How to get the best wedding photographs
This is absolutely not an article about how to choose the best wedding photographer ,(I simply hope that you will choose me ). However no matter what photographer you choose ,you will want to achieve the best wedding photographs you can. So this article is just some pieces of advice and hints that will help you and your photographer .Some of these are very small simple things that can help the overall day ,others come down to a little planning about locations and timings . To be clear its not a complicated wedding planning article, but just some little things gleaned over many years of experience and after attending lots of weddings. These can help your wedding photographer and can also help you enjoy your wedding day.
Many Brides (and Grooms) can spends months, even years and a significant amount of money thinking about and planning your dream wedding to the last detail. A wedding day is full special captured ‘one off’ moments that are not really repeated. The first view of the bride in her dress by her father, and then by the groom, the exchanging rings, first kiss etc . Also of these are moments in time full of emotion that cannot be repeated. So a little planning and discussion with your photographer should ensure that he(or she) is able to be in a position where these can be captured.
This is a bit of a contentious subject with many photographers but to be honest it does not need to be . In some venues it is simply not permitted to take photographs during the ceremony, some have a no flash policy, and others place no restrictions at all . So it is crucial to raise this subject beforehand with your clergy/officiant so that everyone knows exactly where they stand (sorry for the pun). This is normally just a case of good communication but you should check if you have photographic permissions or if there are any restrictions before the big day to avoid any last minute disappointment . As a photographer I will always try to speak to the clergy and have a chat. I will always be respectful of the religious aspect of a marriage and try to be as inconspicuous as possible . In 99% of cases this approach is perfectly fine and there are no issues, but it is simply something to be aware of and to be discussed .
If you want your wedding photographer to be able to capture your grooms first sight of his beautiful bride you need to give a little thought to where everyone will be standing. Your clergy or bridesmaids typically will walk in before the bride so simply ensuring that there is a decent gap between each bridesmaid to allow pictures and then (once they are all in ) a simple ‘nod’ can signal that the aisle to clear for the bride to make the big entrance .
Social Media at Weddings
Social media is a wonderful thing but equally it can take a way from the great day. Over the past year or so I have noticed that more and more couples are requesting that guests do not post pictures of the day to social media until after the ‘official ones’ are made available . To that end I will always try and post a ‘sneak preview’ of images very quickly . Asking for no social media is great super as it does respect your photographers work but it also allows your guests to fully enjoy their day. It is impossible to enforce but great if a couple request it. This allows the photographer to do their job with as few obstructions in their way as possible. Hopefully it also means the important moments, such as walking down the aisle, dont get blocked by others trying to get their photo etc. It is your day but equally I always want guests to enjoy the day also and to that end many guest will want to take pictures. Again its never normally an issue with a bit of consideration and communication
With the best will in the world and no matter how much planning you do often life can throw a wee ‘curve ball’ . It is a simple fact that things can take longer than you expect. Hair and makeup almost always take longer, traffic issues between home and church, or church and hotel. The bride is traditionally always ‘officially’ a little late but I would always advise the bride to TRY to be there on time . Its very easy to be waiting outside and be ‘fashionably’ late without throwing off the schedule. Lots of little delays (15mins here and 15 mins there) can soon add up and before you know it you can be an hour or more behind schedule. It is unfair to ask a hotel to push back the meal as it will have already been prepared and scheduled for a certain time so therefore the time must be shaved from somewhere and typically this means less time for photography. To prevent this, try to add a little contingency time to each of your estimations. Even add in an extra 30mins ‘relax time’ to chill out , mingle with friends and family and thoroughly enjoy your day. Then if something happens and it is running late you at least have a bit of contingency already factored in and can avoid panic. One issue not to be forgotten for a wedding in Northern Ireland is the weather. Its important to think of your venues if there is anywhere for photographs should the worst happen. Its also good to consider that if you have to ‘dodge the rain’ it cab sometimes take a little longer.
The old saying in Northern Ireland that you should never leave home without your coat makes a lot of sense. Perhaps not an actual overcoat but something to wrap around you and an umbrella in case of rain can make things a lot more pleasant especially if the wedding is not in the warmer months of the year. Keeping warm and dry between shots means that when your picture is taken you don’t have that look of hypothermia (which is never good) .
