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Indoor Wedding Photography with Available Light: 3 Simple Techniques

A wedding is a very important life event that records and celebrates the union of a couple. At the same time, it is also a photo opportunity for capturing shots in a setting that is completely different from our daily lives. If you are confused about how to start, why not try out the three techniques from veteran wedding photographer Takenao Anzawa down below? Utilising only elements found in the surrounding environment, they are easy to master, and are also great for improving your photography skills. (Reported by Takenao Anzawa)

Indoor wedding photography hero


1. Natural light from the window for a natural look

Bridal portrait shot indoors

EOS-1D X/ EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM/ FL: 70mm/ Shutter-priority AE (f/6.3, 1/100 sec, EV +1.7)/ ISO 800/ WB: 4316K
*Shot with only ambient light


Indoor bridal portrait (diagram)

Lighting diagram


Cloudy weather = softer light

This full-body portrait of the bride in her wedding gown was shot using natural light that shone through the large windows in the room. It was cloudy outside, so the lighting was softer than it would have been on a clear day, resulting in more delicate tones. The yellow hue of the ceiling and walls of the wedding hall created a warm atmosphere together with the sunlight.


Posing tip: How to make the face look sharper

I chose to capture the bride from a low angle to include the chandelier at the back in the frame. A low angle can make the face look rounder, especially if the head is tilted up. Ask the subject to lower their chin slightly: It makes the face look sharper and better defined.

Find out more about posing portrait subjects in:
Techniques for Posing and Directing Portrait Subjects
3 Flattering Techniques to Learn from Professional Models


2. Sometimes, a chandelier may be all you need

Bride and groom in dressing room under chandelier

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 24mm/ Manual exposure (f/4, 1/30 sec)/ ISO 1250
*Shot with only ambient light


Bride and groom in dressing room under chandelier (diagram)

Lighting diagram


When you see an ideal situation, go give it a try

This photo was taken inside the staff room. It was an impromptu decision as I was attracted to the beautiful chandelier. In wedding photography, it is important to trust your instincts and give it a try when you chance upon an ideal light source or situation.


Light coming from above: Watch where you create the highlights

The main light source came from the chandelier above. Light from this angle casts deep shadows on the face: Where the highlights on the bride’s face are created could make or break the shot.

I was therefore very careful when I posed the bride. Each time I adjusted her sitting position and face direction, I checked the effect of the lighting angle on it. Eventually, I settled on a low-angle position where the mirror reflection of the entire chandelier was visible.


Tip: Cleaning up the shot

In post-processing, I darkened the peripheral areas of the image so that unwanted objects in the surroundings would look less noticeable.


3. Up the cinematic amp with the night scenery outside

Bride and groom seated in room with night scene background

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 70mm/ Manual exposure (f/4.5, 1/2 sec)/ ISO 320/ WB: Auto
*Shot with only ambient light


Bride and groom seated in room with night scene background (diagram)

Lighting diagram


No flash needed—just the right conditions and a slow shutter

At first glance, you might think that light from a flash was employed to capture this photo. But in fact, only ambient light was used.

The standing lamp directly above the couple played a central role here: It created downward lighting that brightened the entire room with soft diffused light.

To make the newlyweds stand out, I used that light as the only light source and turned off the chandelier above them. With the tripod placed on the staircase landing to capture the view from above, I asked the couple to stay put and used a slow shutter speed of 0.5 second to include the night scenery.

The lighting brought out the dramatic night view through the huge window and the glamorous feel of the chandelier, creating an effect that leaves a strong impression on the viewer.


You might also be interested in:
Step by Step: How to Capture Dramatic Portraits Using Backlight from the Window

New to wedding photography or need a recap? Here are some tips to start with:
10 Tips for Dedicated Wedding Photographers
Shooting Weddings: Best Places and Trends
Wedding Photography: Tips of the Trade


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Genkosha Co.

Genkosha Co.

A publisher that specializes in books and magazines about video, photography and illustrations.

Takenao Anzawa

Takenao Anzawa

Born in 1975, Anzawa grew up watching his photographer father work at his family’s photography studio. His aspirations to follow in his father’s footsteps drew him to drop out from university and enter the Nippon Photography Institute. Upon graduating, he joined Hakuhodo Creative, Inc. (now known as Hakuhodo Products, Inc.) for a few years. Hoping to pursue wedding photography further, he left for the United States in 2006 and became a student of visual artist Shinichi Maruyama. Upon his return, he established An’z Photography (“Anz Photo” since 2009). In 2012, he was involved in establishing the Japan Wedding Photographers’ Association, of which he is the current President. When he is not shooting weddings, Anzawa is a full-time lecturer at the Nippon Photography Institute.