Smartest Wedding Photography Tips for Brides and Grooms
Before we start, if you are a couple looking for a professional photographer, please take a look at the prices of the top Toronto wedding photographers.
- Be prepared for the unexpected as everything is possible during a wedding. Don't worry about incidents and enjoy your day!!! Weddings are very complex events and unexpected events will occur. Here are a few mishaps I have seen fairly often in our wedding travels: the hair/makeup is late or the bride does not like it. The flowers arrive late. Cake is damaged or the wrong cake is delivered . The bridesmaids take longer to get ready. The groomsmen are not ready or under influence after the previous night party. The groom drops the bride while dipping her for the first kiss. The best man cannot find the rings or he drops the rings in the church. Babies cry incessantly during the ceremony. The veil is blown away by the wind. I even saw a bride rip her wedding gown (we are talking 12 inches rip) when a bridesmaid stepped on the dress. Those are only a few of the things that we have experienced on the wedding day.
- Lighting is the most important ingredient in photography. For indoor receptions, the more lighting you have the better.
Uplighting makes a banquet hall look stunning as you can see above.
- The most beautiful uplighting is purple, blue, orange. The candles on the tables, chandeliers and market lights add to the mood and will make your photos look even better. Please refrain from having green lighting...it just doesn't look good. For outdoor receptions, please add as much lighting as possible. Strings of lights, candles, lanterns are sources of lighting that create a romantic atmosphere.
- For your wedding, in order for your photographer to understand what looks you like, please create a mood board on Pinterest: pin 8 photos you really like from my website and 2 photos (from other websites). This is not a shot list, but a board that will allow your photographer to learn more about you and understand what appeals to you.
- From a photography standpoint, the best time for outdoor ceremonies is 1-2 hours before the sunset.
- Build time buffers…plan for delays…expect delays…99.99% of the weddings I photographed did not go according to the plan. You want to enjoy the day, not be stressed out on the best day of your life.
- A good photo takes time to setup and refine. Be prepared. For great wedding photos, please allow 2 hours with the bride and groom and bridal party, 60 minutes for the boys preparation, 2 hours for bride’s preparation (after your hair and makeup is completed!). As the navy SEALs say, two is one and one is none. Two hours on the timeline sheet become 1h on the wedding day. We have seen worse. Things ran late and the couple had only 15 minutes to shoot down from 2 hours. Leonardo da Vinci painted Mona Lisa between 1503-1517!! A Vogue cover takes a full day to create and the participation of professional models, makeup artists, under controlled lighting scenarios (studio) and while taking over 1,000 photos. To create a great photo, a photographer needs time: the more time, the better the result. Unless it is a real moment (your father shedding a tear), it is common for a good complex photo with a few people involved to take 5-10 minutes to create. Unless you are an actress, it might take you some time to get the right expression.
- If you wear your hair down, your face will be covered in many of the candid photos where you are turned away from the camera. The solution? Pull your hair back to the sides.
- Finalize your Timeline/Itinerary as soon as possible and email it to your photographer so that she can give you feedback and tips to reduce your stress on your wedding day.
- The best time to photograph is 1 hour before the sunset during the so called golden hour. Another amazing time to take pictures is within 1 hour after the sunset during the twilight hour when the sky becomes an intense blue. The following image is an example of such photo captured during the twilight hour.
- The worst time to photograph is between 12pm and 2pm. When you create your itinerary, please keep that in mind. Avoid 12-2pm for the outdoor photo-shoot or outdoor ceremony. The light is very harsh and the boys will boil in their black tuxes if you are getting married in the summer.
- For your preparation, if possible, choose a room facing North (if you live in the Northern Hemisphere) so that the light will be very soft/flattering. Photography in general is about lighting and good lighting is the main ingredient for great photos.
- Pick a large room for your bride preparation. The larger the room the better. First, it will allow the photographers to shoot from various angles. Second, they will use long lenses that have a flattering (slimming) effect.
- Clean the preparation room from non-wedding related clutter. This wedding photography tip is common sense, yet in the rush of the wedding day, clutter takes over and distractions photobomb your photos.
