PREFACE: Your wedding...it's an unrepeatable event. We photographers only get one "shot" at capturing it, so it's very important that we as professionals do what we can to make things go smoothly from a photography standpoint. I've developed a number of tips and suggestions I’d like to share with you that can help make the day easier for you and help me to capture every shot as best I can. These tips come from my personal and professional experience. I hope some of them will help you on your special day...
BEFORE THE WEDDING Budget your time: Long before the big day, you will probably be working on planning out the timeline of your event down to the minute. This is necessary, but in my experience these schedules are almost always broken. Things just end up running longer than you expect. Rather than stress yourself out trying to get from place to place, allow plenty of time for everything to unfold. This is especially important with formal photos and group shots, which are typically done between the ceremony and reception and are a crucial part of your wedding album.
Try to budget at least 45 minutes to this, especially for larger groups. Usually, we will start with pictures involving little kids. We get them done quickly, and let them go play. Then we do the largest group, and keep letting people leave until it is just the bride and groom. Then, with most of the group gone, you can relax a little and for some more romantic shots of just the two of you. This part should be at least 15 minutes of the 45. An alternate plan that works very well is to get most of the formals out of the way before the ceremony. If the bride and groom do not wish to see each other at that time, we can shoot the groom, his family and the groomsmen first, let them leave, and then do the same with the bride. Then after the ceremony, we can shoot just the pictures that require the b&g together. When formals are rushed, it is evident in the pictures – I might not be able to light properly, you may forget to include a family member, you may look anxious in the pictures. So it is very important to leave plenty of time for this part of the day.
The time of day is also an important factor in getting good pictures if shooting outside. The best time for formals is during the “magic hour”, which is the hour before sunset, when the light is soft and golden. Doing formals outside is usually better than doing them indoors, unless it’s raining or you are in a cluttered environment.
Choose a “Wrangler”. The “Wrangler” is the person you designate – usually a family member or close friend – who helps the photographer gather all the friends and family members for the group shots. Since I will be meeting 100-some people for the first time, I can’t possibly know who are the important people, and I might miss a few. Sit down before the wedding and make a list of every group picture you want (eg. bride/groom/mom/dad, bride/groom/nephew/cousin, bride/coworkers, etc.). Then give a copy of this to me and the Wrangler. Tell me everything else I need to know. Please let me know anything that will help me do what I do.
Send me detailed directions to every place I need to be, along with the full schedule, allowing me 15 minutes to set up (more if portable studios are required). Provide me with cell phone numbers of alternate contacts if I can’t get hold of you the day of. Let me know restrictions on photography (ie, is flash prohibited…do I need to stay in the back of the church?). Let me know any family considerations (ie, divorced parents, etc.). Don’t be afraid to le me know if there something you are conscious about before we shoot portraits. If you don’t like your left side, I’ll make an effort to shoot from your right. I’m there to do what I can to take flattering pictures that you will be happy with.
ON THE DAY OF #1 – Enjoy your day! For obvious reasons, you want your wedding to be the time of your life. But from a photographic standpoint, your attitude is especially important. If you are relaxed and having fun, happy to be in each other’s company, it will show through greatly in the pictures. As a photojournalist style photographer, I try to capture the spirit of the day, not create it. If I can sit back and capture you having fun, the pictures will look so much more natural and emotional than if I have to coax you into looking at the camera and forcing a smile.
SMILE! SMILE! SMILE! This is a HAPPY DAY! This is an emotional day, even for guys. Check that – this goes DOUBLE for the groom. So cry, smile, laugh, enjoy. If something funny happens, go ahead and LAUGH! I'll be snapping away, and these will make for GREAT pictures later on. Just relax, be happy, and go with it. Forget I’m there. My style of photojournalism requires me to capture all the action, events and emotion of the day to produce a documentary that tells a linear story. This means that I will be taking a lot of candid pictures throughout the day. I make great efforts to produce natural looking images to make the viewer feel like a “fly on the wall” observing all the little moments that occur. I know it’s a little tough to do at first because you’re not used to it, but it should not take you too long to just be able to ignore me. You will never need to look into the camera unless I prompt you or we are taking posed formals. That being said, there are ways that you can help me get good candid pictures without “looking” like you are posing. For instance, if you are standing and talking with a group of friends, don’t close in the circle, as I won’t be able to see everybody. Or if you are doing something such as putting on your veil, try to be conscious of my line of sight, and if possible, don’t keep your back toward me.
Just knowing where the camera is will help me make great pictures. Look sharp! I don’t pretend to be a fashion or makeup consultant, but I do have a few handy tips for looking good in the photos. A) Avoid tanning for at least three days prior to the wedding. Freshly burned skin will look like it’s on fire in a photograph. B) Have a professional cut your hair and give you pointers so you look your best. C) BE WELL RESTED. If you’re going to go out drinking, do it a few days before the wedding so you have time to recover. You need to be and look fresh. D) Stay hydrated. Drinking lots of water the night before and the day of will help your skin glow and will keep you from losing energy. E) Wear contacts, if possible. In addition to dressing you down, eye glasses tend to reflect flash back at the camera and can hide emotion that the eyes reveal. F) Carry a napkin to dry your forehead. A little sweat turns your face shiny and very noticeable in pictures. Getting Ready The time you spend getting prepared for the big day - putting on makeup, doing your hair, fixing the veil, etc. - is an important chapter in the story of your day. And since the photos will be the best record you have of this story, I always suggest that I be there to capture these moments.
