Wedding photography tips for brides

After having recently been a bride myself and in speaking with handfuls of brides through our wedding photography business, one thing is certainly clear: Brides want to love the photos that their photographers send back to them. They want to cherish them, print them, send them to friends and family, post them on social media, and feel great about themselves every time they look at them.

There are plenty of obvious pieces of advice out there that will help you to get great wedding photographs. Hire a professional photographer (not your cousin Sally who 'likes to take pictures'), get your hair and makeup professionally done, ensure that the backdrop of your venue is attractive and well lit, etc. Those tips are just the basics. Below you will find 15 little known wedding photography tips for brides that will bring your photos from grade B to grade A+ effortlessly.

Wedding Photography Tips for Brides

1. Kiss for at least 3 seconds!

Weddings seem to go by in the blink of an eye, and the first kiss is no exception. A quick peck on the lips can easily be missed by even the most experienced photographer- between lens changes and lighting setup, it can take more than a snap moment to capture the bride and groom's first kiss as husband and wife. We're not saying you need to make out on stage before your entire family and friends, but a sweet 3-5 second kiss will go a long way in ensuring the perfect first kiss photo.

2. Assess the lighting at the time of your wedding ceremony and reception.

Photographers refer to those few hours before the sun goes down as "Golden Hour", a time when everything is washed in soft sunlight and the most beautiful of photos are often captured. If it can work with your wedding schedule, photographers highly recommend planning for part of your wedding to take place during this time. 

If getting photos during the Golden Hour isn't possible, be aware of the type of lighting you do have to work with. Full midday sun is the harshest of all, and you should expect photos during this time to reflect that. While a great photographer can use a few tricks to counteract this to some degree, they will not be able to change the squinty faces and sharp lines from the bright light and deep shade. If you have concerns about the lighting on your big day, make time to chat with your photographer and get their opinion on your situation- more often than not, they will be able to help you come up with some simple solutions that ensure you receive the best photos possible.

3. Consider having an "unplugged" ceremony

The officiant is about to finish his speech, and the first kiss is only moments away. The photographer readies his camera, waiting for the perfect shot as the new husband and wife partake in their first kiss as a married couple. The bride and groom come together as the photographer depresses the camera button and... the mother of the bride jumps into the middle of the aisle to take a photo of the couple on her cell phone. The photographers professional shot has been hijacked.

Talk to any wedding photographer, and you will find that this exact situation has happened countless times. Sometimes it is the first kiss that is blocked by an eager relative. Other times a shot of the new husband and wife parading down the aisle is surrounded not by the happy faces of their guests, but of the guests staring at their phones held up high.  In other instances it is countless shots of the bride and groom, with Aunt Carrie photobombing the background of every one of them holding up her first DSLR camera. 

As photographers, we strongly recommend that you let your guests know you will be having an unplugged ceremony (or wedding!) and give your them the honor of enjoying your special moments without feeling the need to document them. 

4. Appoint a relative to coordinate family members during formal photos.

I'll never forget the first time we started with family formals and the bride asked me to round up all of the cousins on her father's side to start. This was a huge family, and I did my best to organize through the crowd of onlooking guests. Even after finding a handful of the cousins, some were still missing at the bar or at the cake table and the bride was growing impatient. I was doing my best to let everyone know that we had begun the family formals and that they should prepare to be called up in a few moments for shots. Still though, it was a tough process picking out which guests belonged to the bride's family and which belonged to the groom's, not to mention how they were related to them! 

Your wedding photographer will do their best to remember the names they know during your family formals, but keep in mind that it will be near impossible for them to learn and remember each person's name, whether they are an aunt or cousin or friend, and which "side" of the family they belong to.

Appointing a family member to be responsible for rounding up family members for your formal portraits will go a long way to keeping your session on time and moving in a smooth manner. Your relatives will also be put at ease knowing they only have to be present for one set of formals, and that no one will be asking them to come back for more in the middle of their cocktail hour.

Wedding Photography Tips for Brides

5. Allow extra time for special effects photos

Everyone loves the complex lighting in a wedding gown that is lit up from behind, sparklers bursting in the night air, and white lights lighting up a gazebo or arch as the bride and groom kiss beneath it. These are the photos that couples often print on large canvases to hang in their home and look on lovingly for years.

A little tip from your photographer though: these gorgeous photos take more time to produce than simple shots of you and your guests enjoying themselves at the reception. Many of these shots take 5-10 minutes per photo to set up and test the lighting- so time, patience, and some determination will go a long way. If you plan to get several of these type of shots with your photographer, build in extra time to your schedule to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

6. Watch Your Posture

Good posture makes an amazing difference in photos. If you have time on your side, begin practicing good posture a few months before your wedding. Pull your shoulders back, straighten your spine, and hold your head straight up in a relaxed manner. It will likely feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, but the more you practice the more natural it will come. And as a bonus, you'll likely avoid having back issues in the future.

