A must read for anyone trying to decide between hiring a professional or using a friend for their wedding photography. Seattle Bride Magazine article.
Category: Tips, Tricks, Hints
You’ve put a lot of work into your wedding, not mention having spent a lot of hard earned money to make it perfect. You carefully selected the perfect photographer; one that’s professional, reliable, experienced and creative. But if you’re like most couples you don’t know the secrets to insuring your wedding photographs will be all they can. So here’s a simple list of things to help you get great wedding photos from your very special day.
- Schedule an enagement portrait session. You’re probably wondering what this has to do with wedding day images. Truth be told, an engagement session not only results in some great images that you might want to use to build a custom guest sign-in book out of, but it allows you to get comfortable in front of the camera. It also gives both you and the photographer a chance to learn how to work together. When the big day comes around you’ll be more at ease while having your photos made.
- Include time for a “photo walk.” This is a 30 to 60 minute period before your reception during which we make those romantic shots that everyone loves so much. This session is restricted to the newlyweds and the photograher only. It is a nice little period when the couple can relax and catch their breath and the photographer can create some intimate photos of the two of them. If planning a beach wedding (yes, I do a lot of those) you’ll want to time things so the “walk” takes place about a half-hour before sunset if possible. That way the photographer can take advantage of best light of the day.
- Consider including a “first glance” session. While tradition often insists that the bride and groom don’t see each other prior to the ceremony on their wedding day, “first glance” sessions are becoming increasingly popular. These sessions are a short, private meeting between the bride and groom before the ceremony. It gives the groom the chance to truely enjoy how beautiful his bride looks in her wedding attire and often results in even the toughest of guys tearing up a bit. The sessions also frequently result in some of the most emotional and meaningful images of the day. During a typical “first glance” session the photographer will be on hand for the initial meeting, then stay a bit longer, finally departing to give the couple a few special moments alone.
- Allow a realistic time frame for getting hair and make-up done. When you factor in all the brides maids and the moms, along with yourself, hair and make-up can be a huge time killer. If you run late leaving the salon you’ll be running behind and playing catch-up the entire day. Nothing causes more stress at a wedding than being off schedule. Depending on the coverage you’ve selected you may want your photographer on hand for at least part of the hair and make-up session. If not at the salon, you’ll definately want them on hand early enough to capture some of the hair and make-up tocuh-ups prior to the ceremony. Getting ready shots really help with the story telling aspect of your wedding album.
- Don’t get carried away with your make-up. Your photos will look best if you have a fairly clean, fresh and natrual appearence. This is especially true for ladies that don’t normally wear much make-up. You probably want to avoid suntanning the day before your wedding as well. And most importantly, don’t opt for the spray on tan. It will make you look orange in your photos and is virtually impossible to “fix” in photo shop without making everyone else look like pastie-white ghouls!
- Try to be on time. When weddings get far off schedule stress levels climb. Very few weddings run exactly on time, but they can be pretty close. A little pre-planning is all it takes. However, if things do run a little slow don’t get too stressed out about it. Everything will work out fine.
- Plan sufficient time for group portraits. Weddings are one of those special times when entire families come together. Not surprisingly, everyone wants to take advantage of the opportunity to make some family portraits. But you need to plan accordingly. If you’re not careful these sessions can eat up way too much time and put you off schedule. As a general rule plan on about five minutes for each grouping you want shot. Keep in mind that the photographer has no idea who everyone is. Be sure to put someone in charge of getting the groups together that knows all, or at least most of the primary people. That way the photographer can concentrate on what they do best, making great images and arranging the groups, rather than trying to gather everyone together for the shots.
- Drink in moderation. You don’t want to get so drunk that you can’t remember your day or, even worse, that you look sloshed in your photos! Have fun and enjoy a few drinks if you want, but be sure to eat throughout the day to help keep up your energy levels and because it will help you to “hold” your alcohol.
