4 Lighting Tips For the Best Wedding Photographs

Despite the heavy cameras and gear photographers carry, the most important tool we have to create stunning photographs of your wedding day is light.  Earlier in the day this means the natural light, both outside and streaming in through windows; in the evening this means the ambience created using string lights and/or candles. 

Personally, in pursuit of the best photographs, when shooting indoors I spend much of a wedding day turning out overhead pot lights, and when shooting outside spend much of my time hopping between patches of light and shadow.  I always appreciate the opportunity of planning together ahead of time to consider the available light throughout your wedding day.  This way we can be sure to capture the best photographs throughout the entire day, rather than just the fabled ‘golden hour’ at sunset.

Lighting for the Best Getting Ready Photographs

The getting-ready portion of the day is often when I have the opportunity to capture some of the most meaningful and candid photographs of you with your family and closest friends.  Being able to take advantage of good lighting can elevate these photographs from being simply meaningful portraits to visually stunning and beautiful memories that will be a joy to see for years and decades to come. 

I always urge my clients to think about the light in the rooms where they will be having their makeup done, getting dressed, reading letters or rehearsing vows, and spending time with those closest to them.   Brides and grooms should choose the brightest possible rooms with lots of natural window light coming in, and light coloured walls or furniture.  Spaces with minimal clutter also appear brighter by removing dark objects (aka ‘black holes’) from the background.  For example keeping bags and suitcases in another room and taking a moment to clean up surfaces like desk & counter tops will minimize dark coloured clutter in the photographs. 

Consider asking your hair and makeup artists to set up as close to a window or natural light source as possible.   I always try to turn out artificial lights when I arrive, as they have a different color spectrum than natural daylight, so, to repeat,  try to choose rooms that are well lit even when all the lights turned off.

Lighting for the Best Ceremony Photographs

Ceremony photographs can take place either outdoors or indoors, and with the right lighting both can make for beautiful photographs of this important part of your wedding day. 

If your ceremony is outdoors, consider the time of day and location.  Time of day affects how high the sun is in the sky, with the general rule being that direct overhead light appears ‘harsh’, and doesn’t make for the most flattering photographs.  If your ceremony is at a time of day when the sun is high, think about choosing a location that will be shaded during that time.  Look for shady spots created by trees, buildings, porches, gazebos, rocks, anything goes.  If the sun won’t be directly overhead for your ceremony, try to organize your ceremony setting so that the light is somewhere behind you, and so that hard light isn’t falling onto one of you and not the other. 

If your ceremony is going to be indoors, try to choose a room that has plenty of natural light available.  Plan to turn off light sources that cast hard shadows on your face, such as overhead pot lights and spot lights.  Although being close to a window is ideal, the way that most indoor ceremony locations are set up means that chances are you’re going to be back-lit.  This is fine for most photographs, but try to make sure there’s enough space between you, the wedding party, and the window that your photographer can get in between and capture at least a few photographs from the side where the light from the window will be falling directly onto or across your faces. 

Finally, ask your guests to refrain from flash photography during the ceremony.  Flashes from iPhones and other cameras can massively overexpose a photograph (and often destroy it) if they go off at the same time your photographer is taking a shot of a fleeting moment that won’t happen again. 

Lighting for the Best Portrait Photographs

I often recommend splitting portrait photographs up into three short sections throughout the day.  This allows for the greatest variety of locations and light, avoids the potential problem of losing your one photo session if things start running late, and allows your photographer to capture the different emotions that occur over the course of an entire wedding day. Try to set aside three separate times for portraits together: right after your first look, directly following your ceremony, and while the sun is going down (which often means sneaking out of your reception for some peace and quiet!).

The lighting considerations at different times of the day will vary considerably, so give your photographer some leeway to move around and choose the right location.  If you’re taking photographs indoors, choose locations with lots of natural light coming in.  If you’re taking photographs outdoors when the sun is directly overhead, try to find locations with some kind of shade.  Finally, if you’re shooting during golden hour or twilight, try to find a more open location where you can see the light.  For example, waterfront, rooftops, and open fields are some of my favorite locations at this time of day. 

Lighting for the Best Reception Photographs

The reception is when the bulk of your wedding photographs will be taken; so don’t forget to think about how you can light it to create the best ambiance in your photographs! 

There are multiple ways to light your reception, but my personal favorites are candles and strings of Edison lights.  If you choose to light your reception this way, adding enough candles to the tables and plenty of Edison lights overhead will allow me to use only the soft light cast by these sources to create beautiful, soft, and romantic looking photographs without a flash.  If you haven’t guessed yet, pot lights are my enemy as a photographer.  Please please please turn them off, they often aren't a good source of ambient light, and create unflattering shadow lines on faces such as dark under eyes and nose-shadow-moustaches.

