Tips and Hints for Great Wedding Day Photos
The number one thing you can do to get great wedding day photos is hire a professional photographer who you like and trust but there are a few things you can do to help them. The following is a list of things to keep in mind when you are planning your wedding to aid me in getting great shots.
Sorry if this page looks intimidating. If it makes you feel better, nothing should be hard to incorporate (besides maybe timing – just so much to fit into one day) but it is all good things to keep in mind.
Get this, photos turn out better when they are taken somewhere that is visually striking or stimulating. That’s right, an event center with huge widows and nice architecture set with 14ers as a backdrop works better than my basement no matter how many florescent lights I turn on. There’s lots of reasons why we pick our wedding venue and photography doesn’t have to be in the top 5 but it is something good to think about. Remember to consider where we might take group/couple shots nearby and what the getting ready rooms are like too!
Make your Wedding Reflect your Relationship
There is some give and take in wedding planning – after all it should reflect both of you and most of us have a budget to work with – but make it you. Don’t do something because someone else said they had regrets about it unless it resonates with you. Don’t let others change the way you want your wedding to incorporate something they want (incorporating traditions, etc can be really meaningful but don’t compromise something you really want to make it happen). And DO NOT do something just because everyone else from blogs to friends to magazines say you should. Think about what is actually important to you and make that happen.
Besides the activities of the day, you can use details to make your wedding reflect your relationship and style. Everything from your dress to table centers to signs to the meal/dessert can reflect you. The more thought and creativity you put into this the greater the number of detail shots there will be to take – and detail shots are perfect fillers for your wedding album to tell your story.
The most fun weddings to shoot are ones that reflect you – you will be in your element, enjoying every minute and you will look like you “belong” in your photos.
Meaningful Gestures Create Meaningful Photos
The wedding planning process can be overwhelming – there is just so much to remember and things to coordinate – that we often either forget or just plan don’t have time to put in the effort to make things meaningful. It is unfortunate because these are the things that create “moments” at your wedding. And moments are what you will remember deep in your heart long into the future and moments are what wedding photojournalist, like myself, love to capture (to help jog your memory or share your story).
So what are moments? Moments are fleeting pieces of our day that cumulate to create our lives. They cannot be fabricated, redone, planned or posed. They create emotion and memories and they make meaningful photos.
How do you create space for “moments” to happen? Put time into writing touching toasts or meaningful vows or incorporating music and readings that are special to you. Involve your folks and other’s dear to you. For example, have your mother help you with your dress, your grandmother with your jewelry. Plan a special semi-private/private moment with your dad when he first sees you in your dressx. Lastly, surprise each other! Make or give a meaningful gift, if you are musically inclined plan a special song during the reception, or coordinate fun transportation for the two of you to have some time just the two of you (and your photographer/driver).
Have fun thinking of ways to make your wedding meaningful and personal and don’t forget to keep your photographer in the loop! I should know the story behind meaningful things you have incorporated and when they will happen so we can best know when and where to point our cameras.
Guests love moments and so do photographers!
Consider Engagement Photos
While not necessary, engagement photos help you get to know me and how I manage a shoot. Not only will you get to know what I am looking for but you will feel more comfortable in front of my camera as well. It will help make for seamless portrait shots on the day of your wedding.
Go Stress Free by Delegating
Sometimes when I mention this to brides I see a little fear start to develop in their eyes, “But I just want everything to be perfect!” Trust me, it will be. Your wedding with go down in your history as one of the best days of your life; it’s just a matter of how much you will enjoy it. You likely won’t regret if your centerpiece placements weren’t perfect but chances are you will look back on your wedding and wish you were less stressed or had more time to spend with your loved ones.
Your family and friends will likely be bursting at the seams wanting to make this day perfect for you and looking for any way they can help so put them to work! This has the added benefit of having their special touches make your wedding day more personal.
On the other hand, your wedding is just for one day and if it is really important to you for everything to be perfect I would suggest hiring a planner, at least just for the day of. They will take care of everything and give you time to breath.
