Why Low Light Skills is Important for Wedding Photography

Consistency is so important when it comes to the work of a wedding photographer and an element not to overlook when choosing someone to document your day. Low Light skills can set your photographer apart.

Y’all, let me be really honest. It’s easy to get photos during the dreamy golden hour of the day. Just like every photographer out there, I adore taking photos of my clients as that silky golden hue washes over their skin. It’s enchanting. It’s literally impossible to get a bad photo.

But the harsh reality is this….most weddings have a large component of low light conditions. From getting ready photos in dimly lit hotel rooms, to churches with only candlelight to reception halls with minimal lights…it’s important to know how to document a wedding under any lighting conditions.

If any part of your wedding day is going to be indoors or in low-light for any reason, it’s very important to hire, know, and feel confident that your wedding photographer can photograph in those darker conditions. Most churches and reception venues have low lighting so it’s important to feel confident your memories will be documented professionally. Also, did you know some churches have a no-flash rule? It’s one more reason to research your photographers skills before the big day.

Here are some things to look for when trying to find out if a photographer can shoot in low-light, as well as some examples of how we handle low-light wedding photography scenarios.

Look for Examples of Low-Light Pictures

If not immediately noticeable, look through the photographer’s website for examples of low light conditions. You should find examples where either the photographer took a photograph in an obviously dark setting, or where they used a flash in a flattering way to light up an obviously dark location.

It’s good to look for both posed as well as candid low-light photos because it shows the photographer knows how to handle low-light for controlled stills, as well as spontaneous photos when quick reaction and improvisation are essential.

If you have any trouble finding low-light examples, ask to see some. If possible, view a full gallery from a wedding and note the low-light examples. (You can see one of mine here, Maggie and Eric’s Tlaquepaque Wedding)

Wedding in Tlaquepaque Chapel – a very dark venue lit by candlelight

Black & Whites Are Great, But Watch Out

Sometimes lighting can really make skin tones look unnatural or, quite frankly, a little weird. When indoors, you can have fluorescent, incandescent, kelvin and even other types of light exposing the scene. Even seasoned photographers will sometimes opt to make an image black & white if it looks better, especially due to poor lighting. And honestly, we think that’s completely acceptable. Black and White images can make photos more dramatic and eliminate the distraction of a messy background.

With that said, if all the photographer’s low-light photos are black & white, it may be an indication that they don’t know how to handle low-light conditions when it comes to editing.

But hey, as we stated before, we love black and white too and they honestly look great when it comes to the raw emotions of weddings. But, if you’re expecting to get some decent color photos in low-light, be sure to see examples beforehand.

Couple getting married in a catholic church in a low light condition. Photographed by Melissa Dunstan Flagstaff Wedding Photographer
Wedding at a Catholic Church with limited lighting and a no-flash rule

Understand Low-Light Doesn’t Mean It Will Look “Low-Light”

Good low-Light wedding photographers can edit photos to look bright. Some photographers are able to adjust their ISO, flash direction and output and shutter speed on the fly to make images look bright.

Low light photo example showing a bride and groom dancing with forward flash and back light by Melissa dunstan Flagstaff Wedding Photographer

Pay Attention to Whether Or Not Photos Are Blurry

Shooting in low-light often requires the use of a slow shutter speed. Normally, a fast shutter speed freezes the scene, preventing any blur. However, when a photographer needs more light, he may drop his shutter speed to a slower speed, which allows more light into the camera.

There’s no problem with this, unless the photographer is unable to prevent camera shake, or if the shutter speed is dropped too low to prevent the subjects from blurring due to their movement. However, you might want some purposeful shake in your images to create some nice fun light movement like the below. Make sure your photographer has this skill set if you plan on staging a photo with moving light.

If They Use Flash, Make Sure You Like How They Use It

If you’ve seen us work, you know that we use off camera flash about 50% of the time, regardless of the lighting. We love the creative edge it gives us to make our visions come true. But angles do matter. Direct flash can very unflattering and we’ve found that using flash at 45 degree angles creates beautiful images. In many of our weddings, we use the dimness of nearing sunset to create some dramatic images using off camera flash. In this example, the couple was completely dark, so we set up an off camera flash to the left side of the couple to light them up, while also emphasizing the drama of the setting sun.

We’d love to hear from you!

We hope this article helps you pick the best wedding photographer for your big day. If you have any questions, please reach out via the contact form below!  If the contact form doesn’t appear (some mobile devices won’t show it), just go to our contact page!

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