We LOVE photographing outdoor wedding ceremonies. The fresh air, the sunlight, the natural backdrops. We love it all! Even though outdoor ceremonies are gorgeous, they can also be really challenging to photograph because it’s one of the only times during the entire day where we don’t get a say on where anyone stands in relation to the light. Often we find ourselves shooting outdoor ceremonies in really harsh, direct light, which presents so many problems for creating consistent, beautiful imagery. That’s why we want to share three quick tips for shooting outdoor wedding ceremonies in harsh light that should hopefully make things a little easier for you! So, without further adieu, here they are:
1. Have Dad Walk the Bride Down the Aisle on the Side that Blocks the Sun
Now in an ideal world, we have soft, even light from head to toe during every outdoor ceremony, but that’s just rarely the case! And the sun is always the harshest at the beginning of the ceremony, when the sun is still higher in the sky. Even though there is typically a “side” protocol for the bride and the groom during the ceremony, in all our wedding experience, we’ve seen Dad walk on either side of the bride as he escorts her down the aisle. We’ve found that when we put Dad on the same side as the sun, since he’s usually taller, he blocks the light that would be hitting his daughter, putting her in perfect, even, shaded light — which we love! As you can see in the picture below, as you look at the guests on the right side of the image, the sun is hitting them very directly, but the bride is shielded. Now, again, in our perfect world, Dad isn’t getting hit by the sun either, but if we had to choose, we’re always Team Bride first! You’ll also want to note the angle where we’re shooting (which we’ll get to in point two!)
2. Be Strategic About Side Angles
Even when the ceremony is earlier in the day, there’s typically one side that is softer than the other. It will always be the side that’s opposite where the sun is directly hitting. In this example below, you can see how powerful the sun is based on the way everyone’s hair is lit up. As you can imagine, if we had shot the ring bearer on the other side of his face, the whole thing would have looked harsh and un-ideal! And if we had shot him from the front, his face would’ve been spilt-lit (half over-exposed and the other half under-exposed) But shooting him from this one angle makes the light appear almost angelic! That’s why we find the best angle for the processional and stay there!
The same goes for the image above! Imagine if we had shot Kathleen and her dad coming down the aisle by standing on the side closer to the dad! Dad’s face would’ve been completely gone or Kathleen’s would’ve been way too dark! Shooting from Kathleen’s side was imperative to the shot. During portrait time, we always have full control of where everyone stands, but during ceremonies, we have little to no say at all, so angles are everything when it comes to ceremonies! Choose strategically!
3. Try Shooting From Behind the Altar
During church weddings, we’re typically restricted by the church’s rules on where we can stand, but during outdoor ceremonies, we have a lot more latitude. We always make sure that we’re respectful and discreet, but we also do everything we can to get the best images for our couples. If part or all of the front of the bride’s or groom’s face is in full blazing sun, it’s likely that from somewhere it’s not! We STRIVE for consistency in our images as much as possible even when we have no control over the location, meaning if we’re shooting the bride in shadows, we want to shoot the groom in shadows, too. It makes the images look SO much better for their blog and their album. So, a lot of times at ceremonies, we’ll walk around until we find the shadow side of both of their faces, and shoot those instead of the highlights side. We’ve found that a lot of times, back behind the altar gives us the most even light when the front angle just isn’t cutting it. Just look at the difference! The first photo is what you’re used to seeing on this blog.
On the left, you’ll see NOT our favorite angle (this was what it looked like from the front!). Notice the harsher, more direct light on her right shoulder and Nick’s left cheek. On the right, you’ll see our favorite angle, taken just seconds later, but from the back of the altar. This is an angle we’d shoot all day long because her face is in the shadows. What a difference, eh?
In our dream world, we’d get even light from head to toe from beginning to end, but that’s just rarely the case! As the ceremony moves along, the light typically gets softer, which is why we LOVE recessionals! But when you’re in a pickle, pick your angles strategically and remember that ultimately your number one job is to capture precious memories for your couple, regardless of the light!
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