For speeches and presentations, talk to your venue and DJ/band to make sure there aren’t any oddly colored spotlights directed at the subject, or flashing dance lights moving over the podium.  These will create a weird colour tone, or throw off the exposure of the camera as the subject changes quickly from light to dark as lights flash over them.

Finally, lighting for your dance!  I often use a flash during this portion of the evening to freeze motion, so your external lighting can be creative!  DJ lights are fun and colorful, and background or overhead lighting like more string lights make for fun lines of light blurring through the photograph.  It’s hard to go wrong with dance lighting!

These are what I personally find the best options to be for lighting over the course of a wedding day.  It’s worthwhile taking some time to talk to your individual photographer about how to light your own wedding based on the style of photography you’ve chosen.  No matter what the style, taking the time to talk to your photographer about light will help them do the best job creating wedding photographs you both love. 

An Intimate Elegant Wedding at Toronto's Great Hall

Jess and Arie’s wedding suited them perfectly.  Together they created a celebration that beautifully blended their impeccable style with important family values, and even included their treasured rescue dogs into the day’s celebrations with enviable ease and elegance. 

Following a sweet first look complete with dogs in hand, we went to The Great Hall in the west end of downtown Toronto to take photographs in the light and airy spaces that both Jess and I fell in love with.  A beautiful and emotional wedding ceremony was held at their neighbourhood family shul down the street, followed by an intimate backyard reception for their closest family and friends.  The majority of the day allowed for the dogs who are such a big part of their lives to take part in the festivities, and an at-home reception kept things simple and allowed guests to comfortably move back and forth between the indoor and outdoor food and drink stations as it softly began to rain in the evening.

Their beautiful and personal style as a couple shone through in all the little details they thoughtfully added to the day.  Jess sported her favourite relaxed moccasins along with a stunning beaded dress harking back to the 1920’s that complimented Arie’s stylish and classic dark navy blazer.  The dogs were dressed up in simple green and white floral garlands, which matched the bride’s classic elegant bouquet of white flowers and flowing greenery.  Jess absolutely transformed the interior of their shul by envisioning a beautiful minimalist Plexiglas chuppah, clear modernist chairs, and elegant candle displays that opened up the space while maintaining a cosy family feeling.  I’m always a fan of intimate backyard receptions, and theirs was no exception.  Edison lights criss-crossed the backyard, lighting and warming up the space outdoor space throughout the evening.  Food stations offered a variety of dishes for family to enjoy standing around high tops or settled into the living room, and the cutting of the challah was fittingly held with family gathered close together together in the kitchen. 

I absolutely loved getting to work with some of my favourite Toronto vendors again for this wedding.  It’s always a treat to shoot at The Great Hall, and I’ll never tire of elegant bridal chignons styled by Amy at Bridal Hair Collective!  All the other wonderful vendors I was introduced to at this wedding are listed below.  I hope you enjoy!

-       c

Make up: Janine Bowen
Hair: Bridal Hair Collective
Wedding Dress: White Toronto / Jenny Packham
Flowers: Botany Floral Studio
Food: Applause Catering
Venue: The Family Shul / The Great Hall

The Great Hall Bridal Look Book Video

This spring, a group of Toronto wedding vendors got together to create a bridal look book filled with wedding style inspiration and ideas for the upcoming wedding season.  You saw a few of my photographs from the shoot on the blog a few weeks back, and now I'm here to add the beautiful video from the day created by Jessica from Charuk Studios, who was both our videographer and concept stylist for the day. 

Hooked on that bright, airy, minimalist vibe, we of course chose The Great Hall as our wedding venue.  With its' perfect high ceilings, wooden floors, white walls, and big windows, this venue is a photographers' dream! Jessica pulled together a variety of styles using different dresses and accessories from local designers and stores like Maureen Patricia Bridal, Ferre Sposa, the LuvyT Shop, and florist Mimi & Ry.  Many of the dresses were beautiful shades of off-white, from a lovely dove grey wrap dress, to a soft blue tulle piece, to compliment the pastel colours of the spring wedding season, and to play with some more creative bridal looks.  Our hair and makeup team UnoJo and Prerna & Co. did a fabulous job of creating several different and beautiful hair and makeup styles for our bridal looks.  From soft wavy curls, to elegant up-do's, to beautiful waterfall braids, I had so much fun shooting such a variety of looks!

