Getting the Most Out of Your Wedding Photography

Over the years I ‘ve shot a lot of weddings.  I’ve seen a lot of things that really contributed to beautiful photos, and I’ve seen a lot of major pitfalls that made it very difficult for me to create beautiful images of the wedding day.  To help my clients (and all brides and grooms) get the most out of their wedding photos, I have compiled the following advice based on my experience as well as the thoughts of my fellow wedding photographers.

FOLLOW THE LIGHT

The quality of the light and the atmosphere it gives to the image can make or break a photo.  A big part of getting the most out of the light is hiring a photographer who understands light and how to manipulate it or create it depending on what the situation calls for.  However, you also have a great deal of control over that light when planning your wedding day.Is your getting ready room full of big beautiful windows that flood the room with gorgeous natural light, or is it a four-walled cell with green fluorescent tube lights?  Is your outdoor ceremony facing the sun, facing away from the sun, or sidelit?  Will you be in sun while your spouse-to-be is in shadow? Will you have an overhead light above the altar at the church casting dark circles under your eyes?  Will there be sunlight when you’re taking wedding day portraits with your spouse, or will it be pitch black?  Will your DJ or lighting company be providing lights to add color and drama to your reception?  These are decisions that only you can decide, and they have a huge impact on the quality and look of your images.

To make your wedding day light the best it can be, I recommend seeking your photographer’s advice throughout the planning process.  When deciding where to get ready, where to have your ceremony, where to do group portraits, and how to light your reception, consult the photographer you’ve chosen. In general, an abundance of natural light is ideal for photos during the day, and you’ll want to avoid rooms with stained glass or brightly colored walls, which can cast strong colors onto your skin.  At night, photographers who use flash often prefer professionally lit reception spaces with dramatic color washes and uplights, while photographers who use natural light will prefer soft, even, white-colored light.  However, different photographers will have different preferences depending on their style and aesthetic, so it’s important that you consult the photographer you choose to get the best results.

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HIRE A RINGLEADER

These days, many brides and grooms feel as if they can get by without a coordinator on their wedding day.  However, there are tasks on the wedding day that must be done by someone, such as ensuring that all of the vendors have arrived and are in the correct place, pinning the boutonnieres on the groom and groomsmen, ensuring that the wedding party is lined up in the right order, ensuring that the DJ announces the events at the right time, ensuring that the family members are ready to go when the formal photos begin, and so forth.  When you don’t have a coordinator, the photographer ends up doing most of these things, and when that happens, it limits their ability to do the thing they were actually hired to do – take photos.  The other alternative is that you, the bride or groom, ends up taking over those duties yourself, which is even worse.  Your day should be about relaxing and having fun, not running around working and being stressed.

You don’t have to hire a full-blown wedding coordinator if you don’t want to (although a good one is worth every penny and can actually end up saving you money).  However, you need to have someone – a coordinator, friend, relative, or wedding party member – who is in charge of running the show.  They should be fully informed about all of your vendors, how to contact them, when they should arrive, where they should be, what they should be bringing, and what their responsibilities are.  They also need to be in contact with all wedding party and family members to make sure everyone is taken care of and is in the right place at the right time wearing the right outfit or flowers.  They should also be on top of the timeline throughout the day, ready to speed things along or get people organized if things fall too far behind.  They need to be familiar with your priorities (what you want and don’t want on your wedding day) and your vision for the aesthetics and decor.  This person also needs to have the freedom and time to check on and take care of issues throughout the day, so assigning your mother or maid of honor to be in charge may be problematic, as those people already have a great deal of obligations on the wedding day.

COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER

The better your photographer knows you, the better your photos will be.  Is your relationship more of the goofy, silly type, and you feel uncomfortable doing lovey-dovey romantic things?  Are you insecure about a certain body part and terrified of how it will look in your photos?  Do you have family members who can’t stand to be in the same room with each other?  Do you have certain weddings guests you felt pressured to invite but you don’t really want them featured prominently in your wedding photos?  Would it be your biggest dream in the world for your wedding to be published in a magazine?  These are things your photographer needs to know in advance.  We’re here to serve you, not judge you.  Everything you can tell us about your preferences, your goals, your fears, your insecurities, your personality, and your relationship will help us to do a better job for you.  An engagement session is a really great way for us to spend some time together and get on the same page when it comes to your photographs, whenever possible.  You can also create a Pinterest page of images that inspire you or represent the style and emotion you want to emulate in your wedding photography.  Although it’s best to not provide specific poses or images you want us to copy exactly, knowing the general type of images that speak to you can help to point us in the right direction.  It’s also just as important to know what you don’t like.  If certain types of images make you roll your eyes or laugh (in a bad way), share that with us, too.

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BE FLEXIBLE

It is inevitable and unavoidable – something is going to go wrong on your wedding day.  I’ve seen it all – florist no-shows, best men stuck in jail with the wedding bands in their pockets, grooms who have fallen ill and can’t stop throwing up, bouquets that leave pollen stains all over the wedding dress.  And do you know what every single one of these disasters had in common?  Not a single one of them stopped the wedding day from being an amazing, fun, beautiful celebration.  Every wedding I have ever shot ended up being perfect – not perfect because nothing went wrong, but perfect because the brides and grooms walked away from their wedding happy, in love, and married, and really, that’s all that matters, isn’t it?

If you’re the type to get easily stressed or upset, keep in mind that as long as you and your significant other are alive and in love, your wedding day will be a success.  Every other problem can be overcome.  If you run behind schedule, we’ll speed other things up to get back on track.  If a wedding party member wears the wrong thing, we’ll find them a substitute, tweak the images later in Photoshop, or just accept it and go with it.  If a wedding guest or family member does something obnoxious, we’ll assign a wedding party members to run interference and keep them away from you.  Don’t let the little things get to you.  Similarly, don’t be so obsessed with sticking to the plan that you can’t be flexible.  Be willing to make adjustments throughout the day, and trust the team you’ve hired to make suggestions and decisions.  Your job is to roll with the punches and focus on having a good time!

WEAR YOUR HEART ON YOUR SLEEVE

If there is ever a day to put your emotions out on display for the world to see, your wedding day is it.  I understand that not every bride and groom is comfortable about being in the public eye or displaying public affection.  However, those moments in which you let your guard down and allow the world to see your heart… Those are the moments when magic happens, photographically-speaking.  The bride gazing at her groom with pride and adoration.  The groom stroking his bride’s hair during the first dance.  The father wiping a tear from his eyes as he walks his daughter down the aisle.  The newlyweds letting it loose on the dance floor.  These are the moments that photographers live for, the moments that tell the story and make you feel.  However, as a photographer, I can’t force a fake emotion out of anyone.  In order to tell the story of love, that love has to be out on display.  My suggestion to you (especially you grooms out there) is, for at least one day in your life, don’t worry about what other people think.  Don’t worry about being embarrassed or being judged.  When it comes to your wedding, you are in a safe place, surrounded by people who love you and support you and are cheering you on.  Embrace that, let your guard down, and wear your heart on your sleeve.  Embrace the tears, don’t fight them.  Hug and kiss and laugh and smile until your heart bursts.   Dance the night away like your life depends on it.