Lighting is one of the most crucial aspects of photography to understand, but can also be the most challenging to master. As a wedding photography editing company, ShootDotEdit sees all of the complicated lighting scenarios that professional wedding photographers face. We reached out to several of them to discover lighting tips to help you shoot in any location.
During every shoot you attend, you will find yourself in various lighting scenarios. Because your couple hired to you shoot stunning images from their day, you have to know how to work through any lighting, in any location. Below, we share 9 tips for lighting in any situation, with a few insights from top lighting experts in the industry.
1) Identify Available Light
According to photographer Brett Florens, when you are on location, one of the first things you should do is identify the available light. Then, ask yourself a few questions. If you are indoors, what type of light is available? For outdoor shoots, what time of day is it? During the day, are you working with harsh or soft light? For night shoots, is there available street lights or any light coming from the sky? When you determine what light is available in your location, you can the decide if you can work with it or if you need assistance.
2) Diffuse the Sun
Another way to work with light, especially outdoors, is to diffuse the sun. Knowing exactly how to master the sun flare look while still keeping your subjects properly exposed is not the easiest look to achieve, so start by diffusing the sun. Find a location where the sun can be partially covered to your camera, while still allowing the light to shine onto your subjects. Locations that can help accomplish this look can be buildings or trees. This will still help you to achieve a beautiful backlit portrait while not needing to be in a location that has nothing to diffuse the light with, such as an open field.
3) Shoot Toward the Shadow
One of the most effective ways to take a clean photo of your subjects during a sunny and bright day without harsh shadows and highlights on their faces, according to wedding photographer Roberto Valenzuela, is to shoot toward the shadow. To navigate where you position yourself, look at your subjects and see where their shadows land. The great thing about this technique is it will work throughout the day until the sun no longer casts a shadow.
4) Utilize Off-Camera Flash
For light that needs assistance in your location, rely on off-camera lighting. It’s an effective way to control the amount of light for the image you capture. Off-camera lighting also allows you to shadows cast on your couples’ faces when the light is harsh.
There are several options to select from when determining the type of off-camera flash you want to utilize. Adding one strobe as a light source can be very powerful, and the light from it is strong enough to overpower the sun. This leaves you with complete control over the lighting situation. Speed lights are also useful tools for lighting your images. These are great for adding fill light onto your subject to reduce any unwanted shadows.
5) Add in a Video Light
As you shoot the wedding day, some locations may have conflicting light sources, like the reception. Whether you can control the distance of the light or not, a video light can overpower any ambient light and properly highlight the details of the location. By focusing directly on the object or individuals with the video light, you can accurately capture the details. To include some larger details, try highlighting one table in the room with your video light to make it stand out from the others.
6) Use Spot Metering and Focus
Shooting in light that is less than ideal can create an issue for properly exposing your subjects. Use spot metering to focus on your subjects and get the right exposure for them rather than the background. Spot metering is perfect for backlighting, and with a bit of practice, it can become simple.
In addition to spot metering, try using manual mode when focusing rather than automatic. Often, in harsh lighting situations, your camera can have difficulties knowing where to focus, and you can end up with a blurry image. To avoid this, switch to manual mode. It may take you a few additional seconds to capture the shot, but knowing that your image is in focus is well worth it.
7) Take Advantage of Backlight
Sometimes, the sun creates lines and unflattering highlights on the faces of your subjects. During your shoot, there may be times when shade is unavailable for you to work with. When executed correctly, backlight can transform an ordinary image to a stunning image. As you shoot with couples, and their loved ones, place them with their backs to the sunlight, and then toward one another, which will allow them to face away from the sun and have natural expressions.
This will allow them to block most of the direct light, which will ensure that their faces are evenly shaded. For you to eliminate the haze created by the harsh light, filter the light through something in the setting; trees or tall grass will work.
8) Use a Reflector
A reflector is a simple (and inexpensive) way to illuminate your subjects and remove harsh shadows when working with the mid-day lighting. Bouncing the light off a reflector will help create a soft, even lighting onto your subjects. If you choose to backlight your subjects, use a reflector to help focus and define your images. This will also allow you to keep more of the background properly exposed since there will be more light on your subjects. As you are working with the reflector, slightly move it around so you can see the effects it is having on your image. Just like you can control the lights from a flash, you can choose how much light you want on your subjects with a reflector.
Even if you do not have a reflector, there are several surfaces that can help bounce light and work as a natural reflector. Any light surface makes for an effective reflector. These surfaces can range from white walls, aluminum foil, and even white t-shirts!
9) Understand Window Light
When you shoot in a room, how often do you go directly to the window? According to Roberto Valenzuela, windows can provide you with light, but not all the light is created equally. Because of this, it is important to understand the difference between fill and direct window light. If you stand where your subject will stand by the window, and if you see the sun outside, that is direct window light. If you do not see the sun, that is fill window light. Most of the time, windows will act as a fill light, which will not be powerful enough to create much contrast in your images. With fill window light, you have to use a flash and create the sun in front of the window. Without a flash to assist the fill window light, you risk having unflattering light for your subjects.
Understanding how to use light in any shooting location is vital for your images. The more you can work with light, the faster you can capture the best images for your couples. Discover 26 pro tips from Roberto Valenzuela’s bestseller book Picture Perfect Lighting when you download our free Lighting for Wedding Photographers Guide!
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