You've spent a lot of time looking at wedding photos in magazines, on Pinterest, or while obsessively scrolling through wedding hashtags on Instagram. When you chose your wedding photographer, you likely also viewed their online portfolio to get a feel for their skills and style. All of this is really helpful in giving you ideas for the types of images you want from your day. But keep in mind the images you've seen may not represent what's possible for you to get from your day. It may not be realistic for your wedding. Here’s the scoop on why, and how you can work with your photographer to get the best images possible.
The amazing images you see in bridal magazines or online may not be from real weddings; photographers, make-up artists, venues, and other wedding vendors often hold styled shoots to showcase their best work. Those shoots take place without the confines of a wedding day timeline, so there's plenty of time to find the best backdrops and set up professional lighting in that location. Those shoots don't have guests or tasks to distract the bride and groom. The "Kodak moments" with happy expressions on everyone's faces may have been staged. The subjects in the images may be models who are used to posing and being photo-ready for long periods of time.
Your environment is a big factor
You may be thinking, "A professional photographer should be able to give me the images I want." To an extent that's true. But there are many factors that impact your wedding photography, and not all of them are within your photographer's ability to control. Time of year, time of day, weather, and location all influence your images, most specifically the quality of light and the backdrop. If the natural light at your ceremony venue is not ideal (e.g. uneven light because of shadows cast by trees or buildings nearby, mid-day sun creating bright spots on light/white objects or causing subjects to squint,etc.), your images will reflect that. An experienced photographer should be able to find or create better light (using artificial lighting equipment), and shift the direction of a shot to get a better backdrop. But if your ceremony takes place in a dark church that doesn't allow the use of flash, or a golf course on a cloudless day at noon, there is a limit to how much a photographer's skills and equipment can offset those challenges.
You set the mood of the day.
Your mood, and that of your wedding party, will flow through to your candid shots and create the general mood of those images. If you and others have spent much of the day with a frown on your face, the images you receive with a flattering, joyful expression will be limited.
You don’t like having your picture taken… and it shows
Some of us just aren’t comfortable being the center of attention. If you’re antsy to get the shoot done, or are preoccupied with what you look like, feel awkward with the focus being on you, or feel awkward with PDA (because many of your engagement and wedding photos will revolve around PDA) your body language will make that loud and clear in the photos.
An aggressive or compromised schedule
Your timeline for the day (and how well you're able to keep things moving to schedule) will determine the time you have to capture more formal shots of key elements from the day. Those shots often involve the need for supplementary lighting, which takes time to set up and take down. Sometimes your photographer will need to try out poses and prompts to find flattering and interesting angles. That also takes time- more time if you or your new spouse are visibly uncomfortable with taking photos. If your photographer will need to travel to different locations to get your desired shots (where the bride is getting ready, groom is getting ready, ceremony, reception site, etc.), that will reduce the time they can spend photographing your key moments. If your timeline gets thrown off, certain photo ops may get derailed. If your ceremony starts later than planned and is outdoors, you may run out of natural light.
Lack of organization
There’s a LOT that goes into holding a wedding. A lot of money. A lot of time. A lot of stuff. All of that stuff creates an extraordinary amount of clutter that could show up in the background of your images and mar an otherwise beautiful shot.
So, what can you do to minimize these problems and get the most beautiful images from your day? Strategize with your photographer, and follow these tips:
Be open to using artificial light during your ceremony and reception. Ask your photographer if the images could be improved with artificial light, but do know this will take time to set up and could feel intrusive to the ambiance, especially during the ceremony.
Your candid shots will be less aesthetically pleasing if you and/or your wedding party spend a lot of your time nervous or stressed out about all of the wedding day details (which is easy to do on such a stressful day). Hire a day-of coordinator to manage the minutiae, and then take a moment to focus on the reason you're getting all dolled up: you're about to marry your best friend! Let yourself enjoy the moment and your images will reflect that joy.
If you, like me, suffer from RBF (and I have a severe case- I regularly look like an angry troll in candid photos), you'll need to make a conscious effort to check your facial expressions throughout the day. Find humor in as much of the day as possible. Encourage your wedding party to get a little silly during the processional. Ask a friend to make goofy faces at you while you do your walk down the aisle. Or… just ask your MOH to elbow you when you’ve got your frown face on. Anything that will remind you to SMILE and enjoy the moment. 😊
Assign clutter-clearing duties. Ask your bridal party to make sure your bridal suite has an area that’s free of clutter, preferably near a mirror. That way there’s an area where you can put your wedding dress on and touch up your make-up without shoe boxes, make-up brushes, and garment bags in the background. If you’re holding a backyard wedding, make sure your helpers take care to move boxes, baggies, bins, etc. out of sight after setting up your decorations and food.
Discuss in detail the types of shots you want from your photographer. If you have a specific vision based on images you’ve seen, point those out so your photographer knows what’s most meaningful for you. Their job is to get comprehensive coverage of your day and align that coverage with your vision. But they’ll need your help to create moments that may not occur organically. Communicating your specific wants in advance is critical. Have you seen some wedding photos you hate? Share those too so your photog knows what you avoid for your gallery.
Set a realistic wedding day timeline based on your must-have images. Your photographer can help guide you with this, so you can understand what’s realistic based on the time for each wedding day event or type of photos. This may require you to prioritize based on the amount of time allotted, and compromise on the images you want based on the schedule you want. Be open to the idea of doing a separate bridal session after your wedding day if your timeline is tight.
Even if the day goes according to plan and your photographer works their tail off, your images might not align perfectly with what you envisioned for your day. There are too any variables in play to guarantee you'll love every single snap, or that every photo will reflect your best side. So when you view your gallery, ask yourself: Does this accurately tell the story of one of the best days of my life? Do the photos help me fondly remember this moment in time? Do I have beautiful images to share with loved ones and hang on the wall? If so, your photography budget was money well spent. :-)