Over the years of shooting weddings, I’ve noticed ways that not only help the photography run smoothly, but help your wedding day run smoothly. Many of the following tips are especially relevant if you’re interested in incorporating some of the elements that have become standard and popular in wedding photography (getting ready, first look, family formals, etc). There are also tips that are relevant for alternative and non-traditional weddings so consider reading on regardless of the type of wedding you’re planning for various tips to not only encourage smooth running, but for ways to save on time (and ultimately money), ways to set the scene for especially stellar photos and ways to prepare in advance so stress can be kept to a minimum on the celebratory day.
If nothing else, reading over these tips might trigger some questions or clarifications you have about your photography coverage in advance. We aren’t mind readers so we love hearing which shots you are the most excited about or might mean the most to you. You chose us for a reason, so once we get some of the details out of the way to make sure we are on the same page, relax and don’t worry about the photography on your wedding day. We are prepared to deliver and will beautifully document the story of your day as it unfolds.
There are many reasons couples choose to do engagement photos and one of the most useful reasons is to get comfortable in front of the camera. Few couples have had a chance to be photographed professionally together and going out for a casual relaxed photo session helps prepare you the photography part of your wedding and provides you with fun photos together.
– Get to know each other: You obviously know each other well, but you don’t necessarily know each other in photographs. This is a relaxed time to try different “poses”. Don’t worry- it’s never too posed but I’ll provide suggestions in a laid back environment to see what the most comfortable ways are for you to be in a photo together. Every couple has certain poses that look and feel more natural than others so we’ll figure out what yours is. Doing this before your wedding day is yet another way to minimize any nervous feelings that might be coming up at the idea of being in lots of pictures.
– Choose a meaningful spot to you: Engagement photos are a fun way to document your life at the time they are taken. We have more time during an engagement session to go anywhere and do anything than we do on your wedding day. We can take pictures at your place (with or without pets), go to spots you like to hangout, visit meaningful locations to your relationship (first date place, proposal spot), or do a shared interest.
– Have fun: We can do anything and take chances that you might not want to on wedding day— go out in canoes, ride bikes, etc. Prepare props in advance (with a wedding date or something to do with your wedding), or we can use props we find, or take a much more documentary approach that’s just natural. It can be fun to have a more dressed up part and then a more active/casual part but it’s totally up to you and what you want to do!
– Dress how you want: Engagement sessions can reflect your day-to-day look, rather than how you’ll look on your wedding day. Dress how you feel the most comfortable or show another side of yourselves and relationship.
– Take them in advance: Scheduling an engagement shoot with plenty of time before your wedding will potentially make the images more useful and will make it less stressful since things can get busier as the wedding gets closer. There will also be more time to enjoy the images during the engagement period and you may have more uses for them.
– Use them: Print a few prints, make a coffee table book, create a sign in book for guests to leave messages on your wedding day, give images to family as gifts, use engagement pictures for an announcement, print them in your save-the-date card/magnets and more!
The “getting ready” part of the day is a relaxed way to start your wedding photography, allowing everyone to get comfortable together which will set a solid foundation for the rest of the day. There is typically anticipation building and emotions of all sorts happening so it creates space for really poignant and intimate photographs. This beginning part of the day is also an ideal time to take photographs of many of the details you have chosen to be a part of your wedding day.
– Intentionally choose the location: Locations with natural light make for the best most flattering light for you, your loved ones and all of your beautiful outfits. Choose the room with the most natural light. Indoor lighting situations without access to natural light can still work and we are prepared for dealing with mixed lighting temperatures and artificial light, but if there is an alternative option like a hotel room or someone’s home, consider it.
– Tidy up: The getting ready scene is often times naturally chaotic, especially if you’re getting ready with others and people have stuff thrown about the room. It’s worth it to take just a few minutes before we arrive to move any clutter (i.e. food, makeup, bag, trash, junk) out of the way in the area that those final details will be happening (i.e. putting on dress, jewelry, shoes). It allows me to get right to work and the images look cleaner.
– Set aside detail items: One of the first things we do when we arrive at getting ready pictures is take pictures of some of the details you’ve intentionally chosen to be with you or on you on your wedding day. Some items I take pictures of during this time include: dress, veil, shoes, jewelry, purse, handkerchiefs, wedding party gifts, cufflinks, tie, socks, beverage accessories, watches. I recommend bringing a set of the invitation suite too that I hold on to during the festivities. I typically take pictures of the flowers and wedding rings later on so no need to include those during the getting ready pictures.
– Save some special moments: It’s not necessary for us to be there the entire time you’re getting ready, and I would recommend waiting until the second part of your getting ready for us to join you. Get some things out of the way before we get there and save others for after we arrive. Wait to put on some of those items you’ve set aside for the detail shots. Wedding party, family and loved ones can be ready to go, but the couple getting married should wait to get dressed last. If you’re wearing a dress, wait to put it on, and your accessories too. If you’re wearing a suit, wait to put on your cufflinks, tie, vest, jacket, etc. If you’re exchanging gifts, let us photograph the exchange. Wait to do your finishing touches on makeup. Save a champagne toast for when we are there.
