The page you’ve landed on here is a jam-packed collection of tips from my experience as a photographer to help you get the best wedding photos. From finding getting ready locations, to figuring out just how many family photos you really need, I’ve collected these tips over the years to help my clients get the best possible photos out of their wedding day. These wedding tips below also act as a basic timeline template, as the order you’ll be reading them in is usually how a typical wedding day goes! I’ve also included a suggested amount of time for each part of the day to assist you in your timeline planning. Just remember that these are tips after all, so whether you choose to use them or not is up to you!
Usually often overlooked in terms of importance, the hours spent getting ready can make for some memorable photos with just a little bit of extra effort. The first thing to consider is where exactly you’ll both be getting ready. If you’re getting ready at a house, make sure you choose a large, clutter-free room that gets lots of light (meaning lots of windows, and the bigger the windows the better). If you’re considering booking a hotel room as a getting ready location, I’d highly recommend looking into nearby Airbnb spaces first. Hotel rooms are often small, dark, and cluttered; everything you don’t want for a getting ready location. Airbnb’s can offer some pretty amazing and unique looking spaces which’ll compliment your getting ready photos nicely.
It’s best for both partners to get ready right by the windows, usually the bride’s hair & makeup artists will want to work by the windows anyway. Avoid leaving any artificial lighting on, as keeping the room lights on will create an unflattering colour mix of the blue outside light and the orange inside lighting.
The second important thing, or things to consider, are all the small details that can be captured; rings, shoes, ties, cufflinks, boutonnieres, dresses, earrings, necklaces, wedding invitations, vows, etc. These are all little details that when styled together can make for beautiful flat lay photos. If you’re not sure what a flat lay photo is, just look it up on Pinterest or search #flatlay on Instagram for some ideas! It’s also best to keep all these things close by so that nothing is missed when being photographed, or worse, forgotten!
It’s a simple tip but instead of keeping the bridal dress on a plastic or metal hanger, please please please put it on a wooden hanger! Hopefully a family member or friend has one they can lend for the day, otherwise it’s worth it to grab one. It’s little things like this that can make a world of a difference in photos.
Finally, it’s important to think about what time each of you will be getting ready at. If you’ve added on a second shooter, then this’ll be no problem as I can be in two places at the same time essentially. Otherwise, you’ll have to choose who gets the photo coverage here. If you schedule the getting ready’s so that one starts after the other, I can begin at one location and then travel to the second afterwards.
Suggested time for a groom’s getting ready photos: 45 minutes
Suggested time for a bride’s getting ready photos: 1 hour
Many couples like to do a ‘first look’ on their wedding day. A first look essentially is a planned-out moment where you and your partner get to see each other before the ceremony, instead of the traditional walk down the aisle first look. I’m personally a big fan of first looks as they can turn out to be a really beautiful series of photos. There’s lots of ways to do a first look, and being able to choose the location and backdrop for it helps a lot. Preferably, you’ll want to do this somewhere that’s away from family and friends, and also in the shade. If you’re not into the idea of a first look, that’s totally ok! It’s your wedding after all :)
Suggested time for first look photos: 10-20 minutes
Whether your ceremony is happening outside at a rural venue or inside a church, I have some tips for both settings! If outside, I’d recommend scheduling your ceremony for later in the day as the sun will be lower in the sky and the lighting will be softer. If your ceremony is taking place mid-day, the lighting will look a lot harsher if it’s not a completely overcast day. The easiest thing you can do is to have your ceremony setup so that the sun is backlighting you when you’re standing up at the altar. If it’s possible to have your ceremony setup so that you and your partner are standing in complete shade, that would be the most ideal situation. The bottom line when it comes to outdoor ceremony lighting is to either commit to being completely in the shade, or completely in the sun. Having one person in the shade and the other in the sun will not reproduce well on camera.
Churches and other indoor venues are a different story when it comes to lighting as there’s very little control over the lighting, if any at all. Churches tend to turn out darker on camera than they appear to your eye, so with that in mind your church ceremony photos might come out grainier than the other parts of your wedding day.
I always highly suggest that my couples do a ‘unplugged’ ceremony, meaning that guests are asked to refrain from taking any photos during the ceremony with their own cameras, cellphones, or iPads. I suggest this for a couple reasons; one being so that your guests are fully present for your ceremony (which they should be anyway) and not distracted by their devices. But the bigger reason is that there’s the unfortunate possibility that they simply might get in my way resulting in missed moments and ruined photos. If you feel like an unplugged ceremony is a good idea and how you imagined your ceremony, then just make sure to have the officiant announce it to all guests once they’re seated. If you don’t mind having photos of people on their devices during your ceremony, then the least I can suggest is that you ask them to take pictures from only where they’re sitting!
