The morning of a wedding is one of my favorite things to photograph! Mimosas are flowing, I get to photograph all the pretty details, and it’s a laid back time usually! There are a few things that you can do that will make for better photos and a more organized morning.
- Be intentional about getting ready spaces. A crappy hotel room with crappy lighting, ugly furniture, and clutter will have a totally different feel compared to a room with soft natural light with big windows and fresh air. Not only for more creative and better photos, but it could define your mood for the rest of the day. A small cluttered room might stress you out more than a more open clean space with light would.
- Have a clean room. This can be hard to do, especially when there’s a room full of girls and their things! But if you don’t want clutter and bags and piles of stuff, try to combine everything into a corner or in a separate place! This will make sure you don’t have distractions in the photos of you and your girls getting ready. Have a designated “clean area” near a window where you do your getting ready photos, this will make for much better photos focused on the moment rather than on that bright pink Victoria’s secret bag in the corner.
- Lighting. If you can help it, try to get ready somewhere with lots of window light. It’s so flattering and will be the perfect lighting for the morning!
- Have all your details together. If you have everything in a pile ready for me, I won’t have to bother you or a bridesmaid to go around the room and find everything photos! I can just show up and get to work! Details include all the rings, dress, veil, shoes, hair pieces, earrings, necklace, something new borrowed and blue, sentimental items, garter, letters to each other, gifts to each other, and bouquet if it is available. Same goes for the grooms details! His coat, shoes, tie, watch, flask, and whatever else he has!
- Have a emergency kit. Sewing items, Bobby pins, safety pins, stain remover, deodorant, lint roller. Anything that could come in handy!
- Hanger. Haha this sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. You probably paid a good chunk of change for your dress, so the worst thing to do is leave in on that ugly white plastic hanger. A little detail that can ruin a good dress photo.
- Do your hair and makeup last. That way I can focus on the details and don’t have to shoot both the details and your hair and makeup being done.
- If you and your girls have matching robes, I like to grab a few photos of you all together after your HMU is done. This is a fun time to pop some champagne if you’d like!
- Put your own earrings and shoes on. There’s just something so dreamy about these photos! Have someone special help you with your necklace.
- Letters to each other. This definitely isn’t a must, and it’s not for everybody. But it’s such a lovely way to send your love to your fiancé before seeing each other. Sometimes this is when gifts are exchanged too!
- Create the environment you want. Play your favorite tunes, have food you like, this is your morning, have fun!
First lookAhhh the first look. Maybe you've already made your mind up on whether you want one or not, but I'll just give some reasons why I love them, in case you aren't sure.
- I'd say my favorite thing about a first look is time. You get to spend more time with your soon to be spouse. Like, isn't that what this is about anyway? You also get to spend more time with your guests. Not to mention more time for photos (which means more photos). You have a first look alone, all the jitters and nervousness diminish at this point. You get to say "hey babe you look fine", shed a tear, and talk with each other. Then we would take care of the majority of your portraits at this time. Your flowers are fresh, your makeup is perfect, and you're excited for the day and ready. We can also do all the bridal party photos before the ceremony too. So if we do your portraits and the bridal party photos before the ceremony, you'll be saving at least an hour after the ceremony. So essentially after the ceremony we'd do the family photos and then be done! That means you'll get that extra hour to spend with your guests! Win win!
- We can go to more locations if we do a first look, as well as spend more time doing photos. But if you want to spend more of the day with your just about husband/wife, if you want more time for stress free photos, then a first look is definitely for you!
- On the flip side, maybe you've already decided to wait until the ceremony to see each other. And I have NO problem with that, some couples really desire to go the traditional route. If this is the case we will just work the timeline a little different. Maybe spend a little more time at sunset to get more portraits, maybe not move around to different locations as much, but it's just as great! One thing that can save us time after the ceremony is to shoot the bride and bridesmaids and groom and groomsmen before the ceremony. Separate of course. Then all we'd have to shoot of the bridal party after the ceremony when everyone is together, and it could save about 20 minutes! It's important to be more intentional with your ceremony time and timeline in general this way. You'll want to make suer there's enough natural light after your ceremony to do all the formals, I'd suggest at least 2 hours. You'll also want to make sure guests don't get too bored while we are out doing photos. Appetizers, games, DJ, that sort of thing!
- Time: There’s no one right time for your ceremony. A lot can play into your ideal time though! What time of year is it? What time is sunset? Is it indoors or outdoors? What time is sunset? Are you doing a first look? If you're not sure when you want your ceremony, let me know I would love to explain more about it!
- Backup: It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan. Whether that means everyone piling into a tent, inside the reception space, or my favorite, bring out the umbrellas. Talk with your venue about what they would suggest!
- While the location and background is very important, I’d argue that it’s not the most important. Let me tell you why! There’s 4 different lighting scenarios you can have for an outdoor wedding. Uneven, direct, overcast/shade or back lit. I’d suggest back lit and on the side just a little bit, so you’ll get that dreamy light but your guests won’t be looking directly into the sun. This will make you evenly lit with a softer light, minimize shadows on your faces, and minimize squinting. There’s so many smiles, tears, and emotion that will be harder to capture if the sun is not at the best angle. If you want the best possible lighting, try to push your ceremony to the late afternoon/early evening. The higher the sun, the more harsh it is. the lower the sun, the softer and more flattering it is. The first two photos below are from many years ago, now most couples take into consideration the sunlight, so not too many couples use side or full light!
- Indoor ceremony If it’s possible to use natural light from windows, that’s great! If it’s bright enough we will turn off the lights so the ceremony doesn’t look like a mix of blue and yellow. If you can’t use natural light only, make sure the lights are bright so the photos can have the best quality possible.
