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Working With Ambient Light to Create a Cinematic Wedding Video

Clients don’t need to know the ins-and-outs of your creative process to recognize that you’re good at what you do. 

With budgets and deadlines to contend with, content creators are in tune with the logistics of producing a client project — and this shows through in the final edit. 

But what might be logistically feasible for one production process might not be for another. 

Take reviewing and reshooting footage during filming, as an example. Though this is common practice on most film sets, wedding videographers don’t have the luxury of a second take. 

As a wedding videographer, you know that each moment captured throughout your time with the client is significant. It’s extremely rare to get a second chance at capturing a shot in the right way.  

To ensure that you bring the best material into post-production, you have to go a step further than scouting the locations and creating a shot list. You need to know how to work with ambient light.

This article breaks down three strategies for filming with ambient light so that your post-production process can be as seamless as possible. 


Shotlist Template CTA


Working with Ambient Light During a Wedding Shoot

Ambient light is inherently present in every filming location, which is not to say that it’s easy to work with.

As a general rule, any light source that you didn’t bring to a filming location is recognized as a form of ambient light. 

So when a wedding shoot takes place indoors, the natural light entering a room through the windows is ambient light. The same can be said for the pre-existing artificial lights in a room. 

Though ambient light serves a necessary purpose, it also poses logistical issues for videographers. 

For one, a camera lens doesn’t process changes in lighting in the same way that our own eyes do. If you don’t account for the color temperature of the ambient lighting and non-ambient lighting, the video quality will be less than ideal.

1. Know the Color Temperature of Ambient Light

Every light source falls somewhere on the color temperature spectrum between 1,000 and 10,000 degrees Kelvin (K). 

A warmer light source like a candle (1,500K) or tungsten light (3,200K) has a lower color temperature than natural light from the sun (5,200K). 

If you don’t adjust your camera’s white balance setting to match the color temperature of a candle, the footage will likely have a red-ish tint. If you don’t change the setting when filming outside, the footage will have a blue-ish tint.

Because ambient light can be either natural or artificial light, understanding color temperature is extremely important. If you’re able to identify what the color temperature of a light source is, you can make quick adjustments to your camera’s settings. 

We’ll get to the additional modifications that you can make when working with ambient light during a shoot a little later. 

2. Take Cues from Clients When Developing a Shot List

Client communication is crucial at every stage of the production process, but especially during planning. 

Your client’s expectations for the wedding shoot can inform what you include in a shot list. And as you plan for the shoot, you can consider how ambient light might impact the footage. 

Let’s say your client requests a specific shot inside the chapel. Even if you don’t scout this location ahead of time, you can anticipate that the ambient light will come from a combination of natural and artificial light sources. 

When you know your client’s expectations, you can include specific shots that the client wants and feel more prepared leading up to the wedding shoot. 

3. Neutralize Ambient Light in the Room

When working with both natural and artificial ambient light, adjusting the white balance setting isn’t the only modification that you should make.

If your camera is picking up on mixed color temperatures, the first step is to neutralize the lighting in the room. Without this step, you can’t properly adjust the white balance setting because of the dueling color temperatures. 

The most effective way to create a baseline color temperature is to bring along the right lighting gear and tools. 

Diffusion, Key Lights & Negative Fill

If the natural light through a window is overwhelming a shot, you can use diffusion material to soften the lighting and reduce the appearance of glares. 

This type of material is effective at preventing harsh shadows but might give your footage a flat appearance if you don’t use a key light to create more contrast.

When you’re working with cool natural light, it’s important to use a key light that is daylight-balanced. To create even more contrast in a shot, we also recommend bringing a black flag with you to a shoot. 

The video below details how you can use a key light and other gear to achieve the right lighting during a wedding shoot:




CTB & CTO Gels

Diffusion material, key lights, and black flags are extremely useful during a shoot, but not every creator can afford to buy this gear or transport it from location-to-location.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to neutralize the color temperature in a shot, you can use CTB and CTO gels to change the color temperature of artificial ambient light.

To make warm light sources match the cooler natural light in a room, you can place a CTB gel over the tungsten light bulbs in the room. But if you want to add more warmth to a cool light source, you can use a CTO gel. 

When working with artificial ambient light, a gel can be very effective in helping you achieve the effect you want.

Working with Ambient Light During Post-Production

It’s important to know how to adapt to changes in ambient lighting during a shoot. With the right modifications and quick adjustments, you can worry less about correcting the lighting during post-production.

That being said, you won’t always be able to address unexpected logistical issues in the exact moment they occur. 

As you edit the footage together, you can make any necessary changes to the appearance and exposure — but also use special effects and lighting templates to enhance the overall look of the wedding video.

To help you produce a cinematic video that your client will love, Soundstripe offers a growing library of royalty free music, stock video, and SFX.

If you’re in need of great quality music, we have an entire playlist dedicated to Wedding & Reception.  

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