What does this have to do with photographing your wedding? Delegating gives you more time to spend with your loved ones (which makes for meaningful photos) and puts you at ease (which makes you look better in your photos); plus you are likely paying your photographer by the hour and decorating shots might not be on the top of your shot list.
Your wedding is one of the happiest days of your life – now prove it!
You have worked hard for months on end incorporating meaningful moments into your wedding that perfectly reflect your relationship, you may even have hired a wedding planner to help coordinate so you can relax, be stress free, and enjoy one of the happiest days of your life – right? In theory yes, but there is just one last secret to make every photo I take of you be beautiful. Ready for it? Be present. Make the decision to be totally at piece and happy with every part of the day no matter what happens. And it is a conscience decision. A happy, present, expressive couple soaking up every minute of their day makes beautiful photos. Live your wedding day to the fullest and let yourself feel the deep emotion that comes with the day. Your photographs will benefit greatly from this decision.
So much to do and so little time!
Give yourself plenty of time. Start early and make a day of it. Most brides like to take their time getting ready and I think this time makes great photos. I can easily find things to photograph for 2 hours. This is also a good time to take detail shots of your dress, shoes, jewelry and rings. Usually 30-45 minutes is enough for group shots of your families and the wedding party if everyone is in the same spot and quick when it is their turn. Another 45 minutes should be dedicated for couple photos. The more time you allot for these photos, the more photos you will have of the two of you together.
It is a good idea to add in 15 minutes to each of these areas to give yourself more time then you think you will need as unexpected events may occur (someone runs late, gets lost, wanders off, etc). Several weeks before your wedding we will walk through your schedule together and talk about how photography will fit in.
- Detail shots during getting ready If you want shots of your rings, dress, shoes, and jewelry a good time to take photos of them is while the bride is getting ready. It helps to be sure both rings are with the bride at this time so we don’t have to track them down. Also, your dress hanging in the doorway on a nice hanger looks better then the plastic one your dress came on – not as important as remembering to bring your veil but it is helpful.
- Please Consider a First Glance. First off, decide how important it is to not see each other until your ceremony. Many couples decide to do a “first glance” for the following reasons: 1) ability to go straight into their reception or cocktail hour with their guests; 2) have more time to get a wider variety of couple photos on their wedding day; 3) don’t feel rushed; and 4) get all the photos out of the way. If you decide to do a “first glance” we can stage a special, private moment for the two of you to see each other for the first time and capture the anticipation (be sure to work out the when and where with me in advance!). Plus, all too often, I am rushing to finish up couples shots just as you are getting comfortable in from my camera or as my creative juices get flowing – it takes some time and if you do an engagement session you will know what I mean. If this doesn’t sway you the tradition behind it might make it seem a little less “romantic” but I won’t get into that now.
- Pre-shoot as many photos as possible. From a purely photography standpoint I always suggest doing all your photos in advance but I know seeing your future husband’s face as you walk down the aisle may be something you have always dreamt about. If you can’t let that image go then you should wait and I am more than happy to accommodate. To be honest, I did. I felt like that moment was the climax of my wedding (but it also wasn’t important to me to have a lot of couple photos – which I sometimes regret today). If you decide to go the traditional route and not see each other until your ceremony, we can still do all the separate group shots beforehand to get as many out of the way as possible.
- Do your couple photos in private. These photos are an important part of your wedding day and you don’t want to cut them short because you feel rushed. Arrange a spot for your friends AND family to hang out while we do these photos. You will be grateful for the quiet time with your new spouse too!
- Quick the guests are coming! Remember guests may start arriving a half an hour or so before your ceremony (to get an aisle seat!) so you will want all your pre-ceremony shots done by then. This means you will want to start your photos 2+ hours before your ceremony (depending on how many you want to do) and you may want to tell everyone to be there an extra 1/2hr in advance because someone always runs late!