Cherish your Dress
Many brides will spend a long time and lots of effort and a significant amount of money to get their perfect wedding dress . However realistically its will be almost impossible to keep it 100% perfectly clean (short of wrapping the bride in clingfilm). Ideally you want it to be perfect (or as near possible) when arriving and at the church , but the reality is that during the day it IS likely to get slightly dirty. Any sensible photographer won’t ask you to plod through a ploughed field in the mud just so they can get a specific shot . But equally don’t get so stressed about keeping the dress perfect that you avoid going outside or going anywhere for photographs to prevent it from getting dirty. So while i would advise the bride to cherish her wedding dress , don’t spend your day stressing over it. It can be cleaned if necessary.
See the Light
Many of the professional cameras these days are capable of taking good pictures even in relatively low light , and a professional photographer should also be able to deal with extreme lighting conditions. Often this is the time when they can get creative and produce some stunning shots . It is in your best interests ensure your photographer is capable in all lighting conditions. Some photographers are incredibly good using no flash, others use flash and others produce wonderful shots using various lighting techniques. It is simply a case of trusting that your photographer can deliver .
The family or group shots fill many photographers with dread . While these are important photographs its worth bearing in mind they can be quite time consuming to gather everyone required but with a little planning and thought it should not be an issue . In truth your photographer does not want to be running about trying to round up guests for a photograph , his time is much better spent actually taking pictures of you . So if you have usher or someone who can gather all the required person together thats a much more efficient option . Make a list wit hah required persons and simply set a time and location and .. assign enough time and contingency for them!
Historically speeches were made after the meal but this often meant that this making speeches did not really enjoy their dinner because of nerves etc. In recent years it has become common to do the main speeches first.then everyone can relax and enjoy the meal. From a photographers perspective this is also good because the room will always look at its best at the start of proceedings.
Running on Empty
The wedding day is busy, hectic and ‘full on’ so you should consider perhaps having a snack available in the wedding car between venues. I am not suggesting a steak and chips but something that can be eaten neatly and with no mess. In the worst case i have known brides and grooms to actually faint because they have not eaten since breakfast . I normally will have something I can munch in the car between venues to keep me topped up . If your photographer is staying for the first dance etc. its always appreciated if you offer them some food. I am more than happy if this is simply a surge or something from the hotel bar (to does not have to be a full wedding meal ) .
Embrace the Moment
Your wedding is a one off experience so its important to make the most of it . Often the the best photographs are got when a couple (and photographer) are willing to take risks and try something new. These are what i often term as ‘high tariff dives’ they don’t always work out but when they do the the results can be spectular. the resulting images will always be more than worth it! After all you get out what you put in.
Trust the Pro.
Obviously when you choose your photographer you have either a first hand knowledge or personal recommendation, or you have met with several photographers before making your choice . You will have booked them because you like their work (an hopefully their personality. So trust them that they know what they are doing . hey might come up with an idea that you are perhaps not convinced by but trust their professional instincts.. By all means in discussions you can show them images you would like, but be realistic. If you show images taken in a beautiful vine yard in Tuscany the photographer MIGHT be unlikely to be able to recreate that image for your ceremony in Northern Ireland . (He might be able to create something even better) .
Finally… Enjoy the day !
At the end of the day this is YOUR wedding it should not be a fashion shoot for the photographer (unless of course thats what you want ) . You really don’t want to spend the whole day on pictures and a good photographer will be able to get amazing images for you in a relatively short window of time… but only if you take part and help them . A good photographer will also capture lots of the relaxed and candid shots record moments you didn’t even realise had happened, from the tears to the laughter and everything in between. But th most important thing is that you enjoy your big day and relax, if you are enjoying the experience and are relaxed the result is always much better photographs. .
Remember, this guide is exactly that, a few hints to help you get the most from your photographs and help your photographer to help you.Do not try to do everything and cram too many things into your day,be realistic , and enjoy the day.