– Be open to the moments: Sometimes couples are concerned the getting ready shots will feel contrived or that they don’t actually need any physical help from others to get ready. It’s your wedding day and the people in your life who you love, trust, respect and want to celebrate with are there surrounding you. Let them help. Enjoy the exchanges and the moments.
– Make it fun: If you don’t have much to do to get dressed or prepared, which can be a common sentiment for the fellahs, do something together with your wedding party. Head out for a walk, have a drink, play poker or some other sort of game. Pick something that you’d enjoy and you might typically do with those friends.
Many couples choose to see each other for the first time on their wedding day at the moment that they come together at the ceremony. Having a “first look” before the ceremony is now another popular option for couples, especially if they are looking for a more intimate “reveal” moment and if they want to maximize on time together.
Having a first look at each other in private rather than in front of the entire ceremony of guests is more intimate. There’s a chance for both of you to connect more informally and out of the spotlight. If you’re a more private person or are worried about how you’ll react, the more intimate route might make you feel more at ease. First looks can be just you two or they can be with people you’ve selected to be there such as close family and friends. Both types of first looks are special but have a different tone so think about which you’d prefer. Also, getting to see your partner before the ceremony creates more time to be with him or her. Wedding days go fast so this option frees up more together time. It also allows for any family and wedding party pictures to be scheduled before the ceremony. This option is great if your ceremony will be later in the day or if you don’t want to be away from your guests for long.
– As with everything else, listen to your gut: A first look is just an option to consider so discuss with your partner to see if it’s the right fit for you two. If you do decide to do a first look, only include the people that you both want to be there. Common choices consist of having the first look with just you two and your photographers (which is such an honor for us) or including others (family, friends, wedding party) who can watch from afar or close by.
– Don’t put pressure on yourselves: Whatever organic and natural reactions you each have will be just right. No need to force tears or laughter. Just be yourselves and enjoy.
– Intentionally choose the spot: An open area, such as the outdoors or an indoor larger space, that allows for two photographers (me and Ray) to get your reactions works the best. If you’re having a first look outdoors on a sunny time of day, I recommend shade to avoid squinting. I also recommend a spot you like where we’ll be able to take some couple photos after the first look. About 15 minutes is a good amount of time to get things started.
– Have a first look with someone else: Whether or not you have a first look with your partner, you can have a first look moment with your mom, your dad or someone else significant in your life.
Most couples choose to set aside a portion of their day for formal family portraits. If you’re on the fence about making time for family photos, I’d say it’s worth it. Marriages not only represent a couple together, but their communities and families coming together. During a wedding, there are often many family members present and looking their best, so it’s an ideal opportunity for an updated family photo. Bonus- a framed family photo is a favorite for holiday cards and all occasion gifts for the family.
I’d recommend choosing a time earlier in the celebration since everyone will be looking fresh and it’s easy to coordinate bringing everyone together. Right after the ceremony typically works well. Some couples like taking these pictures before the ceremony if they’re having a first look and want to maximize on time with their other guests. 30 minutes of time works well for doing combinations with immediate family like parents, grandparents, and siblings.
Here are some popular combinations to consider with immediate family groups:
- Couple with both sets of parents
- Couple with each set of parents
- Couple with immediate families without siblings’ partners and children
- Couple with immediate families with siblings’ partners and children
- Couple with grandparents
- Couple with immediate families and grandparents
- Couple with siblings
The more people you’d like to include, the more time is appropriate to allot so add on time for bigger families or if you’d like to include the extended family and close friends. Some of these additional photos may involve aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, dad’s side of the family, mom’s side of the family, godparents, godchildren, close family friends, the officiate, etc.
– Decide in advance: Choose which groupings you’d like in advance. You can always add and skip combinations in the moment, but having that initial list of must haves will be a major time saver and stress reducer on the day of the wedding.
– Keep people informed: Let family know before the wedding of where and when the photos will be. Inviting people to be a part of this day cannot only be an honor but will avoid confusion.
– Delegate: Assign one or two organizers who know the people in the different pictures. One person from each side of the family or a close friend work well. This is a total must if you’re choosing to do larger group combinations.
– Note the order: I recommend taking pictures with children, grandparents or anyone else with special considerations at the beginning so they can go on their way, rest, play, etc.
– Walk slowly: As you enter and exit your ceremony, go slowly. It makes for better pictures and literally slows you down to take everything in, see your partner, see your guests, etc.
– Take a moment at the end: At the end of the ceremony, consider walking somewhere for just a few minutes together alone or simply move out of the path of the people coming out of the ceremony. Be aware informal receiving lines organically form since everyone will want to congratulate you and celebrate with you. This dynamic can be a great thing but it can also have an impact on time and so it’s something to anticipate because you can either encourage or discourage it from happening.
FOR THE WHOLE DAY
– Be specific: If you’d like everyone to meet you at the cocktail hour, have that specified at the end of the ceremony. If you’d like everyone to wait after the ceremony for you to blow bubbles, throw confetti, light sparklers, etc, be specific about those directions too. In general, be specific with directions during all parts of your celebration if you have a specific vision or desire. People often wait to be told what to do so if you have a preference, communicate it. Having signs with instructions are helpful for all sorts of things at the ceremony and reception like sign in books, programs, etc. If it’s not a big deal, then just go with the flow and don’t worry about it!
– Enjoy!!!: This one is a repeat too but it is still very relevant!