Wedding Day Photography Planning & Tips
You’re getting married….it is such an exciting time and also sometimes a little overwhelming. Below are a few tips to hopefully help make things a little easier.
Firstly…There Are No Rules!
Gone are the days of having to do things a certain way. It is lovely to incorporate any personal/family traditions or heirlooms into the day, however that doesn’t mean your wedding has to be traditional. Bride & Groom, Bride & Bride, Groom & Groom….love is love! Bridal parties can have uneven numbers and can include ‘grooms ladies’, and ‘brides mates’. Brides can walk down the aisle with their mum and/or dad, brother, grandparents or their fur baby for that matter. Your vows can be personal, heartfelt, funny and/or all of the above. You can even have a ‘first look’ & bridal party photos before the ceremony so that you can jump straight into celebrating with your family & friends after you say ‘i do’. Cocktail style reception, seated or long grazing table, veil or no veil, bouquet or no bouquet….it doesn’t matter. Do your wedding exactly the way you & your partner want…..and most of all enjoy every minute as it flies by super fast!
Selecting a Photographer
Firstly, hire a Pro! Everyone knows someone who has a decent eye and a good camera, but photographing a wedding day is a completely different ball game. Most good wedding photographers have an incredibly creative eye, years of experience, a huge variety of professional lenses, backup camera’s (with dual card slots) and know how to (and when to) use their flash. If you are wanting night images (like the one below) and well lit first dance and reception images, they need to know how to work their flash system well. I love natural light and use it where ever possible however sometimes we need to create our own light or just add a kiss of light to fill in a few shadows. Basically your photographer needs to be skilled and capable to adapt to any scenario and you need to be able to trust that they will beautifully capture your wedding story. Check their reviews, websites, instagram & facebook and any memberships (I am a member of the AIPP which means I have passed an accreditation process, maintain industry standards and continuing professional development - read what this means here).
Secondly, love their style……look at their whole online folio, there should be a lot of variety of weddings as well as images from various times and sections of the day. There should also be a consistency to their photography & editing style (mine is a light & airy, true colour edit as I want the images to remain timeless). Every photographer is different and would capture your day in a different way depending on their creative eye and style. I would describe my style as very story driven, capturing heartfelt, joyful & authentic moments, mostly in natural light, combined with an occasional creative silhouette or dramatic flash lit portrait.
And lastly be sure to meet up with photographers and make sure you actually like them (personality wise)….you have to spend a lot of time with them on the day!
The timeline is an incredibly important tool to ensure you have a relaxed wedding day and to help achieve the best outcome for your photos. Your photographer is a great resource (I create a timeline for all my couples) as they are one of the few vendors who are there for almost all sections of the day and have seen what works and where potential issues can crop up. You will have selected your photographer based on their folio of work, so you need to allow them the time they need to craft beautiful images. Generally we work back from sunset when creating a timeline as the ideal window of time for those gorgeous, soft glowy portraits is in that hour before sunset (aptly named ‘golden hour’). The light can be harsh in the middle part of the day and won’t produce the same look and feel as images captured in that softer light. It is tempting to want to enter your venue earlier and if this is something your really want or need to do, schedule a few minutes to sneak out with your photographer just before sunset….it will be worth it. (Just a note that not every day has a spectacular sunset…sometimes it is overcast or just not much colour in the sky…we work really hard to create a little magic but we can be at the mercy of the weather gods).
Where Time is Lost
There are parts of the day where there is potential for the timeline to get behind, the end result being that we lose precious time in the ‘bridal party’ photo session. Hair & makeup can sometimes run late, ideally the bride should never be last in the lineup and I suggest that hair & makeup be finishing as I arrive….most brides don’t want incomplete makeup shots, we can just get the lashes or lips being touched up. Factoring in enough time for ‘congratulations’ (at least 15mins) & family photos (at least 30mins) straight after the ceremony. Make a list of family photo groupings and allocate this list to someone that knows most family members (as well as the photographer having a copy), this will ensure that no-one wanders off and we keep this part of the day on track.
Not allowing enough travel time is another area of lost time. It takes bridal parties time to get in and out of vehicles and to walk to various locations. I highly recommend limiting the number of locations for bridal party photos to 1 or 2 to make this part of the day relaxed and not rushed. That extra spot that is ‘just 5mins down the road’, could end up being being 20mins turnaround time (without taking a single photo) by the time everyone gets in and out of the limo at each end.
