6 Ways to Make Your Wedding Photos Amazing
Wedding photographers love their work. At least I do. Which, considering how hard it is to make a business work around it, that’s a really good thing! My favorite days are when I get those kicker shots. I mean those really really good shots that just make you say "Wow!". I live for those shots. I am happy to say that I experience this more often now than when I started out and I have noticed consistent factors on a wedding day that aid in making great wedding photos. As I'm sure that engaged couples out there want the best wedding photos they can have, I'm sharing "6 ways to make your wedding photos amazing"...but maybe a better way to say it would be "6 things you can do to give your wedding photographer the ideal conditions they need to make amazing photographs"...but that's a little wordy.
1. Plan enough time for wedding photos.
This is easily #1. Too often I'm asked to work a wedding and I'm given 30 minutes of photo time. 30 minutes for everything. Family photos, photos with all the groomsmen, photos with all the bridesmaids, special friends photos and special portraits of just the bride and groom. The reality is that a half hour is simply not enough time. Honestly, I'd prefer 2 hours. Yes, 2 full hours dedicated just to photographs. This is what I've found yields the best pictures, especially for portraits of the bride and groom. It doesn't have to be 2 consecutive hours. In fact, I suggest the following times:
20 minutes for Family Photos (bride and groom's respective parents, grandparents, siblings and siblings' families)
20 minutes for bride and bridesmaids photos (as a group in addition to the bride with each of her girls)
20 minutes for groom and groomsmen photos (as a group in addition to the groom with each of his guys)
30 minutes for portraits with only the bride and groom.
If you’re quick with math, you'll notice that those times only add to 90 minutes. That extra 30 minutes needs to be left clear for travel time and the inevitable assembly time of everyone involved. This leads me to point #2.
2. Communicate to everyone needed in your wedding photos.
You can't assume that anybody knows what they need to do or where they need to be at any point on your wedding day. You must tell you family members, groomsmen, and bridesmaids when and where they need to be ready. I've seen so much time wasted on wedding days trying track down family members or wedding party members who had wondered off to the bar or bathroom. When we finally locate them, they say "Oh! I had no idea I was needed in the photos." You must over communicate.
3. Have photos taken in the best times of day for light.
The Golden Hour. If you haven’t heard of this before, the golden hour is the time right before the sun sets. Not the sunset itself, but the time 1 to 2 hours before that when the sun is low and there is an orange glow in the trees and grass and pavement reflections. Its beautiful and never ever fails to make wonderful portraits. I had one couple who made my day when they had their ceremony scheduled 3 hours before sunset. It looked stunning in that late afternoon light and we could roll right into portraits afterwards when the light was even prettier. You might not be able to schedule exactly for the golden hour but as long as you avoid the worst time of day, noon, you should be good. And by noon, I mean direct middle of the day when the sun is as high as it can be and everyone has raccoon shadows on their eyes. Aim for the late afternoon light for photo time and remember to reserve 15 or 20 minutes for sunset photos!
4. Make a shot List.
I ALWAYS have a shot list with me on the wedding day but there are some things that you may plan that are a bit off the normal routine for a wedding day and you will want your photographer to know about them. This can be special details that you have designed into your day or specific family members that you want to remember to get photos with. I photographed a wedding in Syracuse recently where the bride had made her own bouquet out of various brooches. The groom had also worked in an inside joke via an inscription inside his collar about the day he and the bride met. Things like that should be told to your photographer so he/she can add them to their shot list. Don’t worry about making an all-inclusive shot list though. You don’t have to remind your photographer to get a shot of the first kiss at the alter or of the bride and groom’s first dance. Those things are all part of the documentation of the day. But be sure to fill them in on the personal touches that they might not otherwise know about.
5. Get ready in a well lit room.
Some of the best times for candid photos are during the “getting ready” times. When the bride is finishing her hair or the groom is attaching his boutonniere. I’m always asked to photograph before a wedding because those moments can have a lot of emotion such as when the bride’s father sees his daughter for the first time on her wedding day. To make sure photos during these times look the best, choose a room that has a lot of windows to get ready inn. White or light gray window blinds or sheer curtains will give you privacy while still providing beautiful, soft light in your getting ready room. Avoid rooms in a basement and rooms that only are lit by tungsten or fluorescent lights as these give skin tones a discolored look. Windows, windows, windows.
6. Relax and trust your photographer.
I’ve said this to many brides and grooms: As important as it is to have good photography on your wedding day, do not live for the photos. You should be in the moment throughout your entire wedding day. Hire a good photographer, communicate with them ahead of time, give them the environment and time that they need and let them go to work. Don’t obsess about getting a re-creation of every Pinterest and Instagram shot you’ve ever seen. Focus on your wedding, focus on your bride or your groom, focus on the moments that are happening right then and there. Let the photographer worry about capturing them.