Simple Tips for Great Photos Throughout Your Wedding Day
I know how overwhelming it can be to trying to manage all the different pieces to your wedding day. So here are some tips I’ve learned along the way while photographing hundreds of weddings and planning my own.
When You're Getting Ready
It’s all about the light.
Photography literally means drawing (graph) with light (photo). A photographer is trained to walk into a space and search for the “good light”- the area that’s best for taking photos. Whether it’s a hotel, the venue, or your room, the spot with the best light is by a window. Sit there while you are getting your hair and makeup done and the photographer will get some great shots. Also, your makeup will be more accurate when it’s lit by sunlight rather than indoor light.
Don’t worry about the clutter.
Leave it to the photographer to decide what to move or clean up when they arrive. They should know how to make the place the most photogenic. And many times, the things you think are clutter can add personality to an otherwise plain room.
Have only the essential people there.
It’s important to decide who needs or doesn’t need to be there while you’re getting ready. It’s important to start your day with people who make you feel relaxed and comfortable. For some that may mean just one or two people, for others it may be anyone and everyone. Whatever it is, make sure your wishes are clear and followed through until you are ready.
How to know when to start getting ready in four easy steps.
Ask the photographer when you should start taking portraits.
Ask the makeup artist how long it will take her to get everyone ready.
- Add 30 minutes to their estimate.
- Subtract answer 3 from answer 4.
When You’re Taking Portraits
To look or not to look, that is the question
If either you or your fiancee is a romantic and wants to see you for the first time at the ceremony, then the answer is simple: no first look before the ceremony. I totally get it and I'll never be against a romantic.
If you are open to it, here are a few reasons as to why you would want to do a first look:
- If it’s an afternoon or evening wedding, the sun is setting or has set depending on the time of the year, and so you want to make sure there’s enough daylight for when you take portraits (remember, it’s all about the “good light”).
- If you do photos before the ceremony you’ll be able to mingle and talk to your guests during cocktail hour and the rest of the night and not have to worry about photos.
- It’ll keep the schedule of your day linear, going from one event to another, which means you’ll have less things to juggle.
The best way to think about portrait time
It’s not every day you and your closest friends get all dressed up, look fabulous, and take photos together. Take advantage of the time together and hang out. Don’t worry about what to do or where to go. Which leads me to the next point:
Leave it to the photographer
If there is a part of the day the photographer should be taking the lead and directing it’s during this time. They should be the ones clearly leading this time and telling you exactly where to stand and what to do. You shouldn’t have to worry about any of that.
When You’re Taking Family Photos
The secret to quick and easy family photos
If everyone is there, then things will go smoothly and quickly. Waiting for that one person to arrive means everyone is just standing there and things become stressful since we’re on a schedule. So the best time to take photos with family, especially if you have a big family, is right after ceremony. It gives everyone a chance to be there, and if they are there it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.
Make a list, check it twice
If there are important family members to include, or if you have parents that want you to take more than just a big group photo, make a list ahead of time and make sure they are ok with it. For some, these are the photos they care about the most, and this will be the best way to get them great photos.
The easiest place to take family photos is at the ceremony site
It will be decorated nicely and if you do schedule photos for right after the ceremony, you don’t have to worry about losing people on the way to another location.
When You Say, "I do"
Be clear about what your photographer can or can’t do
It could be the church’s rules, the officiant’s rules, or just the way the space is set up, but make sure the photographer knows what they can or can’t do during the ceremony. And make sure the photographer lets you know what to expect when it comes to the final photos. Some rules may only allow the photographer to get the sides of your faces, or just shots from the back if they can’t go down the center aisle or the sides. Whatever the situation, make sure you are both clear on what to expect.
People will take photos, no matter how much you tell them not to
Their phones are their cameras, and you can’t tell people to not bring their phones. What’s important is that they don’t go get up out of their seats into the sides, the aisle, or the front. They shouldn’t be getting in the way of the photographer, nor should they be standing there photobombing your marriage ceremony. You can ask someone, like the officiant or a family member to make an announcement to the guest to make sure they understand.
The officiant is the boss
Make sure to listen and follow what the officiant says. They are making the rules and how the ceremony will go. What’s most important is that you know what to expect, and that you both say “I do.“
During the Cocktail Hour & Reception
Take a breath, then mingle
After the ceremony there will be a big sigh of relief, but then a surge of adrenaline will come in as you start to see your guests. Before that happens, take some time to sit down together, take a deep breath, eat some food, and soak in what’s happening.
It will help you stay relaxed as you through the rest of the night. I know this isn’t directly related to photography, but I’m really glad that I did this on my wedding day. It made us feel calm and centered as we mingled with guests and that always makes for better photos.
Ambience doesn’t mean darkness
You chose your venue because you loved its decor and ambience, and capturing that ambience is just as important as capturing moments of the reception. But the amount of light that our eyes can see is much more than a camera’s sensor. Even the best camera cannot compare to the sensitivities of our eyes. So if the lighting of the venue is matched solely for our eyes, then the space will come out too dark or washed with extra light, which takes away from that ambience you love.
Ask the venue coordinator to make the light slightly brighter than what would be accepted in order to make sure that the photos capture the space accurately.
The Mullet Rule: business in the front, party in the back
When planning the reception schedule, I suggest that you do as many of the formal things as soon as you start the reception rather than pepper them throughout the night. Whether it’s the first dance, parent dances, or toasts, have them done early on so that the rest of the night is free for you to do what you want with it. You’ll have the choice to do some night portraits, take time to do table shots, or just dance and dance, and dance some more.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post! If you have any questions, seriously, anything about photography or wedding planning please get in touch with me below!