Wedding photography is so much more than just hiring someone, then expecting to do their job, and produce amazing results.
For us, it is about collaborating with our couples; discussing their needs and desires prior to the day, so we can do our job on the wedding day whilst mostly leaving the bride and groom to enjoy theirselves!
We are lucky to have had brilliant couples, who understand exactly how we work,and know exactly what they're going to get from us. But here is a bit of advice for any wedding couples who want to get the best out of their wedding photographs...
1. Choose the right photographer
Choosing the right photographer is clearly the most important step. Note how I've not mentioned choosing the best photographer? Choosing the right photographer is about picking someone who you click with, whom you will feel comfortable with at your wedding, and who's vision and style fits your wedding. It's not just about who produces the most visually striking images (although obviously this is very important).
With the right photographer, you will feel comfortable and happy; which is when you'll look your best for your photographs! Do your research, meet with a few photographers, and don't book with someone unless it feels right.
2. Be aware of any restrictions
Often (especially in churches), there are certain restrictions on photographers that you should be aware about. You might want the perfect shot of the bride's reaction as she walks down the aisle, but the registrar may not allow the photographer to lean over or occupy a central space to get the shot. We have even attended church ceremonies that allow zero photography during the event!
Just make sure to check with your vicar / registrar beforehand, so there are no unexpected missed moments. You may have to pay a venue extra money to be allowed to photograph, or even video events there.
3. Think about your venue photographically
It may seem obvious, but not something a lot of people actually think about - does your venue photograph well? In the same way that a lovely scenic view doesn't necessarily make a great photograph, some great venues don't actually photograph brilliantly.
Certain colours (often burgundy/reds indoors) and lighting really make it difficult to photograph some areas well. Some beautiful rooms may have nasty looking doors, or walls, which may ruin any photographs. Think about speeches - you may want to cover a less than desirable backdrop with something more elegant, or set them in front of a very neutral area, for example. (An open space and marquee works beautifully!)
You may also consider whether the venue has good locations for your bride and groom potraits. While the majority of your time will be spent in the main areas of a venue; some have the most beautiful hidden areas, or unique features that make for great photos.
4. Tidy up!
Thinking about things photographically is probably never more important than during bridal prep. It may be a chaotic morning, but if your prep room is small and/or messy, it will be extremely difficult to capture images like the beautiful photos you may have seen online. Think about an area with plenty of space and light, and if you're getting ready at home; don't expect magazine-quality images if you have clothes thrown on the floor, your wallpaper is torn and your skirting boards are filthy (true story!).
5. Give your photographer the timings for the day (and make sure they are adhered to)
You want your photographer to be there for key moments, so make sure they are in the loop. Any good photographer will have the day planned out in their head, and know how long certain things will take. They can also advise with some timings, and may suggest minor changes to slots allocated for photographs, to allow your day to run smoothly. Also, make sure that there is actually enough time set aside for key photos, such as the group shots and bride and groom portraits.
It's also essential that any schedule is upheld on the day. For example, it's no good telling your photographer the cake cutting is at 6pm, then bringing it forward at the last minute to 5pm; they may not be around to capture the moment.
6. Provide your photographer with a list of any group shots needed
If you're wanting a few 'traditional' group / family shots, you should ideally present your photographer with a list prior to the day. We love to have a list to work through, and literally cross off after each one is done. It's very efficient, and cuts time down for a section that none of your guests will acually like! It's also much less stressful on the bride and groom, who's only worry at this point should be to stand and smile!
7. Let your photographer know about unique / key events or people
This may be certain unique events during the day, or even certain guests that you want photographing. If your photographer doesn't know about any of these, there's a chance they won't be captured.
A great example was a wedding we attended last year.. The father of the bride mentioned early in the morning that they were surprising the bride with a helicopter ride to the venue. Helen phoned me to let me know, so I could place myself in the right area at the right time. Without this information, I would have completely missed a moment that would never be re-created!
The same goes for certain people. Let your photograper know if Great Auntie Joan, who doesn't get out much, is attending your wedding, so you want plenty of photographs of her. It's also a good idea to point these people out on the day. Don't be one of 'those' people who don't say anything, receive their images, then complain that "there aren't many photos of my (insert name of random wedding guest here)".
8. Trust your photographer
Despite points 6 & 7 above; trust that your photographer knows what they're doing. If you've booked the right photographer, then they don't need to be told that you want a shot of every single detail during the bridal prep, or the 'first kiss'. It's one less thing for you to worry about, and also easier for your photographer to work in a situation where they are trusted to do their job.
Obviously any specific details should be mentioned, such as a sentimental piece of jewellery, or a specific location for a photograph. But don't hand your photographer how you want the day covered, shot by shot.
9. Book a make up artist
You obviously want to look your best on your wedding day; you book so many things for your day based on how they look, it only makes sense to get a professional in to ensure you look the part. Make sure you can top yourself up during the (long) day, or hire a make up artist to offer touch ups for your bridal party all day. That way, you'll be looking your best for all of your photographs, right the way into the evening.
10. Relax, and enjoy your day!
It may be easier said than done. But after months (maybe years) of planning; it's only natural to be concerned or stressed about your big day. What you must remember is that you are getting married and having a wedding for YOU; not anyone else. So try and remember that, and have fun!
This is quite a general tip for anyone's wedding, but the key here is that if you're enjoying yourself, then that will come across in your photographs. No matter how talented your photographer is; they won't be able to turn a frown upside down (without the heavy use of the 'mouth-swap' tool in photoshop!)
So kick back, relax and have some fun!