| Planning for Light on Your Wedding Day by Catalina Jean |

Great light = great images.

Light is absolutely the most important aspect in photography. Each photographer utilizes light differently and it plays a huge factor in the style of images they produce. 


Wedding photography is no different. Light plays one of the biggest roles in creating the romantic style that you fell in love with on your photographer’s website. The next step is seeking advice from the photographer you have hired on what kind of light works best with the style of work they produce. You can include as much or as little of the advice they give you for your wedding day as the most important aspect is your love story. However, any part of the advice you include in your decision making will definitely be helpful in creating romantically lit photos.

I do send an emailed paragraph of information on light to each couple that books their wedding photography services. However, I did want to write a post to expand on those tips. None of these are musts but taking them into consideration when making location/light choices can dramatically improve the look of your natural light wedding photography. 

I’m going to go through each part of the wedding day and provide examples on the most ideal light + location for wedding photography…




This is the time when the couple, bridal party, and family are getting prepped for the wedding day. This time can include getting dressed, hair + make-up, putting on the gown, etc. 

Choose a clean and bright room in your home or splurge on a unique hotel room (think The Ace Hotel in Downtown Portland), a roomy AirBnB, or a quirky B&B. The chosen room is free of clutter (like suitcases, piles of clothing, etc) and has plenty of windows providing lots of natural light. Hair and make-up as well as putting on the dress should take place near these windows as they will be the main light source. Don't forget about the groom! Give them a great spot with windows to get ready in as well. Also, make sure the room has plenty of space for the amount of people you will have with you for this part of the day.




Time to say “I Do!”

Outdoor Ceremony: Have your ceremony in complete shade if possible if it is going to take place between 10AM - 4PM during the summer months. This is also the hottest part of the day so your guests will be thankful to be in the cooler shady area. If shade is not possible it is recommended that you have your ceremony 2-3 hours before sunset. This is particularly important if you are getting married in a forest or under quite a few trees as mid-day sun can cause spots of light. If your ceremony is going to be in full sun it would be a good idea to check with your photographer on which direction you are facing as you will want the light to be either in front or behind you both evenly. Also never stand under awnings, gazebos, etc - stand in front of them to avoid harsh shadows.

Indoor Ceremony: Once again windows can really help provide beautiful light for indoor ceremonies. If there are no windows hanging large Italian bulb lights or another form of unique lighting can be really beautiful.




Photos of just you both and also with family and friends.

Bride + Groom Portraits: I almost always recommend to do part of the portraits earlier in the day and another part near sunset. Sunset provides the absolute best light for portraits. The couple and I usually sneak out from the reception for 20-30 minutes to take advantage of the beautiful sunset glow.

Family + Friends: For the most part it is best to take these photos in complete shade with a simple pleasant background. Your photographer will most likely have a few great spots in mind that will produce nice, evenly lit portraits.





Party Time!

Most natural/available light photographers like to use the least amount of camera flash as possible. I personally believe it creates a more cohesive look if the rest of the wedding day was shot in natural lighting. In order for a photographer to use no or very little flash the reception area needs to have some solid light sources during the main events (i.e. toasts, first dances, etc). 

General Reception Tips: Hanging strings of large Italian string lights, having candles on the tables, etc are great ways to light darker indoor receptions or outdoor receptions that will go into the night. The warm glow of these kinds of lights is beautiful and romantic. The more of these lights the better! One of the biggest lighting challenges I face as a photographer is when the DJ uses colored lights or lasers during the first dances. This causes whoever is dancing to be covered in colored spots. Please ask your DJ to stick with only white/clear light until the dance party starts. 

Indoor Receptions: Ask the reception venue to not dim the lights until after the main events have taken place. This also will make it easier for your guests to see these important events. 

Outdoor Receptions: The most perfect time to have your first dance for outdoor receptions is right when we return from taking sunset portraits. The glow of the sunset is still strong enough to light the first dance, which means you can take even more advantage of that gorgeous golden light.


That's it! Light is everything when it comes to photography so feel free to reach out to your photographer for assistance. They will be happy to guide you through making the best decisions to get the most out of your wedding photography. 



About the Author: Catalina Jean loves anything sci-fi, has little sense of direction, and spends her free time snuggling her crazy Boston Terriers. She is a wedding photographer based in Portland, OR specializing in capturing artistic portraits paired with unique storytelling moments to produce natural, emotional wedding photography.