Planning your winter wedding photography

Hands up if you're a bride-to-be who's planning a winter wedding? Great! Now, keep your hands up if you, or your photographer, have considered what the sun will be doing on your big day? Yes, I know, you want it to shine all day long, with a big blue sky and no clouds (although your photographer will probably be hoping for a light covering of clouds to soften the light a little, but we won't go into that right now) but I'd like to get you thinking a bit deeper.
I had a conversation with a bride yesterday, who is going to view her potential venue at an open-day next week and she is, understandably, very excited about it - and why shouldn't she be? She's going to view her wedding venue in all its glory, in June, with some of the longest hours of daylight in the year, leaves on the trees, flowers everywhere etc. yet she's planning a December wedding. No big deal, right? It'll just be a little bit colder and there may not be as much colour around.
Well, there's actually a bit more to it than that.
Not only will the trees be bare, and the flower beds empty, she will also have to compete with having one of the shortest days of the year, so the amount of daylight available for any outdoor shots will be reduced dramatically. When I mentioned this, her eyes went wide and she replied "I never even thought about that!" Of course she hadn't - no bride ever does, and that's not a bad thing. Obviously, she's excited about the details of her big day; the dress, the venue, being surrounded by her friends & family (and let's not forget the wee bit about marrying the man whom she wants to grow old with) and having some amazing photographs to remember it with. Unfortunately, the images she's seen of her chosen venue will probably have been taken during the summer, so there's no way she's going to have exactly the same light as the brides in that brochure. What she may need to consider is that it might be worthwhile having her ceremony a couple of hours earlier in the day. Typically, in the UK, the sun sets around 3.30pm in December and, with a 2-2.30pm ceremony, the chances are that most group shots will either be shot indoors or outside in the near-darkness (bear in mind that the light levels will be falling long before the actual sunset time). Even arranging your ceremony for 1pm will give you a window of opportunity where you can get some photographs taken outdoors - weather permitting, obviously.

 The Gailes Hotel is a very popular, award-winning venue on the West Coast of Scotland. As you can see, not only is the amount of daylight reduced dramatically, but the position of the sun at the same time of day is different. Watch out for buildings which may cast shadows on your chosen location for photographs.

 St Conans Kirk sits on the banks of Loch Awe, in Scotland, and is an absolutely stunning venue for a wedding. Again, we see the same pattern as we do at The Gailes and we also need to consider the trees and, more importantly, the large mountains which surround it as they will cast shadows on a lot of the church grounds long before sunset.

The difference made by planning ahead.
 Knowing exactly where the sun is going to be throughout your wedding day can make all the difference between wedding snaps and images which, as one bride described them, her "... children will fight over when we're gone"

The great news (so, no, it's not all negative :) ) about your winter wedding is that the sun is much lower in the sky throughout the day, which is a very flattering light, which will help your shots. Big, stormy clouds, snow and even rain can all add something special to your wedding images and winter sunsets can often be some of he most beautiful you'll ever see. Okay, so you'll be a wee bit colder than you may like, but you won't see that in your photographs.
So, if you haven't already done so, now is the time to discuss the sun with your wedding photographer - or any potential ones you've been looking at.

 Shot around 3.30pm on December 1st, the afterglow of sunset  gives these shots a gorgeous burst of colour - without the need for any digital manipulation. Shooting at this time of day, during the winter, means working fast as the light levels drop very quickly. Dealing with large groups at this point is a definite no-go, in my book - this is a time when your photographer must be dedicated to just the bride & groom.
A quick sprint round the loch allowed this environmental portrait, showing they're venue in all its glory. Three minutes later the colour in the sky was gone - within 10 minutes, we were in darkness.
Making a fraction of a second... last a lifetime


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