Advice from a wedding photographer

I have been wanting to write something like this ever since I became serious about photography. Now, most people might be thinking, why would I care what my photographer thinks? Isn’t it my day? And yes, 100% yes, it is, but as a photographer, it is always so interesting for me to see possible clients love my work, and then want to get married in a hotel with no windows and musty carpet. I am curious of thought process from that aesthetic to my photographs. Because as a natural light photographer, that is not where I shine. Don’t get me wrong, I do agree that your day should be a decision between you and your future spouse, whatever that might be, but I hope you would think of me as a visual consultant too. Any talented photographer can make any space/venue work, but given the right foundation, they can blow your freakin mind. I want to share with you the 5 things I LOVE in a wedding as a photographer in hopes to help you understand what elements can really help enhance the photos you will receive from your wedding day.

 

1. ALLOW YOUR VENUE TO BE THE PERFECT PHOTO BACKDROP 

I know this probably sounds like a duh thing to say, but it is 100% true. Andrew and I fell in love with our venue for various reasons, but one big reason was we probably could have done absolutely nothing to it and it would have been just as beautiful. That is HUGE!  When looking at your venue, don’t only look at the space where people will eat dinner, but look at the grounds around it. 80% of pictures of the bride and groom normally don’t take place in the reception hall. So when you are looking at venues and your response is, well we could always just stay inside, then move on to the next one. There is a better one out there. This applies to any style of wedding, or couple, but just know your venue will become the backdrop for all your photos and it is important to think outside the box/building and look at the potential a venue has from all angles.

 

2. THE LESS "VENUES" YOU HAVE THE BETTER

Now, I feel like this might be the point where people disagree with me the most, but I am a full supporter of one venue weddings. Whenever a wedding is in one area, it not only makes things simpler for everyone involved but trust me when I say you will have more time to enjoy your day. Just think about it. Now, I grew up in the south and understand this might not always be the case, but my biggest advice for you if are having a second location for your ceremony or reception is to plan out a timeline with your photographer. Make sure you talk about it beforehand, build time into your timeline to travel, get settled, and take photos. Set up expectations ahead of time and discuss the possible location of photos opportunity with your photographer so you can both remain on the same page. Overall though my biggest piece of advice is to avoid getting ready some place different than your ceremony and/or reception. Adding a third place usually adds more travel, and most likely won’t fit into the aesthetics of the rest of your day. Keep things like transportation simpler on the day of so it will be more about your spouse and less about complicated transitions.

 

3. GOOD LIGHTING WILL ALWAYS BE IMPORTANT 

Lighting will forever be important in my line of work because different types of lighting affect how your photos will look, feel and represent your day. I don’t believe you should know everything about lighting, that should absolutely be your photographer's job, but there are few basic rules you should know, to help you make a wiser decision while choosing your wedding space.

  • Know what time the sun sets on the day you having your wedding. This will be essential in planning your day out.
  • Consult a photographer if you have questions about what time is the best time to have your ceremony based on the season. When the sun sets at 9 PM in the summer, is very different from when it sets at 5 PM in the winter.
  • If you are getting married outside prepare to have a later ceremony time, or have your ceremony space covered with some amount of shade.
  • If you are getting married inside, try to book a venue with large windows. Fun fact: Window light is still considered natural light.
  • Turn off the overhead light where you are getting ready ( once you are ready for pictures). You won’t need it! Trust me. 
  • If your venue doesn’t have good lighting ( yellow florescence, spot lights, or anything that make it look like a department store) , make time to go outside and take pictures, or pick a place nearby to capture some memories in the natural light goodness.
  • Cloud coverage can provide excellent even lighting options, so don’t get down if the weather looks a little cloudy.
  • Golden hour is a lovely time for photos, but so is twilight (the time the sun has just gone down).
  • Don’t have a completely dark reception. Even with external flashes, it is really hard for a camera to focus in dark lighting. Dance with the lights slightly on, or have the DJ provide extra lighting for the dance floor.
  • Don’t exit at night with something that does not illuminate you. If there is no external lighting on your venue get creative, but bubbles are never a good idea at night. They just aren’t.

 

4.DETAILS MATTER

Personal touches on wedding days will always be special! No matter your budget, make your days yours. It will help tell your love story and show your guest and the world more about you as newly weds. This doesn’t mean you have to buy all the flowers or have the fanciest dress, or table layouts that would be in a magazine. Just make sure every decision is intentional and reflects who you guys are as a couple. If that breaks a “tradition”, then it breaks a “tradition”. Be inspired by how things have been done, and change it up a little. This way, your photo album, and memories will be special and unique.

5. THINK LESS ABOUT THE POSING AND MORE ABOUT THE MOMENTS

More than anything as a photographer I want to capture every feeling that happens on the wedding day. This is not saying "looking at the camera" pictures are bad, or family pictures are bad, but as an artist, I rather produce photos where you will look back and feel the feels rather than simply staring at posed smiling faces. Kill the shot list the wedding industry has told you to create and start thinking of it in a new way. My best advice is to tell your photographer the people and other traditions that are special to you. Have conversations about the sentimental things and focus on the love, happiness, and gratitude you are feeling on your wedding. Then go spend as much time as you can with your spouse, take advantage of any alone time and know that time will be worth it. Try to get your brain out of the Pinterest world and BE with your best friend. Enjoy every moment with family and friends, talk, laugh, and cry, and don’t feel bad about any of it for a second. Those are the moments you will want to remember 20 years from now. I promise. 

I will give you a personal example from Andrew and my wedding. We agree that after our first look we were going to read our vows to each other. We wanted to do this privately, with just our photographer and videographer because we wanted it to be intimate. I didn’t want to be afraid of stumbling on words in front of a crowd at the altar. I wanted time alone with my best friend, so I could speak from the heart. This was my favorite part of our day by far. We both cried, and said words that became beautiful promises and those pictures/video moments I will cherish forever.

So rather than stalking Pinterest for the poses, think of the essence of the day, and feel the joy and love there! This is literally the best ingredient to a great photo.

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I hope these tips were helpful! When planning your wedding, or on the journey to pick a photographer remember all these things so you can capture all the beautiful moments that your special day will hold and memories to hold to for the a lifetime.