3 Quick Tips for Shooting Wedding Ceremonies in Harsh Light

How do you shoot outdoor ceremonies in harsh light? Let’s talk about it! We all know that when you’re shooting outdoors, the lighting is not always ideal… especially if the ceremony happens midday.


Imagine this…


It’s a beautiful summer day. The sun is shining bright in the clear blue sky with no clouds blocking it. You’re getting ready to photograph a beautiful outdoor wedding ceremony. The music is playing in the background as the bridal party is getting ready to make their way down the aisle. You’re starting to feel nervous because there’s nothing you can do about the harsh lighting conditions around you. So, what do you do? How do you make sure that your ceremony photos will have soft, even lighting all around?


Here Are My Best Tips for Shooting in Harsh Light:


1. Choose Your Angles Wisely


Angles are your best friend when it comes to shooting wedding ceremonies in harsh light. When you’re framing shots at an angle, rather than straight on, you’ll be able to capture the most important elements of the ceremony while minimizing glare and harsh shadows – and that’s what makes all the difference!


Choose a side angle for the bride and groom, so they’re lit from the side, softening their features and reducing any unflattering shadows. Let’s take a look at the images below!


In the first image, the sun in shining from in front of the bride and dad. If I were to have shot this image from directly in front of them, then both of them would have had dark shadows on their faces. However, by standing slightly at an angle, dad is blocking the sun on the bride’s face so she is evenly lit from head to toe. In the second image, the sun is coming in from the right side, so if I were shooting straight on, the groom would have had some pretty harsh highlights on his entire left side. However, by shooting slightly from the side, most of his face is nicely lit.


side lighting on wedding days


2. Consider Stepping Behind the Altar


When you’re shooting an outdoor wedding ceremony, you’ll want to ensure that the sun is behind your couple. This will help you avoid shadows and keep your images from looking overly dark or underexposed. With this in mind, do not be afraid to step behind the bridal party at the altar if the sun is shining directly on the couple. This will help you get a more even light and softer look in your ceremony photos.


ceremonies in harsh light


3. Expose for the Highlights


If you find yourself photographing a wedding where the couple and wedding party is walking towards the sun during the processional, you’ll need to expose for highlights instead of shadows. This means that your overall image will be underexposed, but that can be fixed in post-production.


In the first image below, the dad and bride are completely facing the sun, which creates some dark shadows on the left side of the bride’s face. In this particular instance, I had to underexpose my image so that the highlights on dad’s face wouldn’t be too harsh. During the editing process, I brought the shadows up and highlights down, which helped soften the overall look of the image. By comparison, by using the side angle tip I mentioned above, I was able to create a much softer image of the bride standing at the altar, which is light and airy, just like my photography style.


how to photograph ceremonies in hard light


I hope you found this blog helpful and that you are now ready to shoot your next outdoor wedding! If you want to learn even more about shooting wedding ceremonies in harsh light, check out our other blogs for photographers. I also encourage you to submit a photography question below so we can answer it in a future blog post!

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