It doesn't matter what we are photographing; A wedding, a commercial shoot, family photos, fashion. We constantly run into issues with lighting (or lack of!) and a large part of our job is explaining to our sweet clients how much of a difference lighting can make in your photos and the overall vibe of your finished product. Any light can garner amazing photos with the right photographer, but if you have a vision in your mind of how your photos will look then it's great to know what to expect!
Read on for the different types of lighting and their pros/cons below to make sure you're planning the photos of your dreams and not stuck in a lighting situation that you didn't plan for!
1 Indoors Mixed Lighting
This is probably the most common indoors lighting situation that we come across, especially for weddings and commercial photography! For those of us living in climates where we don't have wonderful weather for a large part of the year, an indoors location is a necessity. A mixed lighting source typically means that you have one light source of natural light (like a large window, a sliding door, etc) as well as indoor artificial lighting. The problem with this is that natural light comes across as cool light on camera, and artificial light can cast an orange or yellow tone. When you mix these in a photo, you're often getting a variety of strange shadow placement + conflicting colour tones. The easiest way to handle this is by turning off all the artificial lighting in a room, and allowing the only light source to be the natural one. The resulting photos will be higher in contrast and drama, and make for some beautiful black and whites!
If you're looking at an indoor location for your photos, try to pick a place with as large of a natural light source as possible. Other things to look out for are light/neutral coloured interior walls, and minimal furniture (floor space is key!). All the photos below had a large and substantial light source and the ability to stand near it, making for great photos!
2. Indoors Artificial Light Only
Wedding receptions, evening events, commercial on location with mood lighting. There are some instances where the only light source at all will be artificial lighting! This doesn't have to be a bad thing - it creates a ton of ambiance and evokes emotion and memory! However, paying attention to the colours and placement of your lighting is super important here! Colourful uplighting can be fun for your party, but be aware that it will probably cast a colourful glow on you/your guests/your subject. You'll either end up with a lot of late night black and white photos, or have to accept a beautiful purple stripe across your face mid-dance (ha).
Light placement is another important factor. If you are in a dark room lit solely by candles on a tabletop, you may end up with some uplit faces (think about holding a flashlight under your chin while telling ghost stories), or only the people/items nearsest to the light source showing up in photos. Alternatively flash can be used for photos that are too dark!
3. Outdoors Mid-Day/Hard Sunlight
This one is really common for early wedding ceremonies, destination weddings in a hot climate, commercial fashion shoots, and family photos on a limited schedule. Often non-photographers assume that a bright, cloudless sunny day is perfect for photos - however this is probably the most challenging of all lighting situations. Photos taken outdoors when the sun is highest in the sky without clouds are usually more crisp - all details are highlighted including the background elements. There is a high contrast between shadows and light areas which can create really interesting drama and a sharper image. However, that same rule can be applied to the shadows it can create on your face, and you'll often have to deal with squinting eyes, a lack of details in light coloured items, and sometimes an uncomfortable heat to deal with! Finding open shade (see #5!) is a great way around it if this isn't the look you're going for, but sometimes this situation is just unavoidable.
4. Outdoors Sunrise/Sunset
Yay, our favorite (and every other photographer and human ever)! There is a special and magical thing that happens in the 45 minutes around Sunrise and 90 minutes before sunset. The sun is low in the sky giving you beautiful, gentle lighting, colourful skies, backlighting for silhouettes, and the general dreamy feeling that everyone loves! Even though this is the most sought after light, there are still some things you may run into! If you're in an area with tall buildings, high mountains, or other items that may block a low sun, you could miss out on that time altogether. If the day is overcast you will end up with an unplanned-for early sunset (or lack of one altogether). You also have a very limited time and no control over delaying it, and available shooting time slips by really quickly, so it's easy to miss that key time!
4. Outdoors Open Shade / Overcast
Sometimes this is something sought out (especially if you're in a lighting situation like #3!) and sometimes it is something accidental (light waking up on your event day to an overcast sky). Either way this is a universally flattering light and nothing to be nervous about! Regardless of the time of day, finding a large shaded area to shoot in is great! The term 'Open Shade' refers to an area where the subjects can all be fully in the shade, and facing towards the light so that their faces are lit in an even and soft way.
If you're stuck trying to make photos work in the middle of an unflattering time, look around the area for large trees, the shadow of a building, an overhang, or a doorway. And fret not about a cloudy day, you're in for some moody and amazing photos, too!
We hope this was a helpful guide to planning your upcoming photos/event! And of course if you are ever in doubt, ask your photographer!