Written by Emily Conley | Photography by Jasko Omerovic Photography
Photographing a weddings is a great honor and photographers take the responsibility of capturing the lasting images of your big day quite seriously. Wedding photography is as rewarding as it is challenging. We pulled together an overview of what may seem familiar to you — a general timeline of wedding events — and focused on what your photographer wishes you knew about your big day through his or her lens.
You’ll find some professional tips and tricks for being the subject of a wedding photographer, as well as some obstacles and challenges your photographer handles that you may have never considered. Once you walk through your wedding from the perspective of a wedding photographer, you will be better prepared to enjoy your wedding day, communicate clearly with your photographer, avoid some major pitfalls and mistakes and come home with the best photographic memories of your big day.
PRE-WEDDING DAY: ENGAGEMENT SESSION
Our photography experts encourage all couples to schedule an engagement session because it is the perfect chance to get more comfortable in front of the camera and understand how professional photography works. When photographers meet a couple for an engagement session, they learn about how the couple interacts with each other, what their personalities are like and what they are most excited about for their wedding.
Most people are not used to being the stars of a photoshoot and can feel (and look) uncomfortable at first. Your engagement session is the perfect opportunity to work out those awkward moments, and learn how to relax and feel natural in front of the camera. You can also use your engagement session to practice posing — not a skill most people ever use. Try to listen to your photographer and follow their instructions, even if it feels weird. Trust us, they know what they’re doing.
Even if you choose to not schedule an engagement photo session, you should practice posing. The dramatic pose you saw in a fashion editorial may not translate well in reality, for example. (How does the model bend like that after all?) Why not try it in front of a mirror before you spring it onto your photographer and the world at large? Make it fun and include your soon-to-be spouse. Not only are you bound to have a couple of laughs, but you’re sure to come out of it with more confidence in front of the camera now that you know what does and does not work for you. Make sure to keep an extra eye on your posture while you practice — slouching is almost never attractive.
WEDDING DAY TIMELINE AND DAY-OF POINT PERSON
You absolutely need to have a clear and reasonable timeline detailing what you are doing from the time you wake up until you leave your reception. You also need someone who will help you stick to your timeline and make sure everything else is moving along. Our photography experts love when couples have a wedding planner or event coordinator because the day inevitably runs more smoothly and is more enjoyable for everyone. Furthermore, decide far ahead of time if you want to do a first look because having one (or not) can dramatically affect your day-of timeline.
Your wedding day should never feel like an eight-hour photoshoot, but without a clear schedule and an event planner to keep everything on track, it very well may feel like you are scrambling all day to get in all the photo opps you hoped for. Photographers are able to do their job — taking pictures — much better when your day is clearly mapped out and well-run. If you do not have a clear point person, they usually end up trying to direct everyone and field questions they don’t have the answers to. You are paying for your photographer to focus on capturing your big day, so make sure they aren’t distracted with trying to also act as a day-of coordinator. They aren’t going to do a good job at that, and your photos will not be the product you hoped and paid for.
Most photographers quote an initial price based on six to eight hours of shooting time. This timeframe is generally long enough for a ceremony and most of a reception, but probably will not allow for your photographer to capture your getting ready moments. We strongly encourage you to add a few hours so you can include your photographer in your wedding prep time. The candid nature of this special time makes for some of the best pictures of the day.
If you do include your photographer in your prep time, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, make sure the space where you are getting ready is clean of clutter and trash. You don’t want a precious picture of you and your maid of honor toasting with mimosas ruined by undergarments or a piece of leftover pizza hanging out in the background. Ask someone in your wedding party to be in charge of making sure the room is decluttered and photo-ready. Second, let your photographer know about any cute gifts, customized attire or matching outfits you’d like captured.
Whether you opt for a first look or not, couple portraits are an opportunity for you to spend some one-on-one time with your partner. Our photography experts highly recommend that you take these photos without your wedding party in tow. Let them head off to the cocktail hour or hang out somewhere else while you two get some time together. Taking portraits alone can also help you feel more relaxed and willing to engage in the intimate moments that often make for the sweetest photos.
It’s also best to trust your photographer with the location for these photos. You may not see the immediate appeal in a certain spot, but your photographer knows exactly how lighting and post-production editing can affect these shots. Photographers take photo locations seriously and are experts at knowing what looks best in the finished product.
You put countless hours into planning and designing your perfect day, so make sure you give your photographer a list of all the special details you want them to capture. Think about your centerpieces, table numbers, any special signage and all the other small details you want to remember for years to come. Don’t forget to bring an extra invitation suite with you so your photographer can get pretty shots of your stationery as well.
If you plan to give your partner a gift, letter or boudoir book, make sure you coordinate with your photographer so he or she can be ready to capture your partner’s reaction. Detail photos are perfect to share in your thank-you notes and you will love the memories of all the personal touches that made your big day special.
