How to get the best out of your wedding photos

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So much time is spent on making your day perfect, but how much time have you spent considering how this is captured on camera and film? In this post I’ll give you a few tips and things to think about so your wedding not only looks beautiful for one day, but forever. I’ve been surprised how many couples I’ve shared this with only to realise they hadn’t even thought to consider it from this point of view. My couples have been so happy for the insights that I gave them that I thought I should share it on more easily in the future and blog about it. I really hope it will help others over time as well. If you have any questions or additions to make, please comment or get in touch. These are all personal recommendations and suggestions which depend on the particular circumstances of your wedding day and your personal preferences, not rules set in stone, but I hope you’ll find them helpful.

You get the best out of your photos when you’ve considered these little things so let’s talk about planning, timing and photography to give you a wonderful, fun and relaxed day.

Planning your reception room

I’d advise going through your venue with or without your photographer. You can do this either on a pre-wedding visit there or an engagement shoot so you can see what the light would be like on the day. This will help you in planning one detail in particular: the reception hall itself.
Where is your table placed and where is the light falling? That will impact your images greatly. Although you may have beautiful large windows and you think they’ll look lovely in photographs, you’ll have to consider the time of day your speeches are taking place at if you have your heart set on having the windows behind you.
If the sun is up or setting, depending on the position of this room it might mean your images will be washed out or a correct exposure capturing the window details you like so much will be near on impossible without flash being used which gives them a specific look. It’s best for the light to be shinning down on your face in this case.

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Since we’re on the reception hall, another thing to consider is the space you have between the tables once people are seated.
If you don’t leave some space for your photographer to move around a bit during the speeches, they’ll be trapped in the same position. Only a few expressions will be possible to photograph or some of your guests will be inconvenienced during this time so the photographer can move to get a different angle. (I know I want to get as many images as I can of your guests and I do my best to get you more variety here, wherever possible.)
Not being able to move around is made more troublesome if your table arrangements are tall. They would obstruct the view to some people.

Please consider where the light will be falling during your speeches remembering it’s better to have some shinning on your face than having it come from behind and most importantly, consider the space between the tables once chairs are pulled out. It’s not just the photographer that has to get through, but your guests as well.

Timing really is everything

When you’re going through the tedious task of putting together the day’s itinerary, here’s some advice that will make the day feel relaxed instead of chasing the clock.

Before the ceremony

Have your hair stylist and make-up artist (if you have one) work with you last. That way your hair and make-up will be the freshest ones and whilst yours are being done, the bridesmaids can continue getting dressed. The photos of when you put your dress on will look even better.

However long you think getting ready will take, add an extra 30min to that. If you’re running a bit late or one of the other girls is, or if you get emotional and you need some time to catch up with the excitement that extra time you put in secretly means no stress on the day.
If you’re running on time, you have time for some beautiful images when your make up is freshly done. You can have some photos with the girls then too.

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As far as travelling is concerned, if you have a journey to make I’d add a bit of extra time there too. If you’re running behind on getting ready, but traffic is clear, you get a few minutes or can have time for the photos I mentioned before with the car or in the venue depending on the situation.

Before the wedding breakfast

Once your ceremony is finished you’ll have a few things to do. Don’t worry, it’s not all about photos, but making sure you plan the time properly means you can have the best of everything: all the photos you want whilst having plenty of time to enjoy yourself and celebrate with all your nearest and dearest.

If you’re allowed to you can have your confetti images done immediately after the ceremony, although usually everyone is so excited and wishing to congratulate you or desperately want to go to your reception venue it can become somewhat complicated. I usually suggest leaving the confetti images to when we have the big group shots. Everyone is already gathered, it’s quicker and easier to direct. Of course this depends on your personal preferences and where you’re allowed to have the confetti.

Since we mentioned group images, please remember the more you want, the more time it will take up depending on how large the groups are, how large your venue is and how organised/punctual your families are.

I suggest making a list of 10 group images not counting the ones of you two and you two with the bridesmaids and ushers. You can have some more group ones with friends and family during your reception if you’d like once the most important group images have been done. If you have a list of 20 and you’ve set yourself the goal of getting them in one go, you may end up feeling like you’re stuck in group shots for eternity and not enjoying the day as much as you should.

For the images with your bridesmaids and groomsmen I’d suggest another 10-15min and a change of location.

When it comes to the photos of you two I suggest a couple of sessions. Splitting it into two means you get variety and have time to enjoy the day.

For the first one I suggest about 30min away from the wedding party.
This session can be done immediately after your ceremony whilst your guests get themselves to the venue to greet you or after you’ve mingled for a while but I advise against doing them straight after your group images.

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If you have them taken then you’ll feel like you’ve been stuck in front of the camera too long. If you want to have them done after the group images, I recommend leaving a bit of time in between to socialise some more leaving for the session shortly before the guests will be called in for the wedding breakfast. They take a while to find their way in and you’re the last ones because of your grand entry.

This gives you time to relax and enjoy yourself in semi-privacy. Unless you have a car journey to the reception venue, this will be the first time in the day where you’re not surrounded by everyone and have a moment to yourselves.

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For the second session I mentioned 10-15min will suffice. If possible, I strongly advise you to go out during what everyone calls Golden Hour. When the sun sets, the light takes on a different look and becomes warmer with beautiful romantic images being the result. It’s my favourite time of day. By this point you’ll have had a few drinks, you’ve spoken to all or at least most of your friends and relatives, you don’t have a schedule to keep or car journeys to undertake so you’re a lot more relaxed as well and it really comes through in photos.

