Tips for Choosing Your Getting Ready Light

Photography is all about light. As a photographer, I have two choices: I can work with ambient light (sunlight, lamps, etc.) or create my own light (using flash or video lights). My personal preference is to use natural, ambient light, which means the sun. Given the right conditions and the right time of day, it creates the gorgeous, soft, romantic lighting that I like best. However, when shooting weddings, I usually don't get to pick the lighting conditions. For ceremonies and receptions, I welcome the challenge of figuring out how the light will work best; that is my job, after all. But what I want to discuss today are the getting ready photos.

Some of you may not have many options on the location where you get ready. There may be a designated place in your venue, and it may be void of any light other than the florescent kind. But if you do have a choice, it's best to pick the location that lets in the most sunlight.

Here's a few examples of different lighting scenarios for the getting ready shots:

Ambient, florescent lighting only
Nashville Wedding Photographers

Ambient, florescent lighting with flash (flash was placed at a 45 degree angle to the right of the bride)
Wedding Photography Nashville

Ambient, florescent lighting with minimal sunlight (unfortunately, the getting ready room windows looked over the parking lot so we couldn't open the blinds, but you can see it is coming from the left and shining on her face)
Wedding Photographer Nashville

Sunlight only
Nashville Wedding Photography

And let's not forget the guys! Both of these grooms were lit solely by sunlight coming in from a window:
Nashville Wedding Photographer Wedding Photographers Nashville

So, if you have a choice, where should you get ready? Hotel rooms are typically ideal because they usually have very large windows and are high up enough that we can keep the drapes open without anyone being able to see in. Bedrooms are also good, with bigger windows being better. The places with the worst lighting? Usually the assigned getting ready rooms in churches, although I have seen a few with nice, big windows, so make sure you check out the room when choosing your ceremony venue.

To First Look or Not to First Look

At some point during your wedding planning process, you will be asked by your photographer if you want to do a first look. I find that most couples are initially adamant that the walk down the aisle be the first time they see each other, as that is how they have always pictured it. But there is another option, and it can actually be more romantic, more intimate, and more memorable (in addition to several other perks!).

Wedding First Look Wedding First Look

The moment right before the wedding ceremony is pretty nerve-wracking. You aren't nervous because of cold feet but because the day you have been planning for the past year is here and you are standing at the pinnacle. A lot of the time walking down the aisle is spent thinking, "Wow, I can't believe it's finally here! I'm actually doing this! Look at all these people who came to witness this great moment in my life!" It's overwhelming. And because of that, the memory can become quite a blur because your mind is racing so much. Most every bride and groom I know talks about just how FAST the whole day went. It's important to savor the moments that really matter.

First Look Wedding

One way you can do this is by having a first look. What exactly is a first look? It's private time between the two of you to see each other for the first time on your wedding day. Without anyone else around. Without feeling overwhelmed or nervous. You can hug, talk, laugh, or exchange gifts; it's up to you. Most couples reported feeling more relaxed afterwards, and, while I have heard people say, "I wish we had done a first look," I have never heard anyone say that they wish they hadn't.

So why do photographers like first looks so much? First of all, the reaction to seeing each other in private is usually a lot more true than the reaction to seeing each other in front of a crowd of people. So the emotions are much more rich, and the images will show more of how you actually felt when you saw each other. Second, it gives us a lot more time to capture portraits of the two of you.

First Look First Look

Who do I suggest do a first look? While I think everyone can benefit, I think it's most important in these situations. (a) If your ceremony begins anywhere near sunset, it's best to get as many photos done ahead of time as possible to take advantage of the sunlight. This way, if the ceremony starts late or the family portraits afterwards run over, we won't have to sacrifice the portraits of the two of you. (b) If you do not want your wedding party to join the reception until they've been introduced by the emcee, then it's best to do a first look. That way, they are not waiting around for us to finish portraits so that they can eat. (c) You want to attend your cocktail hour. If you do not see each before hand, the cocktail hour is typically when we will do your portraits. (d) The couple portraits are extremely important to you. We don't want to feel rushed to get to the reception, and we can take more time with the two of you before the ceremony.

What are your reasons for wanting or not wanting to do a first look?