Behind the scenes | How to photograph large illuminated letters at a wedding

This is the first in a series of blog posts that will take you "behind the scenes" with us on a wedding day. We are predominately natural light photographers who only pose couples minimally at weddings. Sometimes we need to shoot at night time though as that requires a whole different approach. Lately the illuminated "love letter" craze has taken off at weddings and we have had lots of fun photographing the letters with brides and grooms after dark. 

This blog post takes us back to a gorgeous August evening in 2016 with Lia and Josias' wedding at one of our favourite venues "The State Reception Centre" upstairs from Fraser's in King's Park. Larger than Lights had setup a sweet light display on the grass that the guests enjoyed during pre dinner drinks, it looked like this at twilight just after the sun had gone down:

Lia and Josias had lots of wonderful food and speeches in the next few hours so it was past 8:30pm before we had a chance to go outside and photograph them with the letters. By that time the sun had been set for 3 hours so there was zero ambient light around the letters. The letters themselves are very bright but the light falls off very quickly in the surrounding area so we knew we would have to use additional lighting on the couple.

We always have a lighting practice before we add the bride and groom to the photo so that we don't have to keep them away from their reception for very long. One of us will usually model to check the lighting and there was a bit of experimenting going on in these photos. Top left you can see how dark the area is, Amber is using our small panel LED video light on her face. This is a awesome way to add a bit of extra warm glow to your night time photos. We often get guests to help out with lighting too!

We realised pretty quickly there was no way to light the couple in front of the love letters as we couldn't get the video light close enough to them without being seen in the photo! We were lucky enough to be working with our long time video buddy John from Launch Productions who had another LED panel video light similar to ours plus an "ice light" which looks like a light sabre and is great for night time photography.

We made the decision to position the couple on the edge of the frame to give us maximum chance to light them correctly without being seen. This photos shows Lia and Josias in position with Amber and John holding the three lights almost right on top of them.

This exposure was perfect but the lights were still too close to the couple and the final image would have to be cropped too much on the left. We moved Amber and John back a bit knowing the couple would be slightly underexposed but we could fix that in post production. This is the final raw image (straight out of the camera) where we told Lia to turn her face to the light.

And this is the final image as seen on the last page of their album with a bit of tweaking in Photoshop. Our favourite part of the image is the shadow of their heads on the wall behind them so we played that up in the final edit. We love how the light played off Lia's stunning Aelkemi lace gown. We deliberately positioned Lia on the side away from the light as otherwise her dress would be way too bright and Josias' black velvet jacket would have disappeared into the dark background. 

So there you go, a gorgeous romantic after dark photo that was displayed on the final page of Lia and Josias' stunning wedding album. You can see the rest of their wedding here in case you missed it.

Technical specs in case is interested: Nikon d750 with 50mm 1/500 f3.5 ISO 2000 taken at 8:38pm. We used an Aputure flat panel LED video light from Team Digital and John had the Ice Light.

Diane & Amber xx