Throwing Shade: A photographer’s guide to lighting on your wedding day

Throwing Shade:

A photographer’s guide to lighting on your wedding day

The simplest way to summarise photography is the ability to capture light and, just as importantly, the lack of light. “Available light” is a term that photographers use regularly to describe the sources of light presented to them in any given setting.

Knowing all of the different strategies to make the most of available light is one of the many skills a wedding photographer needs to have, but there are still a number of ways brides and grooms can practically plan their available light to make their photos look exquisite.

Prep Photos:

When it comes to photos indoors, the number one thing to remember is “the more light the better”. It’s far easier for your photographer to reduce the available light than create light out of nowhere.

When selecting the location you’re getting ready, try selecting somewhere with lots of windows and white walls. I recommend booking a house on Airbnb. Not only will your photographer thank you for good lighting, but your hair and makeup artists will love you too!

Whilst mirrors are also an effective and creative way of bouncing light around a room, try to avoid mirror overkill as this may impact your photographer’s ability to be discreet.

Ceremony Light (outdoors)

Outdoor Wedding Light

My strongest recommendation is that you position the entire ceremony so that the sun is directly behind where you are standing, or directly behind where the guests are seated. See the guide below.

There is an excellent app you should use called Sun Surveyor. This app uses your exact location to determine where the sun will be on any date, so you can hold up your camera and see the “sun” on any given day at any given time. How good is technology?!

**Avoid Dappled Light**

Dappled light is the spotty, uneven light that is created when the sun shines through a tree. For photographers, this kind of light makes it extremely difficult to expose for faces.

How to avoid dappled light during your outdoor wedding ceremony

  1. Choose a location with full shade coverage
  2. Set up an arbour with a ceiling or cover to stand under
  3. Hire a small marquee

Ceremony Light (indoors)

Indoor Wedding Ceremony Lighting

The same rule from the prep photos applies here: the more light the better. Specifically, the goal for anything indoors is to try and light it as much and as evenly as possible. That means that having one side of the room brighter than the other side should be avoided.

Strategies for increasing the available light inside include:

  • Find an indoor space with plenty of natural light. Windows, windows and more windows!
  • Open as many curtains and blinds as possible
  • Hanging extra fairy lights (Larger, festoon lights will emit more light)
  • Replace existing light bulbs with brighter bulbs
  • White light is always more flattering than warm/yellow light.

Pro Tip

Try to avoid getting married right in front of a window or open door. This might seem counterintuitive considering what I was saying about the sun for an outdoor ceremony. But our goal is to get as much of the room evenly lit.

Portrait Session

Your photographer will guide you and ensure that you’re being lit in the most creative, flattering and expressive ways. The beauty of light is there is no end to the ways it can be used to evoke emotion and tell stories.

High-key and low-key lighting are two of my favourite things to explore when taking portraits, but I usually spend most of my time using soft, natural light and backlight. Many photographers will also include artificial light in their arsenal, so be sure to do your research to find which style speaks to you and your fiancé.


Yep, that’s right. Now let me hear you say it with me: the more light the better!

Usually, by this point in your wedding day, the sun has gone down and we are dealing with purely artificial light. Most photographers will pull out a speed light flash, which bounces off the roof to evenly light the room. Flat ceilings work better for distributing light evenly than a slanted, or vaulted ceiling.

Indoor Wedding Reception Lighting

Dance Floor

Okay folks, are you ready to break the rules? It’s time to turn the lights off!! Well, not all of them. But let’s be honest – dance floors are way more fun the dark. No one wants to see you cranking out the Propellor after you’ve had a few drinks. Or do they…?

I’d suggest having 3 or 4 “party lights” that stay on but turn everything else off. If you’ve hired a quality band or DJ they should be all over it. But if you prefer to sort it out yourself, you can pick up super cheap stage lights online at Wish or eBay.


That’s it from me folks. Don’t be afraid to speak with your photographer about ways you can support them in achieving beautiful photos. From my experience, the couples who are open to advice on lighting and sunset timing are the ones who end up with the best photos.

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Henry Paul Photography acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. I pay my respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, and to Elders both past and present. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website may contain images or names of people who have since passed away.


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