How different lighting effects the look of film.

Sometimes I see other film shooters get frustrated when their final images aren't turning out exactly how they had dreamed, myself included. There can usually be a plethora of reasons the shots you dream of in the middle of the night aren't being realized, one of them often being the lighting. Well, "doesn't take a genius to figure that out" I'm sure you're thinking but especially when it comes to film even the smallest shift in sunlight can change the look, feel and even color of your final image. When studying the works of wildly popular shooters it's easy to notice a consistency within their style that others desire to emulate, the biggest constant being the lighting conditions they shoot in. It is something that strongly defines the vibe in an image. However as a wedding photographer fully dictating lighting of the day just isn't realistic...unless you're God. Me and the Lord (not Disick) are close, but we ain't that close. In the fast-paced events of a wedding day there's often going to be a part of the event that doesn't have even, perfect light and you're forced to be resourceful and straight up make it work...or at least shot through it leaving you wondering what went wrong when you get your film scans back. And I can tell you why your photos look's differences in lighting.

With the wedding I am currently working on  I had a stunning reception area to photograph before guests were seated and, not unusually, a limited amount of time to get it done. In addition, the florist Avery of Green Honolulu makes table scapes so lush and fantastically detailed that they are gorgeous (and different!) from every angle, needing to be shot at 360 degrees. No big deal! This is the part I love! However for the outdoor reception the setting sun was low in the sky and impossible to shield behind trees, creating harsh light if not kept to the side or back of the arrangements. This resulted in direct, sharp light and strong shadows in the photos where arrangements facing directly towards the sun.

In order to make sure I got images of all the arrangements in their curated glory I first photographed all the tables from every angle, changing my exposure when shooting in direct sunlight. My priority was to make sure I documented everything before the guests entered. After I shot all the tables several different ways guests were allowed to be seated and a few clouds passed over the sun. I quickly took advantage of the change in light and reshot details in a more subdued, even light.

In these images you can see how the sunlight (directly behind me, shining onto the image) isn't horrible, however it does sharpen the highlights, resulting in shadows and adds an additional warmth to the scene. In the photos I reshot the details of the flowers are a lot softer and the colors more true-to-life with pleasing, even light.

I'm not one to travel with a production type set-up, I like to work creatively with what I have but in the future keeping a diffuser on hand for harsh lighting scenarios such as this would be super helpful. Having a scrim (on a stand or an assistant to hold it) may be more time consuming but would eliminate the need to shoot and then reshoot in better lighting. 


What are some of your favorite tricks to ensure fab lighting throughout a wedding day?