7. Wear foundation that doesn't contain SPF

This is a little tip I picked up from a makeup artist many years ago. SPF in makeup is typically a good thing, but, not in the case of wedding photography. As the flash from a camera hits your face, the SPF will repel the light, throwing it back towards the camera and creating a "ghost face" appearance. Check with your makeup girl in advance, or bring your own foundation for her to apply on your big day.

8. Add buffer time to your wedding timeline

It isn't so much that you might be late to your own wedding, but by the time your mother-in-law asks you three times where her dress is and you've given the hair and  makeup girls directions twice, it's easy for a few minutes here and there to add up. Adding a 10% buffer to each of the sections on your wedding timeline will go a long way in making sure that you feel relaxed throughout the day and have enough time to get all of the photos you are hoping for. You might not think you need it, but the difference between a wedding with room for timing errors and one that is crunched for time is drastic. In the end, the worst that can happen is you'll have extra time to sip mimosas with your bridesmaids.

Wedding Photography Tips for Brides

9. Have a first look before the ceremony

A "first look" is a chance for you and your groom to privately see each other before the ceremony begins. I know what you are thinking. "I don't want the groom to see me in my dress before ceremony."

But hear me out! Most couples are at least a bit nervous walking down the aisle with all eyes on them, and a private meeting right beforehand gives them a very special moment together with no one else (except the photographer) watching. Photos of a couple during a first look are emotional, sweet, and private, and are uninterrupted by dimly lit chapels and the surrounding cell phones of guests trying to capture the moment.

On top of that, doing a first look effectively gives you more time for the rest of your photos because it allows you to get the wedding party photos done before the ceremony. Waiting until after the ceremony to do couple photos, wedding party photos, and family formals can easily lead to a lagging cocktail hour where guests get bored without the bride and groom to keep the fun rolling.

10. Make sure you get a package with two photographers

Simply put, there are just some photos that one photographer can't get simultaneously. For example, you'll need two photographers to catch the groom's face as he sees his bride for the first time, as well as the bride as she sees the groom at the end of the aisle. Two photographers can also cover guests at the reception as well as the special-lighting setup photos for the bride and groom.

One photographer technically can shoot a wedding alone, but you can expect to receive twice the number of shots and far more situations and setups if your photographer brings an assistant.

11. Smile & Laugh

At the risk of sounding obvious, don't forget to smile and laugh on your big day! Weddings can be stressful. Things run late, your sister can't find her shoes, the makeup artist gets lost and your mother is having a meltdown... we know. Sometimes it's just pure craziness. These are the times to remember that while everything may not be perfect, it is still the day you get to marry the love of your life! Smile, laugh, be emotional, and not only will you have a fantastic day but your photos will reflect the joy and love throughout.

12. Tell Your Photographer About Any Hidden Details

Are you wearing grandma's heirloom pearls? Is the small photo locket tucked into your bouquet actually a photo locket honoring your grandfather who couldn't be there? Details like these are unique to your wedding alone, so don't forget to let your photographer know about them!

13. Ask Your Relatives to Leave their Pro Camera Gear at Home

There is a nickname in the industry for the relative who brings their pro gear to a wedding and "tags along" with the hired photographer- Uncle Bob. This relative often jumps in front of the most important shots- first dances, first kisses, recessional, etc and causes the hired photographer to miss important shots. Trust us when we say that you will have more time for photos and receive the best shots without Uncle Bob intervening in your family portraits.

14. Book a Photobooth

Adding a photo booth to your cocktail hour can really up the fun factor for your guests, not to mention all of the hilarious photos you will receive afterwards! A photo booth is a set up provided by your photographer that allows guests at the reception to take a number of "selfies", complete with accessories like hats, feather boas, fake money, and moustaches. Want to get even more creative with it? Look into booking a slow motion photo booth!

15. Be Emotional!

What is the number one tip I'd give to brides hoping for incredible photos? Wear your heart on your sleeve. Let true, raw emotion seep into your photos. Don't worry about things going wrong, and try to not feel stressed on your big day.  Laugh and kiss and cry and hug- your photos will be incredible. 

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Wild Fox Weddings provides beautiful wedding and engagement photography, boudoir photo shoots, custom wedding packages, and pre-wedding photography in Portland, Oregon. We gladly support LGBTQ weddings and ceremonies. 

Oregon based wedding photography includes Bend, Salem, Springfield, Eugene, Corvallis, Seaside, Oregon City, Medford, Grants Pass, Roseburg, Oregon Coast, and Eastern Oregon. We also serve many parts of Washington, including Vancouver, Seattle, Kent, Bellevue, Renton, and Olympia.

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