How to avoid screwing up lighting during your wedding!

Spending few minutes reading this story (supported by beautiful pictures) by Amrit will make sure that if you are about to get married, you will not screw up your venue lighting!

I was in Ranikhet about two / three months ago with my wife. I had a day long shoot and wife had travelled along with me, because Ranikhet is a nice scenic place that neither of us had seen. Aman was getting engaged to the love of his life Ohmika. It was Ohmika’s family that was settled in Ranikhet. This was the reason they were getting engaged in this beautiful Garwahli town. When Aman called me up and said that after the day time engagement, there would be an evening cocktail party in an open ground, the first thing that came to my mind was – what would be quality of lighting that might be available to me?

Poorly lit outdoor location is a nightmare for any good photographer. More than anything, you always know that had the lighting been better, the same pictures that you shot, would have looked so much better. And there is nothing that you can do about it. This aspect is kind of beyond the photographer’s control. 50% of the weddings that I shoot, I witness how lighting has been screwed up (in spite of a lot of money being spent on lighting). And in almost 99% of the cases, this is because the couple or their family taking care of venue booking, simply did not know how to avoid the screw-up! So here in this post, let me help you with that. Let there be ‘good’ light! :)

Many of you might have noticed that, most of your best pictures taken outdoors, are typically the ones clicked either in early evenings or in the morning hours. It is very rare for anyone to get a nice colourful picture in broad daylight with the sun looming over your head (unless it’s cloudy). And once the sun has set, you will obviously not be able to get the colours or clarity that your camera could other wise capture. Now, the simple explanation for mornings and evenings to be most ideal for good looking pictures (from colour and clarity point of view) is that, these are the times when sun-light is uniformly spread all across you. When the sun is high above in the noon, the sunlight is so strong that it dominates as a single source of light. But in evenings and mornings, sunlight is not that strong and thus the light being reflected by other bright objects around you also starts counting. In another terms, evenings and mornings lead to diffused lighting. And that is why everything looks a lot more colourful and a lot smoother. And pleasing to eyes. And hence pleasing to the lens.

In exactly the same manner, some venues manage to have good light (morning / evening model) and others screw up the light (bright sun model or the worst case – darkness model). Here are three main ways to screw up light in an outdoor location at night:

  1. Have so little light, that nothing is seen properly (let me call it restaurant or lounge type of lighting). This light is great to setup a low profile mood where everyone just wants to have dinner in peace. But this light does no good if you want great pictures.
  2. The second way to screw up light is to have only 2 / 3 huge halogens that will try to light the entire open venue. This is just like the sun during the noon. You can see everything but because the light is not diffused or smooth, pictures will never look as good as they might have looked, had there been say around 10 sources of not so bright light. Generally, this is not an issue with a good banquet hall (the next time you visit a banquet hall, try observing how they have a lot of lights spread all across the hall).
  3. The third and most commonly observed way of screwing up light is by having coloured lights to fall on people. It all started with the DJ dance floor. But for some reason, people forget that this kind of light is best restricted to dance floors only. Coloured lights like pink and green and blue are great if the aim is to create a pub like feel. But it is a bad idea to have that light if you also want great pictures.

Coming back to Ranikhet and to Aman and Omnika’s engagement, the day-time shoot went fine. It was a bright sunny day but most of the venue was covered from top and hence light got diffused. I will share the day pictures some other time (we also did a fun couple shoot which most of you will like). For now, let me move to the evening when the cocktail party started. I reached the venue and I loved the lighting. Of course I had explained to Aman what I meant by good lighting when I had spoken to him on phone. But I do that to a lot of people and only some of them actually do something about it. Aman had definitely taken care of it. And oh boy, in such a wonderful manner. Instead of just few halgoens trying to burn the entire venue, there were multiple sources of low-intensity lights spread all across. They did have a bit of coloured light, but it was ensured that the coloured light fell only on the dance floor and not all over the place (believe me I have seen people doing sangeet performance in green and velvet coloured light – I mean why would anyone do that? Have you ever seen a Filmare Award performance where Kareena Kapoor danced in green lights?).

So I had an awesome fun. The moment I arrived at the venue, I was offered whiskey. It was a pretty cold evening and whiskey set up my mood. Song and dance began soon. And everyone had a blast. And I could capture so many fun lively pictures! See some of the sample pictures for yourself!

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Alright to summarize, how not to screw up lighting during your wedding – follow these simple tips:

  1. Avoid coloured lights if you can (velvet, pink, blue, green and the likes). They are okay if they are made to fall on walls, flowers, ceilings, but they will spoil all pictures if they fall on people. The DJ light is okay but should be restricted to dance floor (and only when people want to dance for fun, not when a sangeet performance or say a speech is going on).
  2. Make sure that your venue decorator does not try to light up the whole venue by just 2 or 3 sources of huge lights. More the number of light-sources, better will be the overall lighting (not only from photography perspective, but also from general ambience perspective).

Hope this helped! Both Aman and Ohmika wanted my wife to join for the party as well but she was busy most of the evening trying to reschedule our tickets to New Zeland (because our visa arrived so late). I guess most of you have already seen the awesome New Zealand video-song (Holioke) that we made? If not, you will love it! Here is the link – https://vimeo.com/88985580

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The author

I started ShaadiGrapher.com in the spring of 2012 to experiment with wedding photography. Prior to that, I studied at IIT Madras (2003-08) and worked as a business consultant in PwC for four years. Since 2014, I have also been making documentary movies on a variety of subjects and issues (3minuteStories.com). Phone: +95525 89252 Email: amrit@shaadigrapher.com To get quote for wedding photography / cinema, please provide city, date and approx duration of all the functions. I am location independent and shoot across India - without any additional charge for travel.

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