TRUST YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | TOP 12 TIPS FOR GETTING BEAUTIFUL WEDDING PHOTOS
I'm not one to be controversial, or cause or be part of any confrontation. Introvert that I am, I shy away from all of that stuff. But I have noticed a increasing trend over the past year or so (and it could be just me!) in clients sending me checklists of photos they would like taken, often from bridal magazines, as well as Pinterest boards and photographs to emulate/copy on the day. So I feel I need to reassure as well as educate a little. As much as I want my clients to be super happy with their photos, I also really believe in giving trust to your photographer, knowing that they will do a good job. Below I outline 12 tips for letting go and getting awesome photos on your wedding day.
PICK THE RIGHT PHOTOGRAPHER FOR YOU
To start with, choose someone that you can put your faith in. Choose someone with experience and confidence, that you know has your best interests at heart. I always tell people to go off Portfolio, Personality and then Price. First and foremost, it's all about the work. What style do you connect with? Candid or posed? Dark and moody, or bright and crisp?
I'm a big fan of photojournalism and I shy away from too much direction and posing. I don't see your wedding as a model shoot. I love the little moments and emotion on the day and I don't need three hours for a location portrait session; I'd rather you be with your guests having an awesome party. Everyone is different and there are so many photographers out there, one will absolutely fit your style and vision.
Once you have ensured you love the work and would be happy for your wedding to look similar, meet with the photographer, either in person or online, and have a chat! It's so important for personalities to gel. I am quite a relaxed, easy going person and I am relatively quiet and ninja-like on a wedding day, and I've noticed I do attract similar people most of the time. I personally think a wedding is all about you having an amazing day and night with the people you love the most, celebrating your new commitment with your soul mate. To me, it's not about how many people you can impress. It's all about the love. Show me the love.
USE PINTEREST BOARDS FOR INSPO ONLY
I'm more than happy to look over Pinterest boards, but it will only be for a general idea of things that you like. For one thing, I don't want to copy someone else's work. I realise a lot of photos look similar but it just feels ethically wrong to me to completely restage somebody else's photo. Besides that, the weather, lighting, landscape and of course, the human element, will be completely different. They are never going to look the same and I think having that expectation can bring about disappointment.
Instead, I'm all about the reflexes and letting myself get into the zone. I love challenging myself at a wedding and after I've got the 'safe shots', I love experimenting a little! I love waiting for a moment, finger primed on the shutter. Sometimes that magic happens and sometimes it doesn't, but man, when it does, you do give yourself a little fist pump (well, in my head anyhow!).
Like I said, I'm all about capturing those moments, so if I'm looking down at a checklist or checking my phone to see how identical my shot is to one on a Pinterest board, I'm going to be missing a crapload of important moments. Use your boards for inspiration, but let go of the specifics.
CHAT TO YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER BEFORE THE BIG DAY
I send out a questionnaire to get all the details of the day, but it's always nice to have a quick chat over the phone in the week leading up, just to make sure we're on the same page about things. More than anyone, your photographer is the one who is going to know about the best light and timings, so it's a great idea to run things by them in the early stages. If you know you want sunset photos at a certain location, make sure it's all going to be logically possible. Often the time just after sunset is pretty magical too, depending on the time of year and the location.
Work with your photographer to create a schedule that ensures you are going to be using the light and weather and locations to their best advantage. Certain times of the day are definitely more flattering and photogenic than others!
LISTEN TO YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER ON THE DAY
If you have any questions during the day about photos, just hit us up. If the weather looks like it's going to turn, any good photographer will tell you and perhaps try to hurry things along a little at portrait time, or put things in place to set up a great shot (ie brollies). If you have a break in a rainy day, be prepared to race out and use that light quickly, just in case another torrential raincloud rolls along. If it's a hot day, check with the photographer to see different options for portraits. Maybe you can do some shady ones first, or have a drink inside with your bridal party in the air con until the sun eases off a little.
There are always ways to catch up on time or change things around to make sure you get to the reception on time (food service timings are imperative!), so let's work together to ensure you get the best and most efficient use of the day. This is why it's important to stay flexible and open-minded. Windy day, drizzle and choppy ocean? Probably not the best idea to get down on the beach, even if you dreamed of that epic sunset shot. Let's go somewhere else. Plan B. You get the idea.
STAY AWAY FROM INVITING OTHER 'UNOFFICIAL' PHOTOGRAPHERS
There has been a trend recently for 'unplugged' weddings and although I would never demand this of a client, I do think it's a lovely idea, at least for the ceremony. There is nothing worse than trying to photograph a bride walking down the aisle and a well-meaning guest leaps into the frame with her iPad, covering the bride's face. Lives may be lost if I have to jump over people to get the shot. I totally understand that sometimes that's just what happens on a wedding day and far be it for me to say cameras should be banned, but it's just a nice, respectful thing that ensures people are present for your ceremony, and not distracted by random people jumping around you trying to get a 'professional' shot on their DSLR/phone/iPad.
It's hard because I realise these lovely family members are just trying to add to my coverage (I wish they would trust me too!), but when we are trying to do the best job we can, it's not great when we miss shots due to the 'unofficial' photographers at a wedding or even have them in the background snapping away. Regular second shooters know to stay out of a lead photographer's way during the ceremony to enhance the coverage, but that can't be communicated very well with a guest who doesn't work for the photographer.
