Here are a few important tips I've put together from my experience over the years to ensure that we get the best photos on your wedding day. :)
I highly recommend considering having an unplugged wedding especially during the ceremony!
At every point during a wedding, instead of smiling supportive faces showing up for a great background, for example, during the processional and recessional, there are usually a whole array of phones, iPads, and cameras blocking people's faces. Guests oftentimes walk around with their cameras/iPads to take photos during the ceremony and a lot of times block the bride and groom in the photos. It usually works out great when the officiant makes a short announcement at the beginning of the ceremony to put away phones and cameras and be truly present during the ceremony!
If you don’t want to entirely unplug, I would at least recommend that guests take photos from their seats, without getting up into the aisles. If anyone is in the aisle during any part of the ceremony, it will definitely affect the photos I am able to take.
Getting ready is a great time to get those beautiful pre-wedding shots. A cluttered, dark room takes away from the genuine moments happening and the beauty of the morning, so here are some things to keep in mind:
- The best place to get your makeup/hair done is right next to the window! If possible, get ready in a room with lots of window light where we won’t need to use lamps or artificial light. Having an orange tungsten light mixed in with the natural light is not ideal for color. So I always prefer to turn off all the lights and rely only on window light whenever possible! If you're planning on getting ready in a hotel room, ask for a room with lots of windows and natural light. There are also tons of affordable well lit AirBnB's out there and most of them are the same price as a hotel room or cheaper. Sometimes the groom gets the tiny dark room. Let's give him the same treatment!
- Your makeup/hair should be finished no later than an hour before we have to leave to the photoshoot location. Let your makeup/hair artists know so that they finish in time! Although some makeup/hair artists recommend that the bride get ready last, it would be best for the bride to be in the "middle of the pack" in terms of getting beautiful. This way, if for whatever reason the makeup/hair artists are running late, with your makeup/hair done, you can start to get dressed even if your bridesmaids aren't all ready yet.
- If you plan to do a hairstyle where all your hair is down, I'd recommend having the hair away from your face as much as possible! Oftentimes, when a bride has her hair all down, it covers her right side profile, for example, during the ceremony. It would be helpful to have the hair part on the right side (for a deep side part) so that your hair doesn't cover your right side profile.
- Clutter: Try to keep clutter hidden and to a minimum. Keep bags, suitcases, laundry, etc. in a different room, or the closet. I often do a quick clean up in the area we'll be shooting!
- Place all your details that need to be photographed (i.e. dress + nice hanger, veil, jewelry, program, rings, invitations, shoes, etc.) in one area the night before and make sure you have a nice hanger with grooves for your dress! There are some cute wedding dress hangers on Etsy.
- The bride and bridesmaids should consider wearing a cute outfit while they're getting ready!
- If you're getting your makeup airbrushed, there is a chance that there may be tear streaks on your face if you cry.
- If you're getting ready at a hotel and hope to have some photos on hotel grounds, check with the hotel long before your date to get your permissions squared away. Many hotels restrict photography on their premises if you're not getting married there as well.
- It's easy for a bride & groom to miss meals or become dehydrated on a wedding day. It's therefore super important to eat breakfast and lunch even if you're not hungry. You're going to need your energy!
- The bride & groom should make sure to get to bed early and get plenty of sleep the night before so that they have energy and look their best!
- If getting ready photos are scheduled for the groom, these same tips apply for his photos too! It would be best for the groom to get ready at the same location as the bride to save some time.
For an afternoon ceremony wedding, the best time to take photos with the immediate families is before the ceremony. I recommend assigning a bridesmaid or groomsman the role of gathering family.
I would recommend taking group photos with extended families and friends during the reception when everyone is together. This way guests won't have to wait any longer between the ceremony and reception while we take photos of you two near sunset time. It works out great when each table/group comes up to the bride & groom on the dance floor for a clean group shot without all the food and drinks on the tables. The next table/group can be ready on the side of the dance floor for their turn. Have someone organize these groups to make this an efficient process! For groups larger than 50+, I would recommend taking the photos somewhere where there are steps so that you can see everyone's faces. I would try to keep the groups as small as possible so that everyone is visible. I'll also need an immediate/extended families/friends group photos list of all the groups you guys want photographed. This is the only shot list I'll need for the wedding day.
For a morning ceremony wedding, the schedule will look a little different! We'll be finished with all the outdoor portraits before the ceremony, so we'll have time to do all the immediate/extended families/friends group photos after the ceremony.
For an afternoon ceremony wedding, I recommend two portrait time slots for portraits of just the bride and groom together: before the ceremony for about an hour and 20 minutes (including the first look) and right after the ceremony around sunset for about 45 minutes. We usually never shoot for the full allotted time, but it's safe to add some cushion time in case things run late! The timing in the photography timeline I put together for my couples has always provided enough time in case things ran late. It's better to have too much time than not enough time! I love to bring out genuine and natural expressions from my couples and plenty of time is needed to bring out the best smiles. :) Around an hour is also needed for the wedding party photos.
