soft lights that creates a dreamy fairy-tale appearance, which goes perfectly for the ambiance of a wedding.

With this in mind, photographers should always look at diffusing harsher lights where possible. This can be particularly prevalent at weddings, with peak booking in the summer. Direct sunlight can often be too severe for this type of photography and create unfavorable shadows. Of course, shooting at sunset would make a perfect compromise in terms of lighting but photographers don’t often dictate the schedule of the day.

© Brett Harkness

To make the most of the natural daytime lighting, you can bounce this light from other surfaces such as walls or even the wedding vehicles.

Alternatively, you can venture indoors to make the most of windows, doorways and archways to channel lighting on the couple, making for some dramatic shots. You don’t have to be directly in sunlight to make the most of natural lighting.

Contrasting this to the night-time of the event, where darkness falls outside and the lights become bright and colourful inside as the party gets started, bouncing light can be a great method for interesting pictures. Flash can often be unflattering, and as these rooms are often lit from overhead, you’ll want to use this light bounced from the floors and walls. Of course, this doesn’t mean that flash can’t be used at all. It will simply need to be diffused so it doesn’t appear so obtrusive and harsh.

On occasions such as these, where you only get one chance to capture a moment before it passes you by, it’s best to be as prepared as possible. Make sure you take adequate equipment with you.

You can get a good idea of what you’ll need by visiting the location prior to the big day. This will not only give you a chance to discuss the photography style with your client, but should give you an insight into what equipment you’ll need for various shots.

Although not used all that often for wedding photography, it is becoming increasingly popular to use mobile lighting equipment. Certainly for the quieter points in the day, the couple may want a few pictures taken of the two of them alone, in a scenic area of their venue. Setting up studio lighting equipment can not only change the appearance of the images, but can make them feel like they’re on a photo shoot and getting their money’s worth of their photography investment. Not to mention, reflectors and stands are also ideal for other occasions such as group photographs.

As for the more practical and hand help equipment, it’s important to use it alongside your surroundings. Although flash photography is generally quite unflattering, take a flash anyway, with a diffuser, so the images aren’t so unforgiving. You could also make use of your flash on a particularly sunny day. The harsh sunlight can often darken an image. Instead, head for the shade but use your flash, to reduce squinting eyes and glaring light, whilst still making use of the outdoors.

Don’t underestimate the little extras, particularly in winter weddings. Fairy lights, lanterns and the ever-popular Chinese lanterns can create a soft glow in images that add to the dreamy imagery that many couples want to achieve in their wedding photos.

Whatever equipment you choose, don’t forget to pack extra battery packs! Your camera and flash will need to last through an entire wedding day.

Brett Harkness is a wedding photographer from Manchester, United Kingdom.

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