Wedding Photography 101 (Part 3)

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This is the final part of a series on Wedding Photography. Read earlier parts of the series at:

Image by Deann Barrera

Work with what you are given

You can prepare for everything and every eventuality for a wedding, but the one thing you can’t control is the weather.

The optimum conditions for a wedding shoot is a slightly overcast day; producing bright, yet even light, which will not only flatter your couple and other subjects but allow you to record as much ambient light as possible, thus lowering ISO and resulting in sharper, cleaner frames. However, as controlling the weather is out of your hands, wedding photographers must learn to adapt to shoot in any environment.

Sunny day

Although the guests will adore a bright blue sky and hot sunny day, the photographer may secretly be praying for cloud cover. If you are confronted with a harshly lit day, bear in mind the best light will come in the morning and evening, so it could be a good idea to set off even earlier to get the bridal prep and location images in good light and if possible leave some of the romantic couple portraits until the sun lowers in the sky.

There are a few other tricks one can also use to counteract the harsh light,  for starters move in closer to your subject, focus on details and if you can shade the subject in some way this will help to avoid shadows. Don’t be afraid to head in doors and position the couple next to a clean and ideally – veiled – window for softened light and even consider the use of a polarizing filter to cut out reflections and reduce contrast or  flash to fill in the shadows when frames are backlight.

Furthermore, you can actually create some emotive silhouettes when shooting into the sun, simply position the couple between you and the sun so they appear in completely in shadow, this may mean that you need to move lower or to the side to get the best position. Another trick is to have the sun behind you and have the couple walk away hand in hand – perfectly lit. Remember to set a white balance according to the light conditions, or even bet learn to set it manually for completely accuracy and to recover details in a blown-out white dress when this is the focus of your frame underexpose the image by a stop or two.

Rainy Day

Image by Liliana

If it rains on your wedding day it is said to be lucky, but try telling that to a disappointed bride. As with harsh sun, there are a few ways around the rain and after a downpour it can even lend itself for naturally creating saturated colours and magnify details, which can be teased to greater effect with a polarizer – so as soon as there is a break in the shower grab your couple and quickly get those frames in the bag.

This is where your pre-shoot recce pays off, as hopefully before the shoot you visited the venue and identified places where you could photography romantic portraits and the all important group shots should this situation arise. Look for large windows indoors to position your couple next to and capture some evenly lit frames.

Use a flash for indoor captures, employing a diffuser to soften the harshness of the beam and also incorporate some if the ambient light. Finally if you do shoot outdoors in the rain, whilst your couple are positioned under the safety of a porch for example, use a raincover or at the least a plastic carrier bag, to protect your camera and lens and if it’s windy utilise a tripod ideally pulled down with your camera bag or a bag full of rock for extra stability. You could also ask a willing guest to hold the reflector and bounce any available light onto the couple for that extra degree of improvement.

Snowy Day

Image by Anna Jarske

Working in snowy conditions and cold temperatures will quickly deplete your camera and flash batteries so make sure you pack a few fully-charged spares and keep them as close to your body when not in use.

Whilst a snow-dappled churchyard will undoubtedly make for a beautiful setting, getting the right exposure can be a nightmare; underexpose and you’ll have a grey canvas, overexpose and you’ll lose those all important details. Take a few trial shots to correctly identify what settings work using the histogram for guidance, or bracket exposures.

Always set your white balance manually before you start and it is advisable to shoot in RAW if your camera allows it as this will provide you with more scope for adjustment at the post-production stage. When you and the couple are finished shooting outdoors, have a second camera already waiting for you indoors as the one you have just been using will need to be left in a safe area by the entrance – gradually being moved into the building in stages to allow it to warm up slowly to avoid condensation.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) is the former editor of Digital Photographer magazine, and is now a freelance journalist and photographer who has written for dozens of photography and technology magazines and websites over the last decade. Recent author and tutor too.

  • Good point you can not control the weather and I agree your best approach is to embrace what you have – verses complain about it – make it a challenge. Some of my best photographs have been created on cloudy and snowy days. Still nothing wrong with a beautiful blue sky.

    I wonder who has had the worst weather, but still came out with great wedding photographs. I’d love to see more examples.

    Rosh

  • Having a good/ bad weatehr plan is wht sets you aside from the ametaur snappers….

