Wedding trends come and go. One of the biggest trends right now with photographers is promoting themselves as strictly “natural light photographers”.

This is clearly a popular trend because natural light in photography is absolutely beautiful. The tones. The soft glow on the skin. The natural, organic feel it gives. It’s also the easiest way to photograph. This is why so many new photographers are strictly natural light.

Is it the right choice for you to book a photographer that is only skilled in available light?  

This really depends on so many other factors than just your taste of wedding photography style.  It really depends on your wedding design and location.  This article is here to help you guide you through the questions that you should be asking your wedding photographer. Along with what kind of photographer you should look for that will match your wedding day.

Examples of weddings that a Natural Light photographer will excel at.

As you can see, this wedding was 99% outdoors. All the wedding details were in beautiful light throughout the day, and the ceremony was perfectly backlit behind a tree. No reflectors or lighting modification were needed at all. Look at that beautiful glowing skin! This was also a summer time wedding. Therefore the couple had this beautiful light until around 9pm.

Even natural light photographers are going to have to photograph indoor receptions. However, when it comes to shooting with natural light, the point of it is to not have a lot of gear and keeps things as simple as you can. For this wedding I photographed the whole day with nothing but my cameras and on camera flashes. See those beautiful white ceilings at the Piedmont Community Center? The bright white walls and ceiling of the venue make it easy for even a strictly natural light photographer to bounce light and make beautiful imagery. Basically if you have a white room for your wedding reception – your natural light wedding photographer won’t have any issues!

This low light shot was taken with only available light. The couple really wanted to capture the pretty twinkle lights of the reception location. So I got my settings just right to capture this for them. A quiet intimacy is featured in the shot that flash wouldn’t have been able to achieve. Mind you, to get this kind of photograph the lanterns must be bright enough and your photographer needs to correct gear to shoot wide open apertures or high ISOs.

If you want a shot like the one I photographed above, ask your photographer for examples to see. It is important that their capabilities match your vision.

If you are getting married in a Church or Chapel that does not allow artificial light or flash of any kind, you can feel safe in the hands of a natural light photographer. Remember the check with the rules of your ceremony location to see if any sort of flash is allowed inside. For this wedding at the Mission Santa Clara de Asís  no flash or artificial light was used in the making of these photographs. High ISO, steady hands, and the experience of shooting in such venues made these images come out clear and beautiful despite the darkness.  Is your indoor ceremony location denying the use of flash? This is a great sign that a natural light photographer would work out just fine for you.

Examples of weddings where you need a skilled artificial light photographer

candlelit wedding ceremony at wente vineyards

Candlelit wedding ceremonies.  I cannot stress this enough! If you are having a dimly lit candle ceremony like this romantic ceremony of Mckenna and Brian at Wente Vineyards, I highly suggest a photographer that is skilled with studio quality light as your wedding photographer. This was a challenging ceremony. I was faced with not only a flash of bright light as the bride came in, but then a ceremony that was so dark it would have been impossible to photograph anything quality using just the available light.  Instead I set up external flashes with diffusers so that I wouldn’t ruin the ambiance that the couple was going for. Thank God for my experience in studio photography! I would have probably resorting to pumping up my ISO (delivering grainy photos to my clients) or direct flash (ruining the ambience of the golden hues from the candles).

If you are having a candlelight wedding ceremony, definitely make sure you hire a wedding photographer that has skills in artificial light equipment.

Mad men vintage hollywood styled wedding inspiration at the Omni Hotel in San Francisco

Winter weddings are not the best for natural light photographers. What do you do when the schedule gets mixed up and the sun is down at 4pm? A photographer that is skilled in the art of off-camera flash, studio lighting and can work under pressure will save the day. For this stunning Mad Men themed wedding of Holly and Rob they knew that they would be losing the sun early on. They knew that I had previous studio lighting skills and a love for the cinematic. They gave me their trust and in turn I gave them this killer one of a kind portrait that reflected their wedding style goals. I was ecstatic to capture these classic Hollywood style wedding portraits for them.

Proving no sun on your wedding day? No problem. 

A bride putting on her chuck taylor sneakers for her wedding reception so she can dance at Domenico Winery in San Martin by Heather Elizabeth Photography

Dark Reception Halls. These tend to be found in wineries and old churches.  I basically consider any reception hall with dark wood or black ceilings and walls a panic zone for a strictly natural light photographer. There is no white walls or ceilings for flashes to bounce off of. So forget the easy way of using your on-camera flash. A photographer that knows how to set up multiple external flashes around the room in addition to the one on their camera is who you need to hire. It’s only this way can you capture your wedding reception without losing the ambience you so carefully chose.

Not all weddings need to be outdoors – this is your wedding day. You simply must find yourself a wedding photographer that has the skill set to take on your wedding venue!

Classic vintage Hot rod wedding portrait at night time in Livermore, California for a Car Club couple

Do you have a love of night time portraits? This couple wanted to capture the glow of the wedding venue as well as the groom’s classic hot rod ride at the end of the night. Capturing this in available light wouldn’t have given the same effect. I set up a single flash behind the couple in the right direction. That way not only could I highlight the couple’s figures, but the groom’s prized car and the glowing headlight.  If you really have some interesting night time photographs in mind, I would highly suggest putting out the investment for a skilled photographer that knows how to capture such things.

If night time photography isn’t your jam, then perhaps you don’t need someone so fancy! This is all up to your personal needs for your wedding story that you want to document.

crazy candid kids dancing at a wedding reception in woodland california

Outdoor wedding receptions. This is a tough one and really depends on what style you like.  Many natural light photographers might just turn on their direct flash for a night time outdoor wedding reception. With no walls to bounce off of, that is basically the only choice they have. However If you are looking for something with a bit more style for your dance reception photos, you might look for a skilled artificial light photographer. The photograph of these kids rocking out was taken out on a lawn with nothing but the twinkle lights and random spot lights you see in the background. A giant soft box flash was put up on the stage so that my flash had the height to get the guests rocking out on the dance floor.

If you are looking for this style of photograph, you probably might want to stray away from a primarily natural light photographer. Rather book a photographer that can show you how they light these receptions.


There are no rules when it comes to booking your wedding photographer.

Go with your heart. But also remember to really take into account the kind of wedding that you are having. If you are having an indoor, candle ceremony and dark ballroom wedding in January, it might not be wise to book a photographer that you see that they have only natural light images on their website. The more examples the better. Ask to see full weddings.

Remember ;

Go with your heart. It’s your Barb-e-q. Make sure you pick the right sauce.

Be practical and know the kind of wedding you are having, and what skills the photographer needs to capture it

Make sure you wouldn’t mind grabbing a few beers with your wedding photographer.



xo, Heather 


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