Lighting for Great Wedding Day Photography

You might say good lighting is a photographer’s best friend.  Lighting is everything in photography especially for natural light photographers like me. That is the not-so-secret ingredient to my photographic style. When it comes to weddings, my main “focus” is capturing the natural, candid moments between my couples and their families and friends in the most beautiful way possible. For me, that means using natural lighting. In other words, throughout the day I use available light and only use my flash for the reception after the sun has set.  So, creating an ideal lighting scenario makes a big difference.

While it’s not critical that my couples know the ins and outs of good lighting, knowing some basics while planning out your big day can make the difference in getting the natural, gorgeous photographs we are after.

Getting Ready:
Some of the most fun, candid photos from the wedding day are taken while the bride and groom are getting ready and interacting with their closest friends and family.  The ideal lighting conditions would be a room with lots of light coming from nice, big windows.  A good way to determine if a room has good lighting is if the room is still bright and evenly lit (from the windows) when the lights are turned off.  Light, white or off-white colored walls will also help brighten up any room.  If at all possible, avoid dark rooms with florescent lighting.  Florescent lighting creates a blue-green hue that is unflattering on skin.  If the rooms provided by the church or ceremony location are less than ideal, it wouldn’t hurt to see what other spaces might be available.

First Look:
From a wedding photographer’s standpoint, there are many benefits to doing a first look.  The main reason I’m a fan is because of lighting.  Specifically, weddings in the fall and winter don’t have the advantage of daylight savings.  That is to say, it gets dark much, much earlier.  Often, it’s pretty dark by the end of the ceremony.  Doing a first look means we can take advantage of daylight before the ceremony for the photos typically done after the ceremony including portraits of the bride and groom, family photos and photos of the wedding party. (For more, check out “Wedding Day First Looks“)


With good reason, it’s not uncommon for Southern California wedding ceremonies to be held outside.  If you’re planning an outdoor ceremony, try to avoid scheduling it for the middle of the day.  Not only is it the hottest part of the day, but the bright sunlight from about 10am to 3pm can also be harsh and unflattering.  The perfect time for the ceremony is about two hours before sunset. The sun is much lower at that time of the day and the light it creates is just gorgeous.  As a bonus, this timing allows for photos after the ceremony.

My favorite time of day to do portraits of the bride and groom is the last hour before sunset aka golden hour, magic hour or, as I like to call it, happy hour!  If you are planning to do the majority of photos after the first look or just after the ceremony, I highly recommend planning on sneaking away for an additional 20 minutes during that happy hour for some lovely, romantic photos.  They may just be your favorite of the day!


The more lighting you can bring into the reception space, the better.  From strings of white bistro lights to tons of candles and big paper lanterns to dangling Edison bulbs, incorporating lots of different types of lighting can provide great ambiance for your guests and also create warm, natural light for photographs.

It is my job as the photographer to create great images no matter the situation or lighting but keeping these tips in mind will help me create gorgeous photos.  And, of course, I am here to help with any questions along the way.  I hope these tips will be helpful!


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