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The most beautiful light for photographs

Whenever I go to a wedding, it’s fairly inevitable that if it’s a sunny day, someone will suggest that I must be loving the weather for photographs, that the light will help with beautiful photographs.

I love beautiful sunshine at weddings when my couples want it for their day, but as for photographs, I don’t find it particularly lovely.

The problem with sunshine in summer – even in Scotland – is that it can be surprisingly unflattering. It can produce strong, harsh shadows and makes people squint a lot. I usually try and position group photographs in the shade, or ideally, with peoples backs to the sun, so that they can see my camera properly and to minimise squinting.

However, I’m fairly happy working in sunshine. It’s nice, it’s warm, it makes people happy, you can go outdoors, and I love that combination for lovely candid photographs of guests having enjoying that feeling and atmosphere you have with a sunny day.

But when it comes to couple portraits,  I’m not such a fan.

I love finding open shade around wedding venues, for couple portraits. But even more than that, I love the magic hour.
bride and groom kissing at sunset
The magic hour is that time just before sunset, when the light is low and golden. At the moment – in June here in Scotland – it’s between 8.30 and 9.30pm. It’s warm and beautiful and it creates some gorgeous romantic photographs. It’s much softer on the skin and it flatters everyone. You can see without squinting. Even better, there are no harsh shadows which tend to accentuate even more when you’re squinting, and it makes for a more even skin tone as well.

It’s not always possible to photograph wedding portraits at this time of day, it depends entirely on the couple and their timeline, but if I can get out in the evening then that’s when the magic really starts.

The great thing is, that even if you’re not getting married, this is a great time of day for couple portraits through engagement sessions as well. Long evenings are just asking for a night out somewhere wonderful, and some beautiful photographs.

The photograph which I’ve shared is from a recent wedding with Jennifer and Chris. We went out just as the sun was setting, and look what happened. There’s just enough of a light around them and it creates a beautiful glow around Jennifer’s hair, but the light on their skin is soft and golden. This is one of my favourite photographs, simply because we went out later in the evening. There are no harsh shadows. The can see each other without squinting, so their faces are beautiful and relaxed.

So if you’re planning an engagement session – or your wedding photography timeline – consider opting for photographs later on in the day when the light is a bit more magical.

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