Wedding photographers are a resourceful bunch. They’re problem solvers. If the bride is nervous on her wedding day, they put her at ease and make sure she’ll be comfortable in front of the camera. If four of the five groomsmen are inexplicably missing during the bridal party shoot, they rearrange the timeline to make sure those images will be captured later on. If it’s raining during the couples’ portraits, they use it to their advantage and make a cool photo incorporating the weather. They go into a vast array of different shooting situations and, regardless of an infinite number of variables, they make art that will be treasured by the bride and groom for years to come.
That said, there are several simple steps that you, the bride and groom, can take to make sure your photographer gets all of the great photos that you want.
1) Tidy up your hotel room.
If you have Starbucks cups and food wrappers scattered about the room while you’re getting ready, you’re probably going to have Starbucks cups and food wrappers in your photos.
Of course, your photographer can do some creative in-camera cropping to minimize the damage, but you really don’t want to limit his options. Moments are fleeting, and when he sees a nice photo op, he wants to nail it right then. A fraction of a second to realign and crop out unwanted background debris could be all it takes to ruin that perfect shot.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Can’t you just Photoshop it?” Well, yes and no. Photoshop is a powerful tool, but it isn’t magic. It takes a lot of time and hard work to remove multiple elements from a digital photograph (if you want it to look good, that is). And when you’re delivering 600-800 images every weekend, there just isn’t enough time to do that kind of work to every image.
On a similar note, it will be easier for your photographer to do his best work if the room you’re getting ready in isn’t overcrowded with people. If he’s stepping over bridesmaids and turning around to say “excuse me” every two seconds, he’ll inevitably miss important shots. Make sure your room is large enough to comfortably accommodate everyone you want present for this portion of the day. And if it’s not, then consider making some roster cuts.
2) Hold the kiss.
Just for a second or two. Or kiss once and then kiss again. Whatever feels natural, but don’t rush it. Professional wedding photographers are masters of anticipation, but the more time they have during those important moments, the better your photos will be. For example, I usually like to nail at least one good close-up of the kiss and then, if there’s time, zoom out for a wide shot that also shows the wedding guests and surrounding environs. This provides a nice contrast and contributes to a well-rounded wedding shoot.
While on the topic of the kiss, here’s a little bonus item that most people don’t think about. Your kiss photos will be a lot better if your officiant steps out of the way after saying, “You may kiss the bride.”
Some officiants already know to do this, but many do not. Clearing this up ahead of time is the best course of action, and it’s the kind of request that holds significantly more weight coming from the bride and groom than it does coming from the photographer. Just a step or two in either direction will suffice. You’ll thank yourself later.
3) Tell important guests to stick around after the ceremony.
I know that sprinting to the bar is a tempting proposition at this point in the wedding day, but if you want family members and close friends included in your formal portraits, you should tell them ahead of time that they’ll need to hang out for a bit after your ceremony has ended. This goes for the bridal party, too. Wedding photographers are proficient cat-herders, but 1) if they’re running around the venue grounds, trying to round people up, you’re going to lose valuable shooting time and 2) you’d really rather have your photographer(s) using this time to concentrate on lighting and composition.
On the flip side of this coin, explicitly directing your other guests to the cocktail hour after the ceremony helps with the herding. Otherwise, you’ll lose more valuable photo time, particularly if your photographer has to wait until each one of these individuals has taken their own picture of each group with their smart phones, iPads, etc. This is definitely another request that has more weight coming from the newlyweds than from the photographer.
4) Be willing to collaborate.
Your photographer is an idea-generating machine. It’s what he does for a living. But everybody’s taste is different and a great photo to one person might not be for another. For example, the infamous “jumping” photo is an absolutely polarizing proposition at a wedding.
Some people love it, some people hate it. And that’s okay, but let us know your feelings before the day of the wedding. Likewise, if there are any specific locations/angles at your venue that you think would be great, feel free to let your photographer know. It might be something that he wouldn’t have thought of himself. Being willing to collaborate will make for a more unique and personalized shoot.
And as long as we’re on the topic of communication…
5) Call out any special details.
I know what you’re thinking here, too. “Shouldn’t you be doing this without me having to tell you?” Absolutely. However, the hustle and bustle of a busy wedding day combined with scheduling constraints can be prohibitive and there will inevitably be times when your photographer has to perform triage on his subjects. So if your fiancé spent a year of his life folding 1,000 origami cranes for an awesome reception centerpiece, why not tell your photographer about it ahead of time?
This concept doesn’t just apply to detail photos. Maybe all of your college roommates will be together for the first time since you graduated ten years ago. Maybe five generations of your family are on the dance floor rocking out to the same song. Whatever it is, it couldn’t hurt to let your photographer know. Will he capture it anyway? Probably. But it’s better to be safe than sorry.
6) Relax and enjoy yourselves.
A happy bride and groom make for good pictures.