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How To Plan For Good Light On Your Wedding Day

How To Plan For Good Light On Your Wedding Day

Good lighting is a crucial ingredient in any good photography and an essential tool for any photographer who wants to capture a happy couple’s big day. And I am not just talking natural light, I am talking about ALL the light; fluorescent, ambient, direct, harsh, speckled, and low-lit. You may be the most stunning couple ever, but if the light just isn’t right, you will be left with dull, flat, and lackluster photos. As a wedding photographer, I want to decrease the light, move the light, and add to the darkness. Why? Because I want to make you like a freaking badass on your wedding day.

Any good professional wedding photographer can work with you to accomplish this by providing tips and tricks to help plan for the best lighting at different times of the day. That means considering the lighting for the getting ready photos, first look photos, ceremony photo, golden hour couple photos, and exit photos. So, let’s look at some things you should consider to plan for the best light during every moment of your wedding day, and a few simple things we can do to make your photos spectacular.

OH! Remember, what we discuss in the blog post is just a reference – there is no mandate that you follow any of this. Weddings (and marriages) are way more than timelines. It’s about your family, friends, and your loving commitment to another human being. Let’s always keep that in mind. This is just to reinforce our commitment to getting the best photos possible by providing couples with education on all things weddings! Because we love you.

How To Plan For Good Light On Your Wedding Day

Getting Ready

The quiet moments when the couple is getting ready are when many key emotional moments between the couple, their friends, and families take place in the relative calm before the main event. When lit correctly, these images can be powerful and beautiful. When planning your wedding day’s timeline, try to have the finishing stages of your wedding prep happen midday when the most light is available to fill your prep room with light. Consider also staging your prep in front of a large window, as the contrast, and silhouettes this creates lends itself to timeless elegance.

Bonus: An added benefit to filling your room with natural light during your prep is in the improved color accuracy and application of your makeup.

How To Plan For Good Light On Your Wedding Day

First Looks & The Ceremony

Most of our First Looks happen in the earlier part of the afternoon. It is usually right after the couple has put on their dress or their suit. At this time, what we try and find is even lighting as the sun is usually at it’s highest point in the day. And sometimes, it’s hottest. We will look for areas of shade outside, such as under trees or next to buildings. Inside, we will find dramatic window light for those intimate couple photos.

Y’all, we did an entire blog post on ceremony light alone! Yeah, ’cause it’s that important! Remind yourself to check out blog posts on how lighting affects your ceremony photos and planning for the perfect ceremony location. If your ceremony is going to be outside, avoid the timing of the ceremony during the midday sun. This harsh light will cause dark shadows under the eyes and around noses. This happens all while blowing out forehead shine and sweat. As a rule of thumb, any time between 10 am and 3 pm can suffer from harsh light. Of course, this is dependant on the weather and time of year. The perfect light in summer tends to be an hour before sunset, also known as the “Golden Hour.”

How To Plan For Good Light On Your Wedding Day

Speaking Of Golden Hour

Golden Hour can be witnessed at two times during the day. The first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset. During golden hour, the sun is at its lowest point in the sky. When the sun is low it produces a very soft, diffused light which is far more flattering than the harsh early afternoon sun. Golden Hour can create dreamy couple photos post-ceremony. Or with a later ceremony, your guests will be much more comfortable without the sun beating down on them. Especially those guests in full suit attire.

Even if couples decided to do a First Look earlier in the day, we will ALWAYS recommend golden hour photos. That time of day is just too beautiful to pass up. And don’t worry, we work those photos into your timeline so that you aren’t missing out on all the drinking and dancing at your reception.

Bonus: Avoiding the midday sunlight when it’s at it’s brightest also helps fight the tendency we have to squint during photos.

How To Plan For Good Light On Your Wedding Day

Into The Night

There are so many variables here when you’re dealing with entirely artificial light. And it varies stylistically from person to person and venue to venue. But, my vote is always to go for natural-looking warm light. Some examples would be simple Italian string lights that are a beautiful way to add a pretty bokeh effect to backdrops. These lights are ideal for outdoor backyard weddings and create a virtual room of light where no “room” actually exists. It’s an amazingly beautiful feature to include for any outdoor wedding.

Alternatively, and what we see a lot more, is DJ lighting. This includes uplighting inside a tent or along the walls. Some DJ’s will provide ‘laser’ lighting with their setups that can cast a fun colorful tint to your dancefloor. It totally adds to the party vibe! Neither one is better or worse, it’s just important to have a plan for whichever one it will be and rock it out!

We will also bring lights of our own and use them dependant upon the size of the room, the size of the dance floor, and the vibe of the wedding day. There are times where we will not use flash photography. Other times, we will use only our speedlites on our cameras or lights on stands around the room. Honesty, we usually do a combination of all three at a single wedding.

How To Plan For Good Light On Your Wedding Day

Planning for how the light will affect your wedding will allow your photographers to create beautiful wedding photos and memories that you will treasure for years to come. If you are interested in working with me for your wedding photography and capturing that gorgeous light, please fill out the information on my contact page, and we will set up a call!

How To Plan For Good Light On Your Wedding Day


Natural light + honest photographer for all humans.


Knoxville, Tennessee



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