As a photographer, light is everything. And, as a documentary wedding photographer, you constantly come up against the challenges that ambient light throws at you. Too harsh, too dark, colour casted from a strong colour on the walls…. and yet, in order to work unobtrusively and not interfere unnecessarily in the running of the wedding day, these are all challenges in light that you have to take on the chin and somehow make work for you.
Church wedding ceremonies can often give up some of the biggest challenges when it comes to light, as you have absolutely no control over the placing of subjects as well as often very little control over where you are able to stand in order to get your shot. Additionally, churches are often very dark, even on sunny days, so working with available light (as you must) gives yet another challenge to deal with.
Oh, but the WORST situation when photographing a wedding in church can often be when strong light comes through a window into relative darkness and hits the bride and groom’s face. Fantastic, you might think, spotlight! Well, it’s often not the blessing you might think, as the contrast between light and dark can be so extreme that the camera finds it hard to expose for the scene. Cameras have what’s known as a ‘dynamic range’, which is refers to how much detail they can capture in a shot with extremes of bright and dark tones. Even the best cameras in the world don’t have as much dynamic range as the human eye can see, which is why a shot with a large amount of dynamic range can look great to the eye, but not work in camera.
So let’s get to the point, and why this particular shot is one I love so much. This beautiful moment, capturing the signing at of the register at St Andrews Church at Brympton D’Evercy, Somerset, was one of those times where, even on a sunny day, the light streaming through the church windows softened just enough to bathe the bride in gorgeous, directional light. Have you ever heard of ‘shaping with light’? That’s a technique often used in the studio, where by careful use of artificial light and lighting modifiers, a subject’s face or body can be literally ‘shaped’ or accentuated with light and shade. And… here, Nature has done exactly the same for us. Such beautiful lighting on an already beautiful bride! And that’s why, for me, this wedding photograph is truly the best of church light.