- Relax and have fun. It’s your day. It’s your party. Don’t obsess over seeing every guest at your reception to the point of missing it all yourself. Also don’t be afraid to delegate tasks throughout the day. After all, that’s what bridesmaids are for. It’s their job to “attend” to the bride. The less you have to worry about and the more you relax and enjoy the day, the better your photos will look.
- During your first dance LOOK AT ONE ANOTHER! This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Relax and enjoy each other. Forget about the photographer, the videographer, the guests… be as romantic as you please. The same applies to other special dances… father/daughter… mother/son. These are special moments too. Don’t hesitate to look at Mom or Dad.
- Coordinate key events with the photographer and your Master of Ceremony. If you’re planning any special events such as a bouquet toss, cake cutting, garter toss, etc., make sure your photographer gets a “heads-up” at least five minutes in advance. They’ll need to be sure they may need to load a fresh memory card/film before the event or want to put in some fresh batteries. Also give the photographer a chance to provide some input about positioning and timing. You want these images to be as great as possible. Timing and positioning is everything for these shots.
- Plan an exit strategy. You don’t want to have to pay your DJ and caterer overtime and it allows you to bring your event to a nice, emotional close. This will also allow you to leave in a timely fashion and let your guests know they’re no longer obligated to stay. Best of all, it will make for some great photos and add to the story telling potential of your album!
I’m sure there are a lot of things that could be added to this list, but I think these are the most important. As a wedding photographer I’m there to make you look your best and to create a nice documentary of your wedding day. While I may be an artist and/or craftsman, I’m certainly not a magician. Great photos are a product of teamwork between the photographer and the subjects. Following a few simple guidelines can help insure your wedding day photos are the best they can be.
Casey and Lace
A good portrait doesn’t always have to be straight forward. Sometimes by integrating an unexpected design element or perspective the results can be quite stunning. I find this image from a recent studio session quite appealing. You can see just enough of Casey to recognize that she’s a lovely young lady. Yet enough is obscured to create a sense of mystery to pique one’s curiosity. I hope you enjoy this tight crop portrait as much as I do.
In this version the crop is less radical but the lace continues to add a hint of mystery.
Check it out. Charlotte photographer Neal Cowley is giving away textures, LR presents and other goodies for photographers. Find ’em here.
In today’s economic conditions many brides are looking for ways to scale back on costs. While you may need to give up a trip to the Caribbean or Hawaii for a romantic beach wedding, there are more affordable options. For example, North Carolina’s Crystal Coast offers an escape to the beach but is within comfortable driving range of many urban areas such as Washington D.C., Long Island NY, Richmond VA, Charleston WV and many other East Coast and Midwestern cities. Featuring uninhabited barrier islands, quaint sea faring communities, and a history dating back to colonial times, the Crystal Coast is a wonderfully exotic spot for a wedding yet more affordable than most popular destination wedding locations.
The Crystal Coast features one of the few southern facing beaches along the United States’ east coast. Bogue Banks, the largest inhabited barrier island in the area, strecthes 21 miles, bordered by lovely beaches on both the ocean and sound sides. Fort Macon State Park is located at the East end of the island and offers a pristine beach uncluttered by beach houses, condos and hotels. On the opposite end of the island is the community of Emerald Isle. A number of other popular resort communities are located on the island including Pine Knoll Shores, Indian Beach and Salter Path. The beaches and associated beach houses are all popular locations for Crystal Coast wedding photography, wedding ceremonies and receptions. A variety of beach clubs, such as the Dunes Club, the Ocean Club and Dolphin Ridge Club are popular wedding venues as well. Additionally the North Carolina State Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores makes a spectacular setting for weddings. There are a number of island themed bars and restaurants that also make great locations for wedding receptions.
On the mainland side several communities sit along the sounds and waterways. Beaufort is a quaint town with a rich sea faring history. Stories of pirates, colonial ghosts and other romantic historical figures abound. There are a number of venues in this sea side community that are available for weddings, receptions and wedding photography. The Beaufort waterfront is an excellent location for capturing romantic,engagement, bridal or wedding day portraits. Morehead City is the largest community on the Crystal Coast. While not as historically quaint as Beaufort’s, it too has a lovely waterfront lined with charter fishing boats, seafood restaurants and specialty shops.
