Josh and Shelly Hartman, Raleigh Wedding Photographers, sent me this great article which is also posted on their blog. I think it has some great advice. Many times couples I meet with have not chosen a ceremony start time and I always tell them to consult with their photographer to see what lighting the photographer needs for the best photos. And, really, this pertains to all weddings, not just backyard weddings! (photo by http://www.hartmanoutdoorphotography.com)
Planning a backyard wedding? Here are some tips to get the most out of your wedding photos.
1. Select a time of day with the best light. Most ceremonies take place between 3:00 and 5:00 pm. We recommend that you avoid having your ceremony in the mid-day sun since this is the absolute worst lighting situation. Late afternoon and early evening are the most photogenic times of day. This is because the sun is low in the sky and the light is softly diffused. The time just before sunset is when the most beautiful warm lighting occurs. Photographers call this the Golden Hour. By scheduling your ceremony later in the day, there will be better lighting for your portraits and reception afterward. To find the Golden Hour for your date, just use this link and click on your wedding date below the map http://www.golden-hour.com/
2. Choose the area in your backyard with the best lighting. If you are getting married prior to the golden hour, you will want to choose a spot with a good amount of open shade. Areas with spotty light (where both light and shade create "spots" on a person) are no good and can ruin a photo. Likewise, if you are having your ceremony in the middle of the day, standing in open sun is not flattering in pictures as it creates harsh shadows on a person's face. Choosing a location based on these recommendations will give you the best photos of your wedding day.
3. If you are set on having your ceremony in an area with less than optimal lighting, do what you can to improve it. If there is not enough shade or there is spotty lighting, create an arbor using white cloth overhead to diffuse the light. Or you can use a white tent and decorate it. We have seen many creative ideas and they have all turned out great! Just make sure you test out your site after your project is complete to make sure the lighting is attractive. This will make both you and your photographers very happy : )
4. Scout out some portrait locations ahead of time. After the ceremony, we love to get away with the bride and groom to allow them to bask in their newlywed joy and capture some romantic couple shots. Josh and I do our best to research locations ahead of time, but if the wedding is far away, we don't always get the chance to explore as much as we would hope. Search for locations during the time of day that we will be doing your couple portraits. Keep an eye out for open fields, rustic buildings, beautiful parks, or anything else that interests you. When choosing a location, just keep in mind the same lighting tips we have listed above.
5. Plan your day in the least stressful way. A big question when planning the day is when to do the group shots. Group shots are usually taken right after the ceremony. But a growing number of couples schedule the group shots before the ceremony because they feel less rushed, guests have more energy, and people are a lot less distracted. Couples who do this typically also like to do a "first look" photo, which gives the bride and groom a great excuse to see each other one last time before the ceremony. Of course, many couples do not wish to break the tradition of seeing each other before the wedding, and that is okay too. Whether you decide to schedule the group shots before or after the ceremony, please allow at least 30-45 minutes and even more time if you plan to go to a separate location. Following these tips will give you the best results.
6. Schedule time for us. Let's face it, hiring a wedding photographer isn't cheap so you had better get your money's worth! When creating a schedule for your big day, please make sure to allow plenty of extra time for photos. This especially includes the getting ready shots and bridal party portraits. Scheduling too little time between the ceremony and reception is probably the biggest mistake that couples make. Many couples are worried about all of the guests waiting on them. The truth is that most guests don't mind the wait and having ample time gives you the opportunity to get tons of pictures and even select an additional location for your group shots or couple shots. Also, make sure you set aside at least a half hour of your time during the Golden Hour to sneak off with your new spouse for some couple shots and alone time. You will appreciate the break from your busy day and your photos will be cherished for a lifetime. I promise it will be worth it!
Josh and Shelley Hartman - Raleigh Wedding Photographers