This is the final part of a series on Wedding Photography. Read earlier parts of the series at:
Work with what you are given
You can prepare for everything and every eventuality for a wedding, but the one thing you can’t control is the weather.
The optimum conditions for a wedding shoot is a slightly overcast day; producing bright, yet even light, which will not only flatter your couple and other subjects but allow you to record as much ambient light as possible, thus lowering ISO and resulting in sharper, cleaner frames. However, as controlling the weather is out of your hands, wedding photographers must learn to adapt to shoot in any environment.
Although the guests will adore a bright blue sky and hot sunny day, the photographer may secretly be praying for cloud cover. If you are confronted with a harshly lit day, bear in mind the best light will come in the morning and evening, so it could be a good idea to set off even earlier to get the bridal prep and location images in good light and if possible leave some of the romantic couple portraits until the sun lowers in the sky.
There are a few other tricks one can also use to counteract the harsh light, for starters move in closer to your subject, focus on details and if you can shade the subject in some way this will help to avoid shadows. Don’t be afraid to head in doors and position the couple next to a clean and ideally – veiled – window for softened light and even consider the use of a polarizing filter to cut out reflections and reduce contrast or flash to fill in the shadows when frames are backlight.
Furthermore, you can actually create some emotive silhouettes when shooting into the sun, simply position the couple between you and the sun so they appear in completely in shadow, this may mean that you need to move lower or to the side to get the best position. Another trick is to have the sun behind you and have the couple walk away hand in hand – perfectly lit. Remember to set a white balance according to the light conditions, or even bet learn to set it manually for completely accuracy and to recover details in a blown-out white dress when this is the focus of your frame underexpose the image by a stop or two.
If it rains on your wedding day it is said to be lucky, but try telling that to a disappointed bride. As with harsh sun, there are a few ways around the rain and after a downpour it can even lend itself for naturally creating saturated colours and magnify details, which can be teased to greater effect with a polarizer – so as soon as there is a break in the shower grab your couple and quickly get those frames in the bag.
This is where your pre-shoot recce pays off, as hopefully before the shoot you visited the venue and identified places where you could photography romantic portraits and the all important group shots should this situation arise. Look for large windows indoors to position your couple next to and capture some evenly lit frames.
Use a flash for indoor captures, employing a diffuser to soften the harshness of the beam and also incorporate some if the ambient light. Finally if you do shoot outdoors in the rain, whilst your couple are positioned under the safety of a porch for example, use a raincover or at the least a plastic carrier bag, to protect your camera and lens and if it’s windy utilise a tripod ideally pulled down with your camera bag or a bag full of rock for extra stability. You could also ask a willing guest to hold the reflector and bounce any available light onto the couple for that extra degree of improvement.
Working in snowy conditions and cold temperatures will quickly deplete your camera and flash batteries so make sure you pack a few fully-charged spares and keep them as close to your body when not in use.
Whilst a snow-dappled churchyard will undoubtedly make for a beautiful setting, getting the right exposure can be a nightmare; underexpose and you’ll have a grey canvas, overexpose and you’ll lose those all important details. Take a few trial shots to correctly identify what settings work using the histogram for guidance, or bracket exposures.
Always set your white balance manually before you start and it is advisable to shoot in RAW if your camera allows it as this will provide you with more scope for adjustment at the post-production stage. When you and the couple are finished shooting outdoors, have a second camera already waiting for you indoors as the one you have just been using will need to be left in a safe area by the entrance – gradually being moved into the building in stages to allow it to warm up slowly to avoid condensation.