Take a look at Jessica's stunning video below, and checkout the rest of the photos from my blog post a few weeks ago if you missed it. 

xo
-c

Spring Pastels Shoot Film Web-7.jpg

The Great Hall Spring Wedding Inspiration

If you haven't guessed yet, The Great Hall is absolutely one of my favorite Toronto venues to shoot at.  The combination of bright walls, killer light, and a variety of unique spaces, from elegant whitewashed rooms to a gorgeous old mezzanine theatre make it top of my list for weddings and creative shoots.  This bridal shoot was inspired by the coming spring weather and its' pastel colours that we were eagerly awaiting to arrive in Toronto.  I teamed up with branding videographer Jessica Charuk of Charuk Studios, as well as an incredibly talented team of local vendors, to create both photo and video footage of the day.  I can't wait to show you Jessica's finished video soon, this lady rocks behind the camera!

I had a little bit of extra time on this shoot working with both a videographer and second shooter Emily Jarrett Photography, so I spent some time experimenting with some movement and different lighting on film.  I hope you enjoy. :)

Make sure to take a look through this list of awesome Toronto wedding vendors if you're looking for any skilled artists and small business owners to create your own wedding!

Photography: Corynn Fowler Photography
Styling and Videography: Charuk Studios
Hair: Uno Jo
Makeup: Prerna & Co.
Dresses: Maureen Patricia Bridal and Ferre Sposa
Venue: The Great Hall
Florals: Mimi & Ry Inc.
Models: Peggi Lepage Model Scout
Accessories: LuvyT

As always, thanks for the awesome film developing and scans Canadian Film Lab!

Dramatic Wedding Inspiration in an Old Theatre

This styled shoot was inspired by the incredible theater venue space at The Great Hall in downtown Toronto.  It was created as almost an afterthought, following another series of light and airy branding shoots in the venue's gorgeous front event rooms.  I happened to poke my head into the construction area and was immediately smitten with the gorgeous light, old theater balcony, and gilded walls.  The Great Hall was so wonderful to let me shoot in here before the space began renovations, I can't wait to see how they're turning into a new Toronto wedding venue!  Following another shoot, as the light was fading, and the room was growing cold, we quickly created our final look and dashed into the old theater before it became too dark.  The result is one of my favorite creative shoots from the past year, with dramatic light, stunning accessories, and a theatrical vibe that is completely different from what I normally create.  The team I worked with was absolutely amazing pulling the look together, and trusted me to create some creative images with limited time and an almost completely dark room at the end of our long shooting day.   I've been sitting on these for quite a while, not sure if they fit with my usual style, but I continually find myself returning to these photographs for inspiration, and couldn't resist putting together a little blog post.  I hope you enjoy, but either way I had a blast with this shoot and the other amazing vendors involved!

Don't forget to checkout their work below if you're interested in seeing what they can create for your own wedding!
Photography: Corynn Fowler Photography
Makeup: Katie Marie Bridal
Hair: Bridal Hair Collective
Dress: Sash & Bustle
Shoes: Rachel Simpson Shoes from Sash & Bustle
Venue: The Great Hall
Florals: Leaf & Bloom
Jewellery: Lillianes Fine Jewellery
Model: Rachel

The Great Hall, Styled Wedding Shoot

This fall I had the privilege of putting together some new styled shoots with my friend Amy from Bridal Hair Collective.  We were working at The Great Hall, one of Toronto's stunning new venues this season.  It has just been renovated and re-opened as a beautiful, classic old Queen St. West building, with an elegant and minimalist vibe inside the airy white rooms.  It has tall windows and even taller ceilings, as well as a spectacular old stage theater complete with balconies and velvet drapes that filter in the most dreamy dramatic light.  I had no idea what a treat I was about to experience my first time shooting here, and immediately hopped-to scheduling more time to shoot at this amazing venue with the most inspiring light and a fabulous team of talented Toronto vendors.  This is the first part of 3 shoots from our work at The Great Hall, and I already can't wait to share the rest with you!

One of my absolute favorite elements of this shoot is the vintage jewellery provided to us by the lovely Lilliane from Lilliane's Fine Jewelery.  Take a closer look at the beautiful vintage watch our bride is wearing.  I absolutely loved the idea of using a watch as part of the bride's jewellery, especially when it's such a gorgeously delicate piece of silver!  The contrast of a functional piece like this watch only serves to make the brides' look appear even more elegant.  And the bonus? She doesn't have to worry if she's on time!

As always, my favorite part about working on styled shoots is the chance to connect with such a wonderful group of wedding creatives, who all believe in supporting each other, and working off everybody's talents and strengths to create a beautiful collaboration together.  I could never capture beautiful styled shoots like this without the work of talented hair and makeup artists, florists, designers, and models.  I feel so lucky to be part of such a skilled and supportive group of people to work with!

Photography: Corynn Fowler Photography
Hair: Bridal Hair Collective
Makeup: Katie Marie Bridal
Dress:  SAJA from Sash and Bustle
Venue: The Great Hall
Florals: Leaf and Bloom
Jewellery: Lilliane's Fine Jewellery
Model: Rachel from Carolyn's Talent