Helping your photographer make great wedding photography

Wedding photography is not just a collaboration between the photographer and the couple, but also all the other vendors, suppliers and guests.

Here are my top tips for helping your photographer make great wedding photography, and ensuring every moment is captured.

In a perfect world, get ready in a large, bright and tidy room with a view!

This is not always possible of course, but for getting ready photos they work best in larger rooms that have good natural light, and nice backdrops like gardens or window views.

Think about keeping one room for getting ready photos that has been tidied and cleared of bags and other items before the photographer/videographer arrives. That way, there will be less distracting items in the background of shots and more workable photo angles.

Consider where you will each stand during the ceremony

During the wedding ceremony the bride will traditionally stand on the left hand side (unless it is a Jewish wedding). This is entirely your choice though, and often the light will be much more flattering on one side or the other.

You may also want to ensure that you are directly in the middle of the aisle as you are facing each other. If not, the photographer may not be able to shoot wide shots down the aisle without them looking distorted. This may seem like a minor thing, but it makes a massive difference.

A good celebrant will ensure you are centred before starting the ceremony, but it is something to be aware of if you want that perfect first kiss shot down the aisle! Consider asking your celebrant to line you up centre of the aisle to be sure.

Invite your photographer to any rehearsals

Rehearsals are invaluable for photographers for checking out the ambient lighting during the ceremony, meeting the celebrants and other family members and friends before the big day. They may not be available or offer this as part of their service, but personally I always attend rehearsals wherever possible.

Do not let family group photos get out of control!

This is the number one tip for simply ensuring your photographer has the time required to capture everything else such as reception detail, couples portraits, candids etc. Keeping formal family photos to the absolute minimum will not only be appreciated by other guests, it will simply allow more time for more interesting and meaningful photos.

Family photos are important, but they shouldn’t dominate the wedding photography timeline or go over schedule. If they eat into couples portraits time then these will suffer in both quality and quantity.

Most photographers will plan take family group photos immediately after the ceremony when all guests are still present.

One of the problems with this approach is that remaining guests will often stand around and capture photos of guests on their phones, distracting and delaying the process.

If at all possible, try to have somewhere or something for the bulk of guests to do that aren’t required for family photos. It also makes it much harder for the photographer to communicate and get the attention of family with other guests present. Or take family group photos away from the where the bulk of guests are congregating, at a predetermined location

I recommend limiting family group photos to six to eight photos at the absolute maximum. It will take your photographer between 5-15 minutes to prepare for family photos, and approximately two minutes per photo.

Having a set list of family group photos and somebody to marshall guests (the best man for example) is absolutely essential. Allow about 30 minutes for 6-8 family group photos from start to finish.

Allow a time buffer for everything and plan logistics

When planning couples portraits for example, always allow some buffer time before and after for bathroom breaks and other unexpected occurrences. Even just driving somewhere for couples portraits can easily add 15-30 minutes to the schedule, and walking in a wedding dress may slow the bride down.

Brides need to have their makeup checked and fixed after the ceremony, may need to use the bathroom and may also want to sit down and relax for 5-10 minutes.

Ensure the location for your couples portraits has good close parking available at the time you are visiting, or have plans for getting dropped off with your photographer to save even more time.

If you have allowed one hour for couples portraits for example, check with your photographer that this is actually enough time when you factor in getting there and back.

Give your photographer a heads up on everything

The more your photographer knows about what is planned before the wedding day the better (such as any aspects of the ceremony that you would like captured such as children bringing up rings etc).

But on the actual wedding day it is really helpful to have a short heads up when something is about to occur, like the first dance or start of speeches. While the photographer will probably have a timeline or runsheet with them, rarely do activities start precisely on time.

If things are delayed, let your photographer know (or have the best man update the photographer throughout the day on timing). This may allow your photographer to continue shooting candids and not be waiting around for a particular activity to start.

This is particularly important for certain stages of the day, such as the bride walking down the aisle, grand entrance, speeches and first dances. All of these moments have certain characteristics that require your photographer to make changes to their camera settings in most cases.

They may also want to replace a low battery before key moments such as first dances, so 5 minutes warning is really important to ensure everything is captured.

Start the party at the reception

This may be an unpopular suggestion (and it is just a suggestion) but drinking any alcohol at all before having photos taken is going to impact on their quality.

The main problem is face flushing or faces and blood vessels that dilate after alcohol consumption. That can result in red flushed cheeks and noses for both men and women, and certainly doesn’t help improve photos.

