Most couples have never had professional wedding photographs taken in the past and thats why I decided to tell you how it all works. I journalistic photograph weddings days unfolding without interrupting the day or bringing attention to myself and because I photograph weddings with such a natural approach I often have to advise the Bride and Groom on how they can improve their wedding photographs by being prepared and in control of their wedding day.
I always try my best to convince Brides to have their preparations photographed. Preparation photography acts as a perfect visual lead-up to your wedding pictures, and during these times I capture so many great moments that even the grooms have mentioned that it was lovely to see the bridal party getting ready.
Brides often get very paranoid when mentioning preparation photography; this might be because they'll feel uncomfortable photographed with lack of makeup or some assume that I'll be in the room with them while they are getting changed, I can reassure you that is not how I work! I am very courteous to every Bride's need and will always leave the room before anyone gets changed. Once I do leave the room, I ask to be called back in once you feel comfortable. Each Brides comfort differs from person to person; some ask me to return once the back of the dress is due to be fastened and some call me back once their fully clothed, either is fine.
I would recommend having your preparations in a clean, spacious room with windows that let in enough daylight to light the room evenly. Most brides rent spacious homes or bed and breakfasts instead of small hotel rooms because most hotels contain distracting signs such as 'no-smoking' and 'exit', they also contain very unusual carpet and lighting choices. Please also ensure you're not getting natural light confused with fluorescent lighting, fluorescent lighting is blue (often found in offices) and will make your skin look blue or green when being photographed.
Often I arrive just after the hair stylist or make-up professional arrive, but sadly some beauty professionals often unintentionally prioritise your seating location near or next to a plug or power supply which tends to be the darkest corner of the room with the least flattering natural light. You want your photography to be amazing and usually, once the team have set camp it is quite challenging to move locations. My advice to you is to open all the curtains in the room so you can get as much natural light as possible and also position your chair so that you are sat in that natural light, getting everyone to work around you.
I always aim to arrive at the wedding ceremony location 45 minutes before the wedding starts; the consequence to this is that if you require a photograph of yourself in your wedding dress or a fun portrait session of your bridal party and bridesmaids fully dressed then you will need to be in your wedding dress earlier than expected.
Photographing the groom's preparation is a little more relaxed compared to the brides; 90% of the time it's a bunch of guys hanging around having a beer in their underwear and finally rushing to get changed 15 minutes before they're due to leave for the ceremony. My approach to groom preparations is the same as the brides; I photograph the suit like I would do the wedding dress and if the groom is feeling uncomfortable while getting changed I will leave the room and asked to be called back in once they feel comfortable.
Groom preparations are a little different from the brides, instead of on focusing on the beauty side such as make-up and hair, I concentrate on grooms and best men putting the final touches to their vows or speeches along with capturing the details such as putting on watches, buttonholes and a photograph of the wedding rings which are usually in the best man's possession at this time.
I would recommend having your preparations in a clean, spacious room with windows that let in enough daylight to light the room evenly. Most grooms rent spacious homes or bed and breakfasts instead of small hotel rooms because most hotels contain distracting signs such as 'no-smoking' and 'exit', they also contain very unusual carpet and lighting choices. Please also ensure you're not getting natural light confused with fluorescent lighting, fluorescent lighting is blue (often found in offices) and will make your skin look blue or green when being photographed.
If photographing the groom preparations instead of the brides, I usually leave the same time as the groom to I arrive at the wedding ceremony location about 45 minutes before the wedding starts.
I always aim to arrive at your wedding 45 minutes before the wedding ceremony starts so I can photograph some venue details and also guests arriving alongside the groom and groomsmen. I call this time the 'Nervous Groom' moment as it's usually the time married men generally give the groom some last minute advice as assurance that everything's going to be okay. If I've not photographed the groom preparations, then it's a good idea for the groom and the groomsmen to refrain from attaching any buttonholes or final details such as watches until I arrive so I can photograph these events acting as a mini-preparation for the groom.
Technically, all you both have to do is arrive; it's quite simple.
I document your wedding quietly like a fly on the wall, trying not to attract any attention to myself so I can photograph you easily while guests are watching your wedding undisturbed. I often find myself moving locations between readings, applause's or hymns, so you have a variety of photographs from different angles, this is directed towards church or weddings held inside because if you're getting married outside, then natural sounds will drown-out any footsteps or camera sounds.
If you're getting married inside a church, then co-operation is required between myself and the wedding ceremony official to get the best possible results. Under contract I am limited by the photography guidelines of the ceremony official, these rules can vary in different parishes with rules stretching from 'no photography' to 'free rein'. Sadly some couples have missed out on some fantastic photo opportunities because of restrictions held in the church, so I would advise for you to notify the ceremony official that you have a professional photographer present. Mention you would like no restriction placed on the photographer in regards to where I will stand or how many photographs I take and that I'm very respectful to the church and the religion the church teaches.
If you are getting married outdoors, you'll most likely be standing in direct sunlight, if there's no shaded area then try to avoid the hours when the suns directly above. Beautiful as it looks with the naked eye, it sadly leaves harsh shadows under eyes and nose which is unflattering.
Remember to please walk down the aisle slowly while leaving a big gap between the bride and bridesmaids as during most weddings the bridesmaids walk down the aisle first followed by the bride and father of the bride but unknowingly to everyone else, the photographer is unable to see the bride as the bridesmaids are obstructing the view.
When photographing the group photographs, I capture two varieties. The first group shot if the traditional formal which is directly following by my personal favourite, the informal. There's no rule on when the group photographs start; sometimes they occur directly after the wedding ceremony, sometimes it's after cocktail hour, and there have also been times they've happened before the wedding ceremony because of lighting.