Consult with your photographer before scheduling the time of your ceremony. Lighting is the most influential aspect of photography and can only be faked so much. If you schedule your ceremony outdoors when the sun is high in the sky, expect to have harsh sunlight and unattractive shadows. Photographers can edit to a certain extent, but bright sunshine makes everything more difficult. Also know that if you schedule your ceremony to take place at sunset, any post-ceremony pictures may be dark, and involve artificial lighting and flashes. Our experts recommend scheduling around sunset times to give yourself enough light for before, during and after ceremony photos that are neither too bright, nor too dark.
Once your ceremony is scheduled, make sure to let your photographer know about any special moments or elements of the ceremony that you want captured. He or she needs to know how long the ceremony is going to last to plan to be in place for each moment accordingly.
THE FIRST KISS
Our experts have two big tips for this one! First, don’t have a messy, involved kiss if you want an attractive picture of this special moment. Second, hold your sweet kiss for a bit to give your photographer time to capture it. If you have a lightning-fast peck, your photographer doesn’t have time to snap the iconic shot you’ve been dreaming about. You also may want to ask your officiant to refrain from making a silly face during this moment, as he or she may end up in the background of this shot.
GROUP AND FAMILY PORTRAITS
This can be one of the most difficult parts of a wedding day for your photographer if you haven’t prepared your family members ahead of time. Photographers know these family photos are very important (this is when mothers get the most anxious and upset about missing out on a photo they want), but they cannot possibly wrangle everyone themselves. Your photographer needs to know what photographs you want so he or she can make those shots happen.
However, your photographer doesn’t know your family or anyone’s names, so here’s where your prep work comes in. Tell everyone who needs to stay for family portraits exactly where they need to be and at what time. Give your wedding coordinator a list of family members’ names, and their relationship to you or your partner, so he or she can make sure everyone is accounted for. Photographers appreciate a list of combinations ahead of time (bride with parents, couple with groom’s side of the family, couple with both sets of parents, etc.), but still don’t know who is whom, so your coordinator may need to assist with names.
Plan for family photos to take at least 20 minutes (add an additional two minutes per photo if you want more than six to eight groupings) and make sure to allow for the necessary time to get in all the photos you want. Photographers can’t take pictures of 15 different combinations of people in 10 minutes. Prioritize your must-have group shots, and collaborate with your event coordinator and photographer to devise a plan for efficiently getting everyone into place.
Let your photographer know what kinds of photos you are hoping to capture from your reception. If you are really into candids of guests dancing and partying, they can get those. If you would rather have more posed photos of guests, they can also make that happen.
Also, don’t forget to feed your photographer! They generally have a clause in their contract about providing a meal, but light snacks and water throughout the entire day are always appreciated as well. It’s best for your photographer to eat at the beginning of the reception so he or she is ready to take photos by the time you are finishing up. Give your photographer a timeline of anything special happening during the reception — from first dances to toasts and bouquet tosses — so he or she can make sure to be in the right place at the right time.
It’s up to you, but many photographers love when couples break away from the main party for a few minutes to take a few photos together. Whether this is a quiet dance under the lights on the patio, a walk at sunset or a posed portrait, it can be a nice way to snag a little alone time and also make for some gorgeous photos.
DAY-OF TIPS & TRICKS
Wedding photographers have truly seen it all — here are a few additional tips and tricks to make sure you are picture-perfect when it comes to your big day. Make sure someone has white chalk on hand in case you get any unfortunate stains on a white dress or shirt. Skip the spray tan — it almost never looks natural. Avoid any lotions or makeup with shimmer as they can reflect light and create an undesirable effect in your photos. Start your skincare routine and any skincare procedures early! Photographers can retouch photos to a certain extent, but no one can artificially create the gorgeous glow of healthy skin.
And last, but certainly not least, make sure you talk with your photographer about any questions or concerns you have before your big day! Your photographer wants to make sure the final photos are what you expect, so don’t assume he or she knows what you want without specifically communicating about it.
ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY SERVICES
After the big day, many of our experts have heard that couples wish they would have added on additional photography services. These services often include adding a few hours to their wedding photographer’s contract to have them capture the sweet details and moments of a wedding shower, the excitement and toasts of a rehearsal dinner, or the laidback charm of a post-wedding brunch. These are more relaxed, intimate moments of your wedding weekend that you will appreciate having photos of after all the excitement passes.
In addition to these extra wedding events, consider additional photography sessions. If you’re looking for a more sensual and playful option, photographers are seeing an increase in demand for boudoir photoshoots. This is perfect for the bride who wants to gift her partner with a photobook of steamy images on their wedding day. With a “trash the dress” session, photographers usually work with brides to choose an environment that starkly contrasts with the elegance of a wedding dress. These photos are generally dramatic and artistic, giving you a unique way to memorialize your fabulous wedding gown.