Saturday 24 April 2010

Shooting a wedding in strong sunlight

My website: Wedding Photographers in Kent

A selection of images with EXIF data from Michelle and Andrew's wedding, photographed last weekend on a very sunny day at St Mary's Church, Walmer and The Jackdaw Pub, Denton. Please check out their wedding gallery.

In this post I thought I'd talk about some of the strategies available to use on a sunny day to minimise the impact of strong, contrasty light.

1/1600, f/4, ISO 100, ‒ 1 EV, 22mm, 16-35mm f/2.8L II

The image above shows the typical results of shooting in strong sunlight - high contrast and lots of shadows. It's also very easy to lose highlight details under these conditions which is not very flattering for a bride's dress. One very useful strategy is to underexpose by a stop - in Av mode dial in -1 stop of exposure compensation (EC). Shadows regions can then be lightened in post-processing.

Another option is to use flash to fill in the shadows. On a very sunny day, however, it's only possible to do this close-up to your subject - which generally means head and shoulder shots only.

1/100, f/2.8, ISO 2000, ²⁄₃ EV, 24mm, 16-35mm f/2.8L II

Always distinguish between quantity and quality of light. There was plenty of light outside but it was of low quality. Inside the church there was only a small quantity of light but it was of much better quality. Positive EC takes into account the bright background.

1/125, f/2.8, ISO 1000, ²⁄₃ EV, 16mm, 16-35mm f/2.8L II

Shooting wide allows you to gather in the maximum amount of light - notice how I was able to reduce the ISO setting compared to the previous shot.

1/200, f/3.2, ISO 2500, ‒ ⅓ EV, 80mm, 70-200mm f/2.8L IS

1/500, f/2, ISO 800, -1 EV, 35mm f/1.4L

I knew there was a pool of light striking the aisle. I dialled in -1 stop of EC just before they stepped into it.

1/800, f/2.8, ISO 50, ‒ ²⁄₃ EV, 35mm f/1.4L

Back outside. Ignore the old adage about having the sun over your shoulder. This leads to flat lighting, squinting subjects and ugly shadows. Try and put the sun behind your subjects or to the side.

1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 50, ‒ ²⁄₃ EV, 35mm f/1.4L

During a sequence of confetti shots the camera locked focus on a piece of confetti - I've not had this happen before. I quite like the effect though.

1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 50, ‒ ²⁄₃ EV, 35mm f/1.4L

Again notice how I've positioned myself so that the sun was behind my subjects and used negative EC to preserve highlights.

1/400, f/4.5, ISO 200, ‒ ²⁄₃ EV, 35mm f/1.4L

Look for open shade - an area where there is no direct sunlight but still a reasonable quantity of light. This is great for group shots. Any light reaching the subjects' faces will be soft, reflected light. Outside the church there was just the shadow from a tree but it was enough.

1/160, f/8, ISO 200, ‒ ²⁄₃ EV, 35mm f/1.4L

I couldn't squeeze everyone under the tree but since the people in the background are smaller the poor quality of light hitting them is less distracting.

1/125, f/2.2, ISO 800, ‒ ²⁄₃ EV, 85mm f/1.2L II

Back inside for lovely soft reflected light. Bliss!

1/125, f/2.5, ISO 1600, 2 EV, 35mm f/1.4L

Shooting contre-jour - against the light - which gives attractive rim-lighting. Notice the +2 stops of EC!

1/800, f/2.8, ISO 50, 1 EV, 31mm, 16-35mm f/2.8L II

Shooting with the sun behind them.

1/640, f/2.8, ISO 50, ‒ 1 EV, 200mm, 70-200mm f/2.8L IS

Side lighting is much more forgiving. -1 stop of EC just preserved highlights.

1/320, f/1.6, ISO 1000, ‒ ⅓ EV, 35mm f/1.4L

Back inside with soft light.

1/160, f/1.4, ISO 1600, 0 EV, 35mm f/1.4L

Not much light but of a reasonable quality.

Any comments or queries are welcome.

My website: Kent wedding photographers


Sara Reeve said...

Ooh you are great David, this is really interesting. I'm impressed with what you can do with quite small patches of shade (with the group shots) and sun (in the church as they're walking out). Wedding photographers must be the only people at weddings hoping for a nice dull grey day!!! xx

David said...

Thanks Sara!

Lighting conditions in order of preference:

1. Blue sky plus a few clouds (particularly a big fluffy one covering the sun!)
2. Overcast
3. Full on sunshine with no clouds
4. Rain



Unknown said...

May have my 1st wedding at the jackdaw (fingers crossed) this year. This may become very useful.


Nick Beal :-)

David said...

Thanks Nick! I can't believe I wrote this 4 years ago.