Getting the most out of your wedding photography

No one wants to spend their wedding day feeling rushed! The great thing is that no one has too – with some planning and organisation, everyone benefits. Weddings sure are fast paced – ask any photographer and any couple who have been married and they’ll tell you the day absolutely flew by! And it does. Why? Because they are BUSY! There’s a lot on the agenda. You could say some are down right chaotic – which unfortunately can cause unnecessary stress on the bride and sometimes the groom – but mainly the bride. The chaotic ones I find are where the couple has left it too late to be ready, resulting in being late for the ceremony and trying to go by an unrealistic timeline. I’ve seen timelines set out at 5 minute intervals – to me that is not realistic. I never want my couples to feel their day is regimented, but if a timeline is not followed – the couple can lose out on getting awesome images and end up disappointed. 

In my break from shooting due to COVID 19,  I hope to spend some time offering helpful guidance to couples who are on their wedding planning journey. Every couple deserves beautiful images but there are things you can do to make sure that happens. It comes down to organisation. By following these tips it will result in a more relaxed and chilled out wedding day which I think is the goal for all couples. Who want’s to look back on their day thinking their photographer RUSHED them and they felt like they didn’t have meaningful interactions with family and friends because they simply didn’t have the time. By understanding how long things take, what you can do to ensure you receive beautiful images, your day will be so much more pleasant and memorable. With over ten years of shooting weddings, I have found that the most enjoyable weddings for me and more importantly the couple – are the ones where they have prioritised their photography by being ready on time, they followed a realistic time schedule, co-ordinated all vendors and allowed enough time between ceremony and reception to get beautiful photos. 

When hiring a photographer, you want to know they are going to take the best images they can, photos of all the details you’ve worked so hard to put together, whether it be your dress, jewellery, shoes, flowers, you’ve hired a decorator to put together something amazing, photos of your guests – family and friends, candid shots etc. Let me tell you – I have a pretty thorough list of shots I know my couples will appreciate memorised. I’ve been shooting for so long it’s second nature BUT it all comes down to not only how efficient I am as a photographer – it also comes down to you and what you can do to help make sure these shots come to life. I’m going to break the day down into sections: 

GROOM GETTING READY | BRIDE GETTING READY | CEREMONY – GUEST CONGRATULATIONS & FAMILY PHOTOS | BRIDE AND GROOM & BRIDAL PARTY LOCATION SHOOT | RECEPTION 

GROOM GETTING READY:

My average time for the groom is around 45 – 60 minutes. It seems a while but I actually spend a good chunk of that on the smaller details listed in the next point. 

Things you can do:

Have all your accessories together – the rings, buttonholes, cufflinks, gifts you may have given your groomsmen (engraved mugs, special socks, that type of thing). 

Wherever you’re getting ready, try and keep the main living area clean, even the kitchen as most places are open plan and it’s not real nice than having empty bottles and food scraps in the back of your shots, give it a quick tidy before the photographer arrives. I actually spend a lot of time moving things as I don’t like clutter in my photos. 

Make sure you KNOW what time the photographer is arriving! I tell all my couples when to expect me but you would be surprised how many times I’ve turned up and there are groomsmen missing, and/or they haven’t even showered! For me, I find this a stressful situation as I know I’m due to be with the bride at a certain time and I’m usually left rushing and I leave knowing I could’ve got more meaningful images. But that is not in my control. I can only advise what is best and it’s up to the couple to prioritise their photography and follow my recommendations.

I prefer all the groomsmen to be completely dressed by the time I arrive and the Groom can leave off his tie until I get there – it can be a nice photo of the Best Man or perhaps Dad helping with the tie. 

Tell your parents what time the photographer will be there and what time the photographer is leaving. I think most parents would love professional photos of them with their son on their special day. I know I’m going to be this Mum if my Son gets married – such a proud moment! If this isn’t an option at this time – it’s not compulsory, plenty of time for photos with Mum and Dad at the ceremony. 

After I leave, change your clothes if it’s still a couple hours before ceremony and you have a bit of time before you leave. If it’s hot – you don’t want to be sitting around in suits or spill anything on them. Your bride won’t be too happy if you turn up with sauce on your tux! 

 If all the boys are on time – it means much more meaningful images. Love getting photos of the guys having a beer together. It also gives me time to get multiple combinations. 

