As Autumn gradually takes over from the beautiful summer we’ve had it’s the time of year when we start to talk to brides and grooms about their upcoming winter weddings. Personally I love winter weddings – there’s something about the light on a crisp winter morning with perhaps a touch of frost icing those last remaining leaves on the trees that puts a touch of magic in the air and makes for some really interesting photos. It also tends to mean that the day is more about the people than the setting as more of the day is concentrated inside and for a documentary photographer like me that can actually be a real advantage.
Winter weddings also offer numerous advantages for the bride and groom – venues and suppliers often offer their services much cheaper during the winter months as demand is always lower and it’s also just a lovely festive, family-orientated time, but there’s one thing that, whilst seemingly obvious, some Brides and Grooms often miss when it comes to booking their photographer – a winter wedding is fundamentally different from a summer wedding.
Last week we spoke about Pinterest boards being presented to the photographer filled with images that may not match their style or the type of setting in which the wedding is taking place, but there’s one more fundamental element that truly defines the way a picture is going to look: light. It’s easy during the summer months to book your photographer based on those beautiful warm, bright pictures that are appearing on their blog of their most recent weddings from the peak of summer or from destination weddings in warmer climes, but it’s so important to remember that (unless that photographer is doing an awful lot of false processing) that warm texture isn’t being created by them through some magical photographic technique, the light is fundamentally there to be captured and it’s simply down to the skill of the individual photographer just how effectively they make use of it.
In the winter months though the light on your average day has an altogether different quality to it – a cloudier sky is likely to cause a colder colour to the light, that beautiful dappled light through the trees isn’t going to be the same because the leaves simply aren’t there to create the effect and, more generally speaking, unless you happen to get lucky you’re just less likely to have that glorious sunlight beaming away behind you and creating an instant stunning backdrop. Photography is effectively defined as the controlled addition of light to a photosensitive surface, Put more simply, photography is basically painting with light and in art terms if you imagine the summer light as a bold saturated acrylic paint and the winter light as a less potent powdered water colour it’s clear that the two finished paintings are never going to look quite the same.
That is not to say that the two paints, in the right hands, can’t produce something equally beautiful, indeed it may be the watercolour that you most connect with, it’s just that they’re never going to have exactly the same feel or texture. It’s also important to remember that for some artists acrylic paint is their medium and for others watercolour, and not all artists are equally as skilled and comfortable with both.
So when booking your photographer for a winter wedding make sure you’re not purely judging their work based solely on their summer images. Take a look at their full portfolio and make sure that you like the way their style looks under winter conditions. A good photographer will of course be able to adapt to winter or summer conditions alike but for some their style is much more suited to one than the other and it’s definitely something to take under consideration. For example someone who likes to shoot very bright, vibrant images is likely to have to adapt their style more than someone who likes to shoot things a little darker and you need to be comfortable with that adaptation and fully understand the type of images you’re likely to receive.
It’s not just the quality of the light itself but the amount of it that is actually available that affects the way photographers may choose to shoot in winter. Rooms that would in summer be brightly lit by the sun may become much more shadowy and consequently some photographers will look much more to use flash to fill in any gaps in the available light. There is of course nothing wrong with this but you might need to be prepared for a lot more flashes going off than you would normally be expecting. Some photographers will also choose to use their own artificial lights to increase the available light level in the room. which again can solve a lot of problems but perhaps might be slightly more intrusive than a photographer that is used to shooting in dark conditions and prefers to still make use of the naturally available light. Neither is the wrong way to do it but each will impact on your day and on the photographs differently and it’s up to you to decide which you would prefer.
There’s also the matter of the group shots and it’s important to remember that in the heart of winter the light is more or less gone by 3.30pm so if you’re planning outdoor group shots you need to schedule them to happen well before then and you’re even more likely to need to fall back on an indoor contingency plan in a well-lit room.
But when you do find the right photographer for you and if you’ve thought about the timings of the group shots (and accepted that it might actually NOT snow beautifully at the perfect moment!) your winter wedding photographs can be absolutely stunning. Winter is a very special time to get married with all kinds of new and different textures and inspirations for the photographer to capture. But when you’re flicking through those portfolios just remember the key component of what makes up those pictures – light, light and less light!