Lighthouse Photography

What is the most ideal time of the day to shoot wedding photos?


When I talk to many couples, they often stress the importance of photography to their wedding day. Naturally, they expect great results when they hire a professional wedding photographer and invest considerable time and money on it. However, there is one thing that the wife and husband-to-be often overlook and yet it has the greatest effect on how the wedding photos will eventually appear -the time of day. Lighting is the primary reason for this .Having been a wedding photographer for about twenty years, I have only heard a few couples raise the issue of the best time to shoot their photos so as to maximize on the lighting. This is perhaps due to the fact that most couples that are arranging for a wedding are not photographers. So lighting and photography is not something they deal with everyday, and they probably do not know how it will affect the appearance of the photos. But it is even more likely that the reason behind the time of day not being given a lot of thought is that the photo session is just one part of a wedding day program-to be done when the time comes as indicated on the schedule. This indicates how crucial the photos are, and how much the couple is ready to compromise.

THEREFORE, WHAT IS THE MOST IDEAL TIME OF DAY FOR WEDDING PHOTOS?

If any photographer was asked to select the best time of the day for wedding photos, most likely they would base their decision on the time the sun sets for that time of the year and the geographical location of the wedding venue. However these times change constantly, so the goal will usually be to catch what is referred to as Golden Hour at the final stages of the photo shoot. This time varies over the course of the year, but there are internet tools that can help to calculate when it will be for a given area. A simplified method is to find out the time the sun sets in your city and subtract one hour. But the sun will set too early in late November (4.40 pm) and it sets quickly at that time of the year. In addition, the off-season is characterized by a lot of overcast days which removes the advantage of the Golden Hour –something I will tackle later.

WHAT MAKES GOLDEN HOUR IDEAL FOR PHOTOS?

Maybe you have seen photos with a dreamlike golden sunlight where everything seems like it is bathed in a flawless mixture of light and warmth. If you have, you will instantly know it is the Golden Hour. That warm light cannot be anything else. Because sunset light is extremely directional, a photographer can manipulate the light in so many ways .They can create stunning warm lens flares and shadowed highlights by shooting against the light. The photographer can shoot with the light to create a more contrasting, dramatic appearance.

The lighting provided by the setting sun also allows us to utilize other techniques and get more creative ;for example we can create silhouettes. Generally, we cannot do this using the light at midday or when it is overcast. So long as it is not overdone when shooting your wedding photos, having a few silhouettes can add variety and enhance the dynamic feel of your photo collection.

Lastly, for the wedding photographers who use off-cam lighting, Golden Hour produces a background that has some of the most fascinating and vibrant skies. This makes it possible to make very artistic and impressive portraits. While off-cam lighting can be a bit unwieldy, it certainly has its strong points if it is employed correctly and prudently. If you have enough time ,off-camera flash photography can elevate your craft to the next level. But if you are pressed for time it is better to skip off-cam flash and focus on completing your shoot normally. For the reasons I have explained, I prefer to employ off-cam flash during engagement party photo shoots, not for wedding photography .

SUNSHINE, SHADE, OVERCAST-HOW THEY COMPARE

From the outset, let us mention the most widespread misunderstanding -having a lot of sun at midday in June is very bad when it comes to lighting. As a matter of fact it is extremely challenging. The midday sun emits a jarring overhead light that obscures the subject’s eyes, accentuates dark, deep eye sockets and creates a nasty glare on those without hair. While the sky might look blue, it often looks like a blown-out whitish haze when looked at eye-level in pictures. This can result in a cheapish look even when using the fanciest lens .Oftentimes photographers are forced to compromise and make sacrifices, exerting great care when setting their camera exposures. Making it too dark loses the shadows and the photo looks grainy. If it is set slightly too bright any highlights disappear. The situation is made more difficult by the fact that the bride will appear in white with complex details in a lot of photos while the groom will be in a dark suit.

After midday the sun is more at an angle, not straight overhead-and this produces more shade from the nearby structures. Shade is crucial to a photographer for several reasons. It enables better contrast management and reduces squinting among subjects. It is also more flattering and does not accentuate flaws and blemishes. Shade is normally a photographer’s biggest ally and it is never enough. In fact, it is something photographers compete for.

Having seen the problems of midday sunshine and the virtues of shade, let us talk about overcast days. An overcast day offers the opportunity to simply put lighting out of your mind and concentrate on other things. You will not have to think about whether the sun is in front, behind or on the side. You do not have to create shots around harsh spots of sunlight and shadows. You can express your creativity freely without getting stressed by light. But remember there is no Golden Hour when working with overcast lighting.

WHAT MEASURES CAN THE WEDDING COUPLE TAKE IN ORDER TO GET THE BEST WEDDING PHOTOS?

Whereas it is not practical to expect the bride and groom to center the whole wedding program around photos, there are several things you can do in order to achieve the best photos. Below are a number of tips that are worth thinking about- whether you are a photographer, wedding planner or the bride or groom.

  • Arrange your photo shoot to be as close to Golden Hour as possible.
  • In case the photo session can only be done at a particular time, organize to have a number of photos with the wedding couple while the sun sets.
  • Get a photo location with taller structures and shelter. Shade is crucial.
  • Set sufficient time for a photo shoot. This makes it possible to realize good results in the majority of the wedding scenarios. A hurried photo shoot is never the best option.
  • Research thoroughly in order to find the most inspiring wedding photos-and note down the time they were taken. You can even share this information with your wedding photographer. Here is an extra tip; occasionally there is something known as EXIF information that can even show the specific time and date that the photo was taken.
  • If you are a photographer you must manage the expectations of your clients.
  • Try to find out what they want and check if the wedding day schedule can allow it
  • Allow the photographer to do their work! The little gate across the street might look good to you, but if it is half-concealed in a harsh shadow with uneven light streaming through a tree and there are jumbled reflections falling on it from an adjacent building, the results will not be pleasing

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