Getting the most beautiful wedding photos
Here’s my 10 tips for getting the most most beautiful wedding photos.
I’ve been shooting weddings for quite a few years now and often get asked questions like “how much” and “how many photos”, or “there’s so many photographers out there, what makes you different?”. Things like that – all very relevant if you’ve just gotten engaged and are on the hunt for a wedding photographer who’s going to capture you and your partner magnificently on such a significant day. However, today I thought I’d try to answer questions that I think brides should be asking me, questions that really will stand you in good stead for getting the most out of your wedding photographer!
You’ve probably noticed by now that there’s billions of wedding photographers living here on planet Earth, especially if you’ve recently set your relationship status to “engaged” on Facebook. It’s a highly competitive market and anyone with a DSLR camera and a couple of decent lenses will be after your business. Lets say that you’ve done your homework, you’ve sifted though enough portfolios to find a handful of photographers that you like and at least, on a couple of occasions, their work seems to speak to you! You get in touch with a couple of them, meet up with one of them and if everything works out, place a booking! Sorted.
However, the decisions you make before and on your wedding day can make all the difference between great wedding photos and sublime ones. Here are 10 ways in which you can empower your photographer to be at their very best:
1. If you’re going to have a videographer, make sure you choose carefully!
Quite often a couple will want their wedding filmed as well as photographed, even if only to record the vows and speeches. In the vast majority of cases, we’re only introduced on the day of the wedding, I never quite know what I’m going to get!
I shot a wedding a few years ago at one of the most prestigious wedding venues in the South East, I’ll never forget it! The couple were wonderful to work with and the staff/venue made sure they did everything they could to make the day run smoothly. I wish I could say the same about the videographer they’d selected, he almost ruined every moment I had with the couple! His approach to filming a wedding couldn’t have been further away from my method of photographing it, he was the total opposite of me. He constantly used the phrase “mock up” whenever he wanted the couple to do something (which was all the time), at one point telling the father of the bride exactly how to react when he first saw his daughter in her dress! He totally embarrassed the couple during the portraits outside, including trying to get them to playfully dance and romantically run after each other like in some sort of Disney movie – it was insane and didn’t align with the couple’s personalities at all.
Fortunately we managed to sneak out later in the day without him, we actually had to use a rear exit so he wouldn’t see us. After the wedding he gave me his business card, so I decided to look him up when I got home. It didn’t take long to find him online and see that his portfolio only consisted of one wedding, half his website wasn’t working and he was also trying to get a health care business going. The couple had met him at a wedding fair and booked him there and then, without doing any research at all.
If you’re going for a videographer, make sure their ethos matches the photographer’s… it’s very worth while asking them for recommendations!
2. If your photographer will be shooting whist you’re getting ready, make sure you brief your bridesmaids.
It might seem obvious to expect your bridesmaids to know that they will be photographed during the day, but not everyone expects it during the preparations. I’ve seen my fair share of panicked stricken faces when I turn up and everyone’s in their PJs & dressing gowns, sometimes only the bride is expecting me! Suddenly realising that you’re going to be photographed can make you a tad uncomfortable, which will be apparent in the images. Your photographer should be very adept at relaxing the atmosphere, but why not beat them to it but ruling out any unwelcome surprises.
3. Choose the largest and lightest room to get ready in.
I love photographing the final few hours before a wedding, the atmosphere really builds as the excitement (and a few nerves) really kicks in! It’s sometimes the most emotional part of the day, the farther seeing his daughter in her dress for the first time, the mother finding something blue, uncontrollable giggles from the bridesmaids… an absolute must to capture!
If you’re having your hair and makeup taken care of by a pro, they will probably find an area with the most natural light and get as close to it as possible. If the room’s huge, no problem… but space can quickly run out as more and more people get involved. You really want to be seated in the centre of the room, facing the window. This will allow people to easily work around you and they’ll be plenty of breathing space in you photos. A bottle of bubbly and some elegant glasses looks great in the background, a plate of half eaten toast does not! A decent portrait lens can blur the background to some extent, but a tidy room gets you tidy images. Find a place out of the way for coats and bags, it’s really worth keeping the place clutter free!
4. The light is really important.
Keep this in mind when you’re planning your day, what time of year are you getting married? What time does the sun set? If your wedding’s in December, it starts getting dark around 3:30pm – 4pm, so an earlier ceremony would give your photographer a much better chance of getting those outdoor portraits in natural light.
