Anyone who's enthusiastically snapped hundreds of photos at a buzzing night-time party only to end up with pictures of nothing but blackness, will be aware how difficult it is to take photographs once the sun goes down. However, you don't want difficulties with the light to stop your sunset vows, intimate candlelit reception or late-night disco being preserved for posterity. Here's some tips to ensure you end up with an album that goes from day to evening without any trouble.
Talk to the PhotographerProfessional photographers have any number of ways in which to compensate for poor light levels - extra lamps, different camera settings, or even 'special effects' added to the pictures. Make your photographer aware from the start that you're planning to have pictures taken during the evening, so they can bring the necessary equipment to ensure the photos come out.
It's also worth asking your photographer if they've shot any weddings at your venue before. They will have a good idea of the light levels within the building; the best places to take group shots and any 'hazards' that may need to be disguised before photographing.
Take Test ShotsIf they haven't worked at the venue before, your photographer should be sufficiently professional to go down one evening before the big day and take some test pictures. These are very helpful in terms of getting the right camera set-up for interior shots, which will save them considerable time on the day.
You might also like to take test shots at the same time as the photographer, which will allow you to advise members of the bridal party on the best settings to use on their own cameras. A top tip is to avoid using the flash as much as possible - this tends to have the effect of making close subjects closer and darkening the background even more. Change the exposure on your camera instead, or find a convenient white wall or ceiling that you can 'bounce' the flash off to soften the effect.
Choose a Different LocationThe only way to ensure your pictures aren't compromised by light levels is to take them during daylight hours - and that means doing it before or after the actual ceremony. If you're not superstitious and feel OK with the groom seeing the dress prior to the walk down the aisle, posing for your portraits beforehand is actually a very good way of saving time on the day itself.
If your venue isn't available at the time you'd like to have your pictures done, pick a different location - one that's particularly scenic, or has special significance for both of you - and have your main portraits taken there. Bridesmaids and other members of the bridal party can also be photographed at this time to ensure you end up with a creditable album of formal shots.
Have a 'Reception Studio'Instead of expecting the photographer to roam around taking pictures of guests, have people come to them. Find a quiet corner where the snapper can set up their equipment, lights and a backdrop if necessary, then (f they haven’t been taken already) get the ball rolling by sending the bridal party over for their portrait shots.
Ensure guests are aware of the photographer by putting a notice in the entrance of the reception venue, leaving notes on tables and making an announcement after the speeches. People can then go over to the studio at their leisure and be photographed with as many or few others as they please.
This method of operating does make for a more formal style of wedding photography, but it has fringe benefits. Nobody needs to be pictured next to someone they don't like, or in unflattering poses. The photographer can set up their shots knowing the guests won't be distracted as they would outside the church. And if you operate a 'sign-in' sheet, it'll be much easier to track down the pictures of specific people when they call up begging you for a copy...