TIPS FOR GREAT WEDDING PHOTOS
Hey there love birds! We are so thrilled and excited to document your wedding day, when you'll be at your happiest and surrounded by the support of those nearest and dearest to you. We want things to be amazing for you, and we ultimately want your photos to bring you right back to all of the emotions and experiences that make up the day. Therefore we've compiled our top pieces of advice for how to make your photos look as awesome as possible, and for a smooth wedding day overall. Some tips from our past couples and our own wedding day included.
A note: weddings are live events, and as photojournalists we're used to being adaptable in many varying situations. If all of these tips don't work for your day, please don't sweat it! We will make beautiful photos no matter what - considering these just tips the scales in our favor a bit.
IT's ALL ABOUT THE LIGHTING
It’s our job to think about light A LOT. If you've done an engagement session with us, you're likely well aware of our light-loving nerdiness. This is because great photographs require beautiful, intentional lighting. Before anything else, we’ll be on the hunt for the best and most flattering light each setting has to offer. As wedding photographers we are very used to working within unpredictable and challenging lighting situations, but there are a few things we can do to set up for success. Therefore planning your timeline, locations, and settings with light in mind is encouraged, and we’re here to help! You'll find lighting tips throughout this guide. Overall:
- Outdoors: The hours around noon (between about 10am - 2pm) in full sunlight are difficult to shoot in. The harsh sun creates wacky skin tones, garish colors, unflattering facial shadows, sweating, squinting, and a host of other challenges, so we avoid it when possible. It’s often necessary for some photos to start then, so we’ll seek shade for portraits at this time. If it's overcast, we'll be very happy photographers.
- The very best light of the day is about 20 minutes before and after sunset (golden hour and blue hour), so we will always recommend to set aside about 20 minutes for couple portraits then. This time of day provides beautiful directional light to work with - think warm golden rays, soft/even shadows everywhere, and (our favorite) the romantic blue-ish tones of twilight.
- Indoors: When shooting indoors, we avoid "mixed lighting" when possible. Mixed lighting means a combination of natural daylight and artificial lighting (tungsten/flourescent bulbs), which mix together in unflattering ways in photos. Natural light from a window is best when possible, so we may turn off lights when we can.
Second to great lighting, time is our best friend on a wedding day. While we are very efficient with our formal portrait time, we've found that simplification of a wedding day schedule is the best way to de-stress, slow down the day, and make for a more relaxed and enjoyable experience for you and your guests. Breathing room within your timeline is always good - if things happen to be on time or ahead of schedule, you can spend more time with each other and your loved ones.
The best way to simplify is to reduce the number of locations and travel time. We don’t recommend adding extra locations for photos, especially if the ceremony and reception are in different spots. Extra locations can cause unnecessary stress due to coordination, traffic, permits, etc, and lead to a focus on logistics over emotion. If possible we encourage sticking to your venue(s) - we will find great places to shoot anywhere.
Embrace that weather - it can become a unique defining character in your wedding story and photos! Whatever nature throws our way on your wedding day, don’t worry. Overcast days provide beautiful, even, flattering, light with much less limitation than sunny days. Rainy days are cozy, lovely, and force us to think more creatively than normal. Wind is a favorite of ours - it creates amazing movement and life in photos. We’ll always shelter you from extreme rain, wind, heat, and cold to make sure everyone is comfortable.
Getting ready images are a perfect way to set the scene as you prepare for the day ahead with your closest loved ones. This part of the day is rich with beautiful and emotional moments, and great lighting can help us capture them in a more elegant way. When choosing getting ready locations, it's ideal to set up in a space with lots of natural light from large windows that light the room evenly with the lights off. Hotel rooms are common, but your home / a family member's home (or even an Air BnB/VRBO rental) can lend more space, personalization, and natural light. Many newer venues come equipped with great getting ready rooms, which helps with timeline/location simplification as well.
If your hair/makeup artist does not set up with you facing a window, we recommend that they do so before we start shooting. Reducing clutter by designating a separate room (or corner) for “stuff” also helps make for great, clean photos.
Don't forget the guys - great lighting and de-cluttering apply to grooms and groomsmen as well, and will help your photos feel cohesive!
We LOVE first looks (when the couple sees each other privately before the ceremony), and we've found that our couples do as well. A majority of the weddings we photograph include a first look, and this less traditional route has tons of advantages. You get the excitement of seeing each other before standing in front of hundreds of guests watching, and it can help calm nerves by building in a (rare!) private moment together before the whirlwind of the day kicks off.
First looks also make for a much friendlier timeline - we’re able to get a quick set of couple portraits when you’re at your freshest, and at least some group portraits done pre-ceremony. That way everyone can head right into celebrating after the ceremony, without standing for formal portraits. From our own wedding experience, it was one of our favorite parts of the day and definitely takes no emotion away from the ceremony. If you are still questioning a first look, we are happy to chat more!
