This blog is going to be all about planning the perfect wedding day timeline that is ideal for photography, from a natural light photographer’s perspective! In this post, my clients will be able to eliminate some of the stress that comes along with making sure their photos are beautifully captured and consistent throughout. The goal is to look through all of your wedding photos (even years later) and see that all of the images are soft, airy, consistent with colors/textures, and flow with the overall style of your wedding day from start to finish! After all, your wedding photos are the only thing that will outlast the wedding day itself – so it should be a big factor when planning the outline of your big day!
Depending on which package my bride chooses, I (usually) show up while the bride is getting her hair and makeup done. Since I prefer to stay out of the way during this portion of the day, here are a few things you can do to prepare your details for me!
- Have your ‘details’ gathered in advance. The best way to do this, is to dedicate a space in the room/hotel all of your details for pictures. These items include: Your wedding dress/veil, shoes, jewelry, all pieces of your wedding invitation/rsvp cards/stationary, bridesmaids dresses, perfume, rings, flowers, etc. Having these things together and set aside allows me to quickly get to work without interrupting your hair and makeup process!
- Be SURE that your wedding flowers arrive to the getting ready location (and not the ceremony venue). Pretty flowers are gorgeous touches to your ‘getting ready’ photo collection – you’ll want as many detail photos with them as possible!
- Don’t leave anything out! You wouldn’t want to forget that special ring your grandmother passed down to you for the day, or letting your photographer know that there is a hand-stiched message sewn into your gown. Your photographer will look for things, but may not catch everything! Leaving a note for your photographer of these things could be super helpful when you’re busy doing 10 other things that morning!
- Think about any ‘extras’ you can include for this portion of the day! If detail photos are important to you, think about grabbing a few extra things to incorporate: matching robes, wooden hangers for you & your bridesmaids’ dresses, silk dyed ribbon, textured fabrics, lace, extra florals, signs, etc. Anything extra that ties together your wedding color(s) / styling will only make your photos more consistent and pleasing to view all at once!
- Look for natural light! The first thing that I do when I get to the getting ready location, is look for a room space with as most natural light as possible, which is ideal for gorgeous details shots. This usually means big windows, white blank walls, or nearby outdoor spaces.
- Keep your surroundings in mind. The next thing that I do upon arrival, is looking around for items that I may use in your detail shots. If your wedding colors are blush and cream, I will try to walk around and find a matching rug, chair, or object that might look good to include as a background in your photos. I may look around for a large mirror for ‘posed candid’ shots, or dramatic entry space to hang your dress from. If there is a special object/spot in the house/venue you think would make great photos, let your photographer know!
- Keep your getting ready space clean! I know that seems impossible when you put a bunch of girls together, (we’re messy.. it’s life!) but doing this will minimize clutter in the background of your photos. A simple ‘clean-up’ session prior to group shots helps!
- Have your mom and bridesmaids get dressed first! This way, they are already dressed and ready for the moment you step into your dress. You’ll want them to look finished since they will be in a lot of your images!
- Consider having an unplugged ceremony! With all of the social media/technology hype, your guests are bound to snap at least a few photos during your wedding ceremony. This is usually not a problem, until guests stand or step into the aisle for shots, especially during the bride walking down the aisle & first kiss. This has happened so many times, resulting in ruined moments and blocked shots. The best way to avoid this, is to encourage your guests to put their phones away during your ceremony – and let your professional photographer take care of the photos (or at the very least ask them to stay out of the aisles / use a kind statement at the beginning of your wedding program printout)! Consider purchasing an unplugged wedding sign.
- Time is everything. For those having an outdoor wedding, this one’s for you! The number one thing you want to remember when planning your ceremony is the time of day because it will affect the lighting of the images! Sure, I can fill shadows from harsh lighting with a flash, but you won’t have the same light & airy feel to your images that is desired. The best option is to plan your ceremony 2-3 hours prior to sunset, depending on how long your ceremony will be. We will want to shoot your family photos, bridal party, individuals, and bride & groom photos after your wedding ceremony, so a minimum of 1 hour of remaining light is necessary. Find out what time sunset will be for your wedding date here: (Rise app for iPhone/LunaSolCal app for android)
- Great lighting = great photos. The best lighting situation for a ceremony is for the bride, groom, and entire bridal party to be in the shade or to have the sun coming from behind them (from the guests perspective). Try to avoid partial shade/sun spots and direct sunlight so that everyone does not appear to be squinting. Your photographer should be able to handle any light situation; however, this is the most ideal.
