Wedding Tips

The Secret to Bright, Natural Light Winter Wedding Photos | Richmond Wedding Photographer

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It’s easy to fight off winter blues when you’re counting down the days to your wedding! But those shorter daylight hours can be a challenge if you love natural light photography. For bright, light and airy winter wedding photos, you need one thing: DAYLIGHT! So how can you make sure to plan optimize the few hours natural light your wedding has? It all comes down to one timeline-saving secret. A First Look!

First Looks: The Secret to Amazing Winter Wedding Photos

This might surprise you. What does a First Look have to do with bright winter wedding photos? Well, everything really. The sun can set as early as 4pm in the afternoon in the winter. But if you plan to have your ceremony is at 5pm, we will be taking all your portraits in the dark!

By having a First Look, you reap so many benefits. You get more of just about everything, including more:

  • Portraits! A First Look means getting photos of the two of you BEFORE your ceremony. Now that that’s out of the way, we only need 5-10 minutes to grab your newlywed portraits post-ceremony. The result is two portrait times, meaning extra portraits!
  • Time! After your ceremony ends, we have limited time to fit in Family Formals, Bridal Party, and Newlywed Portraits. All the while, your guests are waiting to hug and celebrate you. Fitting in your First Look before the ceremony will buy you time with your guests. Maybe you’ll even be able to join Cocktail Hour because we got portraits and Bridal Party photos out of the way early!
  • Memories! I’ll be honest and speak from experience. I don’t remember what Kevin’s reaction was when I was walking down the aisle. I was so nervous, it felt like a blur. Plus my veil fell off mid-aisle so I was distracted by that unfortunate happenstance. My point is, things happen. Ceremonies are overwhelming. You might not remember how he looked at you. Why risk that precious memory?! You know what I DO remember? How he looked at me at our First Look. How we both cried the happiest tears and felt a wave of relief. How we hugged and kissed and melted into one another. How he squeezed my hand as if to say, “Let’s do this.” First Looks give you that second chance at creating those memories with your spouse on your wedding day. Memories that will be captured on camera for you to look back on forever!

Do I Have To Have A First Look At My Winter Wedding?

If the above rationale was not enough to convince you, I totally get it. I started out as a very traditional bride, wanting my future husband to see me for the first time when I entered the ceremony. My mom also was against us having a First Look, so I understand family pressure too. (Though if that’s you’re only reason, remember it’s your only wedding day! Be sure you have no regrets). Ultimately, I want my couples to have the day that they are envisioning. So if a First Look goes against that vision, don’t do one!

However, if you’re having a winter wedding, be prepared that we need to make concessions elsewhere to give you bright, glowy photos. Here are some options to consider.

An Early Ceremony

By pushing your entire timeline up to earlier in the day, we can get those daylight hours that we need for all your photos. Consider doing a brunch or early afternoon ceremony. In the darkest days of winter, I recommend no later than 2-3pm, as long as your ceremony is short (20-30 mins max). We’ll be rushing around for photos still, but I can make magic happen in the 1-1.5 hours of daylight we’ll have left after you say “I do.”

Splitting Your Wedding Day

Some brides cringe at early ceremonies because of when that would put the reception time. I usually hear two reasons for not wanting an early wedding day. One: I want to feed my guests, and that creates an awkward time for dinner. Or two: I don’t want to end my wedding day early, I want to dance the night away with my family and friends!

If that’s you, I’ve seen split wedding days that work out really well. Depending on your venue, consider inviting guests for your ceremony earlier in the day, then dismissing them to grab lunch or freshen up before inviting them back for your big reception! This gives ample, uninterrupted time with to accomplish all your winter wedding photos. Plus, guests might actually love the chance to change shoes for dancing or pre-game somewhere with old mutual friends they haven’t seen in forever. It gives everyone flexibility. Just be sure to consult with your wedding planner on how to best communicate this to your guests.

Embracing Night Portraits

If none of the above options fit your vision either, there’s one more to try. Night portraits! I’ve actually started falling in love with epic night portraits. I use flash to try to recreate dimensional light to make you pop off the background. It’s a far cry from my usual bright and airy style, but it can be a really unique look.

If we go this route, however, keep in mind I’ll need a little extra time for all your portraits. It takes time to set up and move flashes around in between poses. So bear with me, be patient, and know that it’s all intentional. You may have to hold poses a bit longer as I test different light settings to give you the variety I give all my couples. For examples of an ENP Couple that embraced night portraits, check out John and Sarah’s Winter Wedding Photos from 2021!

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