Written by Stephanie Seija | Photography by Meagan Lindsey Photography
When you hire a photographer for your wedding, you’re entrusting them with one of the most important aspects of your big day. Memories fade but photographs last forever! Professional photographers are talented artists and they know how to make you look your best for your engagement shoot and your wedding day. But there are also steps you can take to set your photographer up for success. With a little bit of planning, you can make decisions that will elevate your photos and create an inspiring scene for your photographer to capture. Keep reading for some practical tips that will take your wedding photographs from bland to beautiful.
Even if you plan ahead and account for last minute changes, everything will take longer than you think on your big day. It’s important that you build additional time into your wedding day timeline so that you are prepared for any delays, setbacks or extra shots you might want. Ask your photographer if they have suggestions for a specific time of day to take certain photos so you can prepare a photography-friendly wedding day timeline.
TIPS FOR GETTING READY
Are you starting your big day by getting ready with your wedding party? If you want to get some shots of this exciting time with your besties, you should plan about 30-45 minutes for photos at the end of your getting ready time. This is the perfect opportunity for your photographer to use that natural morning light streaming into the window for capturing detail shots of your dress and jewelry, plus it will give you the chance to pose for some group shots. Want an insider’s tip? Wait until you’re actually finished getting your hair and makeup done to take most of those primping photos. It may seem a little fake, but do you really want a photo with your face only half made up, or your hair lopsided and only partially in an updo? Save a few key steps to complete while taking photos, like adding one last decorative hairpin or applying a final dusting of powder or lipstick.
Be mindful of any items that might create an eyesore in photos. Whether you’re getting ready in your home or in a packed hotel room, designate a corner where all your girls can stash their belongings. Nothing cheapens a photo like several overnight bags overflowing with brightly colored unmentionables! Pick a spot that will be out of the photographer’s line of sight and hide everybody’s personal belongings. That way your favorite candid shot won’t be ruined by random clutter.
The 30-45 minute window right before the sun sets is undeniably the best time to capture magical photos. The sun gives off its warmest hues and lights up everything in sight with a glittery soft light. No matter what time of day you’re holding your ceremony and reception, be sure to talk with your photographer about how you will take advantage of this short timeframe to capture the most important photos. Couples often choose to use this time to take their “couple” portraits, the more intimate photos of you two looking adoringly at one another. Golden hour is also the ideal time to schedule an engagement shoot. Take note of a tricky timeframe: noon to 2 p.m. has the brightest sunlight and, therefore, creates the harshest shadows and squintiest faces. Avoid taking outdoor photos at this time if possible!
Once your day begins, it doesn’t stop! You’ll be surrounded by people and hurrying from place to place, so be intentional about grabbing your photographer to sneak away for some quick, private sessions throughout your day. Would you like to see your reception venue set up before guests arrive? Sneak in with your partner and your photographer before they open the room to your guests. You’ll get some genuine shots of your reaction to the space, and you can even take a practice twirl on the dance floor! Once the night is over, you’ll be thankful to have some photographic evidence of your perfect venue, and your photographer will love that you planned a time for them to capture all the beautiful reception details.
Another time to sneak away for a photo op is at the end of the night, either when you want a break from dancing or after your guests have gone home. Go outside and create a little getaway under the stars. Soft lantern or street lamp lighting is romantic, and gives you and your partner much- needed alone time to take in the day. Since the big day is complete and the stress is over, these photos can be some of the most genuine and intimate you’ll capture.
HASSLE-FREE GROUP SHOTS
While wedding photos can vary dramatically from wedding to wedding, one common element is the group shot. Why not step it up and try something unconventional? Whether this is your classic family portrait, your wedding party session or groups of friends during the reception, here are some tactics you can use to breathe new life into your group photos for greater visual impact.
Posing: Most people are not natural models, and it can take a little bit of coaxing to get your family or wedding party out of their shells and looking comfortable. Start putting people at ease by playing music from someone’s phone to get everybody moving, smiling and laughing. Photos can be very flattering when the subjects are in motion — walking towards the camera, laughing while gathered close together or dancing as a group. For wedding parties, experiment with poses beyond the straight line, like circles and semicircles, clusters of small groups spread out, differing levels (some sitting and some standing) or turning your back to the camera to catch those special back-of-the-dress details. In the end, trust your photographer. They’ve shot hundreds of weddings and know how to get the best angles from everyone.