BRIDE GETTING READY: I usually spend 1.5 to 2 hours with the bride and the bride knows my arrival time. 

My take on this part – I’d rather get more photos of the bride completely made up then a heap of shots with rollers in her hair and half done make up and I think most brides would agree. Another note to make here – if you’re having a videographer this is something they like to get footage of. It does tell the story and video of hair and make up works better than stills because there is movement. I don’t mind getting a couple of shots though but generally I usually time my arrival time when you should be on the tail end of your hair and make up – I’ll get shots of your accessories and by the time I’m finished that, your hair and make up is completed. 

Things the bride or her tribe can do to help get the best shots:

Minimise clutter where possible. Perhaps choose one room where you can put things out of the way quickly. Whenever I get to any location – the first thing I do is look for a spot where I will take most of the photos. I don’t expect you to know where that is. If there is a room without a lot of clutter and lots of natural light that is nice and fresh – that will be the room I’ll likely use. It may be the main living area and often as mentioned above – the kitchen is part of this. A quick tidy before I arrive goes a long way – you don’t need to be mopping floors – just clearing off benches. The less clutter the better. 

Have all your accessories together: jewellery, including engagement ring, special perfume you’re wearing, shoes, flowers (generally they are kept in water, you can leave them in there, I’ll take them out when I need them), your dress hanging up some where. I don’t expect you to know the spot to hang it – I can change that. Just having it out of the bag, hanging up saves me from bugging you when your hair and make up are trying to work. 

Your bridesmaids should all be completely ready by the time I arrive in terms of hair and makeup. Not necessarily dressed in their dresses, lots of brides have some pretty robes for them and their girls and it’s nice to get photos of this. I would have given you a time I’d like your hair and make up to be finished by and this is what you should tell your hair and make up artist. 

After some photos in the robes – it’s time to get dressed. Zips are the easiest. Buttons take time and it’s easier if you have a crochet hook. Often acrylic nails make it hard for mums or bridesmaids to do them up so it’s easier with a hook. 

Tie Up Dresses – You MUST make sure someone knows how to do it up correctly! I have so many brides who say ‘it just doesn’t feel as good as when the lady in the shop did it’. If it’s your Mum or Maid of Honour – get them to practise on you before the day. A couple of times if possible. It’s a shame to miss out on beautiful portraits because it took an hour to put the dress on. This can also make the bride feel stressed because she knows she’s running over time. I really don’t like seeing my brides get upset on their special day. 

Try and minimise the amount of people that are here at this time if possible. I’ve had weddings where neighbours have dropped in during photo time or if something needs to be organised, get someone else to take charge. Beautiful photos take planning, and they do take time. It’s not click a button – there’s a lot of elements and when there is constant interruptions, it can make it very difficult. 

Immediate family is important and it’s nice for them to be here for photos with the bride: Mum, Dad, siblings, it may not always be possible and that’s fine. There will be plenty of opportunities after ceremony so don’t worry too much about this. 

I like to minimise anything going wrong on my end on a wedding day, so my system is to leave half an hour before the bride. Often ceremonies can be at locations where parking is lacking so I need to not only find a spot but to unload all my gear. Side note: If your package didn’t include the groom’s preparations – this is the time I get photos of the groom and the groomsmen, and also with his family. 

As I leave earlier than the girls – I think this is beneficial for them as well. They can gather themselves, use the bathroom, maybe have a drink, a quick touch up and they’re not feeling rushed before they leave for the ceremony. 

When brides follow my advice, they are not having to rush, they can get shots in their robes with a champagne and plenty of time for portraits. When I shoot a wedding, if I have the luxury of time, this enables me to take photos in various spots. The bride is able to leave on time and not be late for the ceremony.

CEREMONY

Things you can do: 

If your ceremony is outdoors – have a wet weather back up plan. Make sure your guests know where this new location will be. Often it’s at the reception location. Please don’t ‘wing’ it. It’s very stressful on a rainy day to try and come up with a back up ceremony plan. Not only that, you need to get this information out to your guests. 

Be on time! I’ve had brides over half an hour late and this means less bride and groom and bridal party photos as that is where the time has to be caught up. It’s important your reception starts on time because the kitchen is cooking meals for lots of people and they can’t let them sit. 