  • Thanks for the great set of informative articles. As of yet, I haven’t shot a wedding but, these tips will be very useful in various events. I’ll be shooting a fundraiser this weekend and will be using some of the advice in the earlier two articles.
    Thanks again.

  • “Work with what you are given” is a great thing to lead this post with, and should be the mantra of the on location (i.e. outside a studio) photographer. Nothing like being able to improvise on the fly. That is a key skill needed. I had one beach wedding last year ( http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/6/10/morning-wedding-at-sunset-beach-on-treasure-island.html ) for 10am. That may still sound a bit early but for Florida in June the heat is already on and by the time the ceremony started the sun also was high in the sky. Fortunately it was a west facing beach so water shots were possible, but the bride was soon overheating in her dress so I had to make sure to give her and the groom enough break time in the little shade available while still keeping them motivated to take photos as in ten years they will sure be glad they did.

  • Pam Rauber

    How important it is to read up on wedding photography. It reminds you of things you know but forget. A recent wedding with a reluctant bride was set for 2pm on a beautiful spring day. The ceremony was outside in front of a barn facing west and a concrete drive. To no avail, the bridal party had to be photographed on that spot. Squinty eyes by everyone from the white drive they stood on. The bride insisted all members be side by side to give width instead of taking direction to step ladder and bring everyone closer in which now meant photographer (me) had to stand further back even with a wide angle lens and included the drive.
    Bad on my part, I allowed my emotions from this argumentative, controlling bride to distract me and I forgot I could have played the sunny 16 rule. I was able to salvage in Lightroom but I’m the type who prefers to shoot SOOC with minimal editing.
    It wasn’t until later when going through the photos that I remembered this bride came from a very poor background and this was her day to give the illusion of grandness. She had seen photos of bridal parties extended instead of grouping closer in stepladder effect.

  • Elly

    My first wedding shoot was in January in Tasmania, Australia and Tasmania is know for unpredictable weather, and even though it was the middle of summer it was an overcast gray day. When we went to the gardens to shoot we had to stay under the gazebo because it was drizzling and obviously we didn’t want to get wet so we kinda sat around in there just taking a break . When there was a break in the clouds we quickly walked to another part of the garden where there is a hot house with a water fountain feature a few arched door ways so we took some shots in there until the rain stopped.

    You just gotta do what you gotta do- I reckon weather creates a challenge and forces you to become creative at trying to find alternative shots- like everyone says, work the weather into your adventure rain, hail or shine!

  • weddings should be reserved for photographers that have a solid grasp on lighting and a firm knowledge pf photography. please dont shoot them if you are not ready and if you liked this article you are not ready

  • It’s almost either very sunny or raining in Singapore. Typically the daily weater forecast foes : sunny with light showers in the afternnon.

    I find one of the most handy tool to ahve is a Huge coloured umbrella.
    My assistent will either use it to shield me from the rain, or to shileld the couple from the sun

  • sallie

    I think the tips and advice in these articles are very informative and useful. I “liked” this article and I have done a wedding where the bride and groom were very pleased with my work and are using me again for a photoshoot of their children soon. So dont take this the wrong way Bryan but we all got to start somewhere, right? Thanks to DPS we can get useful info to guide us. One day I aim to be a proffessional wedding photographer amongst other tthings and on my way to getting their I’m soaking up as much advice as possible.

  • Seems like a lot of ppl on here are trying to put others off photographing weddings….. do they have a commercial interest? Photographing in strong light, harsh contrast….. shoot in the shade – modern DSLR’s love low light. Also, where you can….. exclude the sky! Shoot againts a backdrop with a 70 -200 and don’t have any sky showing, often makes for a better shot!

  • I love the info these articles provide. I have no mentoring support to learn from. So what I can gain from this source is awesome. Thankyou.

  • Jake Kwaks

    I’m really having fun reading your article. And at the same time, I’m getting tips on it and learning as well. Two thumbs up for this!

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Some Older Comments

  • Jackie April 4, 2011 05:36 am

    I love the info these articles provide. I have no mentoring support to learn from. So what I can gain from this source is awesome. Thankyou.

  • Paul April 2, 2011 08:09 pm

    Seems like a lot of ppl on here are trying to put others off photographing weddings..... do they have a commercial interest? Photographing in strong light, harsh contrast..... shoot in the shade - modern DSLR's love low light. Also, where you can..... exclude the sky! Shoot againts a backdrop with a 70 -200 and don't have any sky showing, often makes for a better shot!

