I’ve shot a fair few winter weddings now, and I also get a good few enquiries for winter wedding photography too and often with the question ‘can we have a discount because it’s winter?’
I understand that venues will often give discounts then, their sliding scale of profits mean that the venue co-ordinator is often able to offer reduced rates in order to get ‘bums on seats’ but these are often large scale businesses operating with large mark ups and with permanent staff. For them winter weddings in all but the remotest places are more or less the exact same amount of work, there’s just less competition for the date, and the cost of a glass of that delicious Sauvignon is going to be the same year round.
This isn’t true of photography, it’s almost become a cliche to remind people that photography is painting with light, but it’s meaning is imbued into the word itself and pretty much every successful image is about striking that balance. So what do you do when there just isn’t that much light?
And it’s not just the earlier sunset times that can prove a challenge – the temperature, rain, ice and mud all stand in the way from being able to get the kind of images which are so much simpler in the summer. Couples don’t want to head outside for the kind of natural light shots they see in my portfolio, and sometimes rain puts a stop to that completely. I’ve now had weddings where it rained all day and the venue had no windows and no rooms that weren’t hives of activity except a balcony where they stored paperwork, dark rooms with red uplighters, weddings that overrun as you can see the sun going down, confetti throws in the dark and even one of those huge autumnal spiders appearing beside me whilst I was shooting the speeches (according to one of the guests I turned white as a sheet) so experience has taught me that with the right experience and understanding of how to use artificial light, or even how to compose so that the available light is your friend you can still make amazing images regardless of how dark, cold or wet it is.
All weddings will, even in the middle of summer, have some kind of after dark element too, so all of these skills are totally invaluable for any wedding and without wanting to use the kind of willy waving parlance that seems to thrive throughout much of the photographic industry, shooting in the dark really sorts the men from the boys! To put it more appealingly, it’s a way that the work of a professional photographer can stand out from someone who just happens to have a good camera. Not just in terms of the technical, but their understanding of the structure of the day and how the light behaves.
If your wedding celebration will be pretty much all after dark I can use creative techniques to light it but if you do get the benefit of some natural light on the day I urge you to use it. Your photos are a collaboration and you get out what you out in so brave the cold, or bring something gorgeous to wrap up in, bring an umbrella and be prepared with wellies in case it rains a little and consider a first look. One of the lovely things about winter daylight is low winter sun – flattering and gorgeous as clouds filter the sun like a giant softbox.
Here are some of my favourite winter wedding images and a little bit about how I approached each one.
Kirsty & Mark married on the 5th Jan with an afternoon ceremony – for the ceremony itself it was light outside, but by the time we arrived at The Saville Club and were ready to do their portraits it was dark, so I used a mixture of ambient light and on-camera flash, as well as ensuring that I managed to grab a few shots of the gorgeous Kirsty before she hopped in the car with her Dad to the church.
I’ve shared Vanita & Mike’s wedding on the blog before – the action happened mostly after dark and because of this all of the portraits were shot after dark with the use of off-camera flash. and there same technique was used to light up the confetti throw. The church itself was dark anyway, with very yellow lighting above the altar, and no lights across the congregation and no flash allowed. So this is all shot with ambient light.
Lisa & Alex were initially planning a 4pm ceremony on the 30th December, they moved it forward to 3pm to accommodate some natural light shots of the two of them, and it also meant that as Lisa was arriving we were treated to THE best low winter light (it was a little bit magical). This meant that a lot of their day was after dark so lots of the candid shots and the group shots, were all shot indoors with flash.