Planning a wedding can seem like a pretty daunting task for even the most confident of brides-to-be. There’s the invitations, venue, dress, flowers, cake, entertainment, guest list, bridesmaids and groomsmen and finishing touches all to plan for and of course there’s the wedding photography.
Many of the brides I have photographed over the years have been naturally anxious about how they’ll look in their wedding photos and it may be their first experience of working with a professional photographer. The wedding photography is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of your big day to plan for. Once the dress is packed lovingly away, the cake has been eaten and the honeymoon is over, apart from your memories, your photographs will be one of the most important treasures you will take from your special day. Your wedding story, there in print, is not only precious, but it is also a historical record to pass down to future generations.
So if you are planning on tying the knot then these 12 tips should help ensure you get the best from your photographer and ultimately your wedding photos!
1. Choose A “Professional” Wedding Photographer That You Like
Unless someone has been specifically recommended to you, you are likely to start your search by looking at photographers’ portfolios online. There will be a lot to choose from! Do your research carefully and find styles you like and consistency in quality.
My biggest advice is don’t be tempted to scrimp on cost. Go for the absolute best photographer you can afford and factor it in as a priority on your wedding budget. Don’t be tempted to go for an amateur or Uncle Bob who’s a bit handy with a camera. Trust me, you will probably regret it.
Photographing a wedding may look easy but it takes a lot of hard work, skill and experience to get it right. Something Uncle Bob will sadly be lacking! Most professional photographers charge upwards of £1,000 so bear this in mind when planning your costs for the day. If you find a photographer who you love but is out of your price range then ask if they can recommend anyone with a similar style that’s more within budget. Perhaps their assistant might be an option… It’s worth a try!
Finally, make sure you LIKE your photographer! If you get on well with your photographer and feel at ease with them it stands to reason you will feel more relaxed being photographed by them! I have heard stories from brides who attended friends’ weddings who did not like their photographer and it showed in the photographs and spoiled part of the memory of the day. No matter how good they may be, you must also feel comfortable with them.
Having an engagement shoot is a great way to start getting comfortable in front of the camera before the main event. It will also build your relationship with your photographer and help you feel more confident on the day. Although not a prerequisite, but if your photographer offers it then it’s definitely worth taking!
3. Plan Enough Time For Your Photos
Ideally I like to spend about an hour with the bride for the bridal preparations. This gives me time to get all the important detail shots and bridal portraits as well as lovely candid shotss like the one here which shows the flower girl’s reaction when she saw the bride for the first time. This is where the story of the day begins.
Things tend to be run on a fairly tight schedule once the bridal preparations are over but bear in mind, if you want your group shots and bride and groom portraits done without it feeling stressful then try as much as you can to stick to the schedule. Don’t spend longer than you need to chatting outside the church for example. There’s only so far dinner can be pushed back so allow a good two hours for your drinks reception, group shots and time on your own with the photographer.
I like to spend around half an hour photographing the bride and groom alone, then there’s the group shots and candid shots of guests to consider, so a lot to fit in. Leave things too tight and you may end up being disappointed you didn’t get as much time for photos as you’d like whilst also enjoying your drinks reception!
4. Don’t Spend Too Long On Group Shots
I always advise couples to try not to go overboard on the amount of formal group shots they want. I was once presented with a list of 20 different combinations! Group shots take time to organise and as you are likely to be at the centre of most of them, consider how long you really want to be stood around with a fixed smile on your face or waiting for Aunty Joan to get back from the loo. Someone always needs to be found for the group shots it seems!
If you can, I suggest one big group shot of everyone, then ideally no more than about 6 to 8 other combinations. Print out a list and give it to your photographer along with a copy for the best man and ushers so they can round people up swiftly for each photo.
Don’t forget that you will be able to get other group shots at other points in the day such as with Mum and Dad and bridesmaids during bridal preparations or more fun, relaxed shots after dinner before dancing. The more time you spend on group shots during the drinks reception, the less time you’ll have on your own with the photographer or to enjoy a drink.
However, if group shots are really important to you and you just can’t live without all those must-have combinations, make sure you schedule in extra time to get them done and put them in order of importance on the list for your photographer.
Great natural light is everything when it comes to photography, so when choosing your wedding venue, consider what the light is like and what it will be like at the time you plan to marry. During winter, for example, there will be less light during the day, so consider having your wedding ceremony earlier so that the photographer still has a chance to get some great natural light portraits of you afterwards.
