Wedding Photography 101: How to Get the Most out of Your Wedding Photography
by Dina Douglass
Today’s brides and grooms are more sophisticated than ever about the quality of images and shooting style they’re looking for. But the range of photographic options can be baffling for even the most savvy couples.
Photojournalism vs. Traditional Photography
Though many bridal magazines encourage brides to opt for a “photojournalistic” photographer, most clients want a mixture of both candid and posed images. A true photojournalist documents what happens, and never interferes with or poses his or her clients. However, it is the rare bride and groom who would not want at least a few posed images. Thus, the vast majority of photographers offer a mix of both photojournalistic and posed images. Be sure to ask whether your photographer is willing to create the images that are most important to you. Tip: Don’t be surprised if your photographer asks you to burst out laughing or sashay slowly down a grassy hill. Many “candid” moments are actually staged by the photographer.
Setting Up a Proper Timeline
Involving your photographer in creation of your wedding timeline helps ensure that enough time is available to capture the most important portraits, group photos and wedding events. Your photographer knows that it takes time to move people around, set up lighting equipment and create certain images. They also know that the light is better at certain times of the day. To ensure your photographer is able to provide some realistic timing input, write up a draft timeline and send it to your photographer. They can then review it and let you know if they need more time for bride and groom portraits, or more time for family group photography. Soliciting your photographer’s input into your timeline will help ensure that nothing is missed. Tip: Individual portraits take time. Bride and groom portraits take time. And group shots take time. The more time you give your photographer to create, the better job he or she can do for you.
Your Photographer and “Light”
When meeting with any photographer, you’ll probably hear them talk quite a bit about light, particularly the light at certain times of the day. In general, the most flattering light can be found in “open shade,” and when the sun is lower in the sky, as in late afternoon. This is also the time of day when beautiful rim lighting can often be achieved by working with patches of sun on the ground. Most photographers are committed to delivering the best possible images, so they will talk to about when the optimal times are to do portraits. The advice your photographer provides should be worked into your timeline to ensure the best final images. Tip: Even the best pro cameras struggle to focus in extremely low-light situations. Be sure not to darken your reception room too much when it’s time for dancing.
Having a second photographer will ensure the best possible coverage. While the primary photographer is taking group shots, the second photographer can take side angles or detail images, or just walk around and capture candids of your wedding guests enjoying themselves. While the lead photographer is with the bride and groom, the second photographer can also do all the detail shots of the reception or party room, including centerpieces, tables and the cake. A second photographer is also necessary when the getting-ready preparations take place in separate locations, as the lead photographer is usually with the bride and her attendants. Tip: Second photographers are particularly helpful for getting-ready, ceremonies and the first part of a reception.
Shy? Be Playful!
Many couples are quite reserved in everyday life. Yet playfulness can make wedding photos come alive. If you’re not comfortable laughing on cue, or throwing mischievous looks to your beloved, get out of your comfort zone by practicing in a mirror. Your wedding celebration is the one time that you should not be shy or reserved. Engagement shoots are a great way to get used to the camera (and your photographer), and to preview how you look best in photos. Tip: Leave your serious face at home. Smiles and laughter photograph beautifully, and make images come alive.
Assign Someone to Assist with the Family Photos
To ensure that the group formals session goes as smoothly as possible, most photographers recommend that the bride and groom assign a family friend to gather the families and get them ready to be photographed. This helps ensure that the family shots go quickly and smoothly, and that no families are missed. Be sure to tell your photographer the size of the largest group photo so they can prepare. Tip: Arranging large groups can be very time-consuming. Be sure to allow enough time in your timeline.
Creating Your Wedding Album
Some photographers offer albums from one company, while others may offer albums from up to six companies. In general, there are only two kinds of albums: “Matted” or “Traditional” (where the image is set inside a mat), or “Coffee Table,” “Digital” or “Flush” (where one or more images are arranged on a large photograph, which is then mounted to the edge of the album page). After your wedding, most photographers will choose your album images for you or ask you to submit a list of the images that you’d like to have in your album. Photographers are skilled at culling the best images from hundreds of proofs, and are usually focused on telling your story in the best possible way.Tip: When meeting with photographers, take a good look at their album layouts to make sure their style suits your personal design preferences.
Finding the Right Photographer
When interviewing photographers, it’s important to consider overall photographic talent and ability, Photoshop skills, responsiveness, interest in your wedding, commitment to understanding your vision for your wedding photography, and ability to design a beautiful album. But it’s also important to find a personality that suits your own personal style. Some people like quiet photographers who are rarely seen. Others like interactive photographers who have big personalities. You should be able to get a strong sense of the person behind the photographer when you meet. You may be working with your photographer for up to one year after your wedding, so it’s important that you like your photographer and their own personal style. Tip: All photographers offer different products and have different shooting styles. Meeting with several photographers will help ensure that you’ve found the right one for you.
Want to Get Published?
Don’t skimp on the details. Wedding magazines are always looking to show interesting ideas to their readership. Weddings with great color, interesting décor, dazzling florals and stylish details usually get considered for publication before weddings without details. Tip: Most magazines take submissions from photographers and coordinators. There is never any guarantee that a submitted wedding will be published.
Working with Your Photographer
Photographers are the only vendors that you’ll be working with for up to a year after your wedding, so it’s important that you like your photographer and agree with how they handle their business. Communication is the key to a successful working relationship. Your photographer should return phone calls and e-mails on a timely basis, and be honest with you if something you want isn’t possible, or an expected timeframe cannot be met. Good communication and realistic expectations – from all sides – will help ensure that your wedding celebration is documented in the best possible way. Tip: A good photographer will always tell you what is and isn’t possible. If your photographer says that something won’t work, listen to them, as they always have your best interests in mind.
Dina Douglass is the principal photographer and owner of Andrena Photography in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared on five magazine covers, as well as in hundreds of publications in more than 20 countries.
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