- Uneven. Worst light ever. It causes bright blown out patches and super dark patches. It’s not dreamy and the photos will loose a lot of detail. Avoid at all costs! This light is worst at noon or mid day if done out in the open, so the later you have the ceremony the better. I use the app SunSeeker to see where the sun will be at different times of the year. So if you do a site visit before the wedding you can use this app to plan your ceremony location ahead of time! Here is an example of uneven light.
- Direct Sunlight. The sun is directly behind me. They are both evenly lit, but there's still some shadows and squinting. This direct light is just fine late in the evening, but the earlier the harsher it is. Here's an example.
- Overcast / Full Shade. Everything is evenly lit. So it’s really easy to shoot in and there’s no squinting. Unless your ceremony is set up in full shade (under trees, building, behind mountain) you can’t be 100% sure that it will be cloudy on your wedding day. Here's a cloudy day and a shaded ceremony!
- Back Lit Oh how pretty! You'll want the sun behind you (from my perspective) and off to a side. If the sun is like right behind you it will be uncomfortable for guests to look. So if it's to the side it's flattering on you and no one is going blind. It’s late afternoon here, the sun is lower and it’s to the right behind the tree. It’s hitting the couple from behind, making their faces evenly lit and the lighting is soft and warm. This is my favorite lighting to shoot, here's a couple examples for you!
Family FormalsThe first thing you’ll want to do to make family photos go smoother is decide on who is on the photo list. We don’t want to miss photos with any loved ones, and a list ensures that doesn’t happen. Do you want just the basics, immediate family? Or would you like to have some cousins and aunts, uncles, and close friends included? Sometimes couples do immediate family and then a HUGE group photos of each side of the family. How big the list is will play into the timeline planning, so it’s very important. I ask my couples to write each grouping that they want, including names.
- Example: Bride, groom, Judy and Bob (bride’s mom + dad)
- Bride, groom, Judy, Bob, Mike and Susan (both parents)
- Bride, Judy and Bob
- Bride, Groom, Judy, Bob, Tim, Jen, Ben, Ken (Bride’s whole family)
- When to do family photos: Typically family formals are done directly following the ceremony. That way everyone is already in the same area. Sometimes we can plan for immediate family photos before the ceremony to save time, we can talk about that when we are timeline planning. Family photos can take anywhere from 20-30 minutes if done at the same time. Whatever time we do family photos, it’s important to make sure all those included are aware of the time they are needed. Feel free to share our time with anyone who needs it!
- Where to do family formals: If done after the ceremony, sometimes we will do them right on the ceremony site. Flat even lighting is best, and we might need a good sized space without too many distractions. I’ll be sure to scout for the best spot that is easily accessible for grandparents.
Bridal partyIf you plan on doing a first look, often times we shoot all the bridal party photos before the ceremony. We can do more creative shots that way, sometimes with more locations. If we do them prior to the ceremony, this is usually how it goes: start with the while bridal party. Formal, more casual, and some with movement. Then we will let the guys step to the side while we shoot the bride and her bridesmaids. Once again in a few “poses”. Then we will shoot each bridesmaid with the bride alone. Then the girls are free to go. The we will turn around and do the same thing with the grooms and groomsmen. If you're going the traditional route without a first look, we will try to shoot the girls and guys separate beforehand like mentioned above, and then the whole bridal party together after the family formals. TIP: If you have any secret handshakes or poses with one of the bridesmaids or groomsmen, this is the time for that! I don’t tell people to go back to back with pistol hands or make faces, because not everyone is comfortable doing that. But if you’d like some funny poses or certain shots, be sure to let me know!
ReceptionPartayyyyy! Ok but for real receptions are so fun! I can’t dance and so I can’t give you advice there. But I can give you a few things to consider for this time.
- Usually the bride and groom and bridal party eats first. And often that’s when I jump in line if it’s a buffet. And while it’s a great benefit to me because I like food, I do this for a reason. No one wants photos while they are chowing down. So I won’t be taking photos of you at that time anyway. And if I wait till the end of the line, you might be mingling with guests already when I get my plate, so it would be hard to eat while also trying to keep an eye on you and candid shots. So I eat while you eat so I’m ready to work again when you guys are done! And if the venue has a vendor meal rather than the same food as everyone else, you can request it to be ready when the bridal party eats.
- Another ask I have is to be seated close to the head table. I don’t want to be taking a family’s spot, but if I’m somewhere near the head table I’m always ready for your kisses and other candid moments. If the toasts happen at the head table I might be able to sit down as I’m shooting so I’m not blocking guests views the entire time of the toasts.
- One thing I’ve found is if everything is spread out over a long time, guests can get bored, or leave before some of the activities happen. So I’d recommend not having big chunks of time between food, dances, toasts, cake, and tosses. That way people are occupied and having a good time without lulls. Back to back to back isn’t necessary, just don’t drag those main events out from 6pm-10pm.
- Dancing. If you’re not a dancing type couple that’s fine. But it’s so so fun to see my couples out there dancing with their guests after their first dance. Often times the groom isn’t into it, which is fine. It’s just the sweetest when they dance more! Maybe pick another favorite song for mid reception when you guys can cuddle back up and slow dance or light up the dance floor to a song that gets you moving.
- Sunset! Most times the sun is setting at some point during the reception. So if it’s that warm golden light outside I will 1000% grab you guys for like 10 minutes for some romantic photos. It doesn’t take long, and honestly I think my couples enjoy a few minutes of quieter time.