- Indoor ceremony preparation. For those having an indoor wedding, allowing your photographer to “case the joint” the day / few days prior at the exact time the ceremony will be held will allow us to plan the best lighting preparation for your big day! It also allows us to visit with the individual (s) who will be leading the marriage ceremony. Knowing the “do’s and don’ts” in a specific marriage venue is very important.
On your wedding day, portrait time is typically broken up into three different parts: the family formals, bridal party & individual portraits, and bride & groom portraits. I will need a minimum of two hours (not including travel time) to complete all of these to my very best ability!
Portrait timelines will ALWAYS vary based on whether you have chosen to do a “first look” session & the time of day the wedding is to take place. Those details are always discussed and planned ahead of time with each couple weeks before your big day. Here are some general tips / guidelines for preparing for the portrait part of your day:
- Send a list of family formals to your photographer prior to the wedding day. SO, SO IMPORTANT! Since I’ll be taking a group photo of the extended family immediately following the wedding ceremony, please have a familial representative on each side (bride’s side and groom’s side) inform all family members to stay in their seats after the ceremony. Since I won’t know what “Uncle John” and “Aunt Susan” look like, your family ‘representatives’ will help gather people, keeping things as quick and smooth as possible! Family portraits should take 15-20+ minutes (if all goes accordingly). *Be sure that immediate family knows to stick around for these photos! The number one problem during family formals is having to send someone to hunt down a family member at cocktail hour. We want to get these done as quickly and efficiently as possible so your family can go party and enjoy themselves!
- Bridal party photos! It’s so important for my bridal party to take 5-10 minutes to take a drink of water (especially in hot months) and eat something prior to starting these portraits. Usually, there is so much going on that the bridal party forgets to stop and eat/drink – which can be disastrous! Encourage everybody to eat, drink, (reserving alcoholic beverages until after photos, please) to ensure that they are energized and relaxed for the photos! If everybody is content and in good spirits, this will be one of the most fun/memorable moments of your entire day 🙂 Bridal portraits should take between 30-45 minutes (not including travel time). TIP: Be sure that the flower girl(s) and ring bearer(s) are available for this portion of the day if you would like them to be included in these photos.
- Let your photographer lead with choosing locations! I can’t stress this one enough! So often, I have friends & family members suggest my clients into a specific location. Your photographer will need to choose locations that are suitable for lighting, which will depend on many variables such as time of day, weather, and overall brightness/cloudiness. Some locations may look beautiful and ideal for photos, but the lighting may be horrible and unflattering. Make sure you trust your photographer for this portion of the day, even if the location seems a little odd, try to trust!!
- Send the bridal party back to the venue. After we are done shooting with the entire bridal party, we will kindly dismiss them to ensure that we have some privacy; however, I may request that one bridesmaid sticks around for help with dress/veil for specific shots. This is probably the only opportunity you will have during the entire day/night to hug/kiss and enjoy each other for the first time on your wedding day – so try to relax and soak it all up! I will guide you through each pose, evoke laughter and seriousness, and make sure your hair, flowers, & dress are perfect in every single shot. These photos will most likely be your favorite photos from the entire wedding day! If you have chosen to do a “first look” session (which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND), we will do this portion of photos before the entire bridal party & immediate family photos.
- Be in the moment. Please don’t be the couple that talks about how the food tasted during your first dance! This is your moment to compliment and smile at each other for an entire song. You may kiss, you may make each other laugh, or you may want to say nothing at all and just enjoy the moment! Forget everyone is staring, just be in the moment. Talk about the food later 🙂
- Don’t keep your surprises from the photog. I have had some crazy and hilarious surprises happen during receptions such as first dances, tribute songs/raps, group dances, etc. These are some of the most memorable moments during the wedding day, and will keep guests talking and telling stories for years to come. Do your photographer a favor and let them know if/when a surprise is going to be happening, so that they can already be prepared with the appropriate settings and angle, that way you can remember it exactly the way it happened!
- Plan to be ‘stolen’ at some point. At some point in the evening, the light will be just right and I will request that your DJ stalls the guests for 20 minutes or so while I take my bride & groom outside for some ‘golden hour’ photos. These will probably be the most beautiful images of the entire day, so even if you have to pause your meal, or take a break from visiting guest tables, you will thank yourselves later for doing so!! Think of it as a nice little break to have a moment to yourselves!
- Dance, dance, dance! Listen, dancing is not everybody’s thing. Personally, it’s not one of my strengths. However, I will admit that usually 90% of people on the dance floor actually cannot dance!! The idea is to let loose, have fun, and make tons of captured memories with the people who mean the most to you! So forget trying to look cool, or like you belong in Dancing With The Stars, and get out there! You’ll regret it your whole life if you don’t dance on your wedding day!