Photography is light. Plain and simple.
When photographing a wedding, things move quickly. We must develop the ability to find the good light quickly, instinctively, so that we can quickly take advantage of it, get the shot, and move on to the next thing. In my book, Weddings: From Snapshots to Great Shots, I talk about this a great deal, and offer tips – and even homewok assignments – to help train the eye to notice subtle differences in light.
While editing a recent wedding, I noticed this series of images that really illustrates this point. I often ask my couples to wander along a path during their portrait session; they feel less self-conscious when they are in motion, and I can study the subtle changes in light as they meander from spot to spot. When they hit the sweet spot, I’m ready to capture it.
Here they are at the start of this path. I was happy with the great late-afternoon light brushing the top of her veil and running along her side.
One more step, and… ahhhh… magic. The light is now wrapping around her face, and edging his, and bouncing off him back onto her, to create this amazing fill on her face, giving her a beautiful, golden glow. Looking over the images, can you see the progression, and the difference in the quality and mood of the third image as opposed to the first?
Train your eye to notice these types of subtle changes. Practice shooting a lot, really paying attention to the light, and think about these questions: Where is it coming from? What quality does it have (harsh, soft, golden, bright white?) How does changing your position change the way the light looks in the image? Pay attention to the light even when you’re not shooting. Just notice.
The more you do, the more innate your sense of the light will become – which means that you’ll be able to react more instinctively, more quickly, and more effectively when you are in the heat of a wedding shoot!