Tips for Great Wedding Photography
Since I started photographing weddings more than a decade ago, I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. Getting great wedding photos really is a collaborative effort and I’ve compiled a few tips that can help ensure that you get the best images possible.
Meet your photographer
This seems pretty basic but a lot of couples don’t do this, especially for destination weddings. The day of the wedding can be hectic, stressful and emotional and the last thing anyone wants is some stranger sticking a camera in their face. It is important that you and your photographer get along and have developed some kind of rapport. A great way to do this is to schedule an engagement shoot. If a face-to-face meeting is not possible, try to arrange a phone call or video chat.
Put your photographer on the guest list
Being on the guest list does several important things for photographers. When you send an invitation, we can photograph it. It is also very nice to be able to confirm all of the times, places and the names of your family and wedding party (if you choose to include them). It also lets your other vendors know that we will be part of the party.
Plan plenty of time to get ready. Hair and makeup often takes longer than expected and your photographer will want some time to do a few bridal portraits. This is usually when we photograph the dress, the rings and other details, so please have those things ready. You also may want to consider tidying up a bit. It is amazing how half-a-dozen brides’ maids can make a hotel room look like a Guns ’n Roses after party. For better or worse, the room will be part of the photos.
Decide early on if you want to do a first look or reveal. In my opinion, I find that doing a first look has a lot of advantages. Most importantly, it allows you and your partner a lot more time to enjoy the moment, calm each others nerves and settle into the fact “today is wedding day.” Aside from that, now that you have already seen each other you can get some of your family photos done, freeing yourselves up to enjoy the cocktail hour with your guests.
Guests with cameras
It is really up to you how you want to handle this but with the prevalence of cell phone photography it is an important issue to consider. Whether it is someone jumping in the way to get an photo of your first kiss or your family not knowing which camera to look at during the group shots, guests with cameras can interfere with the work that you have paid a professional to create. It is usually enough to simply remind your guests that there is a professional photographer present and to be respectful of the job that they are there to do.
Whenever possible, it is a good idea to have your photographer travel with you. There are a lot of intimate moments and great photos that can be made en route.
It is common practice for some indoor venues and churches to restrict photography. Ask your venue coordinator if there are certain places that photographers can or cannot stand and if using a flash is allowed. Make sure that your photographer is aware of the rules. If there are any restrictions on photography it is important to have realistic expectations.
Think about the sun when you schedule your outdoor ceremony. Generally, the best time is later in the afternoon, a few hours before sunset. The light will fall more evenly on your face and will be more dramatic at this time of day. Harsh midday sunlight, especially at higher elevations, will create some very unflattering shadows.
Most of the formal group shots should be done immediately following the ceremony. If you are doing a first look you can do a few of your photos then. Before the wedding, give your photographer a list of each combination of people you want in each group photo and ask your D.J. or one of your guests to help organize everyone.
Remember that photography is essentially painting with light. When there is no light, photographers have to bring their own and this can create a lot of distracting pops from flash bulbs. Accentuating the natural light with candles, uplighting or light strands can really enhance the mood of your reception and give your photographer a lot more to work with.
Feed your photographer
Contrary to popular belief, photographers are human beings and do require sustenance during the day. Usually the wedding staff is fed after the guests but ask your caterer to serve the photographer with the wedding party. No one needs photos of themselves chewing. Serving your photographer early ensures that they are revitalized and ready to work when the speeches begin.
You’ve spent a lot of time, energy and, probably, a lot of money planning your wedding, but big events seldom go exactly according to plan. Embracing the unexpected and allowing for spontaneity can really add to the magic of your day and go a long way toward creating a wedding that is uniquely yours.