- Please ask the guys to learn how to tie a tie/bowtie Here is a link to a video that explains how to tie a bowtie.
- Learn how to pin a boutonniere.
- Here is how to fold a pocket square
- Place flowers in vases, they look better – do not leave them in the cardboard boxes from the florist.
- If the room where you are getting ready has no windows, think romance/candles – be careful not to ruin your dress.
- If you have a bridal party, ask your makeup artist to finish/do you first and then the girls. The makeup artist can refresh your makeup just before you are leaving.
- Double the amount of time you think you need for hair and makeup. If you/they are late or you don’t like the result, there is still a chance to make it to the ceremony.
- Hire the best makeup artist you can afford! A good makeup artist will make enhance your natural beauty and you will look amazing in your wedding photos!
- Window light is the best! Bride's makeup should be done by a window. Please ask the makeup artist and hair stylist to do her/his magic next to a window with natural light as opposed to a room with no windows or in a bathroom…Ask your photographer where s/he would prefer that you get your makeup done. If the makeup is done in a room with artificial light with a different color temperature than natural light, the makeup will look different in your images.
- If the bride and bridesmaids wear robes, it will look very cute. Sweatpants or pyjamas will not look that good in your wedding photos.
- Have a pair of flats handy. I know your stilettos look smashing, but walking on the grass will be a bit problematic in those Louboutins. Unless we photograph your shoes and depending on your wedding gown design, be comfortable and wear flats or running shoes.
- To save time, please have ready and unpack the rings (wedding bands and engagement ring), shoes, dress and other items you want photographed.
- Do not tan with tan lines 1 month before the wedding.
- Some brides whiten their teeth before the wedding.
- Make sure all the important people are there when you are getting ready, but do not bring too many people into your room or I will not be able to photograph you.
- Ask the venue to show you the bridal room and pick one with natural light.
- Check with the venue if they have a designated space for group shots (in case it rains).
- If you can afford it, please consider hiring a wedding coordinator! They work miracles on the wedding day and are totally worth the investment. If you don't know one, please ask me and I can refer a good wedding coordinator..
- Phoneography: On your wedding, day, kindly ask your guests to be considerate and not “jump” in front of the photographers, especially during the ceremony formal/group portraits. Often photographershave to wait for the guests taking photos with their phones or tablets to finish so that they can document the day.
- Speaking of cell phones, it is a great idea for the boys to leave their phones in a bag. If they keep the cellphones in their pockets, it looks bad in your photos.
- Film your dress being bustled at the store...otherwise you will waste plenty of time on your wedding day. If you forgot, youtube can help. Here is a video showing how to do a French bustle and an under bustle.
- Wedding gowns are made using multiple layers of fine fabric, crinoline, etc., so wedding dresses tend to get HOT...remember how cold was in the store when you bought it? Plan to apply some baby powder on your thighs before you put on the dress
- The “Fountain” photo: Brides often ask “Can we take a photo under that gazebo or by the fountain?” While we understand why you might be drawn to a location, photography is about the light, not about location . The word photography literally means painting with light. If the light by the fountain is bad, you will look bad, unless we use artificial light, which takes time to set up and time is a luxury on the wedding day.
- The Pinterest photos will make your wedding look like everybody else's: nowadays inspiration can be found all over the internet and Pinterest is notorious for “inspiration boards.” The only problem is that everybody follows the same boards, so your wedding will look like that of another million brides. Don’t you want someone else to pin your original photos and create a new trend?
- The guests’ requests: often guests or family have requests that contradict bride and groom’s instructions. You might want to discuss the matter with your photographer. After all, YOU hire her. A photographer mentioned that, at a recent wedding, during the first dance, a guest wanted us to take photos of his family. The photographer had to decline politely as the first dance trumps everything else at the time.
- CEREMONY: Walk slowly down the aisle and do not look down: there are a few reasons for walking slowly down the aisle. First, your photographer will be able to take more photos of you. Second, if you walk slowly, almost to a point where you lose balance, you are forced to walk like a model, almost crossing your legs when you walk, which accentuates the curves of your body. Think fashion runway! The same applies to your bridesmaids.
