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Exploring Natural Light Photography at Shady Hollow Country Club

During the Merry Me Creations Bridal show, I had the opportunity to do some exploring of natural light photography at Shady Hollow Country Club, where the show took place, using the beautiful models that were present at the show. Now, this isn’t anything unusual. I LOVE using natural light. And direct sunlight is my favorite.  I want to present some of the images of the brides that I captured at Shady Hollow and discuss my approach using this natural light.

Natural Light Photographer

First, however, I have to address “natural light”. There are a lot of newer photographers who label themselves “natural light photographers”. I don’t want to disparage these folks. Everyone does their own thing and does it the way that they see fit.  But I do want to address the term “natural light photographer” to, hopefully, ahem, shed some light on the subject and educate the reader (sorry for the cheesy pun. I couldn’t resist). Natural light generally means using daylight exclusively without any other lighting modifications. When I see the term natural light photographer, it always makes me wonder. “How do they have sessions at night?” “How do they document wedding receptions?” The term confuses me as it seems to limit the person using it. A true professional photographer should be able to handle any lighting situation, at any time, night or day and do so aptly. If one limits oneself to using only natural light they are not only limiting themselves as artists, they are limiting their clients which is the gravest of sins.

Direct Sunlight Photography

While at Shady Hollow and seeing that I had gorgeous bridal models at my disposal, I wanted to explore the space and see what it offered. The first thing that I noticed was the abundance of natural light (light coming from the outside without any additional modification). For a wedding reception venue, this is always a plus. It allows a photographer to utilize it to enhance the ambiance while keeping things…well…natural. At the time that I was working, there was a wonderful beam of direct sunlight shining on a spot in the bar area. I got really excited when seeing it (if you’ve worked with me, you’ve witnessed this). I immediately grabbed my gorgeous model, Haley, and went to work.

First, I started by using the sunlight as the main light source to light her face. The challenge here was that I had to have her light in the the beam without her squinting. She was perfect. To add more visual interest, I incorporated her reflection in the marble bar.

bride in red dress in sunlight at shady hollow country club


Then, I decided to use the direct sunlight as my secondary light source for the rim light. The window that was to the side of us for the previous image was now our main light source.

bridal portrait at Shady Hollow Country Club

Next I grabbed our male model, Kevin, to do a rim light picture using the same beam of light with the two of them. This one is, essentially, straight out of the camera.

bride and groom laughing in their picture at Shady Hollow Country Club

Indirect Sunlight Picture

The ballroom in Shady Hollow has a loft area. In the loft, you can see the chandelier directly in front of you as well and the beams to the vaulted ceiling. There are skylights that bring in more natural light right into the loft. After placing my beautiful model, Brooke, in the best spot, we came up with this.

bride posing in the loft at shady hollow country club

Traditional Bridal Portrait

Shifting gears, the next image was very impromptu and the most traditional portrait that I think most wedding photographers would do. The bridal gown company was out doing some cell phone pictures so I just lept in after they were finished. There was a doorway where some indirect light was coming from. I made sure that the bride was right in front of that. Keeping the pose that the gown company had her in and grabbed a quick image. Again, a completely traditional bridal portrait but it features the back the wedding dress very nicely.

tradtional bridal portrait at shady hollow country club

The next image is traditional as well. Pretty much in the same spot using the same light. Here I wanted to feature more of the hallway in the venue. This is all natural light illuminating the bride and the ambient incandescent light.

bride posing in hallway of shady hollow country club

Had it been a cloudy day, I may have had to utilize an alternative light source like a flash or some sort of constant light source like an Ice Light. This is what separates the true professional photographers from “natural light photographers”. The ability to make your subject look their absolute best, whether it be a bride on her wedding day, a senior during a senior portrait session, or whatever. And as I stated, limiting the tools available not only hurts the artist, but also the client. This is something that anyone searching for a professional photographer should definitely look out for and question if someone they are considering promotes themselves as a “natural light photographer”.

What’s a flower girl to do once her job is complete?

flower girl ready book in ballroom of shady hollow