It will also make that first drink right after your grand entrance much more enjoyable and mark the true start of the party!

Bring a few helpers to the couples portraits session

Discuss this with your photographer, but it is always helpful for the photographer to have extra hands and sets of eyes during the couples portrait session.

I recommend that you ask one guest such as the best man to accompany the photographer and assist with various tasks. I also recommend that a second person such as the maid of honour comes along to constantly check makeup and stray hairs..

This will make the couples portraits much more efficient, and allow the photographer to concentrate more on composition and creativity and get better photos.

Trust your photographer to choose specific scenes for photos

Ideally your photographer will be able to recommend or suggest close locations for couples portraits based on the time of day, their experience in the local area etc.

You are paying your photographer for their experience to identify great locations and scenes within those locations, so let them do the hard work!

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to suggest locations, but if at all possible trust your photographer to find the best scenes within those locations for couples portraits, within the time allocated. If you have specific scenes in mind, mention this at your pre-wedding consultation so the photographer can scope out the scenes beforehand.

Keep couples portraits for couples portraits

Couples portraits time should be specifically allocated for stills photos of the couple, and not mixing in other distractions like bridal party photos, more group photos or other random photos. Bridal party photos should ideally be taken before couples portraits or at another set time, but not mixed together.

The same can be said for videography. If you have hired a professional videographer, you should allow time for the photographer to pose and have priority over subjects and positions during the couples portraits. Or in other words, the photographer needs specific time to have direction over the couple in order to get the best possible photos.

If the videographer also wants to direct the couple, then separate time should be allocated for this (during which the stills photographer can shoot from a distance).

If the professional videographer is tailing the photographer then they should not expect priority of positions and direction over the couple unless this has been arranged beforehand (otherwise all sorts of conflicts can arise). To this point, if you are hiring a professional videographer make sure they talk to each other before the wedding day and understand who will be directing the couple at what times, and when collaboration is required (such as the ceremony).

Allow time for detail shots in the schedule

One of the biggest time challenges for a wedding photographer is capturing reception detail. The best time for this is often about one hour before guests arrive (if the reception is near the ceremony location). The only problem with this approach is that often a couple will want to start the photographers coverage 15-30 minutes before the ceremony.

Many guests (particularly elderly family) will arrive early to a wedding and these make for great candid photos. If they arrive early and enter the reception area, not only does this slow down the preparation of the area by venue staff but it also means the wide detail shots cannot be taken.

For this reason, I recommend starting your photographer at least one hour before the ceremony if you also want to capture reception detail, and the ceremony detail, and candid photos of guests arriving. There is just too much to capture in 30-45 minutes otherwise, and you won’t regret getting all the extra photos!

Serve vendor meals before main guests

If you have a table setup for vendors such as your photographer, videographer, DJ, MC, musicians etc then ideally they should be served meals directly after the bridal party. This will allow vendors to eat and get back to preparing for the next activity, which is often speeches which requires preparation.

Consider asking guests to limit mobile phone photography

Asking guests to refrain from taking photos during the ceremony will improve the professional photos (there is not much doubt about this). Having said that, this is a personal choice and I always leave this up to the couple to decide.

While it is really helpful to have other guests accompany the couple during couples portraits to assist where possible, this is not the best time for them to take photos. The problem is that often the bride and groom will not know where to look, and it slows down the process.

Keep first dance lighting and special effects as simple as possible

For the first dance to photograph well it is better to use simple white lighting and not laser or colour spot lighting from the DJ. You can discuss this with the DJ and photographer to make sure this is possible.

I also do not recommend smoke machines for the first dance or dance-floor in general because they will absolutely wreck havoc with the sharpness and clarity of photos.

They can also set off smoke alarms and cause serious problems for guests with asthma or breathing difficulties.

Communicate with your photographer

It goes without saying that careful planning and discussions before the wedding are essential for ensuring good understanding on the wedding day.

But bear in mind that this communication should continue after the wedding as well, once you receive your photos. Photos are captured in raw format by most photographers, which means it is possible for your photographer to easily change colours, exposure and contrast within edited images.

If you do not like specific photos or the style of the editing, then let your photographer exactly why. They will appreciate the feedback and I am sure be receptive to editing the photos to better match your expectations

Relax and enjoy your day!

Perhaps the most important tip of all. Relax and enjoy your wedding day! That will certainly show through in photos more than anything else. And whatever happens… don’t let family group photos get out of control!

Chris Jack