Many people want a natural light ceremony whether indoor or outdoor. It's all the rage! This post is geared towards giving you information about natural light wedding photography-when it works and when it doesn’t, and to also dispel someone common misconceptions about natural light photography. Natural light is also referred to by photographers as ambient or available light, so if you were every wondering what those 2 terms meant now you know!
First let’s dispel some common misconceptions.
1.) Using Flash or off camera flash will always look unnatural or like there’s a flash in my face. Wrong-Most photographers use on or off camera flash to soften shadows during a wedding ceremony. When this is done correctly and by a professional you can’t tell a flash has been used at all. We use flash to soften harsh shadows; thereby, retaining detail that would be lost if we just used natural light. Take a look at the photo below. Is that natural light?
The Groom’s face is darker, because the sun is behind him. If we had not used flash in this scenario his face would’ve gone too dark to see him. You may ask, “Why don’t you just brighten the image in camera?” If we did that, the whites would then be “blown out” meaning they would go completely white, and then they would lose all detail.
2.) Natural Light is better. Right and Wrong. Sometimes natural light is better, faster, softer, etc to suit our subject or direction, but not always. I prefer to use the ambient light whenever possible, because it has a wonderful quality to it especially at sunrise and sunset. Imagine when the sun is high in the sky right before sunset, and it is behind you. If we were to take your photo you would have 2 options in regards to results with no flash. We will make the whole picture brighter in the camera alone, and the beautiful golden color has now turned white. In fact, the entire sky is white. Or we expose for the sky to make sure it comes out pretty, and you end up becoming a silhouette. That could be a beautiful artistic photo, but you certainly wouldn’t want ALL of your wedding photos to look like that. Now imagine retaining some of that gold sky detail, and having enough light on you, but you say, “Won’t that look flashy?” Well, it could if it’s the flash built in to the camera or sometimes if it’s bare bulb flash, but professional wedding photographers have a whole host of funky little gadgets to easily soften that light, and allow that light to make you look fabulous!
3.) My Wedding Photographer says they ONLY do Natural Light Photography, so they must be REALLY good right? NO! If someone identifies as ONLY a natural light photographer, then you will want to ask to see a FULL wedding from them. Most likely, they do not understand anything beyond the camera alone, and I wouldn’t put it past them if they didn’t even know how their camera works. As photographers we put our BEST work on our websites. I can only imagine what the natural light photographer’s portfolio would look like if they included everything in it.
When doesn’t it work for my wedding ceremony?
It doesn’t work when there’s speckled shade. Basically there is light coming down, most likely through tree branches, and it’s splotchy on your face. Imagine a leaf is blocking the sun and it blocks your whole eye out or something. In this situation I would use on camera flash with a Gary Fong diffuser to soften that light.
When the sun is to one side of you. If the sun is to the side of you, one of your faces is going to be extremely dark compared to the other.
If it’s cloudy and the sun is going in and out you will most likely need some sort of flash. You will have much more consistency in your wedding album if the photographer uses flash during the bits that the sun is out and not covered by clouds. My father and I call clouds “God’s diffuser”, and clouds can give the light a very even quality.
It doesn't work indoors in dark lit places or the quality or direction of light is bad.
When natural light can work beautifully!
Overcast days-The light is diffused and more even.
Golden Hour - The light starts to go lower producing longer shadows, and it is softer.
If your venue includes continuous beautiful lighting specifically for the ceremony.
Indoors if there is a good quality and direction to the available light.
Open Shade- The light will be even with no harsh shadows.
The photos below depict Natual Light Wedding Photography taken down in Columbia, SC. It rained all day during Hurricane Matthew, so it was mostly overcast by the time of the ceremony. (Pssttt...The Groom's name is Matthew.)
Thanks for reading, and as always if you have any questions, please email me!
Fine Art Wedding Photographer Rock Hill, SC and Charlotte, NC
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