Tuesday, September 1, 2015


A professional photographer uses the best light for each situation and subject.  The challenge of wedding photography is creatively using the many different types of light that you may encounter in an eight to twelve hour wedding.

These are the typical lighting situations/techniques:

  1. Natural Light outdoors and Window Light.
  2. Available, artificial, interior light (e.g. a mix of incandescent, florescent and candle light).
  3. Flash mixed with available light (Dragging the shutter).
  4. Flash Only.

As a professional you need to be good at using all four sources of light.  In my photography business ( http://www.thestorytellersUsa.com )doing weddings, these past 25+ years, I learned that 90% of the important images—the images people BUY—are those done with techniques #1,2 and #3.  With the huge increase of capability and quality in professional digital cameras I’d say that this figure is too low.  Outside of the studio, I rarely use technique #4 (flash only) at all!  

My  personal goal on every wedding is to create great portraits of the bride and groom by natural light (outdoors) or by window light if we don’t have an outdoor location.  Many times I’ll use both portrait types to give them some variety.  Why this goal? Simply put these sources of light are the BEST types of light for portraits.

Natural Light Outdoors:
 f2.8 @ 1/500 sec., ISO 1600
One of our techniques to get more variety, in less time, out of each pose is to have my wife Kathi, placed 90 degrees to the side, from my camera position, getting candid images in B&W, while I’m doing color portraits of the couple facing me.

 f5.6 @ 180sec., ISO 400                                  -                   f9.5 @ 1/250 sec., ISO 1600
The color portrait of our bride & groom is typical of my outdoor natural light technique. I placed them in this exact spot—building the portrait from the background forward—so the tree is framing them and that great backlight is illuminating her veil. The B&W image on the right is, again, one of Kathi’s done off to the side while I was getting images of the groom facing me.

Window Light:

This is my favorite light for candids or portraits of the bride.

 f9.5 @ 1/60 sec., ISO 400                    -                         f6.7 @ 1/30 sec., ISO 400
The main difference between candids and portraits by window light is that I don’t show the light source when doing portraits.  Just like in the studio I want my light source close to my subject without it being seen. In a portrait you don’t want a very bright hot spot taking attention away from your subject.

 f13.0 @ 1/4 sec., ISO 400
Window light is fabulous for cake portraits too! If there’s window light available I’ll have the cake moved so I can create this kind of image.  I know it’s a pain and you may get sour looks from the reception staff, but you must be in charge of everything that affects photography.  If that means removing the stacks of places the staff has placed on the cake table (just to make their job easier) and redecorating the cake table (which we almost always do), so be it!

In Part #2 I’ll continue down my list of lighting situations/techniques we must deal with in photographing weddings.  Should you have any questions or comments don’t hesitate…’Til next week…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman, Certified
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

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