Here at Elevate, we have collectively photographed over 700 weddings. With that much experience in being part of the planning process as well as seeing the way that the days end up in reality, we have come up with some key advice to help ensure that you get the best photos possible. Not only that, but these tips will help your day run smoother as well. We are not only photographers, but we want you to see us as your trusted wedding advisors. Here are some tips on how to love your wedding photos!
You love all the photos that you have seen on Pinterest and your favorite blogs, and you want your pictures to look just like them, right? We love them too and we also want to take those beautifully lit photos, but as talented as your photographer is, if you don’t plan your locations and timing correctly, there is only so much we can do. Lighting is obviously very important in photography, and it becomes an aspect of every category below. So in every stage of planning your wedding, ask yourself: what will the light be like at this time of the day?
Great photos take time. Yes, we will be getting tons of awesome candids and fun moments, but even those candids need the organic time to unfold. If you are too rushed, it will show. If you have the ability in your day to have more time, use it. There is no such thing as too much time planned in a wedding day (except maybe at the end of the day – you don’t need hours of dancing coverage!). Every couple will tell you how awesome it feels to find little pockets of free time to actually absorb your day.
Obviously we are used to working under pressure and with less time, but if you really value photography and want to make sure to get all of the photos you dreamed of, we recommend:
- 1 1/2 hours for getting ready coverage. With this much time, you can have your dress on after an hour and then have time of those pretty window-lit portraits!
- 1 hour for couple-only photos. This is definitely dependent on if you wanted to travel at all, and what images you really want to make sure to get. If you want the get that “top of the world” shot on the tip of a mountain peak, you need to be realistic about how much time it will take you to walk there. If you have multiple locations you love for a city wedding, consider how much time it will take to get in and out of the car, traffic, etc. An hour with the tow of you would be a photographer’s dream, but know that if you are in a location that has everything you need in walking distance, a good solid 30-45 minutes with the two of you is great!
- 1 1/2 hours for wedding party. This is heavily affected by how big your wedding party is. Obviously, the more people you have, the more time you will need. A good ballpark amount for most group is 30 minutes each for guys only and girls only and then 20-30 minutes for the whole wedding party together. This amount of time will allow you to relax and have fun together.
Although hotels are practical and that is often logistically the best option for getting ready, not every hotel room is created equally. If you are after that super sun drenched bright getting ready feel, make sure to reserve a suite or chose a venue that has an included bridal suite that fits your style. Wherever you choose, make sure there is enough space for everyone that you want in the room. If you have 5 bridesmaids, just remember that adding a few hair and make-up ladies, a couple moms, the flower girls, and your photography team will quickly fill up a room! Also be aware of the personal items in the space. It is hard to get a clean image when there are bras, shoe boxes, soda cans everywhere.
Getting Ready – Advice for Mom
Tell everyone who is important to be prepared for photos starting with getting ready. Moms usually want to be part of all the action of getting the dress on and all of those special moments between the two of you, but so often she didn’t think about getting her hair and make up done before this happens. Talk to your mom, and if she will be uncomfortable being in the more candid, casual photos pre-make-up, warn her about when pictures start! She’ll be so happy you did, and you’ll end up with more images of the special moments between you two. This obviously applies to grandmas, aunts, and any non-wedding party friends who might be in the room.
The Wedding Dress
Find the dress that you are comfortable in and that you feel like a total babe in. But also find a dress that makes sense for your venue and your style of wedding. If you want lots of photos in tall grasses and in rustic nature, avoid fine laces and tulle that will catch easily. If you are getting married in mid-July think about how many have layers you will be carrying around. You have heard them say that you should wear the dress and not let it wear you – well, it is so true. We’ve seen some brides fuss with their dresses so obsessively that they never really just relaxed. Strapless dresses are beautiful, but make sure it is fitted well because you definitely don’t want to be tugging to pull it up all day and night! Do a dance test – trust us!
You might not like to hear this, but your dress is going to get dirty. It’s white, and the world is not. But don’t panic, we will do everything we can to avoid puddles and obvious dirt, but if you go into the day knowing that it is impossible to keep it as pristine as the moment you first unzip it, you’ll never notice the faint smudges and neither will the camera. Enjoy getting to wear the prettiest dress you’ll ever put on and get your money’s worth out of that thing!
Be realistic and plan appropriately for the environment that you are getting married in. If you are in the mountains, stiletto heels are going to be really hard to get around in. If you are in love with your shoes, that is great, but plan an alternative for your photo adventures. This applies to the city too because even if you are only walking a matter of blocks, bring shoes that are meant for that. Make sure your bridesmaids get this memo as well! Tell them the photo plan. So often we hear girls saying “i didn’t know we were going for a HIKE”, haha, so warn them that they may be walking up a hill – or whatever it might be, so they can plan accordingly.
Make-up is an easy way to highlight your best features. Even if you don’t normally wear it, we recommend that you use a small amount of mascara and lip gloss. Your features translate differently in a photo than they do in the mirror. Even if you think it looks like you are wearing a lot of makeup in person, in a photo it will usually just look like the normal you. Don’t go too crazy – if you lean on the more simple side, don’t over-do it, you still want to look like you! But definitely keep in mind that the camera, especially when flashes are used, can wash you out and a little makeup will go a long way.