Your photos will only be as good as the light the photographer has to work with. If the light is bad, there is only so much even the best photographer can do and they may have to use flash or other forms of lighting instead.
A good make up artist can transform a bride. Unless you really know your stuff when it comes to doing your own make up, booking a professional make up artist really is worth doing and will help ensure you look great in your photos. Have a trial first so you know you’re going to be happy with the finished look and remember to have lipstick and powder close by so you can reapply and avoid shine throughout the day.
If you’re having a church ceremony, it’s important to find out in advance where your photographer will be allowed to stand during the ceremony. Some churches are more relaxed than others and will let the photographer stand at the front behind the alter in order to get shots of you face on.
Others are very strict. I had one vicar insist I stay rooted to one spot at the back of the church throughout the whole of the ceremony which really restricted me in terms of the shots I could get for the couple. However, if you know in advance, you can manage your expectations of what type of shots you’re going to get and you can also inform your photographer.
Civil weddings tend to be much more relaxed and generally always allow the photographer to shoot from the front and quietly move around. In any respect it is still worth checking.
So you booked your photographer because you loved their portfolio. Great! Now learn to trust them to do a great job for you. There may be specific shots you would like your photographer to capture, perhaps of a much loved elderly relative or of a special gift you’ve been given by your partner. Sharing this information with your photographer is of course important but don’t sweat the small stuff!
If you have booked a professional photographer, then you really don’t need to present them with a long list of shots that you want them to cover on the day. Remember that this is their job and they will already know what needs to be done.
Apart from anything, speaking from experience, if you try and control your photographer you will limit their creativity and moments will be missed because they will be too busy with their head buried in your tick list! Also, although your photographer may endeavour to achieve those shots for you, circumstances may not always make it possible. So relax and instead get on with enjoying your day.
So now you’ve stopped worrying about whether the photographer has remembered to photograph the cake or not, you can relax and start to have fun on your wedding day!
Although there will be key points in the day when some interaction will be necessary with the photographer, such as during the portraits and group shots, generally your photographer will be getting on with documenting your day for you.
During this time, it’s important to try and forget that the camera is pointing in your direction or worrying about how you look and focus instead on appreciating all the special moments that make your wedding day unique to you. Your wedding day will be over before you know it, so enjoy it! Some of the best photographs I’ve taken of brides, that truly capture their natural beauty and personality, are taken when they don’t even know the camera is on them….
If you’ve already had an engagement shoot with your wedding photographer then chances are you will have an idea of what to expect from your bridal portraits and will feel a little more ready for them on the day. Not everyone is comfortable in front of the camera or knows how to pose naturally so if you’ve followed my advice on point one and chosen a good photographer then they should be able to give you some direction that will help you relax.
I find most couples are more comfortable when they are not made to look directly into the camera as shown above. When I photograph a couple, I focus on the chemistry between them and get them to interact with each other as much as possible whilst gently directing them in terms of how I want them to stand and where I want them to look.
No matter how much you hate having your photograph taken, try to be as natural as possible during the portrait session. If you feel tense and wooden this is how you will look in the photographs. Remember you are going to look AMAZING on your wedding day! Let that confidence shine through and project your inner goddess! Trust your photographer and give them your best. Look at how your photographer has posed couples previously by looking at their portfolio to give you an idea of what to expect if you have not had an engagement shoot.
With everything else going on it maybe an easy thing to overlook but it’s important to remember that a photographer will work very hard for you on your wedding day and will be on their feet for a long time.
Try and remember that they are human too and will need refreshments and food to keep them going! I always take a bottle of water and snacks with me to a wedding anyway but I really appreciate it if when I turn up to do the bridal preparations someone offers me a drink. If they are staying till the evening then it’s important that you cater a meal for them whilst you have your own sit down meal. If you look after your wedding photographer, you will get the best out of them!
This may seem like an obvious one but don’t get drunk on your wedding day! You may have enjoyed a glass of champagne in the morning to steady your nerves while you get ready. The drinks then start flowing in the afternoon during the drinks reception and of course there’s the wine with dinner and the bar in the evening when everyone is in high spirits and the dancing has begun…
Luckily most of the brides I’ve photographed have been very well behaved on this front but if your photographer is there throughout the day and into the evening, you don’t want the photography to end up looking like a bad paparazzi shoot outside a nightclub! So remember to pace yourself and save the ‘alcohol’ shots until after the photographer has left the building or better still avoid them altogether!
Photography by Goodyear Photography