So, I’m leaving my base in Dorset today to go off and shoot a wedding. As usual, I check the weather forecast before I leave (and  yes, I’ve been checking it regularly all week, just to get a steer on what the plan may be). What do I see this morning? That little round orange symbol, every hour of the day until sunset.

Now, if you like in the UK like me, this is not a common occurrence for wedding days (or, in fact, any days). We just don’t tend to get that much sun, even in summer. So, as wedding photographers, we can normally look forward to some of that delightful cloud cover that makes our lives that much easier. But, of course, we have to be prepared for – and know how to shoot – in all weathers, including bright sunshine; so it’s a good time to have a quick regroup and think about how this changes the way we shoot. Not to mention, of course, a few housekeeping rules to keep up working all day long!

  • First things first; come prepared personally. Bring bottled water, a change of clothes, suncream. You’re likely to be out in it all day long, so look after yourself.
  • As we all know, hard sunlight creates hard shadows. For much of a wedding day, there’s a minimum of you can do to control angles and lighting – for example, a recessional out of church is going to be in the place it’s going to be. But, even for documentary work, much of the time you can work to place yourself in the right light and shoot those people whose lighting is flattering rather than harsh , therefore minimising the amount of shots with shadows and burnouts.
  • Use fill flash where you need to – no-one likes a group shot with black eye shadows! And whilst we’re on the subject of group shots, do try and find spaces of open shade to work with, and balance the light with your fill flash. This is particularly important for men whose hair is thinning a bit on top, as even with backs to the sun, you’ll inevitably get burnout hotspots on the tops of their heads if they’re not in a shady spot.
  • Talking of shade and flash, you do know that flash is daylight balanced and shade is a warmer temperature, right? This shouldn’t be too noticeable unless you’re in an area of deep shade, but just keep it in mind as this may well give you an imbalanced colour temperature. There are gels you can get for flashes which will sort this issue out, of course, which may be handy to keep in your kit bag.
  • Finally – couples shots will be a little trickier to complete if you’re anywhere near bright sun, as you’ll need to have precise control over the couples’ positioning to ensure the avoidance of hotspots and shadows. For photographers like me, who like their couples’ portraiture to be quite organic, this can cause issues, as it means that allowing the couple to move and ‘make the shot their own’ doesn’t always work out in terms of lighting. For instances like this, I just explain in advance to the couple about why I’m doing things and why I have to position them more carefully. Knowledge is power, and when your clients realise that you’re working to give them the best possible wedding portraits, they’ll be much more on board with the hoops you have to jump through to work against that pesky old sun. Also, LOOK AFTER your clients – it’s going to be difficult for them to stand there for ten, twenty, thirty minutes in the hot sun in their wedding outfits, so make sure they have drinks, frequent breaks, and you use shaded and cool areas as much as possible. When it comes down to it, it’s all about enjoyment and happiness, and no bride is going to feel happy if she’s baking in a big dress in the hot sun for what will definitely feel like forever!

If you’re shooting in the sun this weekend, enjoy – and once more, don’t forget the suncream!