Ten easy (free!) ways to make your wedding day photos better

Hello from COOL Wisconsin! Yes, I’m on vacation this week, enjoying 8 days of camping under the wing of an airplane and flying out to some really cool destinations throughout Wisconsin and along Lake Michigan. Since I’ve got a couple of weekends without weddings, unfortunately my faithful blog-followers don’t have a usual Wedding Wednesday blog highlight post to look forward to. Instead, I’ve taken the opportunity to write some posts that can help you make the most of your wedding and engagement photography. This week, we’ll take a look at some easy ways to make your wedding photography go even BETTER, and best of all, these don’t cost any extra money 😉 So, without further adieu, here they are:

10. Schedule “pad time” into your day.

I can’t stress this enough. When I receive a timeline from a bride and there is no breathing room in the schedule, from start to finish, it does admittedly make me a bit nervous. If you think something will take 30 minutes, schedule 45. If the minister/pastor/priest tells you the ceremony will be 20 minutes, plan 30. Why? First of all, sometimes ceremonies don’t start on time. Luckily, most do…but you never know when the father of the bride is nowhere to be found (and eventually located in the men’s room!). Secondly, some officiants get wordy. I can’t tell you the number of times a couple tells me they’ve been told to expect a 20 minute ceremony – then the officiant starts talking. And talking. And I look at my watch, and it’s been 20 minutes and the vow exchange hasn’t even started. Also, another time-killer can be the send-off – the bigger the guest list, the longer it takes the guests to vacate the church, especially if there’s a receiving line. Then, if family formals are being shot after the ceremony, expect it to take a good while for family to filter back in…which leads me to number nine.

9. Make sure family is briefed on the time for family formals.

Formals can be a time-eater for one reason: family isn’t where they are supposed to be, when they are supposed to be. Plan extra time, and tell everyone to be at the church 15 minutes before you actually need them to be there, if they are being shot before the ceremony. I tell clients to plan 30 minutes for family formals, with an average-sized family, but allow 45. I don’t like to shoot weddings off of a list (it gets me thinking too much about what I need to be shooting and not just seeing and working creatively), but I DO like to shoot the family formals off of a list. I have a flow that I use that minimizes sitting and standing and shuffling (especially on the part of the bride) – and it helps for everyone to be there on time to keep this flow going and minimize skipping around. Remind and re-remind family until you’re blue in the face! 🙂

8. Consider a creative approach to formals.

I realize many clients grew up in the church they are marrying in; so it can have some meaning when the family photos are shot. Many ceremonies take place in non-church settings, though, and this is a time that formals can be a little more creatively shot. If available, consider an outdoor setting, or an indoor setting in an elegant location. Chairs, settees and other pieces of furniture can allow for more creative arrangement of groups, and more relaxed, less stiffly-posed shots.

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formals shot in the hallway of a restaurant/reception facility with a “relocated” antique couch

7. Think hard about where you prep for the wedding.

Church basements are convenient, let’s face it. They’re right there at the ceremony. If possible, consider dressing elsewhere. Hotel rooms often have very nice natural light and uncluttered decor; if dressing in the church is a necessity, scout the church out for un-cluttered rooms or rooms with nice furniture and appointments; if possible. Natural light ALWAYS photographs better than flourescent lighting; in fact, flourescent light is at the bottom of the list of desireable types of light. Church nurseries or classrooms are the least desireable places to dress; they often have bright murals and children’s art or loud wall-hangings. Remember these are going to be in the background of your images! What if you have nothing but a basement room with flourescent lights, and NOTHING else is an option for dressing? Keep clutter to a minimum. Keep bags, hangars, shoes, and clothing in one small part of the room. You’ll want your shots to be devoid of background clutter so the images are neat, clean, and the focus is on YOU, your family, and wedding party.

