September 08, 2011

Most brides dream of a beautiful sunny day with bright blue skies as they walk down the aisle…but your photographer is praying for a slightly overcast day.  Overcast days create beautiful soft natural light that makes everyone look great.  It’s easy to shoot and you don’t have to worry about the following challenges.  If your wedding is in full sun here are your options….and you should really discuss your preferences WITH your photographer.

There are two ways to shoot a ceremony in full open sun… with flash or without!  A camera is incapable of taking a well-balanced shot between the subject and the background in full open sun unless they are both in the exact same light.  They usually are not.  The camera will read the scene, determine an average and turn everything middle gray.  So your photographer can do one of two things…

Method 1: Use A Flash: Using a flash will balance the scene perfectly but the image will look “flashed” which isn’t always the most artistic.  It will light the subject in the foreground and the background should be clearly visible.  One downfall of this method is that you might have two or more photographers taking an average of 200-300 images each during your ceremony with the flash going off every few seconds.  It can be obtrusive.

Method 2: Shoot Naturally.  This means the photographer will shoot manually and expose for the people.  The people will look good but usually the background will blow out to a much lighter shade than the subjects and can even blow out to where you can’t see it at all.  It’s more artistic but not exactly balanced…especially if you REALLY want to see the venue you paid a small fortune for.

Sadly, there is no in-between!  This is something you definitely need to bring up with your photographer and decide how you want your shots to look.  Other issues include:

  • Marine layers on the coast will most likely block your view if you are up on a cliff.  Your mind sees blue sky and ocean but the camera will not (unless a flash is used).
  • If one of you is in the sun and the other is not, it’s a disaster without a flash.
  • If the sun is behind one of you and it shows a shadow across the other’s face.

These are all things to consider.  I have included some examples below of all these things.  Talk to your photographer to determine what’s right for you but know that there is no perfect situation and that there are limits to what a photographer can do for you in this situation.

The top left image is roughly what the naked eye sees. It’s what you as the Bride and Groom see, but that’s not exactly how a camera works.  The image in the bottom left accurately shows how the camera will read that scene. It cannot adjust for the background and foreground since there is way too much difference between the exposures that would render the perfect scene.  If you look on the right, that image works because the sun is off to the left and the background is roughly the same exposure as the foreground.  The reality of the situation is that a photographer is faced with what is in the bottom left corner.

Now let’s see what the choices are.  You can let the camera choose which gets you this top image whereby it tries to average the scene to a middle gray point.  This method delivers little background and a dark foreground.  That’s no bueno.  Instead I chose to expose for the couple and let the background blow out since I am more concerned with their facial expressions.  Another photographer might have used a flash which would look very “flashed” but the foreground and background would have been rendered visible.  But now imagine that 250 more times, it’s obtrusive during the ceremony.  It’s a matter of preference and it’s something you need to discuss with your photographer.

Here is another wedding which shows the same exact thing.  Now, this is a little lower on the coast so you get more background but again you have the same challenges.  The camera tried to make it middle gray so I adjusted and exposed for the subject but now the background is gone.  I personally don’t like the look of flash so I opted to get the expression and I let the background blow out.

Same wedding as before with the same challenges.  I can expose for the whole scene and get dark subjects or expose for the couple but let the background blow out.  If you’ll notice there are some really dark storm clounds behind them which is the only reason there is any background at all.

Lastly, let’s look at what happens directly at water level.  Really, you have the same challenge.  The first image shows what the scene looks like to your eye and how the camera will render it.  But if you look closely at the foreground right under the Chupah/Alter it’s dark!  That means the subjects will be dark as well!

Now take a look at the next shot.  I exposed for the couple so they look great but the background is gone!  Had I used a flash I might have gotten both but then she would have looked shiny and flashed instead of the beautiful glowing bride you see in the picture.  It’s all about trade-offs. You and your photographer need to discuss what is right for you.

This next shot is a great example of the difference between flash and no flash.  They are both great shots, but which do you prefer?  Is the sunset more important than the natural look?

Last example, with or without flash…