One alternative for a stress free day is to have an all-in-one venue where you can have the ceremony, bridal party photo’s and reception all at the same location (some even have getting ready rooms). This really maximises your photography time as there is no time lost driving between each location.
Getting Ready Location
‘Getting Ready’ locations can vary from hotel rooms, air bnb’s, rustic cottages and the family home. You should absolutely get ready where ever you feel most comfortable and also where the budget allows. From an ideal photography perspective we do love light airy hotel rooms that have ‘sheers’ on the windows which diffuse the light. Hotel’s often have big windows, neutral decor and are free of clutter! Also consider a getting ready location that is close to your ceremony location (or may even be at the ceremony venue) - this helps to maximise the amount of time your photographer is actually shooting (coverage is consecutive) rather than time lost driving between locations for 30mins.
Have a chat to your photographer about your ceremony location, they may be able to help advise you where it is best to stand to avoid uneven light or harsh light. From a photography perspective the worst scenario is if one of you is in the sun and one is in the shade…..or you are standing in dappled light with shadows from the leaves on you. A few things to consider.
Have a Backup Plan!
We have some beautiful weather in Western Australia and hopefully on your wedding day the sun will be shining. But I have photographed a few gorgeous weddings where the weather was not our friend…it pays to consider a backup plan, not only for the ceremony but for your photos and discuss these options with your photographer. As well as planning for rain, on the flipside if it is going to be 38 degrees and you are having a beach wedding or an outdoor ceremony you may need to consider hiring some market umbrellas or moving your ceremony into the shade so you don’t have sunburnt guests or Nana passing out in the heat.
Let’s Talk About Editing!
Sometimes there is confusion between Post Processing Edits and Retouching.
Professional Post Processing Edits do not alter or manipulate the image but enhance the image to the photographers signature style. These Edits are generally done in Lightroom and include cropping, colour grading, adjustments to contrast, exposure (as well as highlight & shadow recovery), tone curves and noise reduction. It takes the image from a RAW file to the final polished Jpeg image. Every single image in the final delivered gallery is carefully and individually Post Processed.
Retouching is very different and involves altering & manipulating the image. Generally it requires taking the file into Photoshop for things like advanced skin retouching, removing objects, body shaping, removing sunburn lines, wrinkles etc. Retouching one image could take anywhere from 10mins to an hour depending on what is involved. Retouching isn’t included and involves an additional per image fee hourly fee.
Lastly, the unedited RAW files remain the property of the photographer and are not released to clients. These are an unfinished product and part of a photographer’s style is in their professional Post Processing.
Consider having ‘flats’ (or flexible foldable ballet pumps) for the bride/s & bridesmaids to bring along to the ‘bridal party’ photos for walking inbetween locations. New shoes and sore feet aren’t much fun. If dresses are covering you could even have some of the bridal party photos taken with them on….they won’t be seen.
The bottom of your dress will get dirty…..it just does! No matter how much you try….grass, driveways, bugs, sand. Take a breath and let it go.
Make sure someone in the bridal party has an emergency kit with bandaids, safety pins, panadol, bobby pins, lip balm, wet wipes, sewing repair kit.
Do a trial run with doing up your wedding dress…..especially if it is a laceup style (I have had scenarios where we have lost most of our bridal prep portrait time as the bridesmaids couldn’t get it laced up properly or we had a broken zipper).
Make sure groomsmen know how to do up ties and attach flower boutonnières’s prior to the day
Let your photographer know if anything special is going to happen ie. petal toss, cultural rituals etc so that they are prepared.
Final Tip - Let Go and Enjoy!
Your dream day absolutely flies by, so the best piece of advice I can give is to do your wedding ‘your way’….and when you wake up on the morning of your wedding, let go of everthing so that you can enjoy your day. If little things (or big things) don’t go quite to plan, roll with it. In 5 years time guests won’t remember what your centrepieces looked like but they will remember how the wedding felt. And more importantly you & your partner will remember how it felt. Celebrate with each other and your family & friends, soak up all the joy and love and your photos will absolutely reflect that.