If you’re getting married in the middle of the summer, you really want to be out during the golden hour – the last hour of sunlight. For example, in August things start happening from around 7:30pm – 8pm, get your portraits done before 9pm and you’re laughing! If you were to do the same at 3pm, with the sun directly overhead, you won’t get the same magical light. This is because the sunlight travels through more of the Earth’s atmosphere at a lower angle, this natural diffusion causes more of the reds, yellows and golds to emerge. If you’re having group/family photos, it’s always handy to know roughly where the sun will be, just so your guests will not be looking directly into it!
5. Ask your wedding venue/Church about their policy on photography.
Most places I work at are very welcoming towards photographers and videographers, I always try to meet the vicars, priests or registrars before the ceremony starts, just to assure them that I’m not going to machine gun my way through the vows. They usually allow me a generous amount of freedom when I make the first move like this, but occasionally I will encounter problems.
I shot a wedding in 2014 at a C of E Church, I had previously visited it a month or so before the big day and had spoken the the reverend, who seemed very accommodation to me. However, the Church had appointed a new vicar by the time the wedding arrived and I was told that I could only photograph the ceremony from the VERY back. He even drew a chalk line on the floor, “ye shall not pass”.
Some ministers have allowed me to choose my position, but have then asked me to stay put, a bummer once again! It’s much better to find out if you’ve got one of “them” before the day of the wedding, rather than on. This is where a second photographer is a God send (ironically), it’s well worth asking your photographer for an additional shooter if you find yourself in this situation!
6. Don’t let your bridesmaids block each other (or you) walking down the aisle.
So, your bridesmaids! It’s really important that they don’t all walk down the aisle at the same time (you already knew that didn’t you?)! In order to get a good shot of the bridal party and the bride on the runway, I usually position myself up near the groom. This means that if everyone’s bunched together, I only get a decent shot of those at the front of the procession as the rest are blocked. If your bridal party walks down the aisle first (whether alone or in pairs), make sure there’s enough distance between them and that they move to one side once they arrive at the front. That way, you’ll have glorious photos of all of your bridesmaids as well as yourself!
7. Give your photographer plenty of time for some awesome portraits.
Twenty minutes just outside a hotel isn’t going to give you the same results as a good hour in a great location, even if you have to travel a little. Photographers are creative people and it really pays dividends to trust them when they have an idea, even if it means going off piste a little.
If you’re pushed for time, it’s better to cut the group photos down as much as you can and save time there. Avoid similar photos, bride & groom with bridesmaids, bride with bridesmaids, groom with bridesmaids – these can be simply condensed into one photo.
8. Make sure your group photos are organised well.
So you have your list, you’ve whittled it down to the essentials and you’re ready to go… but uncle Jeff has gone AWOL. It amazes me how often this happens (not just to Jeff), especially if drinks are being served… a critical person goes missing!
The best thing to do is get these photos done as soon as you can, and make sure the bar isn’t open until you’re done. It’s also infinitely easier if one of the groomsmen (ideally one who knows the guests) has the list and announces the names. This means that whilst your photographer is photographing one group, an usher/best man can prepare the next one. This is also another great time to have a second photographer present, snapping away at the group when they’re unaware and getting all the action behind the main photographer (there’s always action behind)!
9. Plan for rain.
Face it, if you live in the UK you can never fully rely on the weather, even in the middle of August! The rain actually brings many opportunities for creativity, so do a little research and have some ideas up your sleeve just in case. Puddles can be used as mirrors, so grab a large umbrella (white ones are nice) and get out there. I love it when it rains at night, it means that I get to use some creative backlighting to make a halo effect with each raindrop.
There are some techniques that can only be used when it’s chucking it down, so see it as a good thing and make the most of it! As for the group photos, if you can’t do them outside… think about an alternative location indoors beforehand. You don’t want the stress of thinking about it for the first time on your wedding day, careful planning will keep you stress free even when things don’t always go according to plan.
10. Remember – it’s a wedding, not a photoshoot.
In my opinion, the job of a wedding photographer is to document the day in his/her own creative style… which is of significance to the couple and compliments their particular taste. It’s really important to choose your shooter wisely, so that you have real confidence in their ability to show a true reflection of who you are.
The more a photographer tries to intervene, the more you’ll be engineered into someone you’re not. Make sure you find someone who is able to capture you naturally, so that your photos are totally YOU! After all, you cannot mock up real emotions!
If you’ve got a wedding coming up and would like to discuss my wedding photography, do get in touch on my contact page!
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