5 Reasons Lighting Matters for Your Wedding

If you are reading this post, there’s a good chance you are planning a wedding and have heard probably about 1000 times by now, “think about the light” or “you can’t have your ceremony at that time because your wedding photos will suck.” I’m here to tell you most of those points are full of crap. Yes, I am a wedding photographer who is telling you light DOES NOT matter on your wedding day. Well, light doesn’t matter IF you hire a skilled photographer who can shoot in any lighting scenario.

Throughout my entire career, I’ve been told my fellow wedding professionals that my portfolio isn’t consistent. You can’t show natural lit photos if you also want to show night shots. Or, your day time photos are too light and airy but your night time photos have too much color. You won’t get clients because they won’t know what to expect from you.

For the longest time, I listened to all these educators telling me what I was doing was wrong. I even separated all my night time shots from my daytime to make my portfolio look consistent. I was sick of trying to cater to my industry peers when my clients seem to be ecstatic with the diverse photos in their galleries. So, I’m here to tell you 5 reasons why lightING matters on your wedding day. Yep, I’m talking about your photographer being able to work in any situation regardless of the given light.

I’m not going to tell you when to have your ceremony. You do you. I’m not going to tell you to take any elemental light into consideration because that’s likely out of your control. I’m here to tell you why it’s important to hire a photographer who can give you the gorgeous images you expect despite any obstacles that may be thrown his or her way.

Here are 5 Reasons Why Lighting Matters on Your Wedding Day!

1. Not All Light is Created Equal

When I’m talking to a new couple for the first time, one of the most common questions I’m asked is “Have you shot at our venue before?” I love this question because it gives me a chance to rant about lighting. For the most part, all venues have walls, ceilings, and really awful florescent light. That’s why I bring my flashes to every wedding. I set them up in corners and you won’t even notice I’m using them, but skin tones would not be the same if I relied purely on the lights in the venue. My flash setup is the same at 99% of venues, so it doesn’t really matter if I’ve shot at your venue before because I know how to use my lighting setup.

2016 Main wedding reception

Not all photographers use off camera flash in the same way as I do, and that’s totally okay depending on the venue. If you are wanting light and airy photos, but your venue is a dark barn, you will need a photographer who uses off camera lights in order to get the desired look.

On rare occasions, I get a venue with awesome light. I’m looking at you The Haven Event Space. Yeah, they can control the color temperature of the lights and make it look amazing. Therefore, you will want a photographer who knows how to showcase the natural ambiance while still capturing the light and airy look. In these situations, I tend to use video lights in order to make sure your skin doesn’t reflect the color of the walls. No one wants purple or orange skin tones!

The Haven Event Space wedding reception

I’m not necessarily saying it’s better to hire a photographer who uses flash, video lights, or ambient light, but I am saying it’s important to hire a photographer who can capture your desired look regardless of the venue. When you are perusing portfolios, instead of asking if the photographer has shot at your venue before, ask to see a full reception from a venue with a similar vibe. That will be a good indicator if their style will mesh with your vision.

Excello Missouri wedding reception

2. The natural light might not be picture perfect

We all dream of picture perfect weather on our wedding days, but the universe occasionally has other plans. In ideal scenarios, the weather would be partially cloudy with beautifully diffused natural light. However, the ideal scenario rarely happens. The majority of weddings will be completely overcast or not have a single cloud in the sky. That’s why it’s important to hire a photographer who can still capture your outdoor photos in any lighting scenario. As a photographer, we naturally look for shade. No one wants harsh shadows, so shade is always good, but what if your venue offers very little shade and your only option for outdoor photos is in a very bright field. Your photographer should still know how to use this light to their advantage.

Outdoor wedding venue in Harrisonville Missouri

Some photographers choose to use flash outside in order to overpower the sun. Others position you in a way to avoid shadows. Some even use the shadows to their advantage to add mood to the images. If you are wanting light and airy outdoor images, you probably don’t want a photographer who uses dramatic lighting outside. If you are wanting moody images, you probably don’t a photographer who avoids shadows all together. Depending on the vibe you are going for, it’s always important to make sure your photographer can handle it.

In order to be sure your photographer has what it takes, pay close attention to their outdoor photos. Do they all have perfect light and look like they were taken during golden hour? Maybe ask to see a gallery from a wedding when all the portraits had to be taken during the harshest light of the day. If you are worried about rain and want to make sure your photographer can handle that, ask to see a gallery from a rainy wedding day.

Rainy wedding day portraits in Topeka Kansas

There is no correct answer on how to handle these non-ideal situations, but as I said already, just make sure the photographer you are looking to hire can capture your desired mood.

3. You plan on having a low lit reception

Another question I’m constantly asked is “My reception will be very dark. Can you handle that?” This goes back to my first point, but yes, most receptions are dark. Unless your reception is going to end before dinner, chances are it’ll be pretty dark. Some venues, however, are better at handling darkness. If your venue has white walls, this will reflect some of the ambient light, but if you are getting married in a barn or somewhere with darker walls, your skin tones will look very muddy if they do not use any sort of lighting. This might not be a problem for moody photographers, but if you are wanting light and airy photos, some sort of unnatural light is definitely required.

Or maybe you are having a candlelit ceremony after dark and want all the ambiance. You probably don’t want to hire a photographer who will brighten up the entire room with flash.

Once again, ask to see full reception galleries that reflect your desired feel for your reception.

4. You dream of having breathtaking sunset portraits

Not all sunset portraits are created equal and there are very different techniques photographers use during sunset. Some photographers shoot sunset portraits about an hour before sunset to capture golden hour. I personally prefer to shoot right at sunset, even a little after. The sky tends to look the best 15 minutes before sunset to 15 minutes after, so that is my preferred shooting time. That way I’m able to capture a few minutes of golden light before going into full panoramic sky mode. In order to capture the sky, I always use flash to make your skin look natural while also showing the sky’s natural beauty.

Sunset portraits at Eighteen Ninety wedding in Platte City

If you love golden hour photos and don’t care about seeing the sky, a natural light photographer will be perfect. If you want a photographer who exposes for the sky, you will want a flash photographer. Pay attention to see what type of sunset portraits your desired photographer takes. If you are wanting photos that show the sky, but you are only seeing blown out sky in their portfolio, ask if they have other images they can show you where they use flash. Occasionally the answer will be no and that’s totally fine. Just make sure whoever you hire can capture your desired look.

Sunset pictures on the Aspen Rooftop at the Stanley

5. You want an epic sparkler photo

Sparkler photos are some of my favorite images to capture because what you see is definitely different than what I see. I love creating an unnatural look, which doesn’t always show the ambiance. If you talk to a dozen photographers and ask how they photograph sparkler exits, you will probably get 12 different answers. Some prefer natural light to bring out the ambiance. Others prefer just backlighting the sparklers. There is no correct answer to how to do sparklers, just once again, make sure the photographer can shoot in the way you imagine your sparkler exit looking.

Sparkler exit in downtown Kansas City

In conclusion, there is no “right” way of shooting all these various situations, but there is always someone who can capture your vision. Make sure your photographer can work in the way you most desire for your wedding day because lighting always matters!

The Haven Event Space wedding reception

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Elizabeth is a Kansas City wedding photographer who specializes in bright and airy images.
kansas city wedding | kansas city wedding photographer | wedding reception lighting | why lighting matters
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