- Consider a style shoot. This is a separate photo shoot like an engagement session but in your wedding attire (think magazine photos) not on your wedding day. We can do it where you got married or any other location of your choosing. Leaving the couples shots for another day allows you to spend more time with everyone you have gathered from near and far and take many more photos then we would ever be able to capture on your wedding day in a relaxed, stress free manner.
Everyone Together Now
Group photos can be the most difficult task when it comes to wedding photography but there are a few things you can do to help it go smoothly.
First, communicate with your parents. Tell them what your priorities are for your wedding day photos and the schedule we have agreed on. If a lot of group photos are not important to you (we will definitely get the essentials but numerous poses or shots with distant relatives may not be necessary), tell your folks. If they want more traditional photos then talk through a compromise. Once you have a list, don’t deter from it. When you start deterring from the list of your “must haves” it is a slippery slope and everyone will have a suggestion, leaving us with little (or no) time for your couple shots.
Communicate with your bridal party and family about when and where you will be doing the photos so they are on the same page as well. It is also helpful to explain to them why is it important to be dressed and ready to go on time.
My last tip for group photos is to have fun with them. Hugs and kisses create big smiles and make for more natural looking photos so don’t worry about going in order from tallest to shortest or everyone’s bouquets showing perfectly. In fact, this might be a good time to toast each other or incorporate an inside joke to make more natural/fun photos.
Oh wait, one more thing. If you have less than 150 guests and your venue has a balcony, I think it can be nice to get a large celebration photo with everyone present. This is best done right after your ceremony before everyone leaves. You can ask your pasture/ officiant to give everyone directions on what to do before he/she dismisses them.
Schedule a Rehearsal
About a month before your wedding schedule a time to talk with me about your wedding day timeline and about any loose ends in regards to your photography. This is a good time to make sure I know when all your important moments are happening and you can fill me in on any sensitive areas I should know about (example – divorced parents, etc). When possible, this should happen at your ceremony site. It is good to walk around the premises and talk about potential locations for group and couple shots. This also guarantees I know where I am going and how to find you when I get there.
Pay attention to placement.
This is something I never thought about when I planned my wedding but the placement of some of your key items can help or hinder our job of getting good photos of them. I am specifically thinking about things like your cake, marriage license and toasts. Pick out a spot for your dessert table that I can get behind (and not right behind, I will need some room). It is nicer to get a photo of you with your guests watching in the background then it is of your backs. As for the marriage license think about a pretty spot to sign them. A table with a view behind it will look nicer than a table in a hallway. We can talk about some good spots for all these items at our “rehearsal”.
You likely chose me because of my natural, photo-journalistic style which means that I capture the “moments” from the day as they are happening. A moment ceases to be a moment when you stop what you are doing to look at my camera. Try to be yourself, ignore me (I won’t feel bad!), and don’t look at camera all the time.
My most popular packages include over 10hrs of photography on the day of your wedding. Think about the last time you worked non-stop for 10hrs on your feet… it’s a long time. We start to get pretty light headed at four if we didn’t get lunch. And we need that sugar rush to help us get through the sparkler send off. Your wedding day will likely go by so fast you will have to remind yourself to eat so we don’t feel bad if you don’t offer but we will likely also hold ourselves back from sneaking a piece of cake that looks so lovely. So if it is okay to partake let us know in advance. A glass of chardonnay might help get us through the lower back pain too.
Lets be Friends
I am always open to hearing your ideas and answering any questions you have. In fact the more you communicate with me the better I get to know you and what is important to you – which will make for more meaningful and personal photos. I like to know info about your families, their cultures, the events of the day, which details you chose and why they are important to you, what you are most excited about, your wedding philosophy, etc. The more I know the better I will be able to document your day. Plus all this will make me feel relaxed and welcomed – again, leading to better photos (and likely service, I am human). In addition, you are always welcome to show me photos from bridal magazines or other’s sites (in fact I encourage this). I won’t be offended and it helps me to better understand your style.
One Last Note
None of this is imperative. Incorporate what you can and forget about the rest. We will get good shots. : ) Deep breathes.
Congrats on sticking with me this long!