- Your first kiss should last at least 3 seconds! Wesaw quite a few first kisses so short that are easily missed by everybody, including the photographers. If the light in the church/temple is dim, even the best cameras have a tendency to “hunt for focus” (it takes them a bit of time to focus), so an expedite first kiss can be missed.
- During the ceremony, please look at the love of your life not at the officiant/priest...your photos will look very weird...after all, you are not marrying the officiant :-). It is a normal reaction, as the officiant is often the one running the show.
- Let your photographer know if you planed any surprises, such as a priest dancing, a plane descending to pick you up right after the ceremony, you hired a band, have invited to your wedding a few super heroes, etc.
- Church/Temple Rules: Please ask the priest/ officiant about any rules with regards to photography. Please inform your photographer and videographer in advance so they can prepare accordingly. Having the right equipment is key in such situations. Among the most common rules: no flash photography, no movement, and even no photos allowed during the ceremony (yes, that is possible) . It is better for you to ask before booking a church only to find out later that you will not have any photos from the ceremony.
- Ring Exchange: Please do not cover the wedding ring/band with your hand or body.
- Ring Exchange: please slow down the ring exchange process so the photographer can take a large variety of shots
- Pay attention to your better half signing the Certificate of Marriage. Please stay close to each other and if possible pay attention to the process or, leave some time at the end to fake sign it :-). That is if this is a moment you want properly documented.
- After the ceremony, plan for 15-20 minutes of family time (congratulations, kisses, greetings, selfies with the bride and groom).
- Please confirm with the church/temple that you can take group photos after the ceremony if you are planning that. Sometimes churches/temples have back-to-back weddings and there is no time for group photos.
- Group photos: the bride and groom are often approached by guests who want to take photos with them, often right after the ceremony. My advice is to have a list of group photos and stick with it, or you might miss the creative photo-shoot (or the “park” as some people call it)
- Formal photos: please inform your family about the formal wedding photographs (groups) so that they are ready – it will save you time.
- Designate one representative from each family to gather the people - that will save you a lot of time.
- Popular photo locations are double booked, so expect delays! Keep in mind In an effort to maximize profits, establishments often double book time slots. In other words, you can expect to see another bridal party at your dream location and we will need to wait. It happens all the time and if you allocated two hours, we still have time to take good photos in an hour or so.
- It is better to have 1-2 great locations than to drive to 3+ locations …you will spend more time in your limo than taking photos and the videographers will waste a lot of time packing and unpacking.
- Every time you change locations, photographers need about 15 minutes to pack-unpack our equipment, park, etc.
- Have the Bridal Party around for about 30 minutes then allow them to leave. By doing this we achieve a few things: first, you warm up for your photo shoot and will not feel tense on the wedding day. Second, we want the bridal party to enjoy the day and they can leave once they are done. Also, it is difficult for the groom to be romantic when the boys are around and make humorous remarks.
- First Look. we highly recommend having a first look so you can enjoy each other's company before the ceremony. It is also a fantastic opportunity to have great pictures. If you intend to have a first look/unveiling, plan it with the photographers in advance.
- Reception: Receiving lines. if you plan to have one, be realistic about timing and budget accordingly…we have seen the bride and groom spend one to two hours receiving the guests.
- Photographing wedding details (hall, tables, favors, sweets, cake, etc.) takes a lot of time as the light has to change very often. Budget 1 hour for that. If there is something very important to you, please tell your photographers.
- Ask the DJ to avoid laser lights, especially during the formal dances (or you will look like a SWAT team is following you). Formal Dances: First Dance, Mother Son, Father Daughter dances.
- Often your friends will jump to photograph your first dance, then quickly post it on instagram. Sadly, they also ruin your photos. You might want to tell the MC or DJ to gently suggest your guests to be mindful not to be in your photographer's shots.
- Before you book the venue, try to sneak into a real wedding to make sure you like what you see.
- Please enjoy the day and do not worry about the camera. Your photos will look so much better.
- Photographers do not watch the time as they want to capture the emotions of your wedding day. As such, please tell your DJ or MC to give photographers heads up when a major event will happen.
