The first step to getting great wedding photos is choosing the right photographer. You’ll be spending a lot of time with you photographer on your wedding day so you want to choose one who is fun to be around all day. And of course they must be professional, reliable and able to make amazing photographs.
We recommend reading our blog post, aptly titled “How to Choose a Wedding Photographer.” And be sure to download our FREE Guide to Planning a Stress-Free Wedding Day or just give us a call (415.789.6150) and we’ll be happy to help you understand the process of working with a wedding photographer.
So then after you have selected the perfect photographer, there are some important tips you can follow to get the best possible photos – with the least possible stress – on your wedding day.
Tip #1 – Do the Engagement Session with your Wedding Photographer.
The engagement session is very valuable for several reasons. Don’t skip this because you want to save money. You’ll end up paying for it on your wedding day in the form of less awesome photos and overall experience.
The Engagement Session is your opportunity to get comfortable with your photographer’s personality and style of direction. It’s like a low risk rehearsal for the wedding day. By the end of the engagement session you’ll be at ease with the photographer and the camera. You’ll know the photographer’s lingo and how to follow their direction to make you look your best.
Building rapport with your photographer is so valuable and the engagement session is a great way to do this. Your expressions will be much more relaxed and natural if you know and like the photographer – especially if they are photographing you getting dressed!
While the wedding photos are relatively formal with ceremonies and formal portraits, the engagement session can be rather informal and really show your individual style as a couple. This is your last chance to capture what you were like when you were dating your spouse. Take advantage of that.
The engagement photos are also great to use for your save-the-date cards and for your guest sign-in book. Our clients love the engagement sign-in books which are small albums with room for guests to write personal messages around the photos.
Please see our blog post titled “5 Great Reasons to do an Engagement Photo Session”
Tip #2 – Hire Professional Hair & Makeup Artists
The camera doesn’t lie, girls! If you want to look your best in your wedding photos, if you want to look better than you’ve ever looked before, don’t do your own hair and makeup and don’t just have a friend do it unless they are a pro.
Your face is the hero of your wedding day photos. Don’t trust it to an amateur. You deserve to look gorgeous!
We have seen hair and makeup nightmares that traumatize brides and bridesmaids and haunt them for years. Professional stylists know how to prepare you to be photographed at your best. Makeup for photography is not the same as makeup for going out at night. Please let the pros make you up.
Tip #3 – Allow Extra Time for Hair and Makeup
We love professional stylists but must say that they are not good estimating how much time it takes them to do their job. I’ve never photographed a bride who was not delayed by hair and makeup – sometimes by two or more hours!
There are a thousand distractions on the wedding day that will delay you and your stylists. You can avoid these delays by allowing more time for hair and makeup.
A good rule of thumb is to ask the stylists how long they will take and then double or triple that time. This is not solely because it will take them that long to do the work but also because you will be distracted and delayed while they are working on you.
If you will be going out to a salon or other outside location for hair and/or makeup, make sure you allow plenty of time for getting from one place to another. As explained above, traffic and parking can eat up a lot of valuable time.
Tip #4 – Get your hair and makeup done FIRST
Your stylists may suggest that the bride gets her hair and makeup done last so that she is fresh for the ceremony, this is NOT a good idea. The bride should be the first girl ready so that she has plenty of time for getting-ready photographs and bridal portraits before the ceremony.
We suggest that you plan to be fully made up 2-3 hours before the ceremony begins. This allows time for relaxed getting-ready photos, portraits and First Look photos.
Tip #5 – Do First Look photos before the ceremony
You may want to be traditional and not see the groom before the ceremony. However, there are wonderful benefits do doing the first look before you walk down the isle.
The moment you first see your partner on your wedding day will be incredibly special whether it’s before or during the ceremony. Why not have that special moment in private, away from the distractions of the ceremony and guests so you can truly focus on each other?
When you have a first look moment before the ceremony, you get a rare moment alone together with your partner when you can kiss and hug and talk – really soak them in. This may be the only time you get alone together for the rest of day.
Most couples are the most nervous until they see one another for the first time and then the butterflies leave their tummy and they feel warm and relaxed. The first look allows you to reach this relaxed state before you walk down the isle. You may then enjoy the experience of not only seeing your groom at the other end of the isle, but also enjoy seeing your family and friends welcome you as you enter.
The cocktail hour usually follows the ceremony so if you’re off taking family photos, you’re missing this time with family and friends. You’re paying for those cocktails so it would be nice to enjoy one or two, wouldn’t it? By doing a first look before the ceremony, you open the door to completing some or all of the family and bridal party photos before the ceremony as well. This frees a lot more time after the ceremony to enjoy the cocktails – or at least allow your family and bridal party to enjoy them while you and your partner shoot some romantic sunset photos.
Finally, if the quality of your photographs is important to you then the pre-ceremony first look is the best possible way to ensure great photos of the moment you first see each other. When the photographer controls the setting and the lighting, the photos will be perfect and there will be no one blocking the shot or distracting either of you from the magic of the moment.
