Wedding Tips Weddings

Thoughts on a Thursday | Things Your Photographer Wishes You Knew

I’m going on a new blog schedule: one photo blog a week, one advice blog a week.  I’ve been keeping a list of things I’d like to tell couples as they’re planning their weddings, and places I’d love to shoot, and questions I often get about my photography process and gear.  You may not realize this from my simple little business blog, but if you know me in real life, you probably understand that I have a lot of opinions.  And, unfortunately, I’m a talker.  So, in an effort to use my powers for good instead of evil, here is the first installment of “Thoughts on a Thursday”:


These are things that are rarely considered, but often affect the quality of your wedding photos.   They are things I’ve seen happen over and over again, even at the most beautiful, well-planned, completely thought-out and organized weddings, and they are often problematic for photographers.

1.  Photo-test your makeup in advance.  Don’t just do a trial run at the salon.  Do the trial run at the salon, and then step outside and have a friend take a photo of you (with a real camera, in super high resolution).  And then step back inside and have a friend take a photo of you using the flash.  Look carefully at how your makeup looks in all different lights.  Make sure your makeup artist knows what conditions you’ll be in on your wedding day so that they can choose appropriate products for you.  After all, they want good photos too!

2.  Ask the wedding coordinator to stand just out of sight during the processional.  I love wedding coordinators.  Let me say that again: I love wedding coordinators. They are definitely a worthwhile investment.  BUT… many of them direct the wedding processional from the very back center of the aisle.  While I understand that this gives them the best view of what’s happening, they almost always end up in the photos this way, and it’s something of an artistic distraction.  Instead, ask if they can stand slightly to the side while people are processing, so that we can get a good clean center shot of each wedding party member.

3.  Space out your aisle walking.  Every now and then, a couple chooses to send all the bridesmaids down the aisle at once, one after another.  This makes it very difficult to get a good photo of each one.  Take your time.  Space them out and enjoy the suspense you’re creating.  Let one bridesmaid get all the way down before the next one starts.

4.  Keep those doors closed!  This is my number one complaint about church ceremonies.  Many times, the bride is hiding outside the main church doors, directly behind the center aisle.  The doors are closed during the rest of the processional, and we get our cameras set appropriately so that we can get lovely photos of all the wedding party members walking into the ceremony.  And then the doors open for the bride, and sunlight pours in from the back, and we… well… we sometimes panic a little bit.  Even if we have a flash ready to balance the lighting, it’s challenging to get everything adjusted in time for the bride’s walk down (and of course we need to have the camera still set for the groom’s reaction, too).  My solution for brides is simple: please, please, please, just have someone ready to close those doors behind you as soon as you’re in the building.

5.  Consider delaying the first dance.  A lot of couples choose to do the first dances right away at the reception, just after their entrance.  The advantage to this is that you have everyone’s attention then, and you get some of the major events out of the way quickly, so you can just relax the rest of the night.  The disadvantage to this method is that often, the photographer hasn’t had a chance to get their reception lights set up and tested before the dance begins.  (It doesn’t take long to do, but we do need a few minutes.)  I often end up with much more dramatic shots of the mother-son and father-daughter dances because I’ve had a little time to set up and experiment by then.  So here are three possible solutions: (1) choose a long song.  The longer the better.  That way we have plenty of time to get you some variety in angles, lighting, etc, even if we’re still testing a bit when the song starts.  Or (2) dance after dinner, giving us more time to prepare.  Or (3) do a last dance, too.  By the time the last dance comes around, we’ve got the lighting down, and it’s dark outside, you’re feeling cuddly, and everything is just extra lovely.  Take a minute at the end of your reception and dance alone again.  Last dance photos are some of my very, very favorites.   Ahem:

Kaytlin Ryan Last Dance Hollins Wedding

More opinions and (hopefully) helpful advice next week.  (Are you on the edge of your seat? )







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  • Reply
    heather nan
    July 19, 2013 at 2:29 am

    Brilliant advice! I could have said every point myself… been there! Good luck on your goal!

  • Reply
    Gavin Farrington
    July 19, 2013 at 2:58 am

    Awesome action shots. Great advice, too. I never would have thought of these!

  • Reply
    David McNeil
    July 19, 2013 at 3:24 am

    I do agree, but one time I had a bride take 10 minutes to walk down the aisle!!

  • Reply
    July 20, 2013 at 2:34 am

    Number 4! Please anyone reading…do number 4 like Natalie is saying! Please! (and all other suggestions are good too!)

  • Reply
    Jessica Schilling
    July 20, 2013 at 3:26 am

    Excellent advice, Natalie. The coordinators in the background of the processional always get me and I often forget to mention it beforehand.

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