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Calculating the amount of time you need between your ceremony and wedding breakfast depends on a few things. Not considering them and trying to squeeze it all in a small amount of time will mean either that you have to rush or not have enough time for everything you want, well… bottom line you could be enjoying your day a lot better by working this section as best as you can before. It’s not an exact science you can predict, but you’re better off over estimating than not leaving enough time.

The things you need to add up from when your ceremony finishes

+ how long the drive to your reception will take
+ 10-15min for slack with traffic or running late
+ receiving line/saying hello/socialising
+ group images (10/15min per image depending on how punctual or organised they are)
+ 10min for confetti
+ about 30minutes for your photos
+ 10-15min for bridal party images
+ time for people to settle down so you can join the wedding breakfast room
= the time to arrange the meal for

Speeches & wedding breakfast

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If you have the speeches before the meal and no snacks or canapés before, your guests will be very eager to eat. They’re less likely to be terribly happy during a long speech if they’re hungry but the tables do look their best at the start. I would suggest having something available before the meal for those who are hungry and talking to those giving speeches to make sure they have a run through so they don’t go over 10/15min each for their speech or if they want to, to at least give you an estimate before time so you can let the team know.
If you’ve estimated to the kitchen they’re 30min long in total and they’re still going on an hour into it, their preparations for food will get increasingly difficult as some things might risk burning, some risk getting cold and a million other things that could be causing them difficulties in giving you the quality you deserve.

If you have the speeches after the meal, some might get restless as they’ve been sitting down for a while and will want to move around by this point. Inevitably, I guarantee there will be a few who decide to go to the loo now or have left the room for whatever reason earlier so you have to wait for them to return or for them to walk in randomly during a speech.
The tables will also have lost their lovely tableware arrangements by this point, sometimes still having dirty plates whilst the kitchen is trying to catch up with the collection or candles will have burnt out.
If the speeches overrun in this case and the evening reception is taking place in the same room, then the evening entertainment and room arrangement will be delayed as well not to mention you might miss the golden hour or your evening guests might arrive and have to wait outside while the rest are enjoying speeches and they might feel a bit awkward for not being some of the ones invited for the entire day.
Another issue could arise if you’re doing the speeches at the end. If you’ve ran behind on the day, you might want to make up some lost time by giving speeches during dessert. Why is that a problem? At this point your photographers and videographers are sitting down for the first time for the entire day having their break or sorting out equipment/backing up, setting something up etc. You have to find them, assuming they’re all sitting together in the same place which might not be the case and if you have a prearranged location where they’re getting their meal, you’re probably going to get them before they’ve even had a chance to have anything to eat. They won’t after either since after the speeches they’re back in action immediately. I do normally suggest arranging with the kitchen to serve your team as they start collecting the empty plates from your mains so they’re all ready to go, on top form for the second half of the day. If they’re resting and not starving you’ll get better performance from everyone than otherwise. They’ll do their best whatever the situation turns out to be, no doubt about that, but how well do you perform after a long day with no break and nothing to eat?

Overall, I advise having the speeches before the wedding breakfast and asking people to do a speaking out loud practice to make sure their speeches aren’t 3 times as long as they thought they would be, but it’s always a personal preference.

More tips for making the most of your photography

Make sure you have a top that you can take off after your hair and make-up have been done. I’ve seen more than one top having to be cut off from this oversight.

If you have a veil, put it on after the dress and consider asking your hair stylist to stick around until this is done just in case.

Touch ups: Have one of your bridesmaids have a little emergency pack. A little hair spray, a little deodorant if it’s ridiculously warm, hair pins if you have some in your hair just in case one falls off, etc.

Confetti: Bring your own or ask your guests to. People don’t tend to bring any or if they do, it’s only a small amount. Providing your own can make the different between the image you wanted and a disappointing one. If you do want the confetti shot, you can get a lot of biodegradable or dried flowers for very little on eBay. If you prefer flowers, you can even make your own as a money saving tip or a personal touch. I wouldn’t go for large petals such as rose petal. Because they’re large and heavy, they don’t go too high up or linger in the air for a bit to give you that special confetti effect. If you’re going to pick something too small such as lavender, be warned that you might end up getting some in your eye from an over eager guest, end up swallowing it and getting images that don’t really show them either. Shame.
For example click HERE

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First dance: If you have a fast first dance and it’s nearly pitch black in the room, it will be near on impossible to get beautiful images of the moment without the flash overpowering the mood light. No matter the pace of the dance, to make sure you get the best out of these photos, discuss your first dance plans with your photographer so they can either give you advice or prepare for it in advance as they might need to take some equipment with them not usually needed.

Dress: I ask my brides to describe or show me a photo of their dress, or a link to the website/specific design. Mostly because I’m a girl and can’t wait to see it either, but also because it pays to be prepared. Maybe there’s an idea I’ve had for a while and I can plan when and where to do it since I know what the dress is like and it would work together. I prefer to direct not pose my couples so the images look natural and have an intimate feel, but I can make the scene look a lot more beautiful if I’ve found the perfect location for it to play in. Or maybe I know an angle that would work really well with it and I’ll need something not usually carried at weddings.

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Finally and most importantly

Remember that all the people you’ve brought together to make your vision into a reality are there to help and they’ve got some really good insight to offer. They can offer advice and you can talk about any ideas you have or how to get the things you want or get in touch with the people you need so don’t be shy and get in touch with any of them which can save you time and days of confusion.

Another blog post that I found interesting and helpful with planning your day can be found HERE