Achieving awesome photos on your wedding day is a team effort. Yes, you’ve hired me for my expertise, experience, and the look I can bring to your day (comin’ up!), but there are so many aspects of the wedding day that no photographer can be in control of. So I’ve put together this post to cover as many eventualities as I can think of. This way, we can all wake up on your wedding day feeling fresh, ready and excited to bring your vision to life.
I know, this is just one element of an entire wedding you have to plan! Gah!—but the important thing is that you read it and pick out what applies to you so that we can discuss it and plan the rest together. This way, we all know exactly who’s doing what when (and where) on the day—a waaaaay less stressful scenario than the alternative! And like I said, I’ve done this many, many times. I’ll be there to help you plan, devise, fandangle—whatever you need—so that you don’t feel like you’re doing it alone. Let’s get started!
This part of the day is filled with creative opportunities! There’s morning light, excited faces, the bustle of activity—it’s a real goldmine for intimate shots and artistic scenes.
Light: Natural light is extremely flattering and creates the most beautiful shots, so while you’re getting ready inside, think about which rooms have the biggest windows or get the most light in the morning, and make sure both of you (bride and groom!) are in rooms with good light.
In fact, good light is a really important element of the entire day. For this reason, it should be high on your list of requirements for a good wedding venue. If the location for your wedding has small windows, dark walls and low ceilings, your photos are going to look very different than if it has big windows, white walls and high ceilings. The owner of the venue will be able to tell you what to expect and which rooms are the brightest/best for each purpose.
The Details: This is where I will get shots of the dress (bring a wooden clothes hanger rather than plastic), the jewellery, any love notes you and your partner exchange on the day. Have those things accessible for me. If you plan on sending out beautiful invites, either send me one in the mail to photograph or save me a copy and I'll get a shot of it while you get ready.
Clutter: A messy room can ruin the aesthetic of your photos. For this reason, I suggest trying to keep things tidy and put the heaps of clothing and suitcases on the other side of the room - away from those big beautiful windows.
Hair and make-up: Your hair stylist/make-up artist agrees with me: natural light is crucial! So make sure your beauty station is close to a window. Often hair and make-up runs late. I recommend having a good buffer - 30 minutes to one hour, worked into your timeline so if it does go behind schedule, you aren't feeling rushed.
All dressed up: So you’ve got the dress on, your hair and make-up’s perfect, and the guests are arriving for the ceremony. You’re almost ready to go! But first, I like to take just a couple of minutes to capture you, your bridesmaids and parent(s). If you have hired a second shooter, they will be with your partner capturing their getting ready. There’s so much beauty and anticipation worth capturing in these moments!
I seriously love first looks! I know they aren’t for everybody—some couples want the first time they see each other, dressed in their finery, to be as they meet at the aisle—but if you do want a first look, it’s an amazing opportunity to capture a few beautiful and intimate moments between the two of you, away from the crowds.
There are several other pros to having a first look that I like all my couples to consider. After all, planning your wedding, while it can be stressful, should be about making the actual day as comfortable for the two of you as possible. A first look can help because:
1) it gives you a moment to forget about the stress and be together;
2) it can help rid you of nerves because you get to cuddle your person;
3) it takes some stress off the timeline later in the day too, because we have 10 – 20 minutes for couples shots before everything gets crazy!
While the setting, light, and freedom to move around at an outdoor ceremony are all assets to a photographer, the location and time of day still need careful consideration. Outdoor ceremonies at mid day (11am-3pm) run the risk having harsh sunlight. In terms of photos, the sun will be directly above you, so you may get those under eye shadows and nose shadow moustaches...not the most flattering.
Ideally, an outdoor ceremony would take place a little later in the afternoon, when the heat of the sun has lessened and overall the light is softer.
If you must have your ceremony mid-day, try to set up the ceremony so that the sun is behind your Officiant. That way you two are evenly backlit. If you can be in a shaded area that may work too, and help keep your guests cool. If you’re unsure what would work best for you day, feel free to ask me about your ceremony spot. I’m here to help!
Go unplugged: I suggest you ask your guests to turn off their phones and refrain from taking photos during the ceremony - that's what you've hired me to do, after all! This way your witnesses can be completely present for your vows, and I don't have Uncle Jim, with his fancy new camera, stepping in the aisle and into my shots.
Group shots are typically taken either before the ceremony or right after.
If you are doing a first look it's great to get the group shots done right before the ceremony. That way everyone is ready to go and no one has to miss cocktail hour.
If you're not doing a first look, group shots should be done after the ceremony - before people wander off and start drinking champagne! Just make sure to schedule 10 minutes in for hugs and congrats immediately after the ceremony, then it's group photo time!
The group shot list is the only shot list I require for your wedding day and I will work with you to create one. I ask that you provide me with a 'wrangler', someone who knows the families, who can help me get the correct groupings of people and make the process efficient. It's best to keep your group photo list to the bare minimum - just your immediate families, as smiling for posed shots can get tiring. Plan to set aside 20 minutes for these family photos.
The bridal party shots can take place after the family portion. I will have lots of images from when you were getting ready, so we don't need to overdo it. Plan 20 minutes for these shots. If we are leaving the venue or changing locations for the rest of the photoshoot, maybe have a cooler on hand stocked with some refreshments. ;)
I always recommend two portrait sessions for the married couple that give us at least an hour together total. The best times are post-ceremony and just before sunset. Why?
Post-ceremony: Just like the first look, post-ceremony pics are a great way to take a minute together, this time to celebrate the vows—and the incredible commitment!—you’ve just made to each other. This is an opportunity to celebrate the love that’s brought you together while you’re still glowing from your ceremony.
Pre-sunset: Photographers call it the Golden Hour, and it lives up to its name! The light at this time of day is warm, and the sky is often all kinds of gorgeous. This time slot also tends to work well because it falls towards the end of the reception, so you have a window to sneak out while everyone’s chatting and re-filling their cups, to make some truly magical images.
Remember that these times are just guidelines. Every detail can be personalized to suit you, your timeline and the location.
By this time in the day we have worked up quite an appetite! It's time to recharge. No one likes photos of themselves eating, so it's my time to also grab a bite to eat and then get back in the action in time for the speeches.
In order for me not to miss anything, the sooner I have the chance to eat, the better. If you’re having a buffet, that’s easy, I can squeeze in after the “head table” (that’s you guys!); if it’s being served, it’s a great idea to let the caterers know ahead of time that your photographer has a brief window of time before she needs to get back at it.
RECEPTION & DANCE
I strive to capture the mood of the day, so I try not to add lights or flashes to your reception. Having enough light is important though. Some ways to add light and create good ambiance are by adding strings of patio lights and lighting candles on the tables. I want to walk around and watch the crowd so that I can get a sense of the atmosphere and capture the genuine moments that you share with your guests. The only time I'll bring out my flash is when it comes time to dance!