So you have looked through many photographers’ portfolios and have finally found and booked the perfect match in terms of both style and personality. Now how can you get the most out of your investment in wedding photography? What can you do to help your photographer create their most beautiful work and turn your vision into reality?
Here are a few tips to help you get the best wedding photos while having a fantastic time on your wedding day.
1. Communicate your vision
This is what you should do when you first meet candidate photographers. You should have a clear idea of how you want your wedding photos to look like (e.g., candid documentary-style, artistic fashion-inspired, or a combination). Make sure your photographer is fully aware of your vision and is capable of creating photos in the style you want.
2. Do an engagement session
Doing an engagement session is a fun way to increase your comfort level in front of the camera in a relaxed no-rush environment. You will also get to know your photographer and become familiar with his/her shooting style. This helps you build trust in the photographer’s directions and abilities which leads to everything flowing much more smoothly on the wedding day.
If photos are important to you, make sure you allow enough time for them in your wedding day schedule. While a professional wedding photographer should be able to handle any schedule, having more time would enable him/her to create a larger number of high-quality photos. In our experience, an hour and half to two hours is usually needed with the bride before the ceremony. This would allow all the details (dress, shoes, bridal bouquet, etc.) to be captured while leaving enough time for candid photos of the bride and bridesmaids getting ready. You should also plan to have around 20 minutes after getting into your dress for some portraits with the bridesmaids and parents. For formal family group photos after the ceremony, you should allow 5 to 10 minutes per group. Factor in an extra 20 minutes if you are planning to do a big group photo of all the guests as coordinating a big group takes much longer and usually you find out that somebody’s missing at the last moment and have to redo the shot. A good time-saving tip is to have a bridesmaid, usher, or another family member coordinate the big group photos.
You should factor in another hour or so for wedding party photos and creative portraits of the two of you. The actual time needed would vary depending on the type of photos you want and should be determined in consultation with your photographer. Setting up unique and creative shots and poses usually is a bit more time-consuming so make sure you are not pressed for time at this point as these are going to be the photos that you will print and hang on your wall. Remember to account for travel time in case you are going off-site for these photos.
Make sure your photographer is fully aware of the schedule and order of events during your reception (speeches, cake cutting, bouquet/garter toss, any special performances etc.). While wedding receptions are prone to running late, knowing the order and approximate timing of events will help your photographer plan his/her moves.
It is also a great idea for the bride and groom to sneak out the wedding reception for 10 to 20 minutes for some romantic portraits against the setting sun or some creative night shots.
4. Think about the light
Lighting is something that couples may easily overlook when planning their wedding. Every photographer has his/her own style when it comes to lighting. Some are “natural light” photographers simply meaning they would use whatever ambient light is available instead of setting up and creating their own lighting. While this may be great for an outdoor daytime summer wedding, it can be challenging if you are getting married in a dark church without much natural light.
Before hiring any candidate photographers ask to see some of their reception photos in similar venues. Are they blurry and dim or bright and vivid? You should discuss the lighting situation with your photographer and make sure they have the proper skills and equipment to handle the lighting at your venue.
5. Consider an unplugged ceremony
A wedding photographer’s nightmare: photo of a first-kiss moment ruined by a guest standing in the aisle trying to take a photo with his/her smartphone, tablet, or new fancy DSLR! Having an unplugged wedding ceremony is a recent positive trend where you politely ask your guests (usually via the officiant) to remain seated during the ceremony and let the professional photographer(s) have a full unobstructed view of the couple.
6. Consider doing a first look.
More couples are choosing to do a ‘First Look’ where they see each other before the ceremony and do most, if not all, of their portraits and possibly family and wedding party photos pre-ceremony. This allows you to see each other in an intimate stress-free environment before the ceremony and to do your photos when your hair and makeup are at their best. It also gives you the flexibility to either join your guests and enjoy the cocktail hour with them or have some intimate time with your partner after the ceremony without having to worry about the formal photos. So before writing off the idea of doing a ‘First Look’, think about its benefits.
7. Trust your photographer
One of the keys to great wedding photos is to be able to trust your wedding photographer and their artistic vision. If you don’t have absolute confidence in their work, you should not hire them as you won’t be comfortable taking directions from them or worse will try to direct them on how to take photos on the wedding day! The last thing you want on such an important day in your life is to limit your photographer’s creativity. So once you have found and hired the photographer with your desired style and portfolio, trust him and give him space to create the best pictures possible. That said, if there are specific shots in their portfolio that you really like you should let them know before the wedding so they can plan them accordingly.
8. Create a formal shot list
While you should trust your photographer and avoid handing them a one-by-one shot list of every single wedding-day moment, it would be useful to have a formal shot list identifying various groups of people for the family photos. This greatly helps with organizing the people for group photos and saves a lot of time. You can also share this list with the people involved so that they know when and where they are needed and they don’t wander off or head for cocktails before the photos are taken.
9. Set up the reception early
A lot of time and effort goes into designing the wedding theme and decorations and the story of your wedding day won’t be complete without having those beautiful reception details captured. Ask your wedding planner or decorator to set up the reception space as soon as they can so that your photographer can shoot the details before the guests are seated. The ideal time for detail shots is usually either during the cocktail hour or before the ceremony (if reception area is already set).
10. Have fun and smile (all the time)
On your wedding day, avoid getting fixated too much on photos or worrying about small details. If you have booked a photographer whose work you like, trust them and let them capture the moments and emotions while you enjoy your day. Relax, be playful and enjoy every moment. Remember, in the end it’s all about celebrating your love and start of a new life together.