Our preference is that our couples have their first look before the ceremony and most of them do. However, the most important thing is that our clients are happy and we handle the first look any way they wish. J
Tip #6 – Designate a Family Finder
What is a Family Finder? Well, that’s the person who helps gather family members for the group photos. Your photographer will not likely know your family and will need help pulling them together for the group photos. Assigning this responsibility to a friend or family member will allow the group formals to be completed much more quickly and efficiently.
Tip #7 – More booze = Slower photography
Having a little bubbly while you’re getting ready can really enhance the mood and be very fun. However, photographing a drunken wedding party is like trying to herd cats. If possible, encourage your wedding party to use at least a little restraint until after the ceremony. The photos will go faster and everyone will be off to the party sooner.
Tip #8 – Minimize Time Between Locations
The more time you spend getting from one place to another, the less time you have to make awesome photos. Plan to have the ceremony and reception as near each other as possible. If you can also do all the photos at the same location then you will save a lot of time. If you can’t do it all in one place, try to have everything as close as possible.
Tip #9 – Carefully Plan the day with your photographer
An experienced photographer will work out a detailed timeline with you and your planner that ensures there is enough time to get the kind of photos you want. This timeline must be realistic and take into account all of the time-sucking challenges outlined above such as traffic, parking, weather, etc.
We have a detailed timeline worksheet that we put together weeks, or at least days, before the wedding. Just be careful that your planner doesn’t make a last minute change that breaks your photography timeline. Ten years from now, you will not care which end of the table the cake was sitting on but you will care if you didn’t get the sunset portraits you always dreamed of.
Tip #10 – Have your flowers ready for photos
Be sure to have your flowers delivered to wherever you are getting ready so you can have them in your photos.
Tip #11 – Have comfortable flats to wear
You will probably not want to wear your high heels the entire day – especially when you’re running around shooting photos in a grassy park. Bring some comfortable footwear to use until we do the shots that show your gorgeous new wedding shoes. Your new husband wont mind looking a little taller anyway, right?
Looking Fabulous for the Camera
Tip #12 – Get a truly flattering dress
You will be spending a lot of money on your wedding gown so do make sure it flatters you and makes you look better than you’ve ever looked before. Strapless gowns are very popular and they look fantastic if they fit well. Watch out for any bulges in the wrong places. Take an honest friend with you dress shopping so you can get a reality check if needed. A true friend will tell you if you look like a muffin stuffed in a wedding dress.
Tip #13 – Hail the Veil
The veil, while maybe too traditional for some, is great for photographs for several reasons. It is certainly a definitive bridal accessory and really screams “Hey, look at me! I’m a bride!”
The veil is also perfect for subtly hiding things that you’d prefer not to show prominently – namely, the arms and neck. Even the skinniest of brides often complain that their arms or neck look fat. This can be expertly addressed by a good photographer and a veil.
Tip #14 – Closer is Bigger
If you don’t want your butt to look bigger than it actually is, shift your weight to your back foot and push your hips away from the camera. This tip applies to any body part. Whatever is closest to the camera will look bigger!
Tip #15 – Slimmer from the Side
Turn your body so the camera sees the side of your waist – it is much smaller from the side than straight on. This is true not only for your waist but also for your shoulders and hips. Guys may want their shoulders square to the camera so they look bigger but most women don’t want to look broad so remember to avoid facing your body square to the camera.
Tip #16 – Lean in to look Lean
Leaning back can make anyone look like the Michelin Man! So, to get rid of the extra chins, you need to slightly lean forward from your waist up. This also makes your chest bigger than your hips which most of us want. Lean in to look Lean.
Tip #17 – Roll ‘em Back to remove the Rolls
If you’re wearing a strapless gown, then you run the risk of looking like a snow cone or the top of a muffin if you don’t roll those shoulders back! Only the super skinnies can get away with that high fashion forward shoulder roll. So, make that expensive dress look its best by rolling your shoulders back. This will also accentuate your bust line – just in case that’s of interest to you.
Tip #18 – Show them Big Sexy Eyes!
Your eyes will look bigger and more beautiful if they are open a little wider. To do this without looking like someone just pinched your bottom, I suggest lowering your chin slightly while doing the Lean (Tip #3). When you lower your chin, you’ll be looking up a bit to the camera which opens you eyes and makes them look much more bright and sexy.
Tip #19 – Breathe!
Remember to breathe. Don’t purse your lips or furrow your brow. Breathe through your mouth with your lips slightly parted. This will keep your face relaxed and your expression natural. You’ll also enjoy the process much more!
Tip #20 – Relax!
Finally, if on your wedding day, you draw a blank and you can’t remember any of the tips above, just shake it out, do a silly dance and relax. Think of the camera as a good friend who’s trying very hard to flatter you – you beautiful thing, you!