In my time as a photographer, I have gotten a lot of questions about what couples can do to make the most out of their pictures from engagements to wedding day. I mean, if you're going to put in the money, you want the best results right? I'm definitely not an expert and these are all strictly my opinions, but I thought I'd share a couple things I've learned from my experiences!
1. Lighting, Lighting, Lighting
It's everything! I've had to learn to work with all different kinds of lighting, but there's definitely good, better, best scenarios depending on what you want your pictures to look like. Keep in mind where the sun will be at certain times of the day, particularly if your ceremony and reception are both outside. Late in the morning and middle of the day will give you harsher, direct sunlight which can cause more shadows on your face, while later in the day, the natural lighting will be softer and more flattering. If you are holding your reception and ceremony inside, try to set up a time for your photographer to visit the venue beforehand at the appointed time! This helps me so much so I'm not trying to figure out how to work with the indoor lighting right before you walk down the aisle. Also, If you are using a tent (or something to that effect), make sure that you and your line are all covered by the shade otherwise half of you will be getting blasted by the sun and the other half will be shaded which can make your pictures come out funky as your photographer tries to reconcile the lighting in editing.
2. Plan to take your Formals before your Wedding Day
This is a trend that has recently been popping up and it's very prevalent in the LDS community because in LDS ceremonies, there's not walk down the aisle. But whether you are walking down an aisle or not, I still think you should do it for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it's a chance to make it all about you two, not about your guests. Whenever I have a couple who wants to take their formals before their wedding day, I make an effort to keep the moment intimate and special if we can. I like to facilitate a "first look" moment so that I can capture the moment that the groom sees his bride looking stunning in her dress. I have found that those reactions, when it's just the two of them out in a gorgeous setting, are more genuine and emotional responses because they're not being stared at by all their guests. I usually suggest that the couple reads love letters to each other or their own private vows to set the mood and keep the experience intimate. It can be hard saying deeply personal things in front of a group of people so this gives the bride and groom a chance to just say it to each other first.
Planning a day to take your photos also leaves room for adventure. Wedding days are stressful and time is limited. It flies by so fast and sometimes, details fall through the cracks. It can be difficult (but obviously not impossible) to get somewhere scenic and beautiful on a wedding day without feeling rushed to make it wherever you need to be next. When you plan a separate day dedicated to taking formals, we can go anywhere! We can drive into the desert to where you love to climb together in Joshua Tree. We can hike up to a dramatic cliff or lake that you hold dear in the Utah mountains. We can run through open, windy sand dunes in Arizona. We can road trip to Zion's National Park and capture you and your love in nature's glory. Heck, we can fly out to freaking Oregon and get up-close and personal with a waterfall if we wanted to! The options are endless and pictures will be epic.
It leaves room for creativity, particularly for brides. Now you don't have to choose between your two favorite hair styles - wear it up for one, and down for the other! You can wear a veil for your bridals and skip it for your wedding day, or vice versa! You can do dramatic makeup for formals and soft, romantic makeup for your big day! You can wear a hat or carry a huge bouquet or sport a leather jacket for all I care! The point is, with an extra day you get to choose AND get more than one opportunity to wear your dream dress.
Lastly, you get to display these pictures at your reception. As a photographer, seeing my images blown up big on canvases and prints and scattered around a reception makes me so proud. Plus, you get to share your creativity with all of your guests!
I know that choosing to take pictures on a separate day might break a long standing tradition, but in my experience, it has been so worth it!
3. Rent a cute AirBnB or cool hotel room to get ready in
"Getting ready" pictures are some of the most fun to be present for! The bride and all her bridesmaids are usually blasting music, tossing each other's makeup across the room, and there is happy, excited chaos in the conversations. The groom and his groomsmen are all joking and being, well, boys. The best way to distract from capturing these beautiful moments is to see ugly curtains, tacky art, and bad lighting. If you can find it in the budget, find a pretty AirBnB with white walls and lots of windows to get ready in. The lighting will be so pretty and flattering on your faces and there won't be unsightly distractions in the back of all of your pictures. If you're staying near the venue, check out the hotel first to see if the room suits your style or if your venue provides a bridal suite, go and take a look first to see how it's decorated! These are little details that I didn't even think about until I started working on weddings.
4. Make your ceremony technology free!
This one I feel SO strongly about! Whether it's on your invitation or at your ceremony, announce to your guests that you want them to keep their phones on silent, in their pockets, and out of the way. There is nothing more irritating than having to dodge Aunt Carol's giant iPad as she steps into the aisle to take crappy pics of the bride so she can post them on Facebook. I have seen so many shots by other photographers where the poor groom can't even see the bride walk down the aisle because everyone has their phones out, snapping pictures right in his way. Avoid this situation entirely by making the perfectly reasonable request that your guests keep their phones tucked away. Setting this expectation also means that there won't be any grainy, low-quality, unflattering pics of you floating around social media before you can post a decent photo of yourself on your own wedding day. #firstworldproblems
5. Stay away from Pinterest!
Whether you're taking engagements, portraits, or formals, it's better to just stay away! It can be so easy to get sucked into the world of Pinterest, I am more than guilty of doing this, but the best way to start feeling inferior is to only focus on what you see scrolling through your news feed. When I photograph couples, I want them to look like themselves. I want them to be able to show their pictures to their kids 10 years from now and remember who they were when that photo was taken, not who they were trying to be. I know that it's tempting to take a screenshot when you see a gorgeous session being pinned all over the place of an effortlessly laughing couple and show your photographer what you want, but I guarantee that you will be disappointed with how they come out. It's hard to please a couple who already have an idea in their head of what their pictures are supposed to look like. I've also seen tensions start to rise between the couple because their partner isn't "laughing the way they're supposed to". Like, what?! Why don't your pictures look like that other couple? First, this answer is obvious but because you're not them, you are you! I can't make you look exactly like Marigold and Sebastian from LA or Samson and Daisy from New York, but if you trust me, I can make you genuinely laugh together, play together, and share a moment that I can capture and you'll be proud to share yourself.
If you don't choose to do one of these things or you think I'm wrong, that's totally okay! We can still be friends and I will still love to be a part of your big day. As I said before, all these little tips and suggestions come from my personal experiences, they are not the "rules" of taking pictures! And if you stuck through this post for this long, bless your sweet hearts. Cheers!