Reception Groups: Group photos aren’t over once you’ve taken the family and wedding party shots. How about taking one giant group photo at your reception, or capturing other large specific group photos? From college friends and childhood classmates to work buddies and extended family members, these group shots will give you priceless memories to cherish forever. What could be better than commemorating this moment in time with all of the people who love you most and came to celebrate your union?
The logistics of that many people in one photo can get tricky; so, you should talk to your photographer first if this is something you’d like to try. They may need to bring a special wide-angle lens to make it work, or you’ll have to think creatively about your space. Is there a large staircase you can pose people on strategically? Can your photographer peer out a window onto a wide lawn filled with people? Have your DJ help facilitate this group photo process so it goes as quickly as possible with the least amount of fuss.
GET THE PICTURE
The city of Chicago is one of the most beautiful places to get married. Your photographer can create jaw-dropping imagery with the city’s gorgeous scenery and backgrounds. And as much as we love the classic wedding day photos, you will also want to capture those unique settings that speak to you and your partner’s one-of-a-kind love. You and your photographer can create the perfect moment that will have your Instagram followers double-tapping every time.
Nature: Chicago may not be known for its beautiful nature-scapes, but hidden around our city are some extraordinary and lovely opportunities to incorporate Mother Nature. For instance, finding a hidden gem like Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary can transport you from Chicago’s busy streets to lush greenery and wildlife in the blink of an eye, all while keeping the Chicago skyline in the background. If you and your partner have a special connection to an outdoor location, make sure you snap a picture as a keepsake at that location. Not only does it make a great memory, but it can also help diversify the kinds of photos you decide to display in your album.
Waterfront: Lake Michigan creates a beautiful backdrop for any special pictures you have in mind for your big day. But don’t forget places like the Chicago River, with its many bridges, creating a wonderful opportunity to show off not only Chicago’s picturesque waterfronts, but also its gorgeous architecture within the same photograph. With so many access points throughout the city for these two bodies of water, it can seem like your pictures were worlds apart even though they were all within a few miles of each other.
Artistic: While out and about in the city of Chicago, it’s hard to miss the colorful street art on bridges, stairwells and buildings. With so many pieces of unparalleled local street art on display, there’s sure to be a mural for every emotion and every couple! A wall covered in bright-colored graffiti is a great photo spot. A good place to start is with Logan Square’s “Greetings from Chicago” mural. Wall murals, along with the many interesting sculptures throughout the city, make it a breeze to add an artistic flair to your wedding photography. The infusion of color and excitement are sure to make photos that will be unique and totally original. Not only will they be cherished but they will also reflect your personality as a couple.
Industrial: Adding an industrial ambiance to your pictures is among the easiest on this list. With so many iconic locations, such as right outside the Wrigley building, you can capture Chicago’s brilliant architecture while incorporating the Chicago River into the background. But if you are looking for something more rough-hewn, try using one of the many restored warehouses that are scattered throughout the city or areas below Chicago’s iconic L tracks.
The background of your photos will be just as noticeable as the people in the foreground! Your photographer will naturally scope out the best settings at your venue, but you can help them by thinking this through ahead of time and creating a dramatic backdrop that will look stunning in photos.
Specialty walls and installations: Consider asking your floral designer to create a large, flat structure with a stand that can serve as a background wall, and cover it with floral and greenery with a customized neon sign. You can use this “wall” behind the head table (for all those teary-eyed toast reaction shots) or as a photo booth background for all of your guests. Balloon installations are no longer cheesy props you see at a kid’s birthday. Elaborate and elegant arches mixed with florals can make a statement. You can even repurpose a floral ceremony arch as a reception photo op spot!
Lighting: This can’t be overstated — the right lighting can make or break your wedding photographs! In general, the greater the number of soft lighting sources, the better. When your background is dark, you might be washed out or details will be lost. Think about renting uplighting from your venue or a lighting designer.