If you’re having a 3pm ceremony my recommendation is to have your invite say 2.45pm. It never ceases to amaze me how many people will turn up right on 3pm or even a few minutes after! Ahhh a bit of a pet peeve of mine! Totally understand things happen, traffic jams etc. No bride wants guests running past her as she’s walking down the aisle and believe me I’ve seen it happen so if you say 15 minutes earlier – you can be 5 minutes fashionably late and by that time, all your guests should be there. 

Leave a good amount of time between your ceremony time and your reception time. Unfortunately this is where a lot of couples go wrong because they think 20 minute ceremony and then straight off for photos right? No so. Let me explain. 

Let’s say your 3pm ceremony goes till 3.30pm. The newlyweds walk back down the aisle and then all of your 100 guests would like to offer their congratulations and rightly so! I was a bride too and I know I’d be very disappointed if my photographer dragged me away without letting my Mum, my Nan, my new in laws and the rest of my family and friends hug me and say congratulations. This is a big moment and I never want to take my couples away from that. I also love getting photos of these moments. Some of my most treasured images is during this part. So after the congratulations are said, we begin to snap those all important family photos and depending if you would like to go beyond immediate family, we may need a little extra time here too. My rule of thumb is a bit over an hour for ceremony, guest congratulations and family photos. If we are driving to another location that is ten minutes away, by the time we load everyone in cars, it’s probably 4.30pm before we start shooting the bride and groom and bridal party. I like at least an hour for this part – so that’s 5.30pm. You’d love me to get photos of the reception room all set up before all the guests come in and by the time we get back and I get to the room – it could be nearly 6pm. Maybe 10-15 minutes for me to do my thing, guests enter at 6.15pm and bridal party at around 6.30pm. 

If your ceremony and reception is all at the one location – I generally suggest at least a 2.5 hour gap. Remember the more time you allow, the more time you have to enjoy each moment. Times can also be adjusted if you have a very small guest list – obviously things aren’t going to take as long. Adjust according to your locations. If there is no bridal party, you can save time there too. This is to help as a guide – each wedding is different but it gives an idea of the general procedure of a wedding day. 

Allowing enough time means you can say hello to all guests after the ceremony, family photos, a group shot, and enough time to use all the fabulous spots for photos with your new spouse and the bridal party. I always hope to be back on time to get photos of the room set up before guests go in. 

 

RECEPTION

What you can do: First and foremost, have a bloody good time! My images look heaps better when people are happy! 

MC: If you’re not hiring a professional MC, please make sure your friend or family who will be in charge knows the importance of keeping to schedule. The venue is under so much pressure to cook beautiful meals and they are working to times they are given. The MC is the one who runs the night and ensures that it goes smoothly. 

If you want to get photos with each table of guests: This is something I will only do at the start of the evening and the reason is it’s the only time everyone is seated. If you would like table photos – don’t have your entree’s come out as soon as you are announced in and let the venue know you are doing these. They will then know to give you 10 minutes before they start bringing out entree’s. 

My suggestion is to get your formalities done earlier on in the evening. This ensures there is plenty of time to mingle and dance. As I said in the beginning, the day really does fly by and I always feel a little sorry for the couples who’s formalities took way longer than they should have and who are left with an hour of dancing before they are told that their time is up. In terms of speeches, some people absolutely love the microphone and although I love a funny, heartfelt speech, I’ve had a speech go on for 45 minutes! Your speakers must be aware of their time limits – especially if the speeches are between entree’s and mains. 

Sunset Photos: Quite often the best light is when the reception is underway. If you’re at a location where an epic night time or sunset shot might be a possibility, have a 15 minute time slot in your run sheet. This might be after you’ve eaten your main and you can duck outside. I discuss this with my couples and it depends on the time of year and the weather on the day.

My approach to your reception: If you opted to do table photos, after we do this, I don’t drag my couples around during their reception. You’ve spent some time in front of the camera by this stage and I truly believe this is your time to relax. I’m there to capture candids, couple or friends photos, the speeches, the cake, first dance and party dancing. What you can do here is laugh and have fun and I’ll be doing my thing capturing you having the best time of your lives. 

I hope you have found this helpful! Weddings are quite the expense – it should be fun and relaxed and looked back on with fond memories. By careful planning you can have amazing photos in a chilled out environment!