There are a number of activities to entertain guests and members of the wedding party before and after the wedding. The Crystal Coast is known worldwide for both its off-shore and inshore saltwater fishing. There are many charter operations in the area. There are also several nice golf courses that are open to the public. Of course, being a resort community, boutique shopping opportunities abound. There are also a number of museums and educational attractions such as the Core Sound Waterfoul Museum, Fort Macon State Park, The History Place, and the NC State Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.
When planning a Crystal Coast wedding from outside the area a wedding coordinator is almost indispensable. You can find additional information about the Crystal Coast and local wedding planners by visiting the Crystal Coast Tourism Authority’s site, Crystal Coast Bride Magazine, the Coastal Event Planner and Trendy Bride Magazine. Enjoying a romantic, beach wedding doens’t have to break the bank. North Carolina’s Crystal Coast is close enough to drive, yet far enough away to escape!
I’ve always been fascinated by near-infrared digital photography. It can produce some very gorgeous wedding images and landscapes. I recently acquired a Canon Powershot G2 camera that has been converted to IR only capture. It’s going to take some time and practice to get using it down, but I like the possibilities. Here’s a little landscape example… taken behind the North Carolina Visitors Center on Hwy. 17, near the Virginia border… Big Dismal Swamp Canal:
I usually avoid jumping on the bandwagon when a new camera is first released. But Canon’s new 40D just offered too many improvements to resist. Faster, more reliable auto focus in low-light situations being one of the most important for wedding photography. Toss in more ISO options, a larger LCD panel on the back of the camera, reduced shutter noise and a number of other new features and it was just too much to resist. Of course for it’s first couple of jobs it will be relegated to second camera duties, as it’s safer to depend on a camera that you know what it will produce. But I have a hunch it won’t take a back seat for long.
I’m also pretty excited that adding a third DSLR body to the mix will allow me more options when shooting weddings. I’ve wanted to be able to set-up a remotely operated (wireless) camera for quite a while. Plus, I think a ‘camera on a stick’ presents some interesting options as well. Improved features from the latest technology… More options due to having an additional body… Greater range of creative possibilities. I think this will be a win/win situation.
I had the pleasure of attending Zack Arias’ “One Light Workshop” in the DC/VA area this week. If you’re a photographer and you want to learn about how to achieve dramatic, editorial style lighting while maintaining portablity, do consider enrolling in one of these if you get the chance. It was an excellent chance to rebuild my knowledge foundation about lighting, get into the head of a very successful photographer to improve my own creative processes, and to pick-up some new tricks and ideas. I know my clients will enjoy the results. For more information about the One Light Workshops check out OneLightWorkshop.com. Below are a few of my shots from the workshop. Wouldn’t these just “rock” as Senior photos?!
David contacted me via my ModelMayhem.com page looking to do a shoot to help build his modeling portfolio. I used a single Vivitar 285 strobe fired by a radio trigger to try to get an edgy, high contrast feel to the shots. We shot at various locations around Jacksonville, North Carolina, keeping an eye out for spots that would give an urban feel to the photos. Camera was a Canon 20D, with a Sigma 15-30mm zoom lens.
Joining David were his friends Ramon and Ryan Lewis. Both stepped in front of the camera for a few shots as well. This is a quick grab from the shoot. As I get further into the edit I may add a couple shots of the three of them together and a solo image or two of each.
Thanks David, Ramon, and Ryan!
In the previous parts I’ve talked about the equipment and financial requirements of professional wedding photography. This time I’m going to attempt to describe the activities involved in shooting a typical wedding. For the puropose of this article, let’s assume the wedding is at a hotel, with all activities taking place there.
While most weddings take place on Saturday the photographer’s work has to start a day or two before. It is important to check that each piece of equipment is working properly, that batteries are charged and lenses cleaned. Then everything needs to be packed in an accessible manner.
