A Couples Guide
Getting the best from your wedding photographs
During my time as a wedding photographer I've picked up a few hints and tips that as a couple planning your wedding, you might not have thought about or not really considered but it really can help on the day. After all, you spend thousands of pounds, months or even years planning every little detail so here are a few little bits of information and advice that, with a bit of planning and some forethought, can really help your photographer get the best photographs for you.
It might be surprising to hear but quite often you will need to get permission for photographs to be taken during the legal ceremony as some religious venues do not allow photographs to be taken during certain parts or even worse, no photographs at all during the ceremony! There doesn't seem to be any set rules regarding this and is often at the discretion of the Vicar, Priest or Officiate, so it's worth asking during your initial meetings if you do have permission for photographs to be taken throughout the ceremony and not just at the start and/or the end. Also, ask are there any restrictions in place and try to negotiate in those first meetings and aim to re-assure whoever is conducting your ceremony so as to avoid disappointment on the day and it'll make sure that your photographer isn't stuck right at the back of the church and only being able to take photographs of the back of your head! It's certainly worth considering when you're choosing your venue.
Every Bride wants to re-live that moment when they get to see their future Husband turn around and catch a first glimpse of his wife to be looking absolutely stunning as she walks down the aisle to their happy ever after, or even to see how they looked themselves and the bring back all of the emotions they felt, the nerves, the relief, the happiness and the tears of joy. It's often not possible when your Bridesmaids or the Vicar are walking down the aisle before you and block the shot. It's easily avoided though, find out if the Vicar likes to walk down the aisle before you and if they do, ask them to go at a bit of a distance before you, they'll generally understand why. It's also nice to get some shots of the Bridal Party walking down the aisle so leaving a good gap between you and the Bridesmaids will make this possible and it'll give you centre stage too. Another thing to bear in mind is if you've asked one of your guests to video your wedding rather than hiring a videographer, ask them to keep the aisle clear as you walk down rather than walking in front of you, guests stepping into the aisle to take a quick photo on their phone will block the shot too, that's why you hired a professional photographer for the day, it's their job to make sure they get those special shots for you.
I mentioned briefly above with guests stepping into the shot to get their own photographs but one of the latest wedding trends is to go "unplugged". This involves asking all of your guests to leave their phones and cameras at home, or at kept least away in a handbag or jacket pocket and refraining from using them throughout the day. It'll mean you're not then posing for extra photographs all day long and leaves the photographer to do their job with less obstructions in their way and you can guarantee they'll get better photographs than anyone with a mobile phone will do, it'll also ensure no important moments are missed due to guests blocking the view. A recent, popular trend is to ask guests not to post any photographs to Social Media until the evening reception guests have arrived too.
Be in the moment
This one is another reason to consider going with an unplugged wedding and it's one I really struggle to get my head around. You've invited your guests to share your day with you, to enjoy every moment and be a part of the wedding. They're there LIVE and can watch the day unfold right in front of their eyes but instead they choose to watch it through a 6 inch screen on their mobile phone while they video it, a lot of couples will hire a videographer to get a professional video of the day so your guests can always watch that at a later date and just enjoy being there.
The First Kiss
When you get to the "you may now kiss the bride" bit, it's a pretty big moment, your photographer will be braced ready to capture it so make it last a little bit longer and give them a chance. A quick kiss is difficult to capture at the best of times never mind when your photographer is contorted into who knows what yoga position to get a perfect shot between the vicar and a huge display of flowers, linger with that kiss just that little bit longer, it's your first kiss as a married couple, go for it, kiss with passion, like you mean it and because you want to, definitely not because you were told to!
The Confetti Shot
The confetti shot is always great to do and makes a superb photograph, lots of fun, laughter and emotion for both the couple and the guests. It's not easy but don't just stand like a statue there or scrunch your face up while the confetti flies, give each other a hug and a kiss, mainly just enjoy it! One thing to remember, not all your guests will remember to bring some with them so add it to your shopping list and task the bridesmaids with handing it around. The more people that surround you, each with a handful of confetti the better the shot will be when coloured hearts are raining down on you both. A lot of churches and venues too prefer it if you throw confetti outside of the grounds so that they don't have to clean it all up afterwards so it's worth getting the bio-degradable stuff.
