Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers | To Light or Not to Light

Light light light light. More important than your equipment, more important than your subject, lighting can make or break a photograph. As a photographer the very first thing you should always look for when setting up a photograph is light. Finding the light and understanding how to use it to make your photo dramatic, soft, dimensional or artistic should be the number 1 priority when photographing.  As my husband, John, always teaches his students during his workshops: "Photograph the light first, the subject second." Very good advice. Both John and myself being purists, in the past we have mostly relied on natural lighting and occasionally a pop of our SB-900s for a little fill light (especially at receptions). We certainly always paid attention to what others were doing, the equipment being used and the latest trends in lighting, but we never really felt the need to get into too much off-camera lighting. Just recently we decided to start playing around with it a little more and truthfully I just can't tell if I like it or not. Now, there is so much you can do with off-camera lighting. From big setups to a simple speedlight and a reflective umbrella...truly the choices are limitless.  I have even begun using it more and more in my Intimates photography, which was a bit difficult for me as I so heart natural light because of the ethereal soft look it lends to my photographs.

So I guess I'm asking your opinion. Here are 2 photos below that we took this past Saturday. Obviously one is lit with off-camera lighting (speedlight on a stand pointing directly into a black umbrella with a silver reflective interior). I do love the soft romantic feel of this photo but I also am very aware that there is very little ambient light, which I am a huge fan of. However, the 2nd photo is so colorful, so soft and so natural. Although, in the 2nd photo I become very aware of the flatness of the photo. In photo 1 the couple just pops right off the page. But in photo 2 I get a more "natural" feel from the photo as this photo truly depicts what I saw while standing in this church.

The truth is there is no wrong way to light a photo because, just like art, the look and feel of a photo are in the eyes of the beholder. If you're a pretty decent photographer, there is no such thing as bad lighting. You make do with what you have and if you're friendly with your equipment you can make whatever lighting situation you're in work for you (and we wedding photographers know that rain, sun or clouds...we make it work!)

So...opinions, thoughts, comments? Which one do you like better and why? What is it about each photo that you are drawn to and why?