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shoot for a clean, elegant prep location if possible

6. Allow enough time for bride/groom and wedding party portraiture.

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Not all wedding days enjoy an early ceremony with a three hour gap for photos before the reception. Many ceremonies that I shoot have back-to-back ceremonies and receptions. I tell couples that if we can have a half an hour at one GOOD location with the bride and groom and wedding party, we can get a wide variety of photos. Don’t try to cram three locations into a 45 minute schedule; driving time eats a major amount of time into the schedule. Instead, concentrate on one good location with varied landscape or architecture. If the ceremony or formals run late, consider cutting a location – the less driving that is done, the more shooting CAN be done! And that brings us to 5…

5. Consider a “first look” if you have a tight ceremony/reception schedule

I don’t EVER pressure couples into doing a first look. I realize some are set on seeing each other when the ceremony begins; this is tradition, after all, and I’m not going to stick my business in a very personal decision. It can, however, make for a more relaxed schedule if the wedding day timeline is fairly compressed. I usually do these in or around the church (or, if the couple is willing, a gorgeous, nearby location…see Jill and Joel’s recent wedding for a sample of a fantastic non-church first look!), and clear the area of everyone but the couple. I don’t direct first looks at all – I simply photograph them as they happen. With this done, we can then do family formals before the ceremony if time is too tight in between the ceremony and reception; then we can then concentrate on the more creative portraiture at an off-site location en route to the reception.

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first looks are completely candid and completely private

if you can’t swing a first look – I won’t ever push you for one! This couple didn’t see each other before the ceremony, and being a December wedding, it was dark when we did have time for portraiture. No sweat. The holiday lights and the couple’s elegant style made for some unforgettable shots.
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4. details, details, details!

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Details obviously are a big part of the wedding day and can really set your wedding apart as unique and personalized. I often concentrate on capturing as many of the details as possible; it not only helps tell the story of the day but really helps tie the colors and theme together in the wedding album. Allow time in your photography schedule for us to photograph your dress, shoes, and jewelry before dressing; we can find time to photograph bouquets/boutonnieres, rings and other details anywhere in the day if needed.

3. Reception scheduling

If you don’t have a full-day photography package, schedule the traditional reception events right after dinner so that they are sure to be covered. Generally, with an average-sized guest list, we don’t need a ton of time to get guest candids and dance/party shots after these events (such as the cake cutting, first dances, etc) are completed – an hour to hour and a half of general dance and candid photography usually garners a lot of images, especially with a two-photographer team.

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concentrate first on making sure the most important parts of your reception are fully covered

2. Ask questions!

I WANT to help you get the most out of your wedding photography and get the most comprehensive coverage that you can get. I am obviously pretty experienced at helping construct timelines and helping out with questions about scheduling formals, off-site portraiture, and even prep/getting ready shots. I’m just an email away and more than willing to help you any time you have questions. A well-planned, on-schedule wedding day allows photographers to get MORE coverage and MORE creativity wrapped into one as we have the time and aren’t rushing from one thing to another!

1. Have FUN.

The number one thing I want to give you in your wedding images is emotion. Sure, pretty pictures are always nice and I’ve explained above some easy ways to make various parts of your day photograph better. But emotion always is the most memorable element of an image and a relaxed, happy couple is going to really shine through in the images. Your wedding day only happens once and goes by in a FLASH (I speak from experience) – so enjoy it as it will be over before you know it. If something doesn’t go right, don’t sweat it. It’s water under the bridge. And it’s our job to give you great images no matter what happens with the schedule, timeline, or if the best man forgot his pants. Take it all in stride and enjoy it for all it is worth. One of my very favorite quotes is “if everything goes to plan, it’s not an adventure”. So party on, adventurers! 🙂

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snow or rain? No sweat. It’ll still be an amazing day!

2 Responses to “Ten easy (free!) ways to make your wedding day photos better”

  1. Firooz says:

    Excellent tips and gorgeous shots. I love the couple perched on the tree. The framing, the sun peaking through the branches . . . and the shot directly under “have fun.” Good lord that’s a beautiful background.

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