WEDDING DAY TIPS
Here are some tips on the best practices for setting, timing, and lighting on your wedding day to optimize photography!
It's also worth noting that these wedding tips are just that --- tips! :) It's rare a wedding will go exactly to plan and every single thing will happen at the minute it's supposed to, and even rarer we're able to have ideal conditions for photography 100% of the time. So no matter what, remember I'll be working my butt off to capture the most gorgeous images possible for you, and I'll utilize whatever setting, time, and light I have available to work with.
Getting ready in the morning can be such a beautiful time to get those genuine pre-wedding shots.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Clutter: I know there's a lot going on (it can get crazy!) but try to keep clutter hidden and to a minimum -- we don't want a bunch of bags or empty starbucks cups in the background the entire time we do your makeup. Keep bags, suitcases, laundry, etc in a different room, or the closet. I often do a short sweep when I arrive to clean up the area anyways! :)
Light: Window light is my favorite light. If possible, get ready in a room with lots of window light, where we won’t need to use lamps or artificial light. Having an orange tungsten light (think church basement overhead lighting) mixed in with the window is not ideal for color, and we want your skin to look flawless and natural. If we're stuck with tungsten lighting, I always prefer to turn all lights off and rely only on window light whenever if I can! Otherwise, soft or white lighting (common at salons, makeup studios, and most homes) is fantastic. I may set up a few flash stands or use bounce flash to illuminate the room to achieve this look if we don't have access to natural light.
Don’t forget about the groom either! Sometimes the groom gets left with a dark tiny room. He is just as important, and his photos will look way better in a well lit room. :)
Detail shots: Since I usually have extra unscheduled time in the morning, this is when I like to grab detail shots. Make sure you have your rings, shoes, dress, and any other jewelry or items like invitations set aside for me if you would like them photographed.
FIRST LOOK VS. PORTRAITS AFTER THE CEREMONY
A first look is when the bride and groom see each other for the first time in a more private setting before the walk down the aisle.
It doesn’t have to be a big staged moment. It can be simple, genuine and intimate. I usually recommend doing a first look to calm the nerves, so you can have a special moment alone together as a couple on your big day, and because it makes the timeline easier to work with. If you can see each other before the ceremony, we can do all the bridal party photos beforehand too! Then your family can go enjoy the cocktail hour right after the ceremony, and you miss less of your cocktail hour! :)
But if you’ve always dreamed of the walk down the aisle as the first glimpse of each other, then that's perfect as well. :) There's nothing sweeter than a groom's face when he sees his bride for the first time. Just remember if we take portraits after the ceremony, we'll need extra time and you’ll need enough drinks and snacks and games to feed and entertain your guests and keep them happy for the extended length while they wait for us to join them, so plan ahead (or talk with your caterer) as needed.
If you don't want to have a first look, you can also think about having an exchange of letters, which can also be very intimate and special.
See below for tips on how much time to schedule for portraits!
FORMAL FAMILY PHOTOS
The best time for formal family and bridal party portraits is before or immediately following the ceremony. Everyone is ready to go and gathered in one place.
If we’re taking just a handful of shots (parents, immediate family, bridal party) then about 15 minutes is plenty of time.
We will work together on a family portrait list during our final consult before the wedding that I will have with me to make sure I check off every group you list.
COUPLE & BRIDAL PARTY PORTRAITS
I usually like having at least an hour to 90 minutes set aside for bride & groom portraits and bridal party portraits.
Ideally, I like to focus on group shots first, then dismiss the bridal party after the first 30 minutes. This gives me 30 minutes to an hour alone with the bride & groom. I want to give you as a couple the most attention, because it's your day after all! And ten years from now, those images will be the most cherished. It also helps keeping the bridal party happy and in good spirits, so they aren't stuck waiting or having to follow us around. :)
If we're on a time crunch, or shooting portraits after the ceremony, I can easily work with 45 minutes to an hour for portraits. At least 15 minutes with the bridal party, and 30 minutes with the bride and groom.
Remember to factor in any travel time there might be --- if we need to drive between venues, if we need to do a lot of walking to get around a location, or if you would like to drive to a off-site location for photos.
I also like to pull the bride & groom outside during the reception for a few more images later on in the evening. This is usually during sunset so we can grab a few images during the golden hour, or once it's dark out so we can have some fun silhouetting you against the stars!
Ceremonies in nature are my favorite: the setting, the light, and the freedom for me to shoot all around. For outdoor ceremonies, light and sun are super important factors in the photos. Spotty sun light and harsh uneven light are not ideal. So if you’re having your ceremony close to midday, try to set up the ceremony so that the sun is behind your officiant.
For indoor ceremonies, I like as much available light as possible. Try to avoid spotlighting yourselves while the crowd sits in the dark, as it tends to be harsh and cause sharp shadows on faces and dramatic light fall off.
An unplugged ceremony is when you ask your guests to refrain from taking any photos.
Asking your guests not to use cameras or cell phones allows your guests to take in your ceremony more intimately. You want them to be present and in the moment --- not watching from behind a screen.
If you don’t want to completely unplug, I would at least recommend that guests take photos from their seat, without getting up into the aisles. If anyone is in the aisles during any part of the ceremony it can definitely affect the photos I am able to take. There's nothing worse for me than capturing a gorgeous shot of a bride walking down the aisle with her father, than a uncle standing in the way with a giant glowing ipad!
Capturing the mood of your event is very important to me. For a romantic mood, string bulb lights and candles are great, and if you use enough, they provide amazing light for photos!
I always set up additional lighting early on in reception, usually while guests are eating. My set up is typically a few light stands placed strategically around the room. If your venue has any house rules concerning the use of flash photography, please let me know beforehand.
A FEW MORE THINGS
Receiving lines: These can be very time consuming, especially for a medium/large wedding guest list. However, I do love the energy right after you walk down the aisle, and your wedding party or family walks out and greets you, hugs you, kisses you, etc. So having a few minutes there to laugh and love is great --- we just want to keep the momentum going in case we're trying to get to family formals. :)
Another great option instead of a traditional receiving line, is to have a bubble/lilac/or bird seed send off after the ceremony. Not only is it a great and memorable photo opportunity, but it's a lot of fun for your guests!
Dinner: It's ideal for me eat when dinner begins so that I can eat quickly while guests are eating, and be done in time for any toasts or dances that might happen during or at the end of dinner, as well as to set up any additional lighting I might need. Please seat me anywhere! An empty spot at any table is fine. I'll make friends and get to know some of your guests! :)
I will usually photograph the wedding party getting their plates and grab a few cute moments, then head up to eat with the first table dismissed, or request a plate so I can get back to work for you.
1. If you're having an open bar, try to keep it indoors or close to the dance floor. If located far away or outside, a lot of times guests will wander out to it and end up socializing with other guests at the bar and not return, which can lead to a empty dance floor or an empty looking reception --- which isn't great for me when I'm after some killer dancing photos!
2. Bridal party games can be fantastic for keeping the energy up! I know they're kind of cheesy, but they can be a fun way to rally everyone around the dance floor. :)
3. If family members or guests have special photo requests, the reception is the best time to fulfill them. So that picture of all the married cousins grandma wants, or a picture of all your coworkers together --- tell them we can grab it during the reception when we're no longer on a time crunch.