Planning your wedding day is part of the fun of getting married, but it can also be stressful, so I hope that this guide gives you some helpful tips that help you make great choices for a wonderful wedding day and beautiful photos.
Remember that all the details like shoes, and dresses and table decor and wedding favours make up a special day, but your photos are all that you are going to have afterwards to remember it by, so thinking through your day carefully, and thinking about what and when you want photos taken, is really important. It’s also important to choose the right photographer who will capture your wedding in a way you love - whether this is a documentary style, a very artistic style, colourful or desaturated, posed or capturing real moments. When you do choose a photographer, let them know what it is about their style that you like.
This guide will walk you through the whole day, but as a photographer, the most important photos are usually the creative couple shoot. First prize is to do this shoot in the hour leading up to the sunset for golden, beautiful light. If you can work the rest of your day around this, it is helpful.
Once you have been through this, you will be able to chat to your photographer about the details of the day with the big picture in mind.
Before the wedding
If you would like photos of the groom and his groomsmen getting, it’s normally best to do this early in the day. A good idea is for the groom and his groomsmen to get dressed for the shoot, have some photos and then take their wedding clothes off until just before the ceremony, especially in summer or if there is lots of running around to be done. This will also save time later in the day. If you have any special moments, like reading a letter from the bride, or special details that you would like photographed, be sure to let your photographer know.
It is a good idea to photograph the wedding decor when the venue is fully set up but there are no guests present yet. Guests tend to put handbags and drinks down on the table and distract from the pretty details which you have put a lot of effort into. Please communicate with whoever is doing your wedding decor (the venue or the florist), that they will need to be done in time for these photos. This includes the wedding cake.
Bridal party getting ready
Photos of the bride getting ready usually set the scene, and there are often lovely moments with bridesmaids and moms, as well as the fun shots of putting on the dress and the shoes and all the details. Don’t forget the basics to help you look and feel your best - don’t drink too much alcohol, get a good night’s sleep, drink lots of water and have snacks on hand for you, your bridal party and your photographer.
Think about the space you are getting ready in with regards to photos - light and bright is usually best, with some space for bridal portraits, and even some shots with your bridesmaids. Usually a group of girls getting ready in one place creates a lot of mess, which doesn’t look great in photos, so maybe task a bridesmaid with keeping things tidy. Again, if there are any sentimental details which you would like captured - jewellery or special shoes or a ring shot, please make sure you communicate that with your photographer beforehand and that those things are ready for them to photograph.
When having your hair and makeup done, I would highly recommend a professional who you have done a trial with beforehand. Don’t be worried about too much make-up, it wears off as the day goes by and always looks way less on camera. It is a good idea to find a lip stick or lip gloss that you like that you can keep once the make up artist has left. Give it to a bridesmaid to keep close for you for touch ups throughout the day, especially after your first kiss!
Please make sure that everyone’s hair and makeup is done an hour before the photographer has to leave for the ceremony. This will mean that the bridesmaids can be fully dressed and made up when helping you get your dress on, and once you are dressed, we can move straight to a photo session. This is the best time to get nice photos with your mom and your bridesmaids as well as beautiful bridal portraits while your hair and make-up are still fresh.
The ceremony is the most important part of the day because it is where you actually get married, and so it’s important to get great photos. If you have a rehearsal the day before, it’s a good idea to invite the photographer if they can make it. Be sure not to cram so many guests into a small venue that the photographer can’t move around to get the shots they need.
Think about photos when you plan how you will stand or sit. If you have your back to the church/group, it will be trickier to get photos of you. When you say your vows, you may not want the officiator to be standing right behind you in the photos. And when you have your first kiss as a Mr and Mrs, you definitely don’t want them in the background so it’s good to chat all the through with them.
Signing the register is a nice moment, and you can pop the bridal bouquet in the table to add some interest. Once the formalities are done, there are normally lovely shots of the confetti throwing and greetings after the ceremony, but just be sure to communicate to the guests and the photographer what is happening. Don’t under estimate how long it will take to hug and kiss your guests as they will all want to congratulate you and say hello. This makes for lovely photos but does also take time.
Family photos are special to the family, but can be frustrating too as it isn’t easy to get all the family together and the photos usually eat into the time for the couple shoot. Here are some tips to make the process a little more smooth:
It is good to have a nice, simple space, preferably in the shade, for family photos. Something like a bench or a log to sit on helps create a relaxed atmosphere.
You will need to create a list before-hand of what family photos you want. Type it up and give it to a bridesmaid or family member. It is NOT the photographer’s job to track down family members that they don’t know and organise your family. Please make sure someone else can organise this so that the photographer can focus on taking nice family photos as quickly as possible.
Creative Couple Shoot
It’s a good idea to start with photos of the whole bridal party. Some couples want a lot of photos with their bridal party first, and some want just a few. After we take those, I usually ask a bridesmaid or groomsman to stay and help out and then send the rest of the bridal party back to the other wedding guests.
The couple shoot is always the highlight for me as a photographer and I get so excited to create beautiful photos of the wedding couple. It is important that the photographer knows about you and what you would like. I send my wedding couples a questionnaire to get to know them better and create images that are true to them.
Some couples have just gone for a 15 minute walk down the road with me because they didn’t want a lot of photos, and with other couples we have driven to a beautiful location nearby and done an hour of beautiful couple photos. The closer we can schedule these photos to sunset, the better.
A common concern is leaving the guests for a long time while having the photos taken. Another concern with summer weddings is a late sunset which is tricky with the reception timing. Here are some ways that you can work around this:
Have photos taken very nearby where your guests are waiting so that they can watch you having photos taken
Create lots of fun and entertainment for them with party games like giant jenga, entertainment like a live band, food and drinks.
If the sunset is a bit later and you want to socialise with your guests, you could have canapé starters outside with them and then slip off for photos at sunset, and return for the reception formalities after sunset. That way your guests will also get to be outside and enjoy the sunset.
You can do a morning wedding, a late lunch reception, and then say goodbye to your guests and head off to do your photoshoot with no time limits (this works best in winter with an early sunset).
You can let your photographer know that you don’t want to go far or take many photos, and they can plan around that and make sure they get lots of lovely candid moments. If that’s what you want, make sure you get a photographer who is good at capturing those moments.
When it comes to the actual photos, get your bridesmaids to help you touch up your hair and makeup, put your veil back in and get ready to have fun. Lots of laughter, movement and letting loose are the key to beautiful photos. Be willing to trust your photographer and climb on that rock or give your new husband a passionate kiss.
The reception is where the formalities and the fun all go down. Your photographer will capture the moments, but also needs a good heads up from the couple before hand, and the MC on the night, about what is happening when. The photographer also needs time to set things up, so transitioning straight from speeches into the first dance won’t give the photographer enough time to set up lighting and get ready.
For good photos of guests and speeches, it’s good to make sure that the venue is reasonably well lit. Candles are pretty but don’t create a huge amount of light.
Some people love photos of a party on the dance floor, but you will need to think about the timing if the photographer has been shooting all day, they may charge extra to stay on longer.
Please don’t forget to provide food and drinks for your photographer, they have been working hard all day and are probably very hungry.
After the Wedding
If you would like the photographer to stay late, it is common practise to organise accommodation for the photographer nearby.
Make sure that you have a clear expectation about when you can expect some photos. Some photographers provide a sneak peek the next day, others within the next week. Also make sure you know when to expect your full album and trust that your photographer will get the photos to you when they are done with the editing.
And then be sure to get your photos printed - either a photo book or for your wall. Chat to your photographer about doing this for you or who they would recommend for the best quality prints.