We suggest building in about 45 minutes total of couple portraits throughout the day, divided between right after the first look, right after the ceremony, and definitely at sundown. Many of our couples love a quick getaway at this more relaxed time, to re-connect and enjoy a moment together. On that note, we highly recommend building in even just 5-10 minutes of alone time for the two of you sometime during the day. Past couples have enjoyed this small amount of time together immensely, as they're able to slow down and soak up each other's company and the day for a minute. Most people do so right after the ceremony or after sunset photos.
We’ll work with you to create “VIP lists” for formal portraits of your friends/wedding party and families through our Timeline Survey. We are very efficient with formal photos, keeping things relaxed and upbeat, and we'll typically build in more time than we need in case anything or anyone is running late. Extra time is great for more bonding time, and more honest and relaxed candids of your people.
Side note on bridal / wedding parties: if having a big bridal party sounds stressful, political, or overwhelming to you, there's no problem with keeping it to one or two people (or none at all) - we'll still take lots of friend photos throughout the day.
We also discourage others from photographing groups over our shoulders during formal portraits, to avoid people looking the wrong direction, distraction, and to keep things moving. It's helpful to let people know that you'll send the professional photos to them after the wedding!
During a beautiful, emotional, or cool moment, it's natural to want to somehow capture, preserve, and share it. These days, just about everyone has the ability to do so at their fingertips, which we feel can lead to moments becoming a bit cheapened. To preserve the special energy and focus during something as significant as a wedding ceremony, many of our couples opt for 'unplugged ceremonies' - when guests are asked to refrain from being on their devices and taking photos.
We recommend that guests pack away their phones/cameras for a few reasons. From a photography perspective, guests can be unaware that they are interfering with our composed photographs by physically blocking our shots during crucial moments (especially during big moments like your walk down the aisle and the first kiss) or by using flash that clashes with our exposures. Arguably most important: presence! When walking down the aisle, it's much nicer to see faces of loved ones (and each other) than a sea of devices. Persons moving around with screens in the air are also distracting to others trying to enjoy the moment organically. Without screens between you, your guests will be more present and able to fully appreciate the intimacy and emotion of your union that you have invited them to participate in.
The best way to communicate this message? Listing that the ceremony is ‘unplugged’ in your program, a sign near the entrance, and the officiant making an announcement (this seems to work best) all work great. Helpful phrasing: “Unplugged Ceremony: We invite you to be fully present during our ceremony. Kindly turn off all cell phones and cameras and enjoy this moment with us."
As for lighting, outdoor ceremonies are amazing! If you'll be outside in direct sunlight, try to start the ceremony at or after 4pm in the summer (this helps with guest comfort as well), and ideally set up so that the sun would be angled behind you (backlit). If the ceremony is indoors with lots of windows, it's ideal that the windows would be facing you or beside you (so that the window light falls on you two - not behind you).
For the majority of the day when we aren't directing portraits, we’ll enter ‘fly on the wall’ mode to cover the many beautiful candid moments that unfold between you two and all of your loved ones. These photos are our favorite to take, and they were our favorite from our own wedding - the honest and unscripted moments of the day.
When the sun goes down, we'll use our flashes in a natural way that captures the feel of the event. Dressing up your venue with candles and cafe/string lights creates a warm, romantic, natural feel. Be careful with extensive uplighting and DJ lights with crazy colors and lasers, which look splotchy and strange on people. We're used to this, but try to discuss saving the light show for after important and sentimental first dances.
DO YOU, and LET IT GO!
It's our job (and our passion) to capture emotion and experience as it happens. We don't need a shot list beyond what our Timeline Survey asks, and we'll produce images you will adore by documenting the day organically as it unfolds. We may take you slightly off the beaten path from where everyone else takes their wedding photos, we'll let you know that it's OK to get your dress a little dirty for the sake of a permanent memory, and we’ll definitely encourage you to express your love for each other openly and truthfully.
Although it can seem like it while planning, there are really no rules. We can't encourage doing it "your way" enough. If that breaks from traditions that really don't make much sense for you, then so be it!
Our biggest and best piece of advice: do what makes you two happy, and HAVE FUN. This is a chance to share a huge piece of your life and relationship with those you love most. Drop the little things (they really don't matter in the long run), enjoy each other's company, soak up the support of your loved ones, and definitely let those emotions flow freely! Great, honest emotion leads to great, honest photos. Your joy will be contagious, and that's what everyone will remember most. You only get to do this once, so why not give it all you’ve got?
Thank you so much for entrusting us to document your day - we can barely wait!
VENDORS WE LOVE
On a related note, here are some of the vendors we have found to be amazing at what they do, including being great people that just add a little something extra special to the planning process and the day.
Planners: We highly recommend hiring at least a day-of planner to help execute little details and logistics of the day so you and your loved ones can just enjoy every moment! These teams do an amazing job:
Maven Events (also floral)
MiMi Weddings (also floral)
Selfie & Co
Nora Events (DJ Sticky)
Bluewater Kings Band
Rock With U
Ashley Fox Designs
a&be bridal shop
The White Room
Hair & Makeup: