How to Get Beautiful Wedding Pictures

Tips for Brides

How to Get Beautiful Wedding PicturesIt's one of the most important things to a couple on their wedding day. Beautiful wedding pictures. It's why you invest good money into a photographer. It's one of the only wedding investments that you'll have after it's all said and done. "Hire a good photographer" is swell advice, but believe it or not, sometimes there is only so much a photographer can do. We aren't magicians and in fact, for most of us I think, our goal is to capture your day as it truly is... not to create some idealistic Pinterest-worthy version of what your wedding looked like.

So what can a bride who values photography do to help create photographs that she'll be proud to pass down for generations to come? Here are a few tips!

1. Choose a Gorgeous Venue

When I planned my wedding, I prioritized photographer and venue because I knew the two went hand in hand since the venue will BE in every photo. I've shot weddings where the bride requested "getting ready" photos and then did all her getting ready in a dark, grungy bathroom. Sometimes there's no choice in the matter, and I get that, but if there is, try to consider your setting wherever you are throughout the wedding day.

How to Get Beautiful Wedding PicturesAt Kathleen's wedding, the girls were getting ready in Kathleen's childhood bedroom. It was sweet and we took a lot of photos there, but when it came time to put her dress on, we moved into her parents' bedroom where the light was gorgeous and there was less clutter in the background. It was a quick, easy change that I think really paid off!

2. Disregard the Camera

I know this is easier said than done for a lot of people. I'm one of these people myself... very aware of the camera pointed at me. Try to ignore it. I know when I have a couple or a guest who keeps glancing at the camera, a lot of those photos get deleted because you lose that candid moment of the day. Part of wedding photography is capturing moments as they unfold so that later you can say "oh my gosh I remember when that happened!" Constantly worrying about where the camera is only going to add unnecessary stress to your day. Let your photographer worry about that.

3. Don't Give Your Photographer a Shot List

How to Get Beautiful Wedding PicturesThis was one of my favorite images from Jenny and Greg's wedding. They completely forgot about me. We weren't aiming to get a photo at all. I noticed them embracing each other after the ceremony and shot this through the tree branches.

Some people may disagree with me on this, but I've become more passionate about it over time. When you give your photographer a long list of specific shots to take, you're simply not trusting their vision. I've had a few brides do this and that was certainly not their intention when they gave me the list. They just CARED about getting great photos and wanted to help me by describing exactly what they wanted. That is completely understandable. I really do get that. But honestly, you can't know what you'll want ahead of time, and you certainly don't want someone else's wedding photos duplicated. You may know if you want mostly candids, or mostly posed, but beautiful photography is about much more than a pose or location. It's about seeing light and angles and adjusting your composition just so at the right moment to capture a genuine emotion. For me, and I believe many other photographers, a shot list restricts the creativity we need to give you your own beautiful, unique images. You may love a shot on Pinterest and it's fine to send that to your photographer as inspiration, but you have to know it can never be recreated. I don't attend rehearsals anymore because I've learned that I can't plan portrait locations until the day of the wedding when I get to see THAT DAY'S light. Trust your photographer. They want gorgeous images as much as you do.

4. Schedule Adequate Time for Photos

In my experience, the pictures my couples love the most are the portraits we take of just the two of them. After all, your wedding day IS supposed to be about your relationship to each other, no one else. And yet, this portrait time is almost always the first thing to be nixed on a wedding day. It's because couples are trying to be selfless. They know Aunt Cindy wants a big photo of the whole family and mom wants a shot for over her fireplace of her family. So the family pictures always get scheduled and always get taken because nobody wants to disappoint their family. But then when you're exhausted from all that cheesing that ran longer than you expected and your coordinator says it's time for the reception, you shortchange yourself and forgo pictures of just the two of you.

I understand the impulse. But be a little more selfish than that on your wedding day, please! ;) You don't want to invest in a great photographer and not get some shots of the two of you. It's just such a waste and I want to cry every time it happens. Photos take time. Ask your photographer how much time he or she needs to do everything you want. My couples know that I'll shoot all the family formals they want but that each grouping they request will take 3 minutes. It doesn't sound like much, and it flies by on the wedding day, but 3 minutes adds up if you give me a list of twenty family configurations you want.

This is another reason to have a "first look." I know some couples don't even want to consider seeing each other before the ceremony, but I've never even HEARD OF anyone regretting doing so. I HAVE heard of couples regretting how little time they had for photos after the ceremony. If pictures are a priority to you, you should seriously consider doing a "first look" so that you can get 1. the only alone time you'll get with each other all day! and 2. gorgeous shots like these:

How to Get Beautiful Wedding PicturesHow to Get Beautiful Wedding PicturesTwo of my favorite shots from these weddings and they both came directly after their "first looks" when we weren't rushed for time or worried about who was watching. It was just the three of us and my camera.

I think I'll have to write an entire post on "first looks" soon. I'm fairly passionate about it.

5. Have the Things You Want Photographed Ready

How to Get Beautiful Wedding PicturesThis seems obvious, but there is so much to remember and worry about on a wedding day, that I think it often gets pushed to the back burner. But if you want a snazzy ring shot, make sure you haven't given the rings to the best man yet (if your photographer is hanging out with the bride, which is usually the case). Have everything (rings, jewelry, programs, invitations, bouquet, dresses, shoes, all the little details you've been planning for months) in one spot and ready to go. When a bride does this for me, I want to cry with joy. It's so nice and honestly for me it's a great, peaceful way to start the day and get my mindset in tune with the bride's vision. I take all the things to a spot with great light and shoot for about twenty minutes and then all those little things are done!

6. Think About Light

This one is extra credit and it's for the brides who are SERIOUS about great photography. I've learned over the past two years that what separates great photos from good photos is light. Now, it's hard enough for a practiced photographer to always see the best light, so I understand that that's not an easy thing to comprehend for someone who doesn't do photography! But try to communicate any unique lighting situations with your photographer. If your ceremony is in a dark church, or candlelit, or your venue doesn't allow any use of flash, these are important things to tell your photographer so that they're PREPARED for that when they arrive. There's nothing worse than finding out 5 minutes before that you have a tricky light situation to deal with.

If your ceremony is outdoors at 4pm, ask the venue coordinator where the sun sets at that time. They'll know. And if the sun is going to be blasting one side of the bridal party, see if there's a way to rearrange that so your ceremony photos aren't full of squinty-eyed bridesmaids. If you're very concerned about it, see if you can adjust your timeline so that the ceremony is during a better time of day for light.

Shade is fantastic. If there is no shade, try to angle your faces AWAY from the sun. I know a lot of people think the opposite because with a point and shoot camera, your photos turn out better that way. But you won't find many wedding photographers who prefer direct sunlight. It's flat and just doesn't have the magic that other angles do.

How to Get Beautiful Wedding PicturesMeagan is rimmed with light because her face is in the shade and the light is on her back. It gives her a gorgeous glow. Often this would drown the guys in TOO MUCH light, but in this case the gazebo shaded them just enough to make it perfect. Time of day was crucial for this ceremony!

Those are my tips! I got tired of reading posts like this for brides where the tips were "hire a good photographer" and "wear lots of make up." Hopefully this was a little more helpful and not TOO long ;)