I believe there’s no newlywed couple out there which, after putting a lot of effort and investing a lot of money into their wedding, didn’t think “Oh, if we’d only known this earlier…” or “If only someone had told us to pay attention to that…”.
Since photographers are the experienced ones, who witnessed a lot at weddings and who are inspired by all kinds of wedding situations, we can list a few points that could help couples get even better wedding photos. I know how I will ensure getting high-quality photos, however, there’s also a part of the process where you can contribute and in that way, obtain better photos that you’ll like even more!
It’s completely normal that you sometimes don’t think of everything, having all other things to take care of. Then add inexperience due to the fact that you do this only once (I’m an optimist). As the wedding day approaches, there comes the tension, hustle and bustle and panic which all become a feeling of calm once the main thing is over so you tend not to think as much. To be clear, you have every right to do it. That’s why I’ll reveal how you’ll be fully satisfied with the photos, knowing you did all you can to get them as such.
And don’t get me wrong – these are the things you can do for you and for your photos, not for the photographer and his work. In most of the conditions I find myself in, I’ll manage without problems and deliver the best possible photos working in those given conditions. The question is if the circumstances could have been considerably better with some small changes. Again, not better for the photographer, better for your photos.
1. Wedding guests with a camera
Many guests bring their compact cameras to the wedding, or use cell phones and tablets to capture interesting moments. No wonder since these gadgets became available to everyone. And what’s better way for a grandpa to show his neighbors a photo of his granddaughter in white the next day, if not with his small compact camera. However, almost at every wedding there’s a guest who is an amateur photographer or even a professional one, eager to take a few photos for the newlyweds and for himself. But this kind of guests usually forget that there’s a professional photographer at the wedding, hired by the newlyweds.
So a few times, this eager photographer appeared at the last minute right in front of me while something brief but important was going on (bride’s church entrance, exchanging vows, first married kiss, church exit, the first dance moment…). Sometimes I manage to capture the moment maybe slightly out of frame, sometimes I’d see in the photo only the back of the keen colleague, but the thing is that it’s easy to avoid this kind of situations right from the start. Such guests never do this on purpose, let alone malevolently. They simply lose themselves in the moment wanting to document something while having the best intentions at heart. They are not aware that they probably stand in a way of the official photographer that you are paying to be there that day and to capture everything right. So when you know in advance that among your guests there will be a friend or a family member that always takes pics at parties and loves photography, be sure to mention to them before the wedding to pay attention about the ones who are hired to be at your wedding and to try to stay behind them, not in front of them, especially in key moments. I’m sure that no one will have a problem to agree on this.
Below: a situation shot at the last moment
2. Colored light show in a restaurant or wedding venue
The most important tool for any photographer, aside from his camera and lenses is – light. The camera itself works precisely thanks to light. That’s the main reason why lighting should be of good quality whenever possible. It can’t be expected that the newlyweds will turn a gloomy, cloudy wedding day into a sunny. We can get out of a gloomy day only the best possible. While at the party, for example at a restaurant, this is not the case. Here the couple themselves can contribute a lot to their photos (not to photographers). For the past few years, I’ve dealt with the additionally set colored light shows of all kinds at almost every wedding. Like anything, some of these light shows are pretty high-quality, some of them is mediocre, some not too good a choice (read: better lose it than use it). I have nothing against any kind of lighting, nor will the lighting be a precondition for my work. After all, you are the ones who choose the light show like you do everything else. However, the fact is that the photo will not be the same when the lighting at the party is of good quality and when it’s of low or bad quality. That’s why I would sincerely suggest you that, no matter who you hire for photography and lighting, to talk to both about the lighting, its appearance and how it will affect the photography. Also, be sure to consult your photographer afterwards. In this way the light show you have chosen can be put to much better use and so the quality of the photos can be much higher. This is the area where the cooperation between the photographer and the lighting person (the light DJ who does only that) is also extremely important. I’ve experienced both excellent cooperation that resulted in perfect lighting and great photos, and also the “cooperation” which is anything but cooperation. The results of it also showed later on photos.
So you two, the ones who do the hiring and who, I believe, care about getting high-quality photos can have big influence and contribute in order to get the best out of both! All you need is a prior consulting and agreement.
Here are two photos with well used lighting and two with not very good lighting. Exactly in that order.
3. Location of your photo shoot
Whether it is a photo shoot on the wedding day or around it, be wise when choosing photo shoot location. Firstly let it be a place that you love, no matter the reason. You were choosing the gathering point for your guests, the wedding and party venues... also, pick a place you love to have your pictures taken! This way you'll not only have photos to hang on the wall but also nice pics from a place that's important to you, which will make them even more precious!
A professional photographer can get the best out of any location with the help from the couple! Clearly, if the location is further away from the wedding venue, this can be done only before or after the wedding day. However, if you don't have such a place, and you don't express special wishes regarding the location, the photographer will always suggest a few lovely and creative solutions, just in case. Anyhow, the most important is what you'd like and what's interesting to you because in that way such memory will be even more meaningful. For example, I've had many couples who didn't care about the posing photos. We'd do a few casual photos and everyone was happy. There's nothing wrong with this. Anything that defines you, that is your essence and your statement about something, is good!
4. Very flattering looking brides, and very unflattering wedding gowns
This piece of advice comes straight from my assistant's sophisticated female point of view. Except positively affecting your photos, it will make your life much easier. As much as it sounds tacky, it's really a fact – every bride is truly beautiful, and if she chooses the perfect gown, she looks amazing in it. And when it comes to gowns, their upper part is usually a corset, i.e., there are no straps or some kind of shoulder support. A well chosen upper part doesn't need to have shoulder support, however... this is where brides are faced with temptation too much too often. I have never seen a bride dancing all night without having to adjust the upper part of the gown.
A girl that's not used to being in a situation where she dances all night in a pretty heavy gown without shoulder support, simply has an urge to keep adjusting it, even when it fits good, but despite this, she usually feels insecure in it. Now you are asking yourselves how I switched from photos to wedding gowns. You're guessing – a sharp eye for details and a precise focus document everything, so I often have photos with a bride holding her upper part of the gown. That poor girl is usually aware of it, so one of the top 5 FAQ-s addressed to the photographer after the wedding is the one „Are there many photos of me adjusting the gown?“. There are two solutions – put on the gown a few days before the wedding and test it in every posture possible just to see if it's moving too much. Or simply, those straps you usually get with the gown, take them with you and put them on at the wedding party. You will be relieved and able to relax completely, plus you will avoid gown adjusting in photos.
Similar thing can happen with wide and layered gowns, or the ones with a rim. Part one of the day, which is pretty static, becomes much energetic once the dancing begins.
At this point, the bride can't manage that big gown around her, so she usually holds it in a way that she picks it up from the bottom and dances holding it. Handy? I didn't think so. Flattering? Not at all. Brides who like this kind of dresses, don't necessarily have to renounce them. Wear your gown during the first part of the day, and when the party starts, substitute it with a more comfortable, but still pretty one. After all, when the party starts, the most important thing is to have fun. Everyone saw the gown and now it can only bother you.
5. You have an unusual procedure/event at the wedding
At one point of the wedding night you will be celebrating your guest's birthday, a special dance will take place, or some other interesting custom? Maybe there will also be a firework at some point... Make sure to remember to tell it to the photographer before the wedding! Such extras are usually thrown in the music break, or between two parts of the wedding (for example the wedding ceremony and the party), so at this time the photographer could be busy doing something else – he might be adjusting his equipment, or going to the toilet, or getting fresh air and so on. If he's notified on time, he will be expecting that part so he will document it for sure. Without a warning, he might miss it, so you won't have it in your photos...
6. Photos with someone really important that's hard to get hold of
I've heard my clients say a thousand times „Oh, how sorry I am for not taking a picture with him/her, I completely forgot...“.
All couples have one guest at the wedding who is there only a first part of the day, like for example a really old grandma who can't party with you until late at night, or someone who will have to leave for some other reason. Also, everyone has wedding guests who like to be „in the shadow“, to keep a low profile and not be intrusive so you'll hardly see them during the entire wedding and yet, they are really important to you. So a few days before the wedding, remember to write down a note to take a photo with those guests.
On the wedding day, give that note to someone who'll be cool-headed (to the best man or maid of honor, brothers/sisters, parents). The note will remind them also of such a thing, so they'll be able to tell you in the most convenient moment to take a photo with those guests. Just call the photographer and it's all done in a few seconds. And after the wedding you'll be really glad for doing it. If you wish to have photos with all guests, the most ideal and painless way is to take photos at tables during the dinner/break. You can give them that photo afterwards as a gift, both of you will be happy about it!
Below: newlyweds Maja & Prosper with their cute little pet, African ferret Zea
7. Post-wedding dreadful waiting for the photos
The wedding is always the most important up until the actual wedding day. When it’s over, what becomes the most important are the wedding photos. Like all photographers, I too have a rough deadline for delivering your photo memories. It's there for a reason, and within the deadline me and my colleagues invest our knowledge, creativity and time in order to deliver you the memories you expect in the first place. I'm not a fan of deadlines that stretch forever, but try not to be tempted to ask your photographer about the photos too often during a reasonable period of time that you should be aware of in advance. Remember – there is you, and we understand you, but there's also us and our side of the story, which is sometimes easy to forget of all the impatience. Occasionally, I'll even take a few extra days to finish up the job, because the most important thing for me is to do it right, not to deliver it exactly at that precise moment. This should be a good, not a bad thing for your photo memories. That's why in the end you'll contribute to the quality of your photos by patience. Thanks to your patience, neither you nor the photographer will feel tension because of the photos. And when you get them, you'll look at them as long as you live! I believe that most of my colleagues would agree on this.
Now, after everything that I revealed to you, hoping I've helped you, I'm moving to my mailbox, from where I'll be sending a link to this little guide to all my soon-to-be-married couples. Guys, I will ask you at the wedding if you read all of it!