That is quite possibly the worst blog title I have ever come up with, but it's also who I am as a person.
Today I want to talk a little bit more in-depth about different types of outdoor lighting, what makes them important, and how they can all influence the tone of your photo album.
For the sake of consistency, I'm not going to use any other photo examples from past client albums, instead I'm only going to use my tall, dark, and handsome boyfriend as my constant variable in this little "experiment". I have dragged him outside of the house three times for this on various days. (Thank you, honey.)
So first and foremost, let's talk about my, and many photographers', least favorite lighting scenario – harsh midday sunlight. I want to make a disclaimer that not all photographers are the same, and that there are certainly ways to make harsh sunlight work in beautiful ways. With that being said, many photographers might typically pray for clouds during a 12pm wedding ceremony rather than sun. So, why is this?
I've gone ahead and posted all four of these types of lighting side by side above, so that we can compare the ambience directly. For me, the image with the harsh direct sunlight in Figure A is the one I find the least flattering. The reason for this is because midday sun acts almost like a giant flashlight that is being held directly over the client's head, which causes cutting shadow edges and also washed out, flattened highlights. Not to mention, lots of squinting!
Now as I said, there are ways that a photographer can combat harsh sunlight. Typically, we might try to lead our client to a more shaded area, or rotate them away from the sunlight, if at all possible. However, a wedding ceremony is a bit trickier – interrupting and telling the whole wedding party "Hey guys, this is all very touching, but how about we just scoot on over to those trees and pick up where we left off!" is obviously not going to go over well.
So let's move over to Figure B. These photos were actually taken at the same exact time around 12:30pm, we just moved over to some shaded trees. We're still getting all the happy energy of a bright sunny day, we're just using the foliage to diffuse that light and give his face (and the camera) a bit of a break. Now we still get our cheerful vibes from the beautiful weather, but we can rescue our shadows and highlights. This is a great way to have that bright sunny wedding you've been dreaming of, without sacrificing your photos.
Now, for Figure C. These photos were also taken on the same sunny day, but we waited to go back out a second time at about 7pm to the same location (did I mention Mehran is such a patient man?) Now that the sun is at a much lower angle in the sky, we're getting more of a glowing, romantic ambience; I've used a couple different color palettes to experiment. This is personally my favorite type of lighting, and for good reason. This time of day is lovingly named "Golden Hour" by photographers around the globe, because it creates the most ethereal light. Golden Hour is the hour (or two or even sometimes three) before sunset, and yes, it works the same way with the first couple of hours after sunrise! Ultimately, you'll find that this is the time that many photographers might suggest when it comes to things like an engagement session.
And finally, let's touch on the fourth photo. The Figure D photos were taken on a different day when it was cloudy, though its still taken at the same midday time of around noon. Compare them to Figure A – isn't it crazy what a difference those clouds make? Even though we're still standing in the same open field, where previously the harsh sun was beating down on us, now the same lighting has been extremely softened; the clouds are now acting as our filter. One of my favorite things about overcast days – and I think they're very underrated – is that you really do have more flexibility about the time of day for photos. Almost any time looks beautiful!
Now I know, it's everyone's hope to have warmer, sunny tones in their photos, but to be perfectly honest I've always been in love with the moody tones that overcast days can offer us. It's definitely a soft type of lighting worth creating a whole Pinterest board for. You might even change your mind too!
Now, what can we do with this information? I think there are definitely uses for direct midday sun, depending on the photoshoot and the purpose its serving. In fact, I think there's opportunity for very creative uses for it (so if you're a photographer reading this, please don't kill the messenger!) I'm strictly speaking from the standpoint of wanting to inform and educate my clients on how to achieve the type of ambience they're looking for, especially during an event as important as their wedding.
I'm going to be the last person to tell you what to do with your wedding day, but I think lighting is something to take into consideration, and it really depends on where photography lies on your hierarchy of priorities. If photography is lower on your list and you simply want your day to be documented, then by all means, have your wedding whenever and however you want it. If that happens to be smack in the middle of a meadow or a sunny beach at 12pm, do it. You get to interpret what your dream wedding means to you.
However, let's say that photography is actually really high in your priorities; you really want to capture a romantic ambience or cinematic vibes. In that case, I think it would really benefit you to weigh your options when it comes to the time of day. This is where I would recommend, first and foremost, to have at least part of your wedding day in the late afternoon or evening. If you needed some of your wedding to take place during midday, you might consider where you could have it without being interrupted by too much direct sunlight. Maybe that's under a forested canopy in the woods. Maybe that's with the aid of an outdoor pavilion, or a barn that has inlets for natural light. Or maybe you might even consider a very moody, overcast part of the world. Ireland or Iceland would be beautiful destinations for gloomy cinematic photos, or even somewhere like Seattle!
What it comes down to is this – I don't think anyone should tell you what you should do with your wedding. God knows I am going to be the most particular bride when it comes to my own! But as a photographer, my job is to get you the best photos I possibly can for the price that you're paying. I'm writing about this topic because I think you deserve all the tools and knowledge you can get in order to weigh your options properly, so then you get to make the most educated decisions about what defines your wedding day. Because depending on your vision for the photos, lighting will have an impact! And I want you to have your ultimate wedding, in its finest and most complete version that it can be, photography and all.
Morgan Ofsharick specializes in business headshots, proposal, engagement, wedding, maternity, newborn, and family portrait photography, servicing New Haven, Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, Litchfield, and plenty of other regions around Connecticut! –MEO Photography