How to get great
We’re talking wedding photography today, which means that it’s time for a disclaimer. I am a wedding photographer. Who used to be a bride. I also used to write about fish for a living, but that’s not really relevant. So, suffice to say that when it comes to wedding budgets, I am familiar with the shocked “How much?!” feeling, from both sides of the fence.
But before we get to photography, allow me to digress. As a bride, it took me quite some time to come to terms with how much I was going to spend on a wedding dress. At first it seemed ludicrous to even consider dropping so much cash on something I would literally wear once. Being an all or nothing kind of girl, I tried to banish all thoughts of the designer bridal collections that were catching my eye and sought not once, but twice (some people never learn!) to find a more budget-friendly dress online. The results were disastrous.
And as I sobbed over a ripped, fake tan-stained pile of satin (‘worn once, as new’, my ass!), I realised that you really do get what you pay for in this life. And that’s when it dawned on me. Yes, I would only wear this dress once. But I would remember how I felt wearing it forever.
And when it comes to the world of wedding photography, there’s still an element of urban myth. Over the years, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told how great it must be to work just one day a week. I agree, it must be! Where do I apply for that job? The taking winters off to travel thing is also the stuff of legend. Most of the photographers I know work really intense hours, seven days a week, all year around. They’re all too busy catching up on admin/album design/bookwork (the less glamorous bit), to spend three months in the Alps come winter.
And no matter how much they love their beautifully creative job, most regularly ponder why they didn’t take up something all together less creative (something with less anti-social hours that when broken down to an hourly wage doesn’t leave them wanting to weep). Most photographers do it for the love, rather than the money.
I may have a vested interest in photography, but the last thing I’m going to do is tell you what you should spend your money on. If shoes are your thing, then by all means have a blow out on the blingy number you’ve been coveting for years. Or if you’re all about the food, then knock yourself out and treat your loved ones to the absolute best.
Or maybe you’re on a really tight budget and are being creative about the things that you can do yourself to keep the costs down. And that’s absolutely fine too. After all, it’s your wedding and there’s nothing at all wrong with going either big or budget. Having said that, a gold toilet tower sounds a little OTT in my opinion. But hey, if it made them happy…
All that being said, if you do love photos and want a seriously beautiful record of your wedding day to look back on down the years, then here’s the best way to go about it.
1. Go pro
Book an experienced, professional photographer whose work you love and who you feel comfortable around. Of all your wedding suppliers, your photographer is the one you will spend most time with on your wedding day. And if you feel relaxed while being photographed, you’re already half way there.
Good photography is a substantial investment. And if having fantastic photographs is important to you, I’d suggest prioritising this in your wedding budget whenever possible (here’s a blog post that explains why great wedding photography costs so much, if you’re interested).
Now is not the time to let your neighbour/friend/uncle build their portfolio – no matter how lovely the shots they post on Facebook are. It’s really easy to take a few killer shots on a wedding day. Capturing the entire day in an unobtrusive, seamless and breathtaking way – no matter what happens in terms of the light/weather/unexpected – takes not just talent but real skill.
2. Book a makeup artist
As I wrote in a recent post on looking your best on your big day, I would always recommend using a makeup artist. It’s so much less stressful and more relaxing than trying to do your own makeup on the morning of your wedding, and a good makeup artist will make you look your absolute best (while still looking like yourself). Makeup tends to last longer when professionally applied too.
3. Work that dress
When choosing your wedding dress, go for a style that flatters your figure. You may have been dreaming of a strapless dress, but they really aren’t for everyone and something else will be exactly right for you. And then you will look and feel fabulous! When you go shopping, take a friend or family member who you can trust to be really honest.
Don’t forget to try your dress on again before the wedding day to make sure it fits perfectly. And test your bridal smalls in advance to make sure that nothing leaves you with unsightly lines. Here are some more top dress tips.
4. Don’t overthink it
Wedding blogs and magazines are brilliant for ideas and inspiration, but bear in mind that many articles are written by people who actually don’t attend all that many weddings and can therefore be a little theoretical at times. Those must-have shot lists that crop up from time to time really are best avoided – while your photographer is studiously ticking off no. 93 on the sheet (which they would no doubt have taken as a matter of course anyway), chances are something way more interesting, happening on the other side of the room, is being missed.
And while pinning your favourite looks is a lot of fun and a great reference tool, it can lead to wedding envy in that you want all of the photos that you see on there (most of which seem to have been taken at backyard weddings in California, and aren’t quite so realistic in Scotland!). Yes, the photo of the bride and the groom jumping on the roof in NYC is epic. But trying to reproduce that spontaneous moment will just look contrived. Be yourself and your photos will be all the better for it.
5. Consider going unplugged
The vast majority of wedding guests are respectful of the occasion and wouldn’t dream of doing something like stepping into the candlit aisle to capture a grainy shot on their ipad during the exchanging of rings (while completely blocking the view of the photographer the couple have carefully selected and paid to capture their day). That having been said, such things do happen, and if you think you know somebody who is likely to get a little carried away, then you may wish to consider asking your officiant to make an announcement requesting that photography be left to the professionals.
You could go a step further and have an unplugged wedding, where guests are asked to turn off their camera phones and not to upload images to social media. This is a personal decision, and all I’m going to say on the matter is that while I love a selfie as much as the next person, my heart does sink when a radiant bride walks down the aisle, only to see a mass of phone screens rather than the smiling faces of those she loves. It’s impossible to be truly present and experience a moment while also trying to record it, which is why I’m the first to leave my camera at home when attending weddings as a guest.
6. Don’t stress about the weather
As Billy Connolly famously said, “In Scotland, there is no such thing as bad weather – only the wrong clothes.” Be prepared and embrace whatever the elements throw at you (here’s our guide on how to do this). A creative photographer will thrive on the challenge to produce incredible shots despite the adverse conditions. And remember that rain brings depth and drama, and definitely a lot of romance.
7. Think about having an engagement shoot
If you feel nervous at the thought of being photographed (and most people do), then this could be just the confidence boost you need. It’s also a really nice way to celebrate this moment in your lives and being engaged, without the time/location restrictions of an actual wedding day. If you fancy having a shoot in a remote location or at the scene of your first date, then this is the time to do it. Here are some more engagement shoot ideas.
8. Be yourself
Struggling to come up with a wedding theme? That’s okay. Not everybody has to celebrate their love with a ‘vintage circus’. But if carnivals from the post-war period are your thing, then by all means go for it.
And when it comes to photography, think timeless over trends. The last thing you want your wedding photos to look is dated. Certain props and post-processing effects may be popular at the moment, but so was spot colour once. ‘Nuff said.
9. Make time for the photos
It’s all about striking a balance here – of course you want gorgeous photos, but you also want to spend time with your guests. And there’s often pressure from family members over which group shots are a must too.
It is possible to have a bit of time out to have stunning portraits of the two of you taken, while also getting the important family photos and spending time hanging out with your friends and family. The key is in talking to your photographer and coordinator about timings and building the time needed into your day, plus a little contingency time in case the ceremony runs late or travelling between venues takes longer than anticipated.
10. And relax!
You booked your photographer because you love what they do. Trust them to do their job and look forward to seeing the incredible results!
Have you got any questions about wedding photography? Just shout – the We Fell In Love team would be more than happy to answer them! Christina x
Photos copyright of We Fell In Love Blog Book members – Archibald Photography, Blue Sky Photography, NDK Wedding Photography, Soraya Photography, Chantal-Lachance Gibson Photography, 1500 Photography, First Light Photography, Craig & Eva Sanders.