Your wedding photos are something you will hold dear for decades to come. If you house is burning down, chances are good that photo album is one of the few things you will grab at a moment’s notice before dashing to safety.
Great wedding photographers know this. They take their jobs incredibly seriously, and want to make sure you get the best possible pictures of your special day. Here's some tips we've learned along the way and would love to share with you.
1. Your wedding is about you. Do what you want!
Rules are made to be broken. Don’t feel constrained by tradition, or allow yourself to be pushed around by your wedding planner/mother/auntie etc. Do what you want on your wedding day.
A perfect example is where you stand during the ceremony. Why stand either side of the celebrant? Why not stand off to the side? You might be breaking with tradition, but now you won’t have the officiant in all your photos – better yet, he or she won’t be grinning in the background when you kiss.
Another example are bridal parties. They can be fun, and you may feel obligated to have them, but they’re not essential, and from a photographer’s point of view, they can be difficult to manage. It’s one thing to take the bride and groom away to get some photos, it’s entirely another to manage a ten-person bridal party, particularly when you have a few locations in mind for photos and there’s champagne involved. And they can be expensive.
If you do choose to have a bridal party, allow some time away from them with just your photographer. Grooms can feel embarrassed when they’re being intimate with their partner and their friends are watching on. As a photographer, there’s nothing worse than trying to get that magic, romantic warmth from a couple when the best man is heckling the groom, for example. Or taking well-meaning advice and suggestions from the bridesmaids while you’re trying to get the photos you’ve spent days planning.
A wedding is about you and your partner. Everything else is important, but ancillary.
2. Good photos take time.
Good photos rarely happen in 20 minutes, so allocate a reasonable amount of time to get them. Some venues have great locations very close by, but often there are places down the road or across town that can help make your wedding photos even more special.
This time doesn’t have to be a trial. Think of it as a break from guests and family, and enjoy it.
3. Get ready somewhere quiet and nice, and try to keep it clean.
Prep time can be stressful, and it can be doubly stressful when you’re being crowded by a lot of (well-meaning) people. Try to cut the crowd down, so you can relax a bit, and so that your makeup artist and photographer can do their work. Also, be aware of all those packets of crisps and water bottles laying around the place – it’s not always easy to just "photoshop" them out after the fact.
4. Your dress is probably going to get dirty.
If you resign yourself to this, it will be much easier to come to terms with it when it happens. Dresses and shoes are expensive, but you don’t want to be fretting all day over them. Your photographer may take you to some tricky locations. Those beautiful images of newlyweds strolling in sunlit fields and lounging about in old barns don’t happen by magic – you may need to trudge through some muddy paddocks and clamber over a fence or two.
If you want. You can always choose to get your photos in the local garden. But be realistic about the end result. It’s also fun to let go a bit at the end of the night, and it’s much easy to do that when you’re not worried about getting beer or wine spilled on your dress.
5. Consider banning iphones, ipads etc at the ceremony.
Iphones are everywhere on wedding days and iPads are particularly horrid, but anything, held up in the air during the ceremony – particularly at inopportune times – are anathema to wedding photographers. It’s not too much to ask of guests that they hold off from taking their own photos during the ceremony, and instead simply enjoy the occasion.
6. Write a list of family formals, and keep your photographer abreast of any family issues that might crop up.
Your photographer won’t know your family, so it helps a great deal if they have a list to work with when taking family photos. Let them know about divorces and/or deaths – this could help avoid some embarrassing moments. Most photographers will ask for this information prior to the day, but it pays to be ready if they don’t.
7. Pick the right photographer and ditch the other lists.
Family photo lists are great – shot lists, not so much. The worst thing you can do is hire a photographer to shoot like someone else. It will never work out. It’s ok to show him or her what images appeal to you, and to give him some examples, but micro-managing a photographer’s post-processing and/or giving him a long list of images you want taken is a bad idea.
A photographer needs freedom to be creative, to shoot what he sees in front of him. All couples, all locations, all moments are different, and it’s the photographer’s task to capture them as they happen, not to manufacture an image from a different place and time, shot by a another person. The last thing a wedding shooter needs to be doing is looking through lists and pinterest photos at your wedding to make sure that they’ve ticked off all the items you’ve asked of them, because in the time that it takes sweating those details, they’ve missed what’s actually happening in front of them.
Choose well, give them creative freedom, and then trust them.
8. Light is Everything.
Light can make or break your wedding photos, so it’s important to try to plan your wedding to give your photographer the good stuff. Late in the day is best for your wedding photos, specifically the hour before sunset. Try not to plan your photos in the middle of the day, or early afternoon. Unless it’s overcast, you’re asking for trouble. Strong sunlight = harsh shadows.
Additionally, if you’re planning an outdoor ceremony, consider the sun. An early ceremony in dappled light is a killer. It’s very hard to fix up a patch of shadow on your face, and walking from sunlight to shadow as you walk down the aisle is a very tricky scenario for any photographer to manage.
9. Give yourself some time alone on the dance-floor.
If you have a first dance / bridal waltz with your partner, make sure you allow yourself a bit of time alone together on the dance-floor. Savor it. It’s a minute or two that you should enjoy, alone, and it makes for some beautiful photos. If your bridal party swamp the dancefloor too early, you may miss out on that one magic image that could be a treasure to you for the rest of your life.
10. Enjoy your day – your photos depend on it.
Weddings are stressful, and some brides have planned for their big day their whole lives. But when the day arrives, don’t sweat the details. Things will go wrong – they always do. Your task now is not to stress over minutiae, but to enjoy the day as it unfolds.
Be happy. Smile. Slow things down and enjoy all the moments. But mostly, enjoy the company of your new husband/wife. This is the first day of the rest of your life. Happiness = radiance = beautiful wedding photos