When I am photographing a wedding or an engagement session it is all about the light. Composition and creativity are important to me, but I try to embrace the light around a scene to bring out the best possible image. Lighting can change a subpar image into a beautiful moving moment that the couple will cherish forever. My goals are to always flatter my bride or couple through positioning, to keep us on the timeline, to have a great time, but also capture the moments in a beautiful way. Incorporating lighting techniques in the correct way can often take these moments to the next level.
I love natural ambient light just as much as any natural light photographer but I wanted to be a photographer that if put in any circumstance could rise to the challenge to shape light to capture the beauty of the moment. As a wedding photographer who is on the move all day I need to make things simple because sometimes you only have a few seconds to capture that fleeting moment in the day. Also, if you ever find yourself without an assistant, having an easy light setup can be a lifesaver. This is why I fell in love with off-camera flashes and modifiers. Magmod makes the best light modifiers that are durable and super easy to use.
Most of my sessions tend to be outdoors. The soft summer breeze or fall leaves slowly tumbling from the sky make it my favorite place to be.
I have found the best time to meet a couple is one and a half hours before sunset or up to thirty minutes before sunrise. This will give us a bit of time to talk and get comfortable before we start shooting.
Often I will use the sun to backlight my couple, then use a touch of off-camera flash, or sometimes on-camera flash with a MagBounce. The sun will create beautiful rim light, but we won’t lose the detail of their faces in a silhouette.
I really like to use the ring of fire at engagement sessions with the sun to make things unique and frame the couple with light. While I like to stay away from mid-day sun for these sessions, there are times when it’s unavoidable. In these cases, I embrace the harsh light and will compensate with OCF to overpower the sun.
I love using beautiful window light without flash in the getting ready spaces just as much as any natural lighting photographer. When light shines in through the window it forms a cone of light, I look to place my subject at the edge of that fall of the cone light. Keep in mind that a north-facing window will diffuse the light the most.
If the light is harsh you can use a sheer curtain to diffuse the light much like a softbox, or have the subject step away from the window a bit more.
Side Lighting is great for photographing a bride or groom. With a bride I have her turn her face to the light and keep her body towards me. Just ask them if they have a preferred side.
If there are no windows I will often use on-camera flash and bounce it off of the wall or ceiling. I point my flash at 45* or 90* depending on location. You will want to be careful doing this in a room with green paint, etc because that color will be cast on your subjects.
I also carry a super mobile light stand for getting ready photos to capture the hairspray shot or if the room doesn’t have natural light or has red walls or something. When using my flash I am diffusing my flash with the Magsphere or narrowing the light with my MagGrid.
I can’t tell you how much I love the first look. My couples love them too because they get to see each other the first time and spend a few moments together before they walk down that aisle.
First looks typically happen between 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. when the sun is still high which doesn’t make for the best light. Given the situation of the first looks you may not be in a beautiful location so we look for either open shade (sometimes deep shade) and something interesting to place them in front of.
It is great when there are clouds in the sky because they are natural diffuser making the sky overcast.
When using open shade I love to use a fill flash, I will either bounce it off of a surface, use the Magbox or one of my Godox V860II’s with a Magsphere. When I shoot in open shade or deep shade I will use a 1/4 or 1/2 CTO gel because in the shade you lose a bit of warmth.
I love an outdoor ceremony and I get to photograph those pretty often. The lighting can definitely be a challenge and I always suggest that my couples get married after 3 p.m. With it being a ceremony you can’t control positioning of the couple or lighting conditions. The only thing you can control is where you are shooting from, so work those angles.
I will chat with the officiant to ask that we can use fill flash during the processional & recessional. Depending on their officiant you may not be able to use flash. If that is the case I just use good angles to overcome the harsh light.
When we do family formals it can still be a time of the day that isn’t the best so it’s important for these that we overcome the lighting. We look for a space that is shaded, beautiful or interesting for the backdrop such as a fireplace, or where the ceremony took place.
We almost always use our MagMod Magbox for these. It is so easy to set up and is a great way to diffuse the light from flashes, creating soft light that is very flattering for family portraits. I also like to use the available ambient light and typically photograph these a little brighter than most of the day. Sometimes if you are getting too much sun you may have to use a scrim which will help diffuse the light coming into your scene.
Couple Hour/Romantics/Bridal Portraits
I love photographing these about an hour to an hour and a half before sunset but that usually isn’t the case. We will typically try to use the same techniques from our engagement sessions. We backlight/rimlight with the sun, turning the couple in the light to get catch lighting.
I will use fill flash if in open shade or will bounce off a neutral/white space with the MagSphere and a CTO gel. I will use OCF using two V860II’s and using one as a transmitter or will use my Godox Xpro to control both of the lights depending on the effect I am trying to achieve.
I love to set up my lighting in a triangle or a square shape, depending on the venue shape, configuration & coloring of the walls & ceiling. Keep in mind when setting up your lighting that you need to avoid unsightly shadows that are being cast by columns, people or large floral centerpieces on the tables. It is great to go high with your flash system; I like to keep mine at 10 feet or higher pointed up at the ceiling at 45 degrees but it is totally according to the venue space.
I use Godox V860II’s or Godox AD200 — it just depends on the space. I love doing starburst shots when getting a room shot for my couples and my vendor friends.
We set up the night shot before ever involving the couple, and then I grab my couples when they have a few minutes of downtime during the reception. Couples usually love this time when they can cool off from the party and spend a moment to celebrate each other.
We set up rim lighting when photographing a night shot. I use my Godox AD200 or my V860II’s depending on the ambient lighting outside. It is often pretty dark.
A kiss of light is usually what I am going for because I like a moody vibe to my night shots. I love to use the MagGrid to funnel the light on just my couple to create a romantic nighttime vibe and keep from lighting up the scenery around them. Depending on the shot I will use two to five flashes to create something unique & artistic for my couple.
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I feel so incredibly grateful that I get to be a curator of the creator of important memories for my couples on their most important day. I am honored to share this information with you & love living out my passion photographing & mentoring other photographers.
Elizabeth Lloyd is a Wedding Photographer for couples who love deeply and appreciate artistic and creative images they can treasure forever. She is a light ambassador for Magmod, and she has a passion for light and creating beautiful & dramatic light to document every wedding. A Two Bright Lights editor’s Choice winner, Elizabeth has been published on many blogs and in magazines as well. She has won awards from Fearless, Wedding Photographer of the Year in St. Louis, Wedaward, and Shoot and Share. Elizabeth loves teaching light and off-camera flash and mentoring other photographers. She loves deeply and has been married to her high school sweetheart for 19 years! She has 3 kids and they love traveling and chasing adventures together. In her free time, you can find her reading a good book, cuddled up with her dogs, watching The Office and drinking several cups of coffee! You can follow Elizabeth on Instagram & Facebook.