  • sallie April 2, 2011 06:06 pm

    I think the tips and advice in these articles are very informative and useful. I "liked" this article and I have done a wedding where the bride and groom were very pleased with my work and are using me again for a photoshoot of their children soon. So dont take this the wrong way Bryan but we all got to start somewhere, right? Thanks to DPS we can get useful info to guide us. One day I aim to be a proffessional wedding photographer amongst other tthings and on my way to getting their I'm soaking up as much advice as possible.

  • Singapore guy April 1, 2011 02:24 pm

    It's almost either very sunny or raining in Singapore. Typically the daily weater forecast foes : sunny with light showers in the afternnon.

    I find one of the most handy tool to ahve is a Huge coloured umbrella.
    My assistent will either use it to shield me from the rain, or to shileld the couple from the sun

  • bryan April 1, 2011 02:12 pm

    weddings should be reserved for photographers that have a solid grasp on lighting and a firm knowledge pf photography. please dont shoot them if you are not ready and if you liked this article you are not ready

  • Elly April 1, 2011 03:33 am

    My first wedding shoot was in January in Tasmania, Australia and Tasmania is know for unpredictable weather, and even though it was the middle of summer it was an overcast gray day. When we went to the gardens to shoot we had to stay under the gazebo because it was drizzling and obviously we didn't want to get wet so we kinda sat around in there just taking a break . When there was a break in the clouds we quickly walked to another part of the garden where there is a hot house with a water fountain feature a few arched door ways so we took some shots in there until the rain stopped.

    You just gotta do what you gotta do- I reckon weather creates a challenge and forces you to become creative at trying to find alternative shots- like everyone says, work the weather into your adventure rain, hail or shine!

  • Pam Rauber March 31, 2011 10:24 pm

    How important it is to read up on wedding photography. It reminds you of things you know but forget. A recent wedding with a reluctant bride was set for 2pm on a beautiful spring day. The ceremony was outside in front of a barn facing west and a concrete drive. To no avail, the bridal party had to be photographed on that spot. Squinty eyes by everyone from the white drive they stood on. The bride insisted all members be side by side to give width instead of taking direction to step ladder and bring everyone closer in which now meant photographer (me) had to stand further back even with a wide angle lens and included the drive.
    Bad on my part, I allowed my emotions from this argumentative, controlling bride to distract me and I forgot I could have played the sunny 16 rule. I was able to salvage in Lightroom but I'm the type who prefers to shoot SOOC with minimal editing.
    It wasn't until later when going through the photos that I remembered this bride came from a very poor background and this was her day to give the illusion of grandness. She had seen photos of bridal parties extended instead of grouping closer in stepladder effect.

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer March 29, 2011 04:34 am

    "Work with what you are given" is a great thing to lead this post with, and should be the mantra of the on location (i.e. outside a studio) photographer. Nothing like being able to improvise on the fly. That is a key skill needed. I had one beach wedding last year ( http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/6/10/morning-wedding-at-sunset-beach-on-treasure-island.html ) for 10am. That may still sound a bit early but for Florida in June the heat is already on and by the time the ceremony started the sun also was high in the sky. Fortunately it was a west facing beach so water shots were possible, but the bride was soon overheating in her dress so I had to make sure to give her and the groom enough break time in the little shade available while still keeping them motivated to take photos as in ten years they will sure be glad they did.

  • fortunato_uno March 29, 2011 04:06 am

    Thanks for the great set of informative articles. As of yet, I haven't shot a wedding but, these tips will be very useful in various events. I'll be shooting a fundraiser this weekend and will be using some of the advice in the earlier two articles.
    Thanks again.

  • bycostello March 28, 2011 08:33 pm

    Having a good/ bad weatehr plan is wht sets you aside from the ametaur snappers....

  • Rosh - Detroit Photographer March 28, 2011 09:18 am

    Good point you can not control the weather and I agree your best approach is to embrace what you have - verses complain about it - make it a challenge. Some of my best photographs have been created on cloudy and snowy days. Still nothing wrong with a beautiful blue sky.

    I wonder who has had the worst weather, but still came out with great wedding photographs. I'd love to see more examples.

    Rosh

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