The formal photographs are what parents and grandparents of the bride and groom often expect. It involves finding an un-busy backdrop, getting members to stand close together in a straight line while getting everyone smiling or laughing. I will ask the bride and groom to provide me with ideas which they would like for their group photograph backdrop this way I can attempt something similar at their wedding venue.
Immediately after photographing the formals I jump to non-traditional informal group portraits. These portraits capture people in a relaxed state by asking them to perform specific actions; these could be things such as throwing jackets over the shoulder, complimenting certain people in the group, passing the flowers to the men, walking towards the camera or even spinning on the spot making the experience fun for everyone.
I often ask clients to provide me with a group shot list of around ten groups combinations before the wedding making the group shots last about 30 minutes.
If you're having difficulty creating a group shot list, use this standard list as a starting point. Once the list has been completed, please print out and hand this to at least two wedding guests who know most of each family so they can help assist in gathering people ready for the group photographs.
Bride and groom
Bride and groom with both sets of parents
Bride and groom with brides immediate family (Mother, father, siblings and grandparents)
Bride and groom with brides whole family (Immediate and extended family)
Bride and groom with grooms immediate family (Mother, father, siblings and grandparents)
Bride and groom with grooms whole family (Immediate and extended family)
Bride and groom with bridal party (Bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers and flower-girl)
Bride with bridesmaids
Groom with groomsmen
Bride and groom with everyone
Congratulations, at this point you would be officially husband and wife and you both cannot stop smiling! Don't worry if you can't see me; I will be around scouting the area for the group shot locations and also taking photographs of all the guests talking, congratulating you, giving you kisses, hugs, manly handshakes and they'll even be asking to see that beautiful wedding ring now on your finger. I do love documenting cocktail hour as this gives me a chance to observe and capture all the wedding guests telling jokes, stories and general chit-chat and gives me a good understanding of the different characters at your wedding and who will be smiling or laughing next.
During this time I prioritise capturing the elderly grandparents and young children at your wedding as sometimes they'll depart before the wedding reception. I would recommend having lawn games or fun activity's ready for guests to use and play with while the canapés are being handed out. It makes for great original documentary photographs, and it's also best to organise cocktail hour where you would like your formal group photographs taken because moving people from one place to another is very challenging, especially if you had elderly guests.
If you're looking for ideas on how to entertain guests, here's a few examples which I've captured in the past: Ferret Racing, Space Hoppers, Swingball, Giant Jenga, Giant Draughts, Sack Races, Horseshoes, Petanque, Table Tennis, Beer Pong, Lawn Bowling and Croquet.
The portraits usually occur directly after photographing the group shots; I ask the Bride and Groom to give me as much time as they can give me, a recommended minimum time of 20 minutes is required for me to get a few portraits but 40 minutes plus would result in some incredible pictures!
The Wedding portraits are so simple, I've had couples say to me after I've photographed their portraits “Is that it?" and "That was so easy” this is because instead of asking you to pose, I direct people, creating natural laughter and movement, it's very natural and it feels effortless. I will ask you both to give each other a few kisses and cuddles, and I will also put you both in some nervous but fun scenarios which will help express natural laughs and smiles. My priority for the portrait session is to capture you, as a couple. I do this by starting at a distance and then get closer and closer gaining your confidence until I'm only a few feet away, I know it sounds a little nerve-racking, but I am a firm believer that capturing the emotion and atmosphere of the subject cannot be achieved at a distance.
I would recommend inviting a Bridesmaid or Groomsmen along to the portrait session, I'll be able to use them for laughing ammo to help you relax, and they'll also be accommodating when carrying your wedding flowers and accessories if necessary.
Most of the main portraits occur directly after the group photographs during the day, so there's no need to worry about the light being too dark. If you wish to have portraits taken at sunset, then you will need to schedule an additional 15-minute portrait session during your reception about 30 minutes before sundown, these make for amazing pictures!
Every wedding reception I have been to is very different in regards to the procedure, but it's very apparent that this is when the party starts! Often I get to the wedding reception after the portraits while all your friends and guests are outside socialising, and I photograph all the untouched details of your wedding reception (cake, decorations and room layout) so I can showcase the atmosphere and build a mood through the photos.
If you have any quiet moments during your wedding reception then I sometimes ask guests if they require any mini-group photographs of them and other guests, this usually only lasts a few seconds but creates some fantastic pictures of your guests without eating into the formal photographs time.
I treat the reception similar to how I handle the cocktail hour, I observe and capture the guests talking to each other seated at tables or having a joke at the bar until I've caught most of the guests socialising. Once everyone is up and dancing after your first dance, I get right into the middle of the action and photograph everyone within proximity getting some energetic photographs of your guests dancing.
I never leave a wedding until I am 100% satisfied that your wedding day has been told to my best ability and also ask you, 30 minutes before going, if there is anything else that you require or if there's anything you think I have missed.
If you have a DJ, please request them to turn off any crazy, laser or strange coloured lights for your first dance, these lights will leave your skin looking unattractive and multicoloured, after the first dance you can tell your DJ to turn on the light show.
If your reception is held outside then, it'll be a good idea to think about lighting the area. This can be achieved by using natural looking warm bulbs; you'll find that Italian string lights are a beautiful way to add lots of light plus bokeh (out of focus orbs in the background, so some of my photographs) to your pictures, they're ideal for creating borders around dance floors.
If you like the look of night-time portraits, then I would suggest booking a 10 minutes window for these once all the formalities of your wedding reception is over, this allows you to step aware from the craziness and have one last portrait.