Ceremony Lighting Tips - Josiah & Steph Photography

This is one of the most difficult moments of the day for us to photograph. It means we are completely at the mercy of the lighting scenario. We wanted to write this blog to share our insight with you on what we think makes for the best ceremony lighting on the wedding day and how you can make the most of less than ideal ceremony lighting situations.

Outdoor Ceremonies

We love outdoor ceremonies because it means we can use natural light. It tends to be much more flattering and gives a more natural look to your photos. It often results in a much cleaner looking image as well because there is much more light. However, not all outdoor ceremonies result in great lighting conditions. There are certain ceremonies we’ve photographed where the lighting wasn’t ideal because of the way the sun was hitting the couple.

We’ve photographed ceremonies where the groom was in shadow and the bride was directly in the sun. This results in the bride being really bright and the groom being really dark. There’s been times where the couple has been under gazebos or archways in the shadows and everything else around them is in the sun and to properly expose for the couple, it means everything else around them is extremely bright. There are all kinds of situations we run into but the best ceremony lighting scenario is this:

Put the sun behind your officiant. That’s right! We want to shoot towards the sun in most situations. The sun doesn’t need to be directly behind the officiant. It can be anywhere from 0 degrees to 45 degrees behind them. This will result in flattering light on your faces and will make your photos look much more dreamy and beautiful. Even better, if you can get the sun behind your officiant and shining through some trees then this will create a golden glow in the trees behind you and soften the light even more.

Indoor Ceremonies

Ceremonies that take place indoors can be just as nice, but depends on how they’re lit. We tend not to love shooting in churches regardless of the religion just because we’ve found that the lighting can often be less than ideal. If you’re getting married indoors, that’s totally okay! Don’t take that the wrong way. We just find that outdoors often results in more flattering lighting scenarios, but we’ve seen beautiful images taken in churches. Here’s what you can do to make sure the images turn out great indoors.

A Few Tips:

First, make sure the lighting is evenly lighting the stage. We don’t want spotty lighting where a few people are in darkness and others are in light.

Second, tone down any lights hitting the walls behind your officiant. We find that churches often use really bright lights to bring attention to religious monuments, statues or areas of the alter. These bright lights tend to be really bright. This often puts our couple in a silhouette because they are brighter than the lights that are focused on our couples. General rule of thumb: the lights that are hitting you should be the brightest lights in the room.

If you want that light and airy look, all the lights should be evenly bright. No part of the space should be brighter than another. The best lighting scenarios for indoor ceremonies is to find a space with a lot of windows or natural light that can pour through and give soft, flattering light to the space. The exception to this is if the only windows in that room are behind your officiant. We want windows to be in front of you and not behind you or we’ll get that silhouette issue we mentioned earlier. 

Lighting is complex and difficult to explain, so let me sum up quickly. For outdoor ceremonies, we suggest that you place your officiants back to the sun. If you can time your ceremony to when the sun is shining through the trees then you’ll be in great shape! For indoor ceremonies, we suggest to evenly light the alter. Don’t forget to tone down any lights hitting the back walls to avoid being silhouetted against that wall.

We hope this was helpful and if you have any questions about timing for your ceremony, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments! Click here if you’re interested in reading more about if you should have an indoor or outdoor ceremony.

Ceremony Lighting Tips

For Brides

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