Tips + Techniques

Next-Level Lighting Skills for Wedding Photographers

August 24, 2020

By Jacqueline Tobin

© Justin Haugen

The photographer found himself elbow to elbow with crowds at this courthouse wedding. His lighting stands didn't make it through the metal detectors, so he needed to get creative with what he had and use a "tight spotlight" effect.

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We’re highlighting all the ways that photographers can amplify their wedding and engagement shoots with artificial light. No matter where you are on the spectrum of lighting skills—the practical and rudimentary, the creative and complex—here are ways to up your game and impress wedding and engagement clients.

For even more lighting knowledge, check out the ways of honing the essentials in portrait lighting, delving into artistic and cinematic lighting setups, expanding your repertoire with more creative techniques, perfecting how to photograph with only natural light (and, when you don’t have it, how to imitate natural light no matter where you are), and mastering your lighting tools.

How to Use Strobes in Tricky Shooting Locales at Weddings

© Cami Zi Photography

Strobe lights can let you capture photos that reveal beyond what the eyes can see, which is a particular boon when you’re documenting a wedding. Photographer Cami Grudzinski, a Rangefinder 30 Rising Star of Wedding Photography in 2017, explained how she uses strobes to by breaking down three different tricky lighting scenarios, including a stormy wedding scene (pictured above) that incorporates the dark clouds and string lights without detracting from focus on the couple. Grudzinski shows how she uses her strobe lights to flatter clients, spotlight the location’s peculiarities and highlight interesting textures within the scene.

Making Color Pop with Your Lights for Vibrant Wedding Portraits

© Justin Haugen

Lighting really takes center stage in a photograph when it works hand in hand with vivid color. Because our eyes interpret the tonality of a scene differently than cameras do, there are myriad ways to surprise your wedding and engagement couples with creative lighting. We asked Tucson-based photographer Justin Haugen to explain how he uses his lighting gear to amp up his creativity as he’s photographing the love between his newlywed clients. One of his secrets, he told us, was to work with “the least amount of gear possible to get impactful results, control unwanted spill on nearby surroundings, and make subjects immediately recognizable in a scene, often by using color to help them stand out.”

Six-Figure Wedding Photography: Seamlessly Incorporating Off-Camera Flash

© Luke and Ashley

In explaining the steps to becoming a six-figure wedding photographer, Ashley Beasley had to delve into off-camera flash (or OCF), a key tool that changed the game for her and her husband and business partner, Luke, as they documented weddings. To attract their ideal clients, Beasley explains, they needed to get more serious about producing consisting higher quality work, which meant creating beautiful photos every time, no matter the scenario.

“Understanding OCF and learning how to use the gear will only grow your business,” Beasley says. “We live in an area with a lot of dark wedding venues. Over the last few years, we have booked couples solely based on their confidence in us to shoot in their dark venue without taking away from the ambience. We’ve turned to off-camera lighting to accomplish this.”

Give Your Wedding Subjects the Spotlight with Pye Jirsa’s Clever Lighting Techniques

© Lin & Jirsa Photography

Lighting lets you focus the viewer’s attention on the most important part of the image and cast shadow in areas you want them to more or less ignore. In wedding and engagement photography, more often than not that means you want to focus your light on the couple. Lighting master Pye Jirsa explains how he has used lighting as a spotlight on his subjects in creative and unexpected ways on the wedding day. He explains what he set up and why, and how his exposure played major roles in bringing the vision together.

How to Fix Bad Lighting When While You’re Photographing a Wedding

© David Stanbury

From location scouting to packing the right lights and modifiers to keeping some compositional and post-processing tricks in their back pockets, there are plenty of ways to overcome difficult lighting. UK-based photographer David Stanbury, for instance, looks for images that fulfill what he calls his “Stanbury triangle” of great location, lighting and emotion. “I look for all three of them, but even if I just get two or even one, I’ll be happy.” If the light is bad, but the location or emotion is still powerful, it can “take some of the pressure off” having less-than-ideal light for an image, he adds.

8 Tips and Techniques to Photographing Sparkler Exits at Weddings

© Katch Silva

You have to catch that perfect storm of focus, direction, timing and settings when you’re photographing sparkler exits at weddings, and it’s always over in a flash. Katch Silva lends advice to balancing these elements and explains one key tool to help you out: the AF Assist Beam on your flash. “What we’re trying to do is use your flash to pop in a really small amount of light right into your couple’s faces while the background stays the same,” she says. “This takes a bit of practice and planning ahead, before the exit begins, but it’s well worth it!”