With wedding season in full swing, I wanted to share a few tips that can take your wedding photos up a notch. These tips will impact your wedding gallery as a whole and are applicable for every single wedding.
Have a photogenic getting ready space
This is probably the most common problem I run into at my weddings. In the course of planning, your getting ready location can be low on your list of priorities, but a good space is important, and here is why:
I tend to spend a few hours in the morning at whatever location(s) everyone is getting ready at. I take detail photos there, get photos of all the getting ready there, and oftentimes, do portraits and/or the first look there. Basically, a significant chunk of photos occur at the getting ready location, so the wedding gallery as a whole definitely benefits from a photogenic location.
Things to look for when selecting a space:
- Lots of natural light. This is the most important. Good light makes or breaks a photo. If there are lots of big windows, you are 75% of the way there.
- Suites. Especially for the girls (they have more stuff!), a suite is a must-have. Piles of bags and clothes in the background clutter a photo, and take attention away from the action of a photo. The extra room in a suite can go a long way in improving photos.
- Unique touches. Sometimes a brightly colored wall or great architecture can add great compositional elements to your photos. An interesting lobby or exterior can also provide options for portrait locations (and can be used as a rain plan!)
At a loss about where to find these places that I’m describing? Ask me. I’m happy to provide hotel recs to my clients, and know that there are some great Chicago lofts on airbnb.
Enjoy your day and be present
This sounds like an obvious one, I know. It’s your wedding, of course you’re going to enjoy it! But all joking aside, this is really very important because if you are stressed out, you won’t be laughing with your family, or looking blissfully happy when cuddling with your significant other. Your emotions will show in your photos, and stressed isn’t a good look for anyone.
I’m a planner and a perfectionist myself, so I get that it’s hard to get let go and take things as they come. But, you have hired people to take care of the day for you: your photographer, your florist, your coordinator, etc. We have it covered! Your job is to get married, and enjoy your day. Little things will go wrong – your dress might get a little dirty, you might forget to bring a thank you sign, etc – but it’s okay. You’ll be the only one that knows there were snafus. And, by the time you go on your honeymoon, you won’t care about them either!
My favorite photos have come from those couples that have flat out told me, “as long as I get married today, nothing else matters.” You have permission to steal that for your mantra.
Leave buffer time in the schedule
Real talk about weddings: everything takes longer with a wedding dress, people are always late, and traffic happens. Thus, buffer time.
As a general rule, I always suggest to add 30-45 minutes of buffer to the getting ready portion of the day and 30 minutes onto the portraits.
Basically, the reason I suggest this is that if something runs over the expected time, you usually don’t have to cut things out of the schedule to get back on track. It keeps the day relaxed and stress-free (see the point about enjoying your day!). Plus, when the day is rushed, I have less time to be creative, and instead must focus on the “safe” shots. And, win-win – if things ARE on schedule, then that’s great! You have a minute to have a snack, take more photos, or just sit down and take your shoes off.
Remember, I’m always happy to look over your schedules as you are creating them, especially if you do not have a coordinator.
I’ve been photographing weddings for six years, of course I have more than three tips! These bonus tips might not apply to everyone, but are great things to keep in mind. Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions as you apply these to your wedding.
- Plan time at sunset for photos. Unfortunately, with the way weddings are scheduled, the bulk of wedding photos occur during the worst light, in the middle of the day. It’s unavoidable, and that’s okay! I’m used to it, and can plan for midday sun. But, if it’s possible to work in 15-20 minutes of time for just the couple during those last few hours of beautiful golden light, you won’t regret it. Depending on time of year and wedding schedule, this usually falls within cocktail hour or dinner.
- Consider night photos. If sunset photos aren’t an option, oftentimes, taking 10-15 minutes during the open dancing portion of the night can also yield some dramatic photos (and give you a break to cool down and take a breather!). Talk to me before planning on this though, since not all locations are ideal for night shots.
- Keep the family formal list as short as possible. I absolutely see the importance in posed family photos and take them at every wedding, but since these photos take longer than most people expect, I recommend keeping the list concise so you can spend more time mingling with your guests. If you can’t bear to leave anyone out, that’s fine, just make sure to plan ample time in the schedule. Again, feel free to check in with me regarding timeframe.
- Have a rain plan. Face it, Chicago weather is unpredictable. If your getting ready space or venue does not provide many options for photos, you might want to plan on an indoor option in the case of rain. In the city, indoor locations require permits (and have fees), so don’t wait until the day before the wedding to plan. I suggest purchasing a permit a month or two out from the wedding date to best ensure you get your first pick of locations. Get in touch with me for location ideas and permit info.
- Ladies, grab a wooden hanger for your dress. This is small thing, but a personal pet-peeve. Why do expensive wedding dresses come on cheap hangers? To improve dress photos, have a wooden or fabric hanger on hand. It doesn’t have to be one of the fancy personalized hangers – just a standard one will do!