There are a million articles out there on advice to brides planning their big day. Having worked as a wedding photographer for five years now I think I finally have enough experience to write a solid blog on my personal advice to get the best possible wedding photos. Here it goes:
1. Hire a photographer who you really love. There are so many different ways to document a wedding and every photographer is different. Some are very detail oriented, some focus on candid moments and others do a lot of posing. And there is everything in between. I highly recommend scouring photographers' blogs and websites to get a real feel of how they see the world. If their work speaks to you and there is just that "something" about the way they capture the day then you should pursue the relationship. And I"m saying pursue because it doesn't necessarily mean you should book them. Meet up with them or even have a Skype date and see if you are compatible. Remember that your wedding photographer is going to be with you for the entire wedding day for the most intimate moments so you had better feel comfortable with them and get along well on a personal level. Your personal relationship is very important because if you don't let the photographer in or be vulnerable around them they aren't able to capture those real moments. Always remember that there is more to hiring a photographer than the price tag.
2. Remember it's all about the light. Those gorgeous getting ready photos you see on Pinterest are not girls getting ready at the Holiday Inn inside a dark room with a window the size of a shoe box. They are almost always taken in room with some extra space and more importantly, lots of big windows and natural light. Spend a little extra money on a nicer room and make sure it's bright. Your getting ready photos will turn out so much better, trust me.
3. Have a solid timeline. By solid I mean have a timeline that allows a lot of room for flexibility and extra time for photos. I'm telling you that EVERY SINGLE WEDDING I have ever shot runs behind on schedule. Hair and makeup always takes longer than you think. We always need more time for photos. Family photos are always a gong show, even if I have a list of people I need to photograph and someone helping me round them up. Dinner always takes longer to eat. The list goes on. You don't want to have a timeline that doesn't allow for all of this so leave lots of buffer room and always allot more time for photos. You are paying your wedding photographer a decent chunk of change so don't jip yourself and end up with only 10 minutes for bride and groom photos, it's just not worth it.
4. Simplify your day. Keep wedding travel to a minimum, get ready close to the ceremony location, and don't have any "to do" tasks on the wedding day. These are just some of the ways you can simplify your day. The day just goes so much smoother if you aren't travelling all over town. Have you seen a girl in a wedding dress and four inch heels try to get in and out of cars? It's a hot mess. Not to mention traffic, directions, and just lots of extra time driving around can cause all types of issues. Time is precious on a wedding day and everything becomes so much easier when you aren't driving a lot between locations. Ask your wedding photographer to scout out some photo locations close to the ceremony and/or reception site to cut down on driving times - often they know of hidden gems that you might not think of.
5. Trust your photographer. Believe me, we see it all. I've had brides tell me they want family portraits in the beating hot sun at high noon because they want a certain backdrop in the photos. Trust me when I tell you that you do not want those family photos because they are going to look horrible. I've also had brides try to give me a detailed shot list and throughout the day continue to ask if I had gotten certain poses and detail shots. There is nothing more frustrating for me than being micro managed on a wedding day because it just tells me that either the bride and groom or the family does not trust me and that poses all types of problems. Trust your photographer and let them do their thing, it's why you hired them after all.
6. Have an unplugged ceremony. It's really sad to me when I see friends and family members at weddings not fully in the moment because they are too busy fiddling with their fancy camera, cell phones and Ipads (yes, massive IPADS!) trying to get a good shot of the bride walking down the isle. Seriously you guys, I GOT THIS. I think it's so important to have an unplugged wedding (just have the minister or the commissionaire announce it before the wedding starts) not only because people can and often do get in the way of the professional photographer and because they do not get to fully enjoy the ceremony.
7. Delete your Pinterest "wedding photos" board. Ok well maybe you don't have to DELETE it but consider this - those photos you are seeing are the best of the best. Often times they require a team to put together - hair and makeup, professional lighting, ridiculous locations (are you really going to rent an elephant to ride at your wedding?) and endless amounts of TIME. Basically they are the unicorns of wedding photography photos meaning they don't exist. Often times these "wedding" photos are not real wedding photos and are a staged shoot. Also keep in mind that your wedding day is going to be YOURS and to want to fake a moment for the sake of having a photo similar to one you pinned is frankly, fake. Let your day unfold as it will and trust your photographer is going to capture your real, true story.
8. Relax. If you are uptight and stressed out on your wedding day it's going to come across in the photos. If it's in the budget, hiring a wedding planner can help greatly with this. It's their job to make sure everything runs smoothly at the wedding and they look after all of the details so that you don't have to stress out when really you should be focusing on enjoying your wedding.
9. Don't skip the engagement photos. In my experience a lot of men do not think engagement photos are necessary. I've had many couples that opt out of doing them because they just think it's silly and they don't need more photos than they are going to get on their wedding day. It's really not about getting the extra photos (although that's a great bonus). It's really about us getting to know each other before the wedding day. I get to figure out your best angles, see how you act together and how you act in front of the camera. An engagement session tells me a lot about you before the wedding and it's all helpful in me giving you the best possible experience and creating the best photos on your wedding day.
10. Remember that perfection doesn't exist. I know you want your day to be PERFECT but I'm sorry to be an injection of reality here. No day is ever perfect, no matter what you read on wedding blogs. The day might be great, amazing even because you are marrying the love of your life. Of course it's going to be beautiful, full of love and laughter and family and amazing-ness but nothing is ever going to be perfect. There will be a few hiccups, there might even be a few things that go wrong. It could rain, you could get a stain on your dress or the caterer could mess up your dessert. And that's ok. Because it's all part of your perfectly imperfect story. Let it be.