Groom & Groomsmen
Guys, don’t let the girls have all the fun! There are more options for menswear these days, and the only rule anymore is to be you and look good. A fitted suit will turn any guy into the most dapper groom. There’s nothing more unflattering than a suit that doesn’t fit, especially next to your lady who you know is going to look amazing. Since their isn’t as much variety with suits as there is with gowns, accessories really make the difference for the guys. Bow ties, crazy socks, great shoes, fun cufflinks, and cool watches, will really add to your look.
Having a first look (where the bride and groom see each other privately for the first time) has so many benefits. Firstly, it gives the two of you a really special moment totally alone before everything takes off. So many of our couples have talked about this being their favorite part of the day. Plus it allows you to get to spend more of your day together. It also makes a big difference in your timeline because you’ll be able to get most of the pictures done before the ceremony so you can go to your party! Obviously, there are weddings where a first look doesn’t make sense or goes against religious or personal beliefs, and we can totally still get awesome pictures that way – you just have to plan for the time after the ceremony.
Be on Time!
Yes, we have all heard people laugh when they say that “no wedding is ever on time”, but here’s the thing, great photos take time. Following the advice that we just gave on timing, it only makes sense that if you are running a half-hour late getting your hair done that time has to be taken away from something else. As the ceremony and dinner times involve many people, this usually means less time for pictures. If you cut your portrait time in half, you will get half the photos. We hate this reality about the wedding day, but we also know that it is avoidable! Go in to your wedding day with your plan laid out (we will help you with this!) and make sure that everyone involved knows the schedule. Plan for the longer estimate from your hair stylist and if you get done early, awesome!
Wedding Party Partying
It’s called a wedding party for a reason – they are the people you want to have fun with! But try to save the heavier drinking for after photos and ceremony! Trying to get 12 tipsy bridesmaids and groomsmen to listen to instructions can add a lot of time to the itinerary. We are not fun haters, we love a lively wedding party – but just keep it in mind that will impact timing and even the outcome of the pictures.
The Ceremony – Outdoors
Many venues know the best times of the day to hold the ceremony and have positioned the seating accordingly, however, this has not always been true. So make sure that you are thinking about where the sun will be and how that will not only affect you, but also the guests. Whether or not you have a first look is a big factor in setting the ceremony time because you also need to think about how much sunlight time you’ll need afterwards. With a first look, you can have a later ceremony because you’ll only have the family photos to do afterwards. But if you are planning to do all photos after, make sure that you have at least two hours of daylight left. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
- A good standard time for an outdoor ceremony is around 4-5 pm.
- Avoid letting the sun get too low in the sky especially if the sun is behind you. You will be in shadows, and your guests will be blinded!
- Never get married outside at high noon! This would be that 11-2pm timeframe. If the sun is directly above you, you will have very unflattering shadows, and not to mention that it will be very hot.
- Consider where the trees are and where shadows will be falling at the time of the ceremony. It will look very strange if all of your guests are sitting in the dark and you are lit up or vica-versa (and not to mention, difficult to photograph!)
- Tell everyone to smile down the aisle! This sounds obvious, but with all the nerves people forget to smile. Photoshop is pretty amazing, but we can’t put a smile on someone’s face- trust us, it never looks real.
The Ceremony – Indoors
The time of day for an indoor ceremony is obviously not as big of a concern for lighting, however, it is still important in planning the rest of your day and therefore the advice we gave for an outdoor ceremony applies. The biggest thing to think about when having an indoor ceremony is still going to be lighting. We try to not use flash during the ceremony so as to not be a distraction and many church do not allow flash for the same reason. With that, think about how much natural light is available and talk to the coordinators about balancing the house lights so that the alter isn’t too spot lit and the rest of the room is dark.
I know that you don’t want to imagine it down-pouring on your wedding day, but unfortunately, it has happened. Make sure you have a venue that has a backup plan that you are happy with the look of. Rain doesn’t have to ruin your day – some our favorite images have come from rainy days and we have even had a few ceremonies remain outside rain or shine! You know yourself and your guests and whether that would work for you – but a sea of umbrellas can look really cool! As far as portraits go, if you would be so bummed to have all of your pictures indoors at your venue, then you’ll definitely want to plan to have a nice-looking umbrella and be OK to get a little bit wet to get the outdoor pics you want.
The family portraits are a super important part of the day, but can also potentially be the most frustrating if we are missing people and have to spend extra time paging uncle Bob. During your one-month wedding planning meeting we will help you compile the detailed list to make sure that we don’t miss any key shots. Communicate with everyone who is included on this list before the wedding day and tell them what time and where to be. The best time for family photos is directly after the ceremony before anyone goes to cocktail hour. Our goal is to get through these photos in 15-20 minutes, and if everyone is there and attentive, that is definitely possible even with really large families.
The biggest obstacle we face during the reception, as most of the photos are candids of speeches and dances, is background clutter. Think about the placement of the DJ and speakers in accordance with where you are planning the toasts so that you don’t just have a bunch of gear behind your heads competing for attention. Same goes for your dances! We love to shoot in the direction that places your guests behind you to capture their expressions while you dance, however, it can be super distracting if they aren’t engaged. It can look really cool to have your guests circle around you for the first dance and having them stand up automatically makes them a part of the action.
We hope this helps! One of the advantages of hiring Elevate for your wedding is that you not only get a photographer, but you get a friend in the industry who is super excited to help you have the best day possible. We would love to photograph your wedding!