With all the will in the world and meticulous planning, things can often go awry and take longer than you expect them to. Even something as simple as the time it takes to travel between venues can be overlooked and then lead to you rushing for time later in the day. These are the things that can really add up quickly and because of this time has to be shaved off from other parts of the day. It really helps if you add just a little bit of time to each of your estimations and this will result in a much more accurate plan for the day. It'll reassure you that everything you want to do on the day will actually fit in with the time you have available and quite often it will even leave you with plenty of time to relax and spend time with our guests and most importantly, the time to enjoy your day!
As you can imagine, nerves can get the better of you when you've got to stand up in a room full of people and deliver a speech when it's not something you're used to, so spare a thought for the Groom, the Father of the Bride and especially the Best Man, he's on the spot and has to deliver a fantastic, witty speech that leaves the Groom sliding under the table and the whole room hanging on his every word, talk about being under a lot of pressure! Another reason to have the speeches before the meal, think of the room dressing, each table dressed exactly the way you wanted, all the details are there and it looks amazing! So from a photographic point of view that's definitely when you want to be getting those pictures, once the meal is over, it looks very different, empty bottles and half full glasses on the tables, screwed up napkins and tablecloths looking worse for wear. What happened to all the favours on the tables too? With the speeches beforehand, everything is as fresh as a daisy with clean, white napkins for wiping a tear away from their eye!
Rounding up the guests
The formals, while these are the important photographs of the guests that attended your wedding it's worth bearing in mind that they're quite time consuming as people often go missing, at the bar, nipped to their room to change the baby or even gone for a quick toilet break. Here, preparation is the key, let your photographer know in advance of the photos you want and who is in them, write a list down well before the big day, it'll give you time to have a think in case you've missed someone off it, it's not like you can go back the day after and get the ones you missed, you might have friends or family travelling in especially to watch you tie the knot or maybe some old school or college friends that you'd like a photograph with. It's worth giving a copy of the list to someone you trust one from each side and one that knows who's who, a Bridesmaid, the Best Man or a friend and on the day have them rounding everyone up ready for the next shot. No photographer wants to shout out names and be known as a 'shouty' photographer. It's the worst part of the day for the guests hanging around until it's their turn to get in front of the camera and being prepared will make that part go so much quicker and everyone can get back to enjoying themselves. It's worth keeping your lists down to a minimum, if each shot takes a couple of minutes to line everyone up it'll again eat into the time from other parts of the day and if you do want a long list make sure you assign enough time for them.
Don't sweat the dress
If you haven't found it already, you're probably going spend months looking around and trying on hundreds until you find that perfect dress. It's a huge part of your wedding and probably cost a small fortune. The reality of it is though, that it will get a bit dirty, floors aren't spotless and even just walking on carpet, it's going to pick up a bit of dirt. Please don't let this put you off going outside, your photographer won't ask you to go trudging across muddy fields but there's a chance it might get a bit dirty outside, it can be cleaned and the photographs will be worth it, plus your photographer will be able to hide any marks in Photoshop so it'll look as good as new on the photographs anyway.
Sensible shoes and a warm coat
If you're planning a winter wedding it's likely that it'll be pretty cold and it can get uncomfortable being outside getting those stunning photos. It's worth bringing a warm coat or a throw along with you to put on between shots to keep warm and then whip it off when the photographers ready to get the next shot. Not just for winter weddings but it's worth bringing along a pair of comfy flat shoes too, especially if you're off walking around the grounds to get some shots done, they'll be hidden under the dress, your feet will thank for it and it'll save your lovely designer heels from sinking and getting covered in grass stains too. You'll be more likely to head off to some more adventurous locations, grassy fields or off into the woods for some intersting photos too. It's a win win!!