The morning of the wedding, or the even before if the location is more distant, the photographer loads the gear and travels to the wedding location. I always, always plan on arrive 1/2 to 1 hour prior to the agreed time in case of car trouble, heavy traffic or other circumstances that might delay my arrival. Of course if I’ve never been to the particular venue I’ll have produced directions via MapQuest of GoogleMaps the evening before. It’s also helpful to use a GPS navigation system in case a detour is needed.
After arriving, hopefull early, I’ll spend a little time “scouting” the location. I need to get a feel for the location and develop some ideas of where I need to be at key moments durint the day’s events to capture the “must have” images. Also, if things are already set-up, this is an excellent time to make so detail photos.
At the agreed time I will meet with the bride and/or groom to shoot some “getting ready” shots. Depending on the couple’s expectations my time may be nearly exclusiverly spent with the bride, or split fairly evenly. Either way there will be some hustling back and forth to insure adequate coverage of all the pre-ceremony activities.
Shortly before the ceremony I move to that location and set-up a tripod for camera 2. Camera 2 will be set-up with a long lens at the back of the room, usually on center aisle. Prior to the ceremony it will be set off to the side, then moved into place after the bride passes to walk down the aisle. I’ll use a hand-held camera for mobility during the ceremony, passing by camera 2 to trip its shutter every few minutes. This provides some vareity in perspective and some insurance that usable photos from the ceremony will be made. I’ll also take this time to check the lighting, make some decisions concerning aperature settings, and ISO. Now it’s back to find the bride and grab some candids of the wedding party just before the ceremony begins.
As the wedding party enters I’ll grab two or three shots of each, using on-camera flash. As soon as the bride reaches the alter I shut-off the strobe and reset camera 1 to shoot in the ambient. During the ceremony I’ll work both sides and the center aisle, as well as using camerea 2 on the tripod. As the bride and groom start up the aisle I move camera 2 to the side, turn on the on-camera flash, make any necessary adjustments to ISO settings and blast away. (You got to move fast!).
Nearly everny bride will want some formal groupings shot following the ceremony. These may be done at the alter, or at some picturesque spot on site. Depending on the size of the wedding party and number of family members this portrait session will take between 20 minutes to an hour. For these shots I’ll set-up a portable flash, sometimes two, on a light stand and bounced into an umbrella. Hurry getting everything set-up; the bride, groom and wedding party are anxious to get to the reception!
Following the formal shots I try to schedule a little “alone time” with the bride and groom. This is where the nice, soft romantic shots usually come from that has everyone oohing and ahhing. Depending on the couple, this session could be as short as 15 minutes to as long as an hour. The guests and wedding party will usually be enjoying cocktails during this time.
Ok, I’ve finished the formal shots, the “alone time,” now I have to scoot ahead so I can catch the newlyweds as they make their entrance to the reception. I really need to get in ahead of them, determine and make any exposure adjustment that may be needed and be ready to shoot in a minute or two.
Depending on the wedding plans, they may do the first dance immediately upon entering the reception or it may come after meal time. During the meal I’ll get a short period to swap batteries, recharge myself, and set-up off camera lights for the dance floor (if I haven’t been able to sneak that in previously). As a general rule people don’t like to be photographed while eating, so I try to avoid doing so.
Following the meal, and for the rest of the evening I’m running around trying to catch the bride, groom with their family and friends during those special moments. I’m on and around the dance floor capturing images of the celebration. And, of course, shooting the “must haves” such as the father/daughter dance, cake cutting, bouquet toss, etc. Bascially I’m in motion from the moment I arrive on site until it’s time for me to leave.
Following all this there is the drive home, or another night in a hotel. Then there’s the hours of editing, post processing, backing up, up-loading and all the other things that have to be done to finish the job. (Maybe a “Part 4” will be upcoming!)
I hope this has provided some insight into the world of wedding photography. There really is more to it than just grabbing a few shots and cashing the check. There is a substantial investment of both time and money, a big level of responsibility that you don’t blow someone’s special day, and a lot of hard work involved.