During the shoot, I'll be directing and helping you guys out with posing, so no need to worry about anything! I'll also be asking you guys some questions and telling you guys to do certain actions. These questions/actions will help get your minds off the camera and get you guys interacting/laughing to bring out those happy smiles! The idea is just to have fun. :) If you guys also have a happy music playlist you want to bring, that'd be great too!
It will be really important to schedule time around sunset for a part of your bride & groom photos because that's when the light is soft and beautiful! For a morning ceremony wedding, we'll be finished with all the outdoor portraits before the ceremony because that's when the light will be best!
Bring comfortable shoes to walk around in and you can change into your dressy shoes for the photos.
Also, if you're hiring videographers, make sure to ask them how much time they'll need with the two of you during the portrait time so that we both have enough time to get all the shots! If possible, I would recommend not having more than 3 people on the videography team or it becomes difficult for all of us to not get in each other's shots and in each other's way.
Try not to let the small things that may not go as planned bother you too much. How you feel will reflect in your photos! The only thing that will matter is that you guys are married at the end of the day. :)
For outdoor ceremonies, light and sun are super important factors in the photos. Spotty sunlight and harsh uneven light are not ideal. So if you’re having your ceremony close to midday, try to always backlight yourselves. This means, try to set up the ceremony so that the sun is behind your officiant, so you two are backlit, evenly. Otherwise you’ll be super squinty in your ceremony shots or very harshly lit! We will try to plan your ceremony as late as possible with enough time for couple portraits around sunset, so that the light is soft and beautiful during the ceremony and portrait session. The later time and having you guys backlit ensures that the sunlight falls more evenly on the skin tones (no harsh shadows) and is consistent for both the bride and groom (so you don't have one person in the light and the other in shadow).
Here's an example where the sun was hitting the bride & groom from the side casting a shadow on the bride's face:
If you are unsure, feel free to ask me about your ceremony spot and I’d be happy to help!
Also, microphones are great, but the big black mic stand is distracting and not pretty! If possible, have your officiant use a hand-held mic (or lapel mic).
During the ceremony make sure to slow down and take your time with everything for more photo opportunities, especially the processional, recessional, and the kiss (hold for at least 2 Mississippis!).
Unless you are having a really small wedding, I recommend against receiving lines. They can feel rushed and repetitive as you'll only be able to give a quick hug and thank you to your guests. Receiving lines also take a really long time and take time away from your bride & groom portraits. I'd recommend spending more time with guests during the reception instead!
For the wedding rehearsal & rehearsal dinner, I would recommend having them two days before the wedding (i.e. a Thursday rehearsal if the wedding is on a Saturday). This way you guys can relax the day before the wedding and sleep early! Also, having the rehearsal around the same time as your actual ceremony would be helpful to see how the light looks at that time.
For a romantic mood, market lights and candles are great, and if you use enough, they provide great light for photos. Just try to stay away from using only candles, or super dim lighting, if possible. The more lighting you can bring in, the better!
While colored changing lights that your DJ provides might be fun for party time, they can ruin the romantic mood for your first dance and special dances. If you are having colorful or changing lights in general, I ask that they be turned off for the special dances, if possible. For party time, go crazy with them if you want! Also, for the special dances, try not to cut it too short so that we have more photo opportunities. Having the mother/son and father/daughter dances one at a time allows for more photo opportunities as well (around 2-3 minutes for each dance is a good amount of time!). Also, try not to have dim lighting during the special dances so that we can see your facial expressions. :)
For the head table, I would try to make sure that there is nothing distracting or unappealing in the background.
If you have lots of details (table settings, centerpieces, etc), please allow around 15-20 minutes for me to shoot these before the guests enter the area.
Also, I would recommend starting events like the toasts after the bride & groom and guests have mostly finished eating because eating photos are usually not flattering. :) Also, if you tend to turn red from drinking, please wait to start drinking after the main events are finished!
It would be really helpful if we could have 3-5 minutes before the next activity on the schedule to set up our lights for the next scene. For example, you can go straight through with all the toasts since it will all be in the same lighting condition, but it would be helpful to get a few minutes before we go into a different scene like the special dances. I have lighting equipment I can use for different situations so it would be great to have some time to set up my lights so that can have the best lighting for all the photos. :)
It would ideal for the photographers to be served our meals as soon as dinner begins and when the bride and groom are served their meals. This way we can eat quickly while guests are eating and be done in time for any toasts or dances that might happen during or at the end of dinner. Some caterers insist on serving vendors at the end of the meal, so please make sure you speak to your caterer about this so that we don’t miss anything!
I'm here to help, so feel free to ask me anything!