This is where the photo albums start, and it builds anticipation of the day to come. It also helps you get used to me being there. To help me get the most out of getting ready shots, it's good to do it in a nice, tidy room with a large open window to get some natural light. For the Groom During the ceremony, again, forget I'm there. Just focus on marrying the woman you love. It's her day, her chance to be a princess and the center of attention. Make her YOUR center of attention. Look at her lovingly. Be proud and happy! Smile. Be gallant, suave, smooth, happy, and loving. Walk smoothly - don't stomp or walk too quickly. If you slow your pace down bit, and carry yourself like you're royalty, you'll look better, and be easier to photograph. Interact with your beloved. Look deeply into her eyes with a smile on your face and love in your heart. Hold hands lovingly.
THE KISS. I'm sure you have some idea how to do this, but let me interject a couple of pointers. First, it's a romantic kiss. The most romantic you'll probably ever give her. Be smooth. If she has a veil, lift it gently over her head. Don't take her chin in your hand or grab the back of her head. Put your arms around her waist and pull her close. Close your eyes, kiss her lovingly, and try to hold the kiss for at least a couple of seconds or longer, so I have time to sneak up to the front and get the shot. Even multiple kisses are better, just don’t overdo it.
SMILE some more! You're MARRIED now. Turn and face the crowd! You survived! Take your cues from her, don't trip on her dress, and walk slowly (DON’T RUN) down the aisle with her, smiling all the way. I'll be continuously shooting as you walk, so anything you do such as looking at her and smiling, leaning over and kissing her, giving thumbs-ups to attendees, a playful wink, high-fives, etc. are all okay, just don't overdo it. Remember: SHE is your focus. Just be smooth, graceful, and happy. For the Bride Brides typically have a better handle on this marriage thing than the guys do. However, I do have some tips that can help you too... This is YOUR day, and your chance to be a princess and the center of attention. Don't focus on unimportant things, or micro-managing every detail. We’ve all heard stories about nice girls becoming “bridezellas” because they are overloaded. Learn to DELEGATE. More importantly, try to go with the flow when things inevitably don’t go precisely as planned. During your ceremony, again, forget I'm there. Focus on the union that's about to take place, and the love in your heart. Now is the time to let any emotions you're feeling flow freely; love, anticipation, happiness, trepidation, crying, etc. They'll be captured in the photos forever, and will always bring you back to relive the moment. Be proud and happy! Carry yourself like royalty, with grace and style. Slow down your pace and move smoothly and deliberately. SMILE! SMILE! SMILE! This is a HAPPY DAY! Even though a wedding is a solemn event, let the emotion show in your face. Tears of joy are welcome too! If something funny happens, go ahead and LAUGH! I'll be snapping away, and these will make for GREAT pictures later on. If you blow your lines, don't sweat it. Just laugh it off and go on. Interact with your beloved. Look deeply into his eyes with a smile on your face and love in your heart. Hold hands lovingly.
THE KISS: Close your eyes, kiss him lovingly, and try to hold the kiss for at least a couple of seconds or longer, so I have time to get the shot. I can’t catch a “quick peck”. Multiple kisses are fine too. Just remember, the kiss photos come out better if you tilt your head slightly TOWARD my side, so I can see your closed eyes and expression of passion during the kiss. If you tilt your head the other way, all I’ll be able to see is your chin. Of course, we can always do other “kiss” shots later if I happen to miss it. SMILE some more! You're MARRIED now. Turn and face the crowd! You survived! Walk slowly (DON’T RUN!) down the aisle with pride and grace, smiling all the way. Anything you do such as looking at the Groom and smiling, leaning over for a kiss, waving to attendees, a playful wink, etc. will look great in pictures. Heck, jump up in the air! That would make for a great shot! Posing Volumes have been written on the subject of posing for pictures.
When it comes to the formals and group shots, there are a few basic tips you should know. First, we want to avoid the “mug shot” look at all costs. People look more interesting when shot slightly from the side than head-on. So turn your body at a slight angle away from me. Turn your face so that your nose is pointed slightly away from me, but your eyes are still at the camera, chin slightly down. Keep your posture tall, but relaxed, with your weight on your back foot, with your front foot pointed at me. Embrace your partner in a loving, comfortable way. I’ll help you out with this, but it’s a good idea to practice at home before hand.
Dancing. The first dance is a very important part of the day. Even though this is a special moment that the two of you will be sharing, it is another time that you will want to remember in photos. To help me capture this, you can dance in a way that allows me to see both of your faces at the same time. Most partners slow dance with their heads on each others’ shoulders. But this only allows me to see one person’s face, and one person’s back. Instead, try dancing with one shoulder together and one open, looking at each other, rather than over the other’s shoulder. Below are examples of both. One last thing: I need food and drink just like everyone else, especially in the middle of a very long day. At the reception, I generally eat when everyone else does. I try to do so quickly, so I can be ready to get back into the action. Please try to arrange for me to get a plate of food from your caterer – whatever is available. It is also best that I sit in a location where I can be ready for any action that comes up. I work very hard on your wedding day, and this will be greatly appreciated! I hope these tips will be of help to you. Good luck on the big day!