Jax’s top tips for couples who want great wedding pics!
I recently had a meeting with one of my wedding couples and it struck me that I should do a blog post on our discussion so that my other couples, photographers and future clients could also benefit.
Besides choosing a great wedding photographer there are things that you can do to get great wedding pics or at least help your photographer along the way. So today I offer you the best advice that I can possibly give. Please note that this post is about me giving you all MY advice …. I am sure other photographers have different ways of doing things. There is no wrong or right way, and these tips are based on my experience and approach.
My average time at a wedding is between 10 and 12 hours, which I know, is more than most photographers, but I feel that you need time to capture all the details. I hate rushing and I love capturing all the moments in between!
This is how I would structure my day:
First things first ….. you want to plan your day so that your creative shoot is done in the best light possible. Best light for photography is either early morning or late afternoon. Creative shoots are usually an hour to an hour and a half, so have a look at what the light is doing during the season that your wedding is and plan accordingly. Make sure you discuss this with your photographer. Work backwards and forwards from your creative shoot to work out the timeline of your wedding.
Here is an example of how I would structure the day for my middle and higher package in May/ June: (you can see my no rushing policy here)
10.30: Photographer to shoot groom and groomsmen
12.00: Reception to be ready for photographer to take photos of details.
1.10: Photographer arrives with bride to take pics of details and candid shots
1.30: All Hair and make up to be done – Bridesmaids to get into their dresses
2.00: Bride to get into dress, Bridesmaids to already be dressed
2.20: Bride and Bridesmaids to be ready for a few formal shots
3.10: Photographer to leave bride to get to the ceremony early
4.30: -6.00 BEST LIGHT THEREFORE family pics and creative shoot
6.15: Couple enters reception
10.30: Photographer leaves reception.
Every wedding would have to have a different timeline as you have to take into account distances to be traveled between venues, what time of year it is for the light, whether the bride’s dress is a difficult, complicated dress to get on, whether the venue can in fact have your tables ready by mid day etc etc
I know this sounds awfully structured but with weddings if one thing runs late it really throws everything out so a good timeline makes for a more relaxed wedding day. I have seen brides balling their eyes out with make up newly applied make up running down their face as they were late and felt stressed.
Ok on to some tips in order of Jacki’s wedding day structure
Guys generally HATE having their picture taken and so it’s a nice idea for them to do some sort of activity in the morning to let off some steam and have some informal shots taken. I have taken pics of grooms after a round of golf, after a round of quad biking (heaven forbid), after a big fry up breakfast and also on the beach. Just make sure they aren’t going to be late for the chapel!!! From there I usually go to where they will be getting ready if this is what the couple wants.
A thorough photographer will want to take pics of all the little details so ask your man to have all the trinkets like cuff links, shoes, belts, speeches etc ready for when they arrive to save time. That is if this is important to you. Some people really want photographs of all the wedding details others prefe photos of people. Communicate with your photographer.
It’s great to get photos of the groom and groomsmen in their fancy pants outfits out of the way , so that you have less to do during the the creative shoot. I would advise that they get into their suits or whatever it is that they will be wearing for the shoot and then take them off so as to prevent sweaty armpit syndrome!!!!
If the guys are going to have a pre wedding drink best to not drink too much as drunken wedding speeches are a bit sad!!!
If you have a second shooter then they could photograph the groom and groomsmen at the same time as the main shooter is photographing the bride.
In order for a photographer to really capture all the little details of your décor (as you have no doubt spent hours and days and months planning) they need to get into your venue when there aren’t any guests there. Once the guests have sat down it is really too late as they tend to mess things up and this can clutter the background.
In my experience the best time to photograph the tables is in between photographing the groomsmen and the bridal preparation. This means that you need to ensure that your florist, wedding planner, and venue are completely set up a good few hours before your actual wedding service. If this cannot be done ask the venue to at least have one table ready for the photographer. Alternatively you could photograph the details after the service.
