How to get the best photos of your wedding day

You've planned your big day down to the smallest detail, found a photographer with the style you like and you're excited about having gorgeous wedding photos of your own soon. What you may not realize is that YOU can make a big difference in the quality of the photos you get by helping your photographer with a few simple adjustments to your wedding day plans.

Here in no particular order are 7 key wedding day tips to help your photographer make you look great:

Leave enough time for photos
Guess what? I hate to tell you this, but your wedding day won't go entirely to plan. Almost everything takes longer than expected. Makeup and hair, for example,  nearly always go over schedule. And when time gets short, the first place that often gets sacrificed is the time set aside for your romantic posed wedding photos. Family and group photos in particular always take longer than they "should," especially the more people involved. Rounding everyone up, getting them into position and then taking photo after photo to finally get one where someone is not blinking or looking over at cousin Lucy instead eats up an astonishing amount of time. 

Solution: Buffer your schedule with extra time. Prepare for the unexpected. Leave enough time for your photos - being rushed or feeling stressed is not a good recipe for beautiful wedding portraits that you will treasure the rest of your life.

Ask guests to put down the cameras, phone and iPads
This is probably the number one "problem" your professional wedding photographer (and videographer) will face on your wedding day - guests armed with every imaginable electronic gadget known to man. You are paying good money for a pro wedding photographer so don't let sweet Uncle Bob ruin your photos by being in every one of your first dance photos, iPad held over his head as he stands next to you on the dance floor (yep, happened to me). A beautiful ceremony photo of your first bliss kiss is not improved by a dozen guests all sticking their phones in the air to capture the moment (yep, that happened too). Since banning all cameras and phones is seldom desired or not always practical, remind your guests of these simple rules:

  1. The Pro Photographer has priority - you are paying them for good photos.
  2. Stay out of the aisle during the ceremony
  3. Keep all cameras, phones & tablets down during the ceremony, or stand in the back.
  4. If you are taking pictures, you must always be behind or to the side of the Photographer.
  5. During posed family or group shots only look at the Photographer's camera, not cousin Lucy with her camera.

Here is a great article on this same issue by another photographer frustrated with phone-toting guests: http://petapixel.com/2015/11/07/ive-had-enough-with-wedding-guests-taking-pictures-with-phones/ . Another good article with lots of images: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bridal-guide/why-you-might-want-to-con_b_3331528.html

Of course, if you actually want guests participating actively in your wedding, then this tip won't be so important to you. Remember: it's your wedding and you get to have it any way you want. :-)

Ask your minister or wedding officiant to step aside
As a wedding photographer, my job is to be in the right place at the right time, poised and ready to capture those fleeting special moments. And nothing is more frustrating to myself and the wedding couple when I've caught a set of perfect photos of their first kiss...with the minister photo bombing every single one of them. Most likely the officiant or minister is someone you just met and will likely never see again. Do you want them in your photos for life? Look at the image at the start of this article and the image below. I see good photos...that would be GREAT photos if the minister would have simply said "You may now kiss the bride" and then stepped aside. Which would you prefer?

Think like a photographer, consider the lighting
For a photographer, good lighting is the key to killer photos. Unfortunately, we seldom get all the light we would like and we have to make the best of it in dark, poorly lit venues. While a good wedding photographer has the flashes and skill to use them effectively, you can make our job easier - and get far better photos - by thinking like a photographer. Dimly lit, dark venue? Consider adding some sparkly lights, string lights and colored up lighting. Not only does it help lift the light in your wedding ceremony or reception venue, it adds dramatic and romantic elements to the background of your images. Do a Google Image search for "wedding string lights uplighting" to see examples. You can rent string lights and up lighting popular with events and weddings from local rental companies.

Outdoor wedding? Steer clear of the harsh, mid day sun and schedule your ceremony nearer to the "golden hour" -  the hour before sunset - for the softest, warmest light. Unsure how a particular venue will work at certain times of day? Ask your photographer for help. They can assess the site and make recommendations.

Slow down and savor the special moments
Your wedding day will be over before you know it, gone in a blur. A common thing I notice is couples rushing through those sweet moments - you know, the ones we want to get the best photos of - due to feeling a little embarrassed at being "on stage" or overwhelmed with emotion. All too often the wedding kiss is a split second peck or the walk down the aisle looks more like a speed walk contest. Help your photographer get many great shots of these great moments by just slowing down a little bit and really enjoying and savoring the moment. Pause. Breathe. Look into your partner's eyes...wow, you're going to love those photos!

Have an engagement session with your photographer
Besides the benefit of having great engagement photos, an engagement session is an opportunity for you and the photographer to get to know each other. The photographer gets a chance to see your personality and you get a chance to learn to trust your photographer. In a very real way, your engagement session is your practice wedding session, where you can get acclimated and comfortable being photographed. You'll come away with a sense of trust and connection with your photographer that will show up in your wedding photos as a relaxed ease and less self-consciousness.

Ignore The Photographer
This might seem counter intuitive, especially in light of these tips, but the only time you need to look directly at the camera and smile is during your posed photos or when the photographer specifically asks you. During your wedding ceremony and the reception details, ignore the photographer and enjoy your wedding. Be in the moment with your friends, family and beloved. Be yourself and trust us to capture the moments as you enjoy them. Simply remember the tip above to slow down and savor the key moments to give your photographer the most time to grab great images.

I hope you enjoyed these tips. Feel free to share this post with anyone you know who might benefit from it by clicking the share button below. Did I miss any tips you'd recommend? Send me an email!

Additional Wedding Photography Tips
Here are links to more great wedding photography tips from other professional photographers:
https://www.theknot.com/content/top-20-wedding-photography-mistakes
http://somethingturquoise.com/2014/11/13/10-things-that-will-ruin-your-wedding-photography/
http://offbeatbride.com/2013/07/wedding-photography-secrets