How to get the best possible wedding photos: tips & tricks

Documenting the story of a wedding day and capturing it in a way that is thoughtful, aesthetically pleasing and consistent is first and foremost your wedding photographer’s job. However, there definitely are a few things you can do to make his/her job a little easier, and which will ultimately result in better photos. Here are a few tips & tricks that I’d like to share, a few words of advice based on my 12 years of experience in the bizz, shooting over 200 weddings…

Minimizing distractions, maximizing light

      All wedding photographers want to make you -the bride or groom- look as good and radiant as possible. We want you to be the focus of the photos, and minimize the things that draw away the spotlight from you. The good news is that we don’t need a whole lot to complete our end of the deal: a little light and some space.  

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a simple, distraction-free setting and ample light.

  One of the main things I -and many fellow wedding photographers- take into account while framing a photo, is how to get a clean background, so that there aren’t any disturbing elements in the frame that draw the viewer’s focus away from the subject – you. Being able to take photos in a clean, spacious and well-lit environment greatly helps to produce images where the subject shines, and allows the photographer to focus more on the action, rather than having to think about how to cut that messy stack of clothes/books/dirty laundry out of the photo. So, do yourself a favor and spend a little time thinking about where it is you’ll be getting ready, and how that place would look (best) on photos.  :)  

This is Marie. Marie is getting married. Marie chose to get ready in a well lit, spacious and tidy room, surrounded by her bridesmaids. We like Marie. Be like Marie. :)

How do you like your light: hard, soft or golden?

A lot of people love the soft tones and golden glow that is so prevalent in many Pinterest-y wedding photographs, myself included! In order to get these kind of photos, however, you need a certain type of light: golden hour light. The “golden hour” refers to the time when the sun is between 6° above and -6° below the horizon, resulting in a very warm and flattering light. This period usually lasts about one hour, hence the ‘golden hour’.  

‘Golden hour’ light will give your photos that amazing soft glow

  I advise all my clients to reserve a little time during the golden hour for a quick extra shoot, making use of the best light of the day. Even when the weather is rather cloudy, the golden hour brings out the pastel tones and soft light which is perfect for those tender romantic photos. Does this mean you can’t take any nice photos during the day? Well, of course not, but as you might have guessed, heading into a wide open field at noon on a hot summer day is not the way to get those Pinterest-y shots. Luckily hard mid-day light definitely has its uses as well. :)  

The contrast and harsh shadows caused by hard light can definitely lead to excellent photos, when used properly. :)

  An experienced photographer will be able to handle these situations, either by making the most of the ‘hard’ light and playing with the contrasts it brings to the photos or by looking for a way around the harsh light (finding cover in the shade, a forest, etc).

Luckily one doesn’t have to wait until sunset to find nice soft light.

Family portraits done right

Obviously a family photo session is a recurring event during every wedding shoot, and for good reason, as I definitely believe it’s important to immortalize the bridal party and their loved ones. My advice would be to make sure to allot some time for this, and communicate this clearly to the people you’d like to include in the family portraits, in order to make sure they’ll be present. Especially when bride and groom have extensive families, it’s a good idea to think about which combinations you’d like to have photographed, and prepare a list. For bonus points: ask one of your bridesmaids/groomsmen to assist by calling the people on the list forward at the right time.  That way the family portraits can take place in a structured and efficient way, leaving more time for cocktails and partying! :)  

Masters of ceremony

Most couples spend many months planning their wedding and putting together a timetable for their big day. It’s completely understandable then that some couples are afraid their carefully crafted timetable will turn to chaos if there’s no one to keep an oversight, and facilitate things on the big day, so they decide to hire a ‘master of ceremony’. While I definitely respect that, there have been numerous occasions where it feels like a (documentary) wedding photographer and a master of ceremony have very contradicting goals: where some masters of ceremony try to make the wedding very ceremonial and stately, making sure everything goes according to ‘protocol’ and thereby killing every spontaneous moment, it’s exactly those moments that documentary style wedding photographers thrive on. We want to capture the emotional reactions of friends and family, the spontaneous outbursts of joy, the tears, the stuff that will make you feel when you look back at your wedding photos a few weeks, months or years down the line.  

  Additionally, some masters of ceremony tend to forget they’re not invisible, so when they stand around in the middle of the church aisle or suddenly jump in front of the couple as they’re exiting the ceremony, they will be in the frame and ruin what could have been a great photo.   That said, there are definitely plenty of masters of ceremony out there that are a pleasure to work with and forego the stiff protocols and in stead focus on arranging all the practical details behind the scenes so that the bridal couple can enjoy their day to the fullest. My take: if you think a master of ceremony will benefit your wedding, take a moment to discuss his/her role and how much you’d like them to be ‘in the picture’ (pun intended) vs working behind the scenes. :)

Relax & enjoy

Lastly, but most importantly: take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy this day you’ve undoubtedly been looking forward to for a long time. When your wedding day finally rolls around, take your time to savor it. There’s no need to rush the wedding kiss or to sprint down the aisle. Take your time and allow your photographer a little more time to capture how radiant you look walking down that red carpet.  

    It’s possible something might not go perfectly according to plan, but if that’s the case, just relax and roll with it… In all my years as a wedding photographer every single wedding has always worked out, even if there was a slight delay getting to the church, or someone was running a bit late or the flowers weren’t 100% perfectly placed… that’s not what you or your guests will remember. So, just relax and enjoy your day to the fullest. After all, that’s the single biggest thing you can do to get better photos. :)