How to make the most of your Wedding Photographer

Photography can be one of the biggest investments for your wedding day. In the years that I’ve shot weddings in Nashville, several factors have allowed me to be at my full potential. Below are 10 tips that I’ve put together to help you to make the most of your wedding photographer. Do these and you’ll be blown away at the quality of your images and you’ll get the best return on your money.

1. Buffer your Schedule

Falling behind with your schedule is very detrimental on how many images you may receive. As you can imagine, delays can be stressful and won’t be very fun. There will always be something that will come up that will cause you to rearrange your plans. If you allot additional time creating the schedule for your day, you’ll be in a much better place when the unforeseen happens. Hair and Make-up are notorious for consuming more time than planned. Additionally, some tasks that may seem small could potentially take much longer than anticipated. Late bridal party members, late flowers, someone forgetting something, etc can all cause the schedule to come to a pause.

No worries, though. Allow extra time for your time blocks and do #2!

2. Begin Early

Time and time again the biggest hang-up we see is couples beginning to get ready far later than they need to be. Prepare for the unexpected by allowing yourself extra time for your wedding day. The earlier that you are dressed and ready to go, the more photographs can be taken. There is a dramatic difference in the amount of portrait photographs that you’ll receive between couples who begin photos early and those who schedule with just a minimum amount of time.

Start your wedding day early. Just do it. You’ll be more relaxed, you’ll remember more, you’ll enjoy yourself, and it’ll counter any schedule issues that may arise. If you end up having extra time, kick back with your bridal party over some champagne. Beginning your day early and #3 go very well together.

Bride Getting Ready Early in the Day

3. Have a ‘First Look’

We love first looks because they’re incredibly intimate and special, allowing the couple a few moments alone with each other in an otherwise crowded and busy day. First looks typically happen in a quiet area, away from guests, bridal party members, and family. We set up the groom facing away from the bride. We then have the bride approach him from behind and tap on the shoulder. It always provides a great moment between the couple.

The First Look is by far the best way to leverage time for your wedding day. Scheduling one earlier in the day will allow for freedom for you and your photographer to grab many of the portrait shots that traditionally occur after the ceremony. The last big plus for a first look is that you’ll be able to transition from the ceremony to reception quickly, preventing the guests from having to wait around too long for the bride and groom to be introduced. We do, however, recommend a quick 10-30 min shoot with just the couple between the ceremony and reception. This is where #4 comes into play!

First Look

image from Wendy and Jeremy’s wedding at Carriage Lane Inn

4. Schedule for the Best Light

Good light is a photographer’s best friend. To make the most of your bridal photos, schedule the time for couple portraits within the golden hour. This is the hour before sunset and it provides gorgeous, warm, and flattering light. Typically, the best time to schedule this is between the ceremony and your reception entrance.

In contrast, scheduling your portraits around noon is far more difficult for your photographer to create beautiful imagery. Harsh, mid-day sun creates heavy shadows, and since during noon the sun is directly above us, it creates raccoon-eye shadows which are unflattering. If you absolutely must schedule your portraits around noon, ensure that there a fair amount of even shade available for your photographer to work in.

image from a bridal session in Green Hills

5. Include a Secondary Photographer

Second shooters are commonplace in wedding photography. It’s a considerable amount of effort to photograph an entire wedding solo, so when you’re in the market for a photographer you may want to put emphasis on finding one that includes a second photographer. The price for an additional photographer at your wedding has a great return on investment and will allow you to have a fair amount of additional images. Second shooters are great for grabbing candid shots and generally ease the work load of the primary photographer. Furthermore, second shooters also act as photo assistants when a second shooter isn’t needed, e.g., posed portraits. This assistance to the primary photographer will expedite the work flow.

Why to have a Second Shooter for your Wedding Photography

6. Trust Your Wedding Photographer

Weddings are a once in a lifetime event. If you hold conservative views on heat, dirt, sweat, rain, and other things that won’t kill you, it’ll be in your best interest to relax those a bit. Going outside might seem like it will damage your dress or ruin your hair and make-up, but that’s far from the case. Bring your bridesmaids along with you to ensure nothing bad happens. Don’t let temporary things prevent you from photographs that will be with you forever. Keep an open mind and trust that your photographer is doing everything in your best interests to provide you with creative and interesting images. Your photographer may ask you to walk in a field, sit on a road, run around down town, etc. Communicate to him or her if you simply do not wish to have those photographs, but if the reason you do not want to go to a location is because temporary reasons, relax. Lifting these apprehensions will help greatly in getting the most out of your wedding photography.

7. Choose a Great Location / Venue

When selecting your ceremony and reception location try to keep an eye out for the photographic potential of the venue. A good photographer will be able to give you amazing images anywhere, but a sexy venue that fits your personality will be icing on the cake. Do a bit of research on venues you’re looking to book. Preview other photographers’ works who’ve shot there and see if the images they created are in line of what you’re looking to receive from your photographer. Additionally, look for variance in your venue. If portions of the venue differ from others, for example, one area of the venue is classy and elegant, where outside on a wall it might be a really great textured brick, that will provide you with a great variety in the images you receive.

Cannery One Wedding Venue

8. Have an Engagement Session

Other than receiving great engagement photos, an engagement session acts as bonding between the photographer and the couple. The photographer gets a chance to see the couple’s personality and how they react in front of the camera. The couple can experience how it is to be photographed together and to become comfortable being photographed. Think of engagement sessions as practice for the wedding day.

If you’re unable to have an engagement session or simply do not wish to have one, I would strongly recommend that the two of you meet up with your photographer in some other way to become familiar – an example could be having dinner together. The more you know your photographer, the more relaxed you’ll be during the wedding.

9. Hire an engaging DJ

A DJ’s responsibility goes beyond simply playing music. In short, a DJ is there to keep more guests at your reception for as long as possible. Couples typically spend the bulk of their budget into the reception venue and the reception events and decor. A good DJ will provide you with the best return on your reception investments. Additionally, when more of your guests are staying and having a great time, the photographer will be able to grab more amazing images of your guests having a great time. In my experience, couples who have a fantastic DJ at their reception receive anywhere between 100-200 more reception images than those who do not.

Wedding Reception Fun

10. Smile / Laugh

I almost did not include this in the list because it seems obvious; however, it’s too important not to be here. Although it may seem that laughing and smiling would be natural, stress and tight schedules can make the day not as enjoyable as it’s dreamed of.

Having everyone in high spirits will yield more images and better images. Laughter is contagious, and simultaneously creates the best smiles. Keep your wedding day as lighthearted and carefree as possible. Surround yourself with those who bring out the best in you, those who make you laugh, and those who you can be yourself around.

Bride Putting on Earring

Article by Michael Doerman – a Nashville Wedding Photographer