Best advice I can give here is to ensure that you get ready in a light, big airy space, which isn’t full of clutter and mess. If you can afford it, treat yourself to a great hotel room. It is your big day after all and getting ready in an opulent setting only makes for nicer pics. As I said before, light and space is the key here (and no plastic packets and mess in the background!!) That includes cell phones charging, extension cords, and any other unphotogenic clutter etc. Ask your maid of honor to take charge of this. You don’t want to be tidying on your big day.
It would also be a bonus if there are some lovely areas around your bridal suite where you can have some portraits done. Probably best not to go out in the blazing sun so lovely indoor areas or shaded areas should be sufficient.
Make sure that you don’t drink too much champers before the wedding as it can make the skin go blotchy (and lets face it no one loves a tanked bride!!).
Definitely have a light lunch it’s a long day of not eating otherwise. Make sure your photographer and their assistant gets lunch and cooldrinks too (I am sure you don’t want them passing out during your service!)
Also ensure that you don’t have a facial or try any new moisturizers or facial products a few days before to prevent any surprise break outs.
On this note perhaps best to make sure your hens is a few weeks before and not the weekend before for similar reasons.
Stay off the orange spray tan and watch out for huge false lashes as they can actually make your eyes look smaller in photographs.
Don’t go mad with Rescue or similar products as it can render some undesirable side effects.
Have a music system set up with all your favorite vibey tunes to get you in the mood and ease the nerves!
Drink lots of water and get a good nights rest before the wedding so that you are looking radiant. A relaxing massage in the morning will have you right as rain!!!
I would advise having a trial run with your hair and make up people so that they know exactly what you want. Go with a professional who will give you a style which will bring out your best features.
Make sure your photographer gets to the place where you are getting ready at least an hour to an hour and a half before you are due to leave for the service. (I usually get there 2 hours before)
These two hours give me time to photograph all the details of the dress, shoes, some informal photo documentary style pics of everyone involved, pics of the bride getting into her dress, as well as some lovely portraits. Once that is all done I will still have time to make the service before the bride arrives.
I would advise that you have all your bridal bits and pieces ready for the photographers so they can get on with their job while you are busy preening.
Hang your dress and the bridesmaid’s dressers on nice hangers. Those cheap plastic ones aren’t the best for pics!
Now here is an important one!!
Brides you have to be strict with your hair and make up people. In my experience of late they ALWAYS seem to run over time and it just adds unnecessary stress.
I would advise that all your hair and make up is done at least 1 and a half hours before the photographer has to leave for the service. You would rather have all your bridal prep shots done when you actually have make up on so that you look like a goddess.
By having everyone’s face and hair ready early it also means so that you can have some lovely shots of yourself getting into your dress with all the bridesmaids dressed and looking hot.
Once you are all fluffed up in your gown there will be time to take some great pics of the girl part of the bridal party along with you family and of course yourself without all the stress of running late!!!
This means that there will be fewer photographs to take during your creative shoot, which is generally at the end of the day when the light is dwindling. You really want those precious sunrays for you and your new husband!!!
If you are having little ones in the bridal party, its best that they don’t get ready with you and only come in at the last minute as kids get very bored and can play up if they have to wait around!
Pre Ceremony Pics
I prefer to arrive at the ceremony venue at least twenty minutes before so I can take some photos of all the guest arriving and all the emotion that comes with all the greetings, the nervous groom, the groom’s family etc. Not all photographers do this mind you and it does mean that you will have to plan your timings really well. This is part of the reason why I always ask my brides to have their hair and make up done at least 1 and a half to 2 hours before the reception.
I have already said this but I will say it again.
When choosing the time for your ceremony you really (I implore you) must look at what time the sun goes down at that time of year. There is nothing worse than having to rush your whole day to chase the last of the sunrays for your creative shoot.
Some of the best or most real pics are during all the congratulations after the ceremony and this isn’t something that should be rushed. Make sure you factor in time for this.
Good advice is to ask your minister to announce what is going to happen after the ceremony so that everyone knows where they stand.
Its also a good idea to get your guests to leave the church before you do so that when you come out of the church everyone can throw confetti which makes for a great shot.
