Wedding planning requires so much decision-making, logistics, and details that it’s easy to lose sight of how important your wedding photos will become. Once the day is over, the cake has been eaten, and the guests have all gone home, your photos will be the lasting treasure that you have of your day. Most couples who hire me are already thinking a lot about the legacy of their wedding photos, and during the planning process, I help them take that into consideration as they plan their timeline of events. Which brings me to the most important tip of all: include your photographer in some of the wedding planning. We can make suggestions about timing & locations to help make sure you’re getting the wedding photos that you want throughout the day.
Here are some other tips for getting great wedding photos all the stages of your wedding day.
1. “Getting Ready” within reason.
The pictures before the actual wedding – zipping up the dress, straightening ties, pinning boutonnieres – make for beautiful photos that show the anticipation and excitement of the day. memories. But what you don’t need is hours and hours of photography during this time as it gets repetitive. I suggest having your photographer arrive 30-45 minutes before you need to segue into the next part of your day to capture those last minute details without going over the top.
2. Consider taking formal pictures ahead of time.
Many couples still treasure the tradition of not seeing each other before the ceremony. But if you two are flexible, consider taking your formal pictures FIRST – before any tears have been shed, while hair and makeup are fresh, and when you’re not experiencing FOMO because all of your friends are having a blast at the cocktail party. Doing formals first is a great icebreaker and ensures that you can enjoy every moment of the cocktail party!
3. Make sure you carve out time for you and your sweetie to take pictures – alone.
Obligatory formal portraits are a must, but don’t forget to carve out at least 20 minutes for you two to be photographed without family hovering in the background. You can do at a variety of points during the wedding day, so one way or another, find a quiet place where you can be alone (with your photographer, of course) and focus on each other. Those are the sweetest pictures and the ones you will treasure the most.
4. Allow at least an hour for formal pictures.
I am a machine when it comes to the formal family portraits and rarely need a whole hour to get group shots of the family and wedding party. Still, it’s just not worth the stress of being rushed. I like to have at least one hour for family pictures; 40 for the family and wedding party (if there is one) and 20 for the couple alone (see above.)
5. Plan out your formal family pictures ahead of time.
One way that I get through the family photos with speed, efficiency, and minimal drama, is that I help my couples plan their family picture list carefully ahead of time. Together, we make a detailed list of every combination of family to be photographed, including parents, siblings, in-laws, grandparents, nieces and nephews. Putting the time into this before the wedding means there are no decisions to be made and no family drama to endure – it’s all been worked out ahead of time.
6. Dance together!
If you choose to include them, the first dance and parent dances make for sweet photographs and work best when the two people are dancing close together. And if there is a dance party later on, I always love to see the couple dancing together – not one dancing while the other holds up the bar. As the photographer, my goal is to get as many photographs of you two enjoying your wedding as possible, so the more time you can spend together during your reception, the better, And that includes time spent on the dance floor.
7. Use dinnertime as photo time (but don’t forget to eat!)
If you’re serving a meal at your wedding, then it’s typical that you would visit with your guests during the meal to greet them, thank them for coming, and take a few candid and posed photos. I like to use this as time to get group shots of the couple with their friends and extended family members, too. But I always make sure they eat first! Take the time to eat before you start working the room.
8. Front-load photography if possible.
Sometimes, after there’s been an open bar for 5 hours, the end of the night can be a bit…messy. People drink more, and get sweaty, and the hairdo comes down, and the shoes come off. Once the formalities are over and the real party begins, I suggest a maximum of 2 hours of “party pictures.” It’s a better use of your photography budget to take more pictures earlier in the day then spend hours getting pictures of your sweaty, drunk friends.
9. Try not to pose and instead just focus on each other.
I always look to capture a mix of formal and candid photos, so I encourage couples to focus on each other and let me do the rest. I’m constantly reminding people, whether they’re on the dance floor, talking your friends, laughing at the bar, or dancing with Grandpa, to “Stop looking at the camera!” We make a list of the posed group photos they really want, and the rest of the time, I want to just see a big group of friends and family having a great time together.