December 11, 2018

Lighting for Your Ceremony Venue | Best Time for Ceremony Photos

Today I’m going to discuss lighting at your ceremony venue. Often, I think lighting is overlooked by the couple, since they have so many other things to think about. I’m not just talking about professional lighting, although I will cover it. Next week I’ll discuss reception lighting, so be sure to keep an eye on my blog!

I’ve talked about lighting for the getting ready room, so I’ll skip to ceremony lighting! Ceremony lighting is easiest discussed when making the distinction between indoor and outdoor ceremonies. Most ceremonies take place during daylight hours, so for the purposes of time I’m going to cover daytime/afternoon ceremonies.

Outdoor Ceremony Lighting

For outdoor ceremonies, without the cover of shade, there isn’t much you can do about the lighting. However, you can be aware of how the light looks at the time of your ceremony. Try to check this out with consideration of daylight saving time and seasonal sunsets. In a perfect world, schedule your ceremony to begin 1.5-2 hours before sunset for the softest light.

Also be aware of which direction the altar will be positioned. If the sun will be off to the right, the bride will be strongly lit and the groom will be in shadow. Sometimes, like below, this situation just happens because of the desire for a view or because of venue structure. (Alternative: Use an appropriate arch or a semi-sheer draping above the spot where you’ll say your vows to alleviate any harsh lighting.)

White tree and carpet ceremony Pelican Hill Wedding - Cavin Elizabeth Photography 

Indoor Ceremony Lighting

For indoor ceremonies, you might not always be able to bring in lighting from a professional company. An example of this would be in a large or strict church that cannot accommodate or allow professional lighting (I recommend going pro for lighting and not doing DIY lighting unless you have a background in theatre, photography, film, etc.).

In these situations, photographers need the skills, technical knowledge and professional gear required to shoot beautiful images without additional light. Some photographers will use flash during the ceremony, if allowed, though I avoid this at all costs in order to stay unobtrusive.

San Diego Immaculata USD ceremony, Cavin Elizabeth Photography

If you aren’t able to change the lighting in your ceremony, it’s not the end of the world. Just make sure to have realistic expectations about your photos if the lighting in your venue is really awful. Know that your dark indoor ceremony venue will never look like a light, bright, and airy outdoor ceremony.

If your venue has windows, you can see what the space would look like with the windows open at various times throughout the day. I know most people wouldn’t have the time or patience to do this, though I at least must be thorough in my tips! Light is really important in photographs. Photography is light! If your venue is dark or the color of the lighting is awful (quality matters more than quantity for light), you might consider using professional lighting to improve the light inside the space.

Wide architectural epic engagement photo, Bride in red dress with groom in navy suit for San Francisco City Hall Engagement Photos on the 4th floor, Cavin Elizabeth Photography 

Hiring a Professional Lighting Team

When to bring in professional lighting might be a tough question to answer for the ceremony. If you have the budget to professionally light your ceremony and reception, go for it! Personally, I’d choose to do only the reception, if limited on budget, as it takes up much more time of the wedding day. If you are going to bring in professional lighting for your ceremony, just be sure your venue allows it.


[…] before sunset. If you have an earlier ceremony, the sun will be stronger and much hotter. Plus, lighting will be better if you wait about an hour and a half before sunset. It’s so worth […]

[…] week I blogged about lighting for your ceremony. Today I’m talking about reception lighting and how to make the most of it for your San Diego […]