Uplighting comes in a variety of colors and can feature patterns or textures (called a “gobo”) meant to illuminate the walls, floors and specific focal points. Remember that warm colors like pink, purple and orange tend to flatter most skin tones, and you can even get custom lighting designs like a monogram or your last name that you can shine onto a dance floor or prominent wall for a personalized experience.
There are plenty of lighting options that go beyond being simply functional — they are beautiful to look at and they’re even prettier in photos! Have you seen how eye-catching string lights can be when they’re draped across the top of an open outdoor space? What about rustic lanterns on tables or hanging from trees, or candles of different heights scattered around in ornate candelabras? String lights can also create a tented ceiling structure when draped from a central pole or hung from above, and look especially romantic when they glow from behind sheer fabric. Before you plan on lighting hundreds of candles, remember to check with your venue to see if they allow open flames. There are plenty of non-flame options that look real and create a softly-lit mood.
ACCESSORIES TO THE RESCUE
A few props and accessories go a long way in making your photos unique and special! Toss items are not limited to your ceremony exit — consider bringing items like confetti or even a champagne bottle to pop for other occasions, like pictures with your squad or group shots with your family. You could also bring along a few signs to hold in photos, like “Just Married,” your new last name or “Thank You” to be featured on your thank-you notes later on. If you’re getting married in the winter, think about a glamorous wrap or silk scarf to keep you warm and add some texture for snow-filled outdoor photos. Want one of those beautifully curated invitation suite photos? Remember to bring decorative accessories to style this look, from coordinating ribbons to a fancy ring box and loose flower petals.
The furniture in your photos shouldn’t be an afterthought. While you can find something to sit on anywhere, you can get an elevated look in photos by bringing along or renting a vintage velvet chair or chaise lounge. A coordinating blanket is also a lifesaver, especially for engagement shoots. You and your partner can snuggle together, wrapped up in it, or you can put it on the ground so you won’t get dirty for any seated poses. And don’t forget about a specialty hanger for those dress shots — there are a lot of cute options for personalized hangers that will match the style of your gown and really pump up your photos.
MORE PHOTO OPS
After the big day, many of our experts hear that a couple wishes they would have added on additional photography services. These services often include adding a few hours to their wedding photographer’s contract to have them capture the sweet details and moments of a wedding shower, the excitement and toasts of a rehearsal dinner or the relaxed charm of a post-wedding brunch. These are more relaxed, intimate moments of your wedding weekend that you will appreciate having photos of after all the excitement passes.
In addition to these extra wedding events, consider additional photographic sessions. If you’re looking for a more sensual and playful option, photographers are seeing an increase in demand for boudoir photoshoots. This is perfect for the bride who wants to gift her partner with a photobook of steamy images on their wedding day. With a “trash the dress” session, photographers usually work with brides to choose an environment that starkly contrasts with the elegance of a wedding dress. These photos are generally dramatic and artistic, giving you a unique way to memorialize your fabulous wedding gown.
Don’t overlook your pets when it comes to your big day. Whether in the engagement shoot, or on the wedding day, be sure to include your furry friends in your photos and you’ll always look back with fondness on your family photo. The best way to elevate your wedding photos and engagement shoot is to think ahead and then let your true personality shine. Remember to relax and enjoy the day. Your favorite photos will most likely be the ones capturing the candid moments between you and all your loved ones.
TIPS AND TRICKS
Wedding photographers have truly seen it all — here are a few additional tips and tricks to make sure you are picture- perfect when it comes to your big day.
- Make sure someone has white chalk on hand in case you get any unfortunate stains on a white dress or shirt.
- Avoid any lotions or makeup with shimmer as they can reflect light and create an undesirable effect in your photos.
- Start your skincare routine and any skincare procedures early! Photographers can retouch photos to a certain extent, but no one can artificially create the gorgeous glow of healthy skin.
- And last, but certainly not least, make sure you talk with your photographer about any questions or concerns you have before your big day. Your photographer wants to make sure the final photos are what you expect, so don’t assume he or she knows what you want without specifically communicating about it. Make sure they have your wish list of not-to-be-missed photo ops, for memories you’ll cherish forever.
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