Lighting Techniques for Weddings with Andre Brown
We know that weddings can be extremely unpredictable. You can do all of the preparation in the world, but as the famed fighter Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” And I’ve been punched in the mouth enough times (figuratively, of course) to know that I always need a few tried and true methods in my back pocket for those unpredictable moments.
With so many moving parts, you have to move quickly, be fluid and be ready for just about anything and everything. The best way I know to do so is by having my go-to Lighting Techniques for each part of the day. This often changes from day to day because no wedding is the same, but having them handy gives me a great baseline to ensure I can deliver a consistent aesthetic that my clients expect.
Window light will always be my first choice for wedding prep. There’s nothing like the soft glow of a large window illuminating your subject. As I start the day, this is my preferred light source to photograph details like shoes, jewelry, stationery, etc. I’ll then move on to the prep process with my subject. I’m typically shooting from the shadow side so that I can get the moody looks that I personally love so much. I also use the curtains to control the amount and direction of the light that comes through the window.
In those instances where you aren’t fortunate enough to have a large window as your light source, you can use off-camera flash to simulate a similar lighting pattern. One way to get this result is by using your top flash, pointing it sideways at a nearby wall. Once you click the shutter the light will bounce off of the wall then back onto your subject in the same manner as the light that comes through the window. Unfortunately, you don’t have curtains to help control the spill of light, so it may take a little trial and error to get it just right. But with a little practice, I trust you’ll be happy with the result.
A few years ago, photographer Michael Anthony made a video tutorial where he placed a speed light into an open closet with the light pointed at the back of the closet. Similar to the top flash example, when the flash is triggered, the light will bounce off of the wall and back onto your subject. What I like about the closet method is that you can control the light with how far the door is open or closed the same way you can control window light with curtains.
For ceremonies, I always go with one of two Lighting Techniques: cross light or flat light. At times it can be a little tricky depending on how elaborate the decor setup is. Ceiling treatments and flower-topped aisle pedestals can project unsightly shadows on your subjects and are difficult to navigate. So the setup I choose to use is largely determined by factors like that.