The best wedding photos aren't always full of sunshine and rainbows. Some of the most dramatic shots are possible because they take place at night. Whether you're planning an after-dark wedding or you just want an impressive engagement photo shoot, learning the tricks of nighttime photography is a must-have skill. Look for photographers who are comfortable snapping away in the dark. Remember, darkness is a shining opportunity for dramatic lighting!

Shoot for the Moon

Consult a lunar calendar so you know exactly what type of moon to expect on the night of your shoot. (A quick Internet search will provide you with plenty of information about upcoming moon phases.) Look for the moon rise and set times for your particular area, as well.

A full moon lends a dreamy, romantic feel to a wedding or engagement photograph. Your photographer can incorporate it directly by using a low camera angle to include the glowing orb in your shot. (Catching the moon while it is still low on the horizon makes it seem bigger and brighter, as well as making it easier to include in the background of photographs, which is why consulting time charts for lunar precision comes in handy.) Even if you don't want to include the full moon itself in every photograph, the light it casts will still make your nighttime shoot go more smoothly.

A crescent moon provides an interesting "prop" that can be played with in the context of your shoot. Try staging a pose where one of you gets on bended knee and "offers" the moon (carefully positioned behind a ring box) to your beloved. Depending on the angle of the crescent, you can use it to curve around your joined hands or to frame a kiss. Let your photographer know exactly what pose you're attempting each time, since the illusion depends on the exact position of the camera.

Are You Going Steady?

Nighttime shots make extremely vibrant, romantic images, but they need every bit of light they can get in order to do so. Most cameras have difficulty maintaining a sharp focus and grain-free image in low-light scenarios. They need to keep their aperture open for longer periods of time in order to catch enough light to make a clear picture. This long exposure makes beautiful photos, but it also needs complete stillness to keep the photo subjects from becoming mere blurs.

Help the camera to make the most of the available light by keeping your pose as still as you can. Choose a pose you will have no difficulty maintaining for a few seconds at the very least–seated or reclining poses are best for longer exposures. Keep in mind that your facial expression needs to stay steady, too. While natural smiles are great, just don't start laughing!

The camera itself needs to stay absolutely still during a long exposure. Forget handheld shots (unless your wedding photographer happens to also be a robot) and make sure your photographer brings a high-quality tripod. This will keep the camera steady during the exposure and ensure that your expressions are preserved in beautiful detail.

Taking Things Lightly

The best part of nighttime photo shoots is that they provide the perfect backdrop for creative lighting. Do you love any light fixtures that are especially striking? From a majestic public fountain that lights up at night to an LED-powered glow toy you can fit in one hand, lights take nighttime photos to the next level.

The light can be the focal point of the shot–consider bringing your favorite living room lamp into a natural setting and lighting it with a small generator or long extension cord. The light can also take a back row seat and merely be used to illuminate your kissing faces.

If you are performing a candle ceremony with your vows, hiring fire dancers, using sparklers, or incorporating another type of illumination into your wedding festivities, immortalize it with a photo set that makes the most of your choice. Let your photographer know about your light source well ahead of time so the right equipment will be available to show it off on the big day.

One of the biggest advantages to nighttime wedding and engagement photo shoots is that they do not require a spectacular backdrop. You don't have to drive five hours to find the perfect view or spend thousands of dollars renting the perfect setting. When darkness falls, every location becomes dramatic and full of photographic potential. All you need is a spark of imagination.

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