How to get colourful photos of your wedding?
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Over the years the wedding industry has become obsessed with producing images that are anything but colourful. Think back to the last wedding you attended and try to remember the ambient light around sunset. Now compare what you remember to the subsequent images of that wedding, especially those taken during sunset. You might well find it challenging to reconcile the two.

Why are so many wedding images white and dull?

To explain this phenomenon that has bothered us since we got married in 2007 and has been the driving force for our unique photography style, one needs to understand the concept of dynamic range.

Dynamic range can be loosely defined as the ratio between an image’s brightest and darkest parts [What is dynamic range? | Adobe]. As mentioned in the referenced article, even the best cameras can currently only capture approximately 50% of the dynamic range when compared to the human eye. How blessed are we to have such amazing eyesight!

At IdoLife Photography we use some of the very best mirrorless cameras on the market  [Canon EOS R6 – Cameras – Canon South Africa] and I can promise you, the struggle is real! On the other hand, if it were easy, everyone would be a professional photographer and we would be out of work 😊.

What does all the technical stuff practically mean? As wedding and lifestyle photographers, we are regularly left with one of two choices. Let’s use the example of a bride and groom standing outside with a beautiful sunset and some decent cloud cover creating a dramatic sky:

Option 1: We can set our cameras to make the subject (bride and groom) look exactly the way they look to the human eye. As a result, the background does not look real (typically extremely white with no or very little colour, texture and details); or

Option 2: We can set our cameras to make the background look exactly the way it looks to the human eye. As a result, the background will look correct (colourful and dramatic), but the bride and groom will be very dark, almost silhouette-like.

How can I ensure that my wedding images are colourful?

The overwhelming majority of photographers will take the first option, with all the focus being on ensuring that the bride and groom look correct (properly exposed in photography terms). They typically are totally fine with the resultant white sky and losing most, if not all the details in the sky. Most of these photographers will also call themselves “natural light photographers” and they will name their shooting style “light and airy”. In addition, most of them will remove colour (desaturate) from the images during the editing process for the main subject (the bride and groom) to stand out more in the image.

Please don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this style of photography, and in many ways, you can consider this the classical way of taking photos, especially for wedding photography. From experience we can tell you that this look is relatively easy to accomplish, requires minimal gear and the editing process is quick. In many instances, one photographer (sometimes even without an assistant) can handle a wedding captured in this style.

Some photographers, IdoLife Photography being one of them, opt for the second option. Given the same scenario as described above, we do everything we can to capture as many of the details in the sky as possible. Naturally, this then leaves us with a very dark-looking bride and groom, and unless we want to create a silhouette image, this is not ideal.  This is where the knowledge, experience and skilful use of external equipment such as flashes, diffusers and reflectors come in (to name only a few) along with the clever use of camera settings and knowing how to push your camera to the max.

This option allows a photographer to “balance the scene” by adding or reflecting light onto the bride and groom. The result is a properly exposed (correctly lit) image that closely resembles what the human eye saw, and colours don’t get removed (desaturated). As the image will therefore show the sunset and clouds as well as the well-lit newlyweds, this type of photography is typically called “moody and dramatic”. We prefer to call them colourful and vibrant images, full of romance and emotion. It can also be called true-to-tone photography, especially if all the above is not spoiled by the over-editing of images, but that is a topic for another day!

The second option inherently requires a larger photography team as you will need at least one assistant. Based on the wedding package selected by the bride and groom and numerous other factors, our team size will be either three or four. In unique circumstances, it will only be the two of us, but it is not ideal.

Colourful, true-to-tone images

The irony, therefore, lies in the fact that to obtain a colourful, true-to-tone image, one needs to use more than just natural light. As already mentioned, the camera can only get you 50% of what you want. To create an image that closely resembles what was observed by the human eye, the remaining 50% needs to be planned and executed meticulously.

Numerous other techniques and styles we did not even touch on above exist. The important point is that when choosing your wedding photographers, you need to understand their unique style and love their work to avoid disappointment.

Final comment

We will end off with these words from Joan Miro: “You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.”

We trust that the information above has been insightful and that it will assist you in making an informed decision when the time comes to choose the right professional photographer for your wedding day!

May the joy be with you!

Christo & Wandi 

Click here to book IdoLife Photography for your wedding.

Click here for more information about our wedding process.