The next few tips are about when you’re actually up at the altar in front of all your guests. Now, being up there might make you the most nervous you’ve ever been in your life, so these tips will help to slow down these otherwise fleeting moments. When putting on the rings, go slowly and take a few seconds to do this. Sometimes couples will put them on in the blink of an eye, which is unfortune as this is a really intimate moment to be captured. It doesn’t hurt to actually practise your official first kiss as a married couple beforehand, as weird as that may sound. Try not to tilt your heads too much and keep in mind where you’ll be putting your hands (waist, neck, head, etc). Just like putting on the rings, hold your first kiss for at least a couple seconds. I’ve been finding that sometimes the officiant will still be visible in the background as they try to move out of the way. With that being said, I highly suggest kissing a second time so that the officiant is clear of the background and it’s just you and your partner in the frame, the way it should be! Once everything’s official and you’re ready to head back down the aisle, you might be feeling tempted to take off like Usain Bolt from excitement which is totally ok! This is another situation where slowing down (to a casual walking pace) will help me to capture more genuine moments of excitement. Something that couples have started doing is pausing half way down the aisle for another kiss shot before resuming their exit. Of course, this isn’t a requirement but just something fun to keep in mind!
Average ceremony length: 20-45 minutes
Formal photos, which generally take place immediately after the ceremony, is when all the family and wedding party portraits happen. Group photos won’t be the most artistic or exciting images from your wedding day, but I understand how important they can be. To ensure that the family photos don’t eat up a lot of time that you could be spending doing other things (like having a drink or a bite to eat), it’s best to have a list of the group options already prepared and ready to go. Keeping the list on the shorter side is best because people will want to wander off to cocktail hour if things are taking too long. Having a designated organizer who knows everyone and can help coordinate the groups will save a lot of time.
Sometimes couples will plan to have the formal photos done before the ceremony, just so that they’re out of the way and everyone can enjoy the full cocktail hour.
Suggested time for formal photos: 20-60 minutes, depending on how big your family is
The time slot for your portrait photos generally happens after all the family and wedding party photos are done. By this point in time, they’ll have gone back to join the rest of the guests for cocktail hour, so it’ll just be us! I like to give my couples a few minutes before beginning just to let them catch their breath and relax. If you’ve done an engagement shoot with me, then this part of the day will be pretty similar to that in terms of posing and directing. I’ll generally be giving tips as we move about and shoot, but I do have a few that I can share now.
Often brides will bring a more comfortable pair of shoes to switch into, especially if we’re doing lots of walking around on rough ground. When you hear my camera firing away, that’s a good signal to stop talking as photos of you talking don’t turn out too well! Just look and smile at your partner, and when in doubt feel more than free to kiss them at any time. Neck kisses, forehead kisses, mix it up! No need to wait for me to tell you to kiss! This is also a great time to get creative for your bride & groom photos, whether it’s picking out a unique location (or two) to shoot at or using smoke bombs.
Suggested time for portrait photos: 30-45 minutes
Before you know it, you’ll be making your reception entrance which officially marks the beginning of the final stretch of your wedding day. Receptions are interesting when it comes to lighting as they generally transition from day to night, from natural to entirely artificial lighting. At some point during your reception you’ll start to see lots of flashes of light but don’t worry, that’s just me and my on-camera flash doing our thing. Since receptions are usually after dark, I’ll have to use my flash to compensate for the low lighting shooting conditions.
My first tip for when it comes to planning your reception is to think about adding some additional lighting. Some ways to do this include hanging up strings of lights, using lots of candles, or even those “fake” candles. You don’t have to go crazy with adding additional lights everywhere, but definitely concentrate them around the head table and wherever the speeches will be taking place as these two locations will usually be the most photographed. With that in mind, make sure you choose a nice spot for the speeches, somewhere with a clean background.
Once dinner begins being served, you’ll notice that I won’t be moving around and shooting as much as I was before. This is because photos of people eating aren’t very flattering (trust me on this one), so it’s best that I eat while everyone else is eating too. Don’t worry, I’ll still be getting up to capture any speeches that are happening during this time along with candid moments where I can. While I don’t mind being seated at a table with guests, I do prefer to have a spot that’s out of the way where I can leave my equipment somewhere safe.
When planning your first dance, I’d recommend having it go for at least a full minute as 30 seconds is a bit too short of a time span to get a handful of good pictures. Also make sure to keep talking to a minimum and again, when in doubt, go for a kiss!
Average reception length: 3-4 hours
SUNSET PORTRAIT PHOTOS
Something that you should almost seriously consider making mandatory when planning your day is including a time slot for sunset photos. While this should technically fall under the ‘Portraits’ section above, I wanted to make a dedicated section for this just to show how important I think it is. All it takes is a putting aside 10 minutes to jump outside right before the sun sets to potentially get the most spectacular photos from the entire day. Clients also enjoy doing this as they get a moment alone in the middle of a hectic day.
When planning your wedding, the two most important times should be when the ceremony starts and when the sun sets. Plan the reception around the sun set photo time slot, and even if the sun doesn’t fully come out, it doesn’t hurt to get some extra portraits at a different location anyway! When the sun is glowing however, these photos are often my favorite from day and I’ve got lots of clients who would agree with me! But like I said at the beginning of this page, this is just another tip and it’s entirely up to you if you want to incorporate this into your wedding day. Wedding days can be real tiring, so if you’re not up for more photos then I totally understand!
Suggested time for sunset photos: 10-15 minutes
I think one of the most important things to remember during your wedding day is that weddings never go 100% according to plan, and that’s ok! There are so many moving parts that it’s almost inevitable that things won’t go exactly as they’re planned on your timeline. Keep a positive, open mindset and don’t sweat the small stuff (literally) as the day will go by in the blink of an eye. The entire day will be over before you even know it, so enjoy the time with your friends and family while you can!