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Bride Guide – Planning for Good Light

Wedding Prep/Getting Ready

At first thought, “getting ready” on your wedding day can seem like a dull chore, but we’ve found that the excitement, anticipation, and emotion leading up to your first look or ceremony is so special when shared with the people you love.

The laughter between you and your friends, the look on your mother’s face as you slip into your dress, and the letters often exchanged  between loved ones truly make this time some of our favorite to capture and good lighting can make all the difference.

Our biggest recommendation here is to find a room with large, well lit windows that will light the room in an even way with the lights OFF. 

We often find that Airbnb’s make the perfect space to get ready in and offer more light and character than a congested hotel room (which often times are more full of suitcases, non-smoking signs, and questionable decor than good lighting).

Churches and venues often provide rooms to get ready in, which is great, but we highly recommend viewing the space BEFORE your wedding day.  We’ve often arrived to window-less rooms, kids schoolrooms, and dimly lit offices which don’t result in the most flattering imagery.

Reader’s Digest:

  • Avoid dimly lit rooms with mixed lighting (i.e. small windows with orange or florescent lighting). 
  • Look for large windows and spaces that will be full of light with the windows OFF. 
  • Make sure to keep the room clutter free. Have a dedicated space to store suitcases, bags, catering items, and attire!

The First Look

As I’m sure you’ve gathered from our “Why We Love First Looks” (INSERT LINK TO ARTICLE) material, we’re huge fans of this break from tradition.  While some couples dream of the moment they see one another at the aisle, we’ve never once had a couple regret their first look…but have had many regret the alternative.

If you choose this route, we’ll often scout around the area of your venue and find a private space with nice even light.  Often times the first look takes place between 11AM-3PM which doesn’t yield the best light for ALL of your portraits (think harsh sunlight, weird shadows, and squinty eyes), so we always try to carve out time right after the ceremony when the sun is closer to setting.

Reader’s Digest:

  • Brad & Jen will help find a private location with gorgeous and even light
  • Make time for photos later in the day when the sun can drop further into the horizon!

The Ceremony

We’re huge fans of outdoor ceremonies and living in the south has exposed us to so many fun and unique locations. But here’s the thing…most people think about the backdrop and forget to think about the light and the time of day – and that’s super important – for you, for your guests, and for your photos.

Wherever you’re planning to have the ceremony, our biggest recommendation is that you plan to be BACKLIT by the sun. This will ensure that we can control the light the best we’re able! See the diagram below. If it is not possible to be backlit, the next best option would be that you’re both be in full sun.

Because the light (and temperature) can be the most harsh mid-day we recommend avoiding the hours between 10AM and 3PM.  See example below where we run into harsh shadows, dark eyes, and uneven light between the bride & groom.

If your timeline allows, we’ve found the best time for your outdoor ceremony would fall 3 hours prior to sunset.  If you’re scouting your venue months prior to your wedding, use the SUNSEEKER app on your phone and you’ll be able to see where the sun will be any day of the year!

Here are some examples below!

Backlit: If the sun is out, this will be the best option for outdoor ceremonies especially later in the day closer to sunset. Try and make sure the sun is just off center from where you both will be standing.

Uneven: This will be the hardest and least desirable for photos. I’m sure it’s quite obvious in the examples below, but we always hope to see both your faces as you share vows and make your way down the aisle as newly married :)

Shaded/Overcast: While we love a sun filled day, an overcast ceremony will be the best case scenario for lighting and comfort.  This will make sure you’re both in even light from start to finish and will preserve allll the details in your photos – from coloring, landscape, and skin tones.

Indoor: Just like the getting ready location, we highly recommend looking for a venue with lots and lots of natural light flooding in through windows.  Again, avoid mixed lighting here so we can keep colors and skin tones consistent! If natural light won’t provide enough light, make sure the indoor lights are bright and evenly lit – think rows of string lights instead of spotlights.

Mid-Day: Unless we have cloud coverage, mid day ceremonies will be really bright and can often lead to squinty eyes and harsh shadows…but that’s not always the worst thing. Just do your best to find a location that will provide even light on both you and your fiance as you stand at the alter.

Reader’s Digest:

  • Shoot for a ceremony time after 3PM for the best lighting
  • Opt for back-lit or shaded locations to allow for even light on you and your guests.
  • Use the SUNSEEKER app to help plan ahead!

Portraits (Your Photos)

90% of our weddings split time for photos between the first look (earlier in the day) and after your ceremony (~1.5 hours prior to sunset).  Remember that those glowing, light filled photos don’t happen at 2PM in the afternoon.  If we’re graced with sunshine on your wedding day we’ll have to make sure we create time after your ceremony to make images together.

Bonus:  You get a break from all your guests and get to spend more time soaking in all the feels of your wedding day :)

Reception

Before we bust out our flashes we like to capture speeches, cake cutting, and first dances with all ambient/natural light…which means the more light you can provide with sting lights, candles, etc, the better.

We know that each wedding in different stylistically, but a general rule of them is to provide the most light possible during speeches and dances and dim down the lights when it’s time for dancing. 

String lights provide a beautiful backdrop and are perfect for lighting your dance floor and eating areas. Just make sure to buy INCANDESCENT bulbs rather than LEDs :)

If you’re bringing in a band or DJ, we’d be cautious with using too much of their lighting.  While it can help “set the mood” it can be extremely dim for photos without a flash and result in dark and unflattering images.

Try these Incandescent cafe lights from Amazon – they are the BEST of lighting a space and are super affordable at only $50!

Lastly..

Light and weather will always be a toss up and we can never plan perfectly, so our biggest recommendation is to assume the sun WILL be out…and if it ends up being cloudy, great! We’ll have consistent lighting all day!