I first published this blog post in 2012 and still share it with all of my clients as their weddings approach. The advice hasn’t changed a bit, so I thought I’d republish it with a few updates and links. Enjoy!
I often get asked for a few tips for getting great wedding photographs. Of course I am loaded with them! I thought I would write down a few to help all of the couples out there get the most out of their wedding photography.
1. Hire a Professional Photographer! No, seriously, I mean it. Asking Uncle Doug to shoot your wedding for you because “he’s got a nice camera” will only disappoint you in the end. Those of us who are pros not only have nice cameras, but we know the ins and outs of weddings; we know how to work the room, we know when to anticipate the sweetest moments, and we know how to make you happy. The food and flowers will come and go, but your wedding photographs will last forever! So make the investment in a talented professional. If you need help, check out my tips for hiring a photographer.
2. Enjoy a Pre-Wedding Engagement Session. I include engagement portrait sessions with all of my wedding packages and the reason is because it makes a great rehearsal for the big day. In fact, I don’t even like calling them “engagement sessions,” since that sound sort of cheesy and fake. I call them “get to know you session,” and that is really what it’s all about. Most couples aren’t used to being photographed together…and it can be a little awkward. So take the time for an engagement portrait session on a sunny Sunday afternoon and get to know your photographer, her style, and her approach. It will make you and your sweetie more comfortable and relaxed about photos on your wedding day. If you aren’t sure whether or not an engagement portrait session is right for you read my blog post: Do We Really Need Engagement Photos?
3. Prepare a Detailed Wedding Day Schedule. The last thing you want to do is have to make a hundred decisions on your wedding day. You’ll have enough to think about already! Make sure your photographer, band or DJ, and caterer all the same final schedule for the day. This will help ensure that your photographer is in exactly the right place at exactly the right time! If you’re like most people, you have no idea where to start when it comes to making the schedule for the day (after all, you’ve never planned a wedding before!) so I always help my clients think this through and make a plan for getting the best wedding photos.
4. Prepare a Detailed Family Photo List. Similarly, nothing is worse that having to make last minute decisions about who to include in formal family photos. (Sister’s boyfriend? Dad’s new wife?) I have all of my clients prepare a detailed list of who will be included in each formal family photo and offer my expert advice when tough decisions come up. The more detailed your photo list, the quicker and easier it will be for your photographer to get through the list and have you on the dance floor in no time!
5. Consider taking formal pictures ahead of time. Many couples still treasure the tradition of not seeing each other before the ceremony. But if you and your fiancée are flexible, consider taking your formal pictures FIRST – before any tears have been shed, while your hair and makeup are fresh and when you’re not rushed. Doing formals first is a great icebreaker and ensures that you can enjoy every moment of the cocktail party! (See my blog post about the “First Look” for more info on what this entails.)
6. Make Time for Photos of Just the Two of You. You are going to be shocked at how quickly the day goes and how little time you will have to spend with your new spouse. But photos of you two are the most important of the day! You have to carve at least 20-30 minutes out of the day for photos of just you two – with no aunts or mothers hovering in the background. Retire to a quiet place and have some time alone with your photographer to get the sweetest and most romantic photos that you’ll always treasure. Not sure when to do this? Ask me! I’m happy to help you make a schedule that works for you.
7. Use dinnertime as photo time (but don’t forget to eat!) It’s common for the New Couple to visit each table during dinner, greet guests and pose for pictures. This is a great time for your photographer to get group shots of you and your friends. Make sure your photographer is following you as you make the rounds and you’ll get a photo with nearly every guest.
8. Stay Together! At the average wedding, there are 150+ guests clamoring for your time and attention. They want to hug you and kiss you and tell you how handsome you look and introduce you to their dates and dance with you and steal you away. Don’t let them! The night is way too short to spend it far away from your new husband or wife. Try to stay together as you visit each others’ friends. Laugh and smile and kiss and hold hands. The night will be over before you know it.
9. Smile (especially during the first dance.) A traditional “first dance” is a very special time for a newly married couple – and a very special time for photos! But too many couples use the first dance as a chance to debrief the night and talk about small details that are much too serious. Don’t be serious during your first dance! You’ll have your whole life to debrief your wedding day and talk about all the small details you wish you could change. Your first dance – and the night in general – is your time to gaze into each others’ eyes and smile. The photos will reflect that joy and love and you’ll be grateful for it. Again, check out another one of my blog posts for more tips on how to rock the first dance.
10. Kiss, kiss, and kiss again! Your guests (and your photographer) want to see love and romance when they go to a wedding. Sure, it’s super annoying when people click their glasses to encourage a little kiss, but go for it! The more romantic you are with each other, the more sweet photographs your photographer will be able to produce. At a wedding, I am capturing real emotions and real actions in real time. So kiss, hold hands, make eyes at each other, hug, dance, and enjoy it!
11. Collect wedding photos that you really like. Your wedding photographer can’t read your mind, so she has no way of knowing if there are specific photos you have in mind – unless you tell her! Don’t be shy about showing your photographer a few ideas for photos that you would like. I encourage all of my couples to create a page on Pinterest on which they can “pin” photos they like. This gives me an idea of what they are looking for. Don’t be shy about collecting photos you like, but do understand that any Pinterest boards you make are for inspiration – it’s impossible to make a photo that looks exactly like one you saw online.
12. Be the boss. You’re paying a professional photographer a lot of money to get excellent wedding photos on your Big Day. You deserve to have exactly what you want! Don’t be rude, but do let the photographer know if they have missed something, if you would like to do something different or if you want them to stop taking photos of you for 5 minutes! You’re the client, it’s your wedding day, and they’ll be your photos to look at and share with future generations. Don’t be afraid to directly tell the photographer what you do and don’t want.