- First dance: if you are shorter than your fiancée and you hug during the first dance, I will not be able to see or photograph your face.
- Winter/Fall/Spring weddings – please wear warm jackets. Sometimes the girls pick up the dresses during the summer and completely forget how cold it can get. Also, if you are planning a winter wedding, have blankets ready and hot cider!!!
- Please tell photographers who and what is important to you so they can focus on those aspects/people/details.
- Objects in your pockets: gentlemen, could you please empty your pockets? Cellphones and car keys do not look good in your pockets
- Please try not to eat during speeches or plan speeches between courses. Otherwise, your photos will show you eating while your parents and best friends are addressing you.
- Jewish weddings: During the hora, be aware it is common for the wardrobe to malfunction (yes, the Janet Jackson kind of malfunctioning…). You don’t want your guests to share THOSE photos on Instagram
- Make sure your wedding date does not fall on a blackout date when major highways are closed. After all, you want to have fun on your wedding day, not spend hours in the limo.
- Provide your guests accurate driving and parking directions so they can arrive on time for your wedding or the formal photos session.
- Create a list of emergency phone numbers where vendors or guests can call if something intervene. That will save you a lot of time and headaches.
- Top time consuming events on the wedding day (in no particular order): hair needs to be redone, dresses need additional steaming, the boys can not tie the bow ties (you could youtube it beforehand), cake arrive fashionably late, traffic is horrible and delays everybody, finding parking is almost impossible, relatives enjoy a cold one at the bar during the family photo session and can't be found :-).
- Destination wedding tip: often airlines have special conditions/programs to attract brides, usually extra baggage allowance. It does not hurt to ask.
- Destination wedding tip: often the resorts give you those beautiful bracelets you will be wearing during your stay. Please arrange with reception staff for replacements and remove the resort bracelets on your Big Day as they look terrible in all your wedding photos.
- Parents Dances: Also known as Father Daughter and Mother Son dances, they usually follow the first dance. We often see the dance floor shared by the Father Daughter and Mother Son as opposed of having first the Father and Bride dancing, then another dance for the Mother and Groom. Having two dances makes sense. Your father most probably does not like the same song as your mother-in-law. You want your guests' undivided attention on YOU and your father. Then, on your Mother in Law and your husband. Finally, having two dances increases the possibility of me (the photographer) taking more great photos. Finally, if dance is not choreographed, in 99% of the cases someone's backside will be turned to the camera. It's Murphy's Law. Below is a properly done Father Daughter dance. The image received one of the Professional Wedding Photographers of Canada Awards.
- First Dance - trigger happy Dads. You might want to talk with your father and your -soon to be - father-in-law, who are often very passionate photographers themselves. Try to convince them to enjoy your first dance as opposed to creating award-winning images. The reason is two-fold: first, they will probably not appear in any photos as they will be running to get the perfect angle. If they are in the photos, you will only see an iPhone or camera covering their face as opposed to them enjoying your First Dance.
- First dance chat. Please enjoy your first dance and ideally, do not talk, but if you have to, keep it fun and flirty. It will look better in photos!!
- Bonus tip for brides and grooms: especially for summer weddings, please break in your wedding shoes prior to your wedding day. It would be unfortunate if your shoes ruined your Big Day!
- Have a trial with your makeup artist and hair stylist. We see this over and over: the bride does not like her makeup or hair and wastes precious time on the wedding day, which leaves little time for photos. Do yourself a favour and book a trial makeup and hair session before the wedding to avoid unnecessary stress on the best day of your life.
If you found these tips useful, feel few to forward the link to this page to your friends who are getting married. Click here to email.
Most of the ideas come from the hundreds of weddings we photographed. Also, we included some tips from the following websites, books and publications:
Best Tips for Brides by Photography by Calin
Fine Art Wedding Photography by Jose Villa & Jeff Kent
Digital Wedding Photography: Capturing Beautiful Memories - by Glen Jonson
Blogs and publications such as: Weddingchicks, Ruffled Blog, Wedding Bells, Wedluxe, Today's Bride