The family pics are always the bane of every photographer’s life when it comes to wedding photography. I know I know ….. that sounds terrible but lets be real here ……… trying to get together a whole load of people who would rather be drinking beer or chatting to relatives they haven’t seen in ages is like herding cats!!! And if you do the family shots after the service, which is the norm, then you are losing valuable light for your special creative shoot.
At the same time … wedding family pics are super important as weddings are a time when everyone comes together.
In my experience ….. you need to sit down and make a list of which pics you would like with which people you would like ……… the best idea is to only photograph immediate family after the service. 8-10 pics should be ample.
Scout out a place for family pics before your big day with your photographer, a shady area is best for this. If I photograph families in the sun I generally backlight them and fill in with flash.
You really need to appoint an EXTREMELY bossy person in charge of the family list to ensure it all gets done. Your photographer is not going to know who everyone is and needs to concentrate on other things. Ensure that everyone knows what is happening and where to go before the wedding day.
You need to think what is important to you and plan your day accordingly. What are the photos you would really like in your album? Remember you can always take pics of second cousins etc at the reception. Also consider how long you want to be away from your guests for and what you can realistically get done in that time.
One nice idea for family shots is to get everyone sitting on a couch outside or an old log or rocks with a nice background or somewhere interesting so that they don’t land up looking like those stiff school pics we all have hiding somewhere.
Make sure you do a location scout of your venue with your photographer at a similar time to when your creative shoot will be. That will make things much easier as you will be able to gauge what pics you would like and where you would like them. In my opinion it is best to photograph in a few spots well rather than a whole load of places in a rush.
Remember to factor in travel time if there is going to be travel.
During the creative shoot , after the family pics, I start off with photographing the whole bridal party (i.e. couple plus bridesmaids and groomsmen)
Best advice ever …….. the poor groomsmen and bridesmaids would have been dealing with you getting ready all morning (and all 6 months to a year of planning your wedding) …. ….. organise them a picnic basket with delicious food ….. beers for the boys, bubbles for the girls. Spoil them …. They deserve it!!!!!
Do the shoot in a lovely place and then have them go back to the venue because lets face it, no one wants an audience for your creative!!!!
Hopefully you would have had a chance to take lots of pics of all of them in the morning so you can spend more time on the couples shoot.
Most people aren’t natural models so having an engagement shoot with your photographer really helps on your big day. You will all be better acquainted with each other and will be far more used to being natural in front of a camera.
Organise a sheet to sit on (or in the case below … lie on!) and a pair of comfy shoes as your photographer may ask you to walk a bit to get the perfect shot or sit on the ground.
Take a make up bag along for touch ups.
If your creative shoot will take place somewhere with ticks take bug spray.
Have fun!!!! Be romantic, have fun, laugh, kiss a lot but be yourselves! The more natural you are the better pics you will get.
This is your time to have fun, let your hair down and enjoy.
Just a few little things…… Venues with lots of ambient light always look nicer in pics. Fairy lights and lanterns make for great sparkles in the background.
Make sure you feed your photographer and their assistant. A 10-12 hour day is ridiculously long. Be sure to provide drinks for them as well. I am so involved with shooting on a wedding that I really don’t have time to organize food and drinks and if I don’t eat I faint! (not good!)
Table pics are like so 90’s, photo booths are all the rage now and a much nicer way of getting fun pics. Ask your photographer if they provide this service. As for me … I charge extra but provide props and backdrops and my assistant takes these pics while I take photos of the dancing.
Its best to get all the formalities out of the way so that everyone can relax and have fun, if you run over schedule photographers will have to charge for extra time so bare that in mind.
Make sure your MC warns your photographer before he announces anything big i.e. bouquet throwing, cake cutting etc
Ask the DJ or MC to do a count down for bouquet throwing or garter throwing so the photographer can make sure he or she gets the shot.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST, HAVE A WONDERFUL WEDDING DAY AND REMEMBER THAT YOUR DAY IS NOT JUST ABOUT THE PICTURES IT IS ABOUT MARRYING THE PARTNER OF YOUR DREAMS AND CELEBRATING THIS WITH YOUR LOVED ONES!
PS .. Flip I am exhausted after all of that!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How are you doing?????