Finding Great Window Light for Weddings
Let’s face it, getting perfect light shooting weddings is almost impossible. Quite often we don’t have great light to work with, but it’s our job to make it happen. Find that light and work it! Despite being known for my off-camera flash work, I’ll go to available light first if I can find it. Here are a few ways I work window light throughout the day, many times using the same window and getting very different results.
When I arrive at a wedding, I take a look around and find areas that will work for shooting details, such as the bride’s dress, the rings, shoes, and anything else that might be pertinent. Typically, we’ll be in some kind of hotel room, and most rooms will have a big window—the bigger the better—that provides great light anytime of the day, rain or shine. Let’s start with some details.
Believe it or not, all three of these shots were done in the same place, using the same light. For the first photo, shooting a white gown against a white background can be tricky, and by nailing the exposure you’ll get great results. The key for me is to expose for the center of the gown, therefore overexposing. That creates a nice, soft flare around the edges of the gown. For the second shot, I placed the bouquet on the minibar and used a reflector to my left of the shot. Then I opened the curtains and placed the shoes on the window for the third shot. Using the direct sunlight, I expose for the highlight area of the shoes, so as not to blow out any detail. I also purposely stop down to f/8 so I can capture the effect of the city and hold the detail in the blue sky.
Once the details are finished, it’s usually time for our clients to get dressed. Whenever possible, I’ll use this same window light and shoot directly into the light as I did with the first photo. The key here is to establish your exposure and lock yourself into manual mode. This way, as you’re moving your lens around, the exposure won’t change. Using that same window light, here’s an example of the bride putting on her earrings.
Alternatively, you can change your angle, and get something completely different.
Working that window light sometimes requires you to speak up. Don’t be afraid to ask the makeup person if she’d like to work over by the window instead of by the mirror. Move that furniture and get to work!
Using that same window, I grabbed this portrait of the bride and groom.
Here’s another example of less-than-perfect lighting and taking advantage of what you have to work with. In the shot below, it was pouring rain and an outdoor, available-light portrait wasn’t possible. No problem! Where’s the window? Work that window light—it’s fast, easy, and if you work your camera settings, you’ll be amazed at the results you can easily achieve.
Jason was the special guest on Scott’s blog. Did you miss that post? Go give it a read, here’s the link! Now if you have your beautiful natural light shots, try this “Start to Finish” wedding shoot from David Ziser. We have a bunch more wedding courses too!