Face the light
When it comes to planning where you're going to stand during the ceremony or sit at the top table, you're often restricted by the venue but if you can it's worth asking if you can go for an alternative. Try to ensure you're facing the largest light source, most likely a large window and try to avoid having your back to it. Natural light is the most flattering so you'll look your best, from a photographers point of view having the light behind you are heavily backlit and it's very difficult to get right in camera, if you have someone between you and the light source the chances are they'll be in shadow and almost a silhouette, so your photographs will end up quite dark without using flash. The alternative is then to light for the subject (yourselves) but the result is that the lovely background will almost end up as a whiteout. Most of the time the venue will set up with the window behind the top table but why have your backs to the stunning view outside, why shouldn't you enjoy it too? It's worth asking!
It's never too dark
Be a little bit cautious if you see a photographer using the words "natural light photographer", it usually means that they don't use flash or any additional lighting and that's probably because they don't know how to. A good photographer will always make the best use of the light avaiable to them but there are definitely times when the light is poor or there's next to no light available for them. It really is in your best interests to find a photographer that is capable in all conditions whether it's a room with an orange, blue or yellow colour cast, a dimly lit church or it's getting late in the day and starting to go dark, especially when it's a winter wedding, it gets dark very early and is quite often raining too. It might be cold but if your photographer suggests heading outside then it'll be worth it.
Your first dance can be a nerve wracking experience for you both, everyone gathered around the dancefloor watching you and worried you might mess up. It's tempting to have the DJ invite everyone up too early though, make sure you give your photographer a little bit more time to capture those moments when it's just the two of you. There'll be plenty of opportunities for photographs of you and your guests up on the dancefloor as you all dance the night away, it'll be worth it if you can battle there nerves, take your time and make sure you get those special shots of you both.
Just go with it
The best photographs are always from couples that are willing to try something new and a bit different. If it's heading out and battling the weather when it's pouring down, a foggy day or even snow flurries, it'll be worthwhile. You'll be under cover so your hair getting ruined, even if it's just a brolly or sheltered under a tree or the doorway of a building. Don't worry about hopping over a wall or fence and standing in the middle of a field of corn, get a bit creative however strange it may seem.
Trust your photographer
It's very likely that you've had a good look through various photographers' websites trying to find the perfect one for you both and you love their work. Trust their judgement even it seems what you're being asked to do feels a silly and looks is a bit odd because the resulting photograph will look totally different. You've seen their portfolio, what they can do and booked them because of that. Pinterest can be a brides best friend and a photographers worst enemy, by all means show your photographer some of the photographs you like on there for inspiration but asking them to recreate those shots isn't always possible, they're often styled shoots that took hours to set up and days to plan and the chances are they're not the photographers own personal style either and they'll have minutes to get their shot, not hours. Trust their creativity and remember why you booked them, their portfolio!
You get what you pay for
There's so many photographers out there, it feels like the market is saturated with them and you're spoiled for choice. There's lots of different styles and prices, you get what you pay for. When you're deciding it's worth remembering the old saying, good work isn't cheap and cheap work isn't good. If it feels like your photographer is giving you a deal that seems too good to be true, ask yourself why. Time, effort, experience, equipment and most importantly, the quality that comes with a good photographer will be worth every penny. Research, check the reviews are they rated highly and more than just a handful, look at their portfolio, are there lots of weddings and not just a few of their best shots, you want to see galleries of full weddings and most important of all, love their work.
In it to win it
Remember that a wedding is exactly that and not a photoshoot, it's about the two of you getting married in front of family and friends and showing everyone how much you mean to each other. A good photographer will be able to get some great photographs for you in a short space of time but only if you get involved and take part. It's important to get lots of photographs of you and your guests enjoying your special day and pictures that you'll look back on for years to come but it's also important that you enjoy the day, relax and have fun. A big part of the day will be natural, candid photography, capturing those moments that you were there for and the ones you missed because you hadn't even realised they'd happened. A good photographer will capture all of this for you.
Food for thought
It's not a requirement but it is nice to feel appreciated and your photographer will thank you if you offer them food on the day. Most of the time the venue won't serve food to the public on the day because the kitchen is busy feeding your guests leaving your photographer with no choice but to bring a packed lunch or leave the wedding in search of food and risk missing a shot they'd have caught if they were there. Often just a simple sandwich and a drink will do in most cases, even if it's not a full meal, it'll keep them fuelled up and ready to go for the rest of the day and feeling loved too.