BE ORGANISED, AIM FOR PERFECTION...AND THEN LET GO
It's a wonderful thing to be organised, to know everything down to the last seating plan is all taken care of. But as I tell all my brides, on the wedding day, just let go and have a good time. Let someone else (either a coordinator/stylist or family member/friend) organise anything that still has to be done on the wedding day itself, but seriously, stop micro-managing. Throw the list out the window and ENJOY YOUR DAY! You are marrying the love of your life. You want to remember the look in each other's eyes, the trembling chins, the sweaty palms, the half-forgotten, nervous vows, the first kiss....who cares about lists! Carpé diem!
I can promise you, someone who is having a ball and getting some lovey eyes going on during her wedding day, is going to end up with far superior photos. There is only so much I can do, and if you're unhappy, stressed or worried about things going wrong, it's going to show in your expression. I know it's easy to say, but try to relax and stay positive and happy.
TRY NOT TO POSE TOO MUCH
Yes, you look bloody stunning. But if you hire a photojournalist/candid photographer for your wedding day, don't then expect to be directed and posed in a model shoot type of way. The best thing you can possibly do is relax, be as natural as possible and just be hopelessly in love with each other. Tell each other you love one another with your body language, use hands for expression, and remember the eyes are the window to the soul. Have a cuddle, stay close, be affectionate and share a laugh. Any good photographer will want to capture natural, loving moments rather than fake ones. Rather than look at your photographer as in 'what do we do?', just go about things naturally. Have a champers with your bridal party, celebrate your marriage! Have a chat to everyone and get cosy with your new hubby or wife. Don't bother looking at the camera unless requested. Try hard to pretend we're not there. Piece of cake, right?
KEEP FAMILY PORTRAITS SHORT AND SWEET
I always think family portraits, although very important, should be kept to small groupings and immediate family. There is always time at the reception to get photos of friends, colleagues and extended family, so unless you are super close to your cousin, for example, save those for later. A few formal groups for family portraits after the ceremony is all that is needed. Don't write down a two page spreadsheet of groups. You'll end up spending an hour in a line with a fake smile plastered on your face and I promise you, you'll get annoyed with me. The last thing I want is for you to be sick of having photos taken before we even go off for your portrait time.
It's also a great idea to let your bridal party and family know what type of photographer you have chosen. I get so many well intentioned, 'you should be taking a photo of this' or 'come over here and take a picture of my family' while I am trying to focus on your portraits or congratulations shots or the like. If they know your photographer is focusing on a photojournalistic approach, you will hopefully end up with more natural, relaxed photos.
CONSIDER AN ENGAGEMENT SESSION
I cannot recommend these enough. It is a great way to build trust with your photographer and get a feel for how the portrait session will be like. I often think these sessions are more intense than on the wedding day, as you don't have the frivolity of the bridal party to distract you, and it can feel like all the attention is on you (well, because it is!). It's a great chance to get dressed up, to find a new location, to have some fun and get used to being in front of the camera. The sessions increase your confidence by getting you to step out of your comfort zone. Then on the wedding day, you'll feel like a pro and be far more relaxed and at ease.
TELL YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER IMPORTANT OR SPECIAL INFORMATION
Is your fur-baby your ringbearer? Is your dad flying over just for the event? Is your nanna ill and you want lots of photos with her? Do you have any special heirlooms/jewellery? All this information helps your photographer to be aware and ready for moments that may occur.
At the end of the day, we aren't a part of your family and we don't know who is who. Some inside information is sometimes crucial, even if it is just to stop us putting our foot in our mouth!
'YOU CAN JUST PHOTOSHOP THIS OUT RIGHT?'
As a documentary photographer, I'm rarely in Photoshop. I capture things as they happen and tend not to do any major retouching after the fact. Yes I can remove flies and the like, and if something is really distracting I can get rid of it (orange traffic cones anyone?), but there's definitely a limit, not only regarding my abilities in PS, but more that I think that's part of the moment.
It's always best to get things right in-camera. So if you would like your bride prep photos to look clean and uncluttered, get a bridesmaid to clean up a little before the photographer arrives. If you want to touch up your make up/lippy before the portrait time, go for it. If you don't want your brother's new girlfriend of a week in a photo, how about one with and one without? Just in case. It's a little difficult to erase a person out of a photo when they are smushed up against someone else. That would definitely be a job for the experts!
TRUST YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER
I totally understand it's a scary thing to hand over creative control and trust someone implicitly to do a great job on such an important day. I blog my weddings, and keep my website updated to ensure clients know there is a consistency to my work and a level which is adhered to. The good majority of professional photographers take their job very seriously - we understand how amazing and life changing this day can be - but that is why it is critical to choose the right person, and then trust them to do their job.
I do consider myself an artist, even if that sounds a bit wanky, but I have a need to be creative. It's just who I am. I love this job. I am so passionate about it that I love working 95% of the time. I'll stay up late reading about business and photography. I get up in the morning and listen to podcasts from inspiring photographers and entrepreneurs (I even started my own podcast with Emma Pointon, fellow wedding photographer, called The Wedding Method here!). I need that trust to get into the creative zone and feel that magic. And you'll know when the magic is happening and everything comes together during the wedding. There may be some yelping or squealing on my behalf. I may even jump around like an energiser bunny when I am utilising amazing light and photographing gorgeous happy people. Let me be in the zone. Knowing my clients trust me is the best feeling, honestly. I think any photographer would agree that is the pinnacle of a working relationship. It allows us to do our job with confidence and give it our all. So let go, relax and enjoy your incredible day :-)
A big thank you to my wonderful clients that put their trust in me every weekend. It really is a privilege to be there and document those moments. I don't put it 'on paper' enough.