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Tips From a Photographer for the Perfect Wedding Day Photos

2011 April 10
by Chris & Katy

This week, we asked Bethany Cox, of Bethany and Dan Photography to write a guest post with their top tips for brides (and grooms) on how to make sure they get the best wedding photographs possible.  Bethany and Dan will be photographing our wedding and already took some gorgeous engagement photos (see the full album here) for the two of us back in January.


As a wedding photographer, I have been witness to many wonderful moments in wedding days from all kinds of couples, in a lot of places, with a variety of personal styles. It’s one of the most fun things about the job, being able to be an intimate part of so many couples most important day of their relationships.  All the planning can sometimes be overwhelming, and almost feel like it bogs you down! Here are a few observations that I have realized happen at weddings across the board that sometimes get overlooked.

Wedding dress on hanger

Make sure to have a pretty hanger to hang your dress on. You put a lot of thought into choosing the perfect dress for your day and I want to capture it beautifully in a photograph for you. It’s always a bummer when you have your lovely dress hanging on one of those cheap plastic ones. Typically, if you are getting ready in a hotel room, there are wood hangers in the closets, but you could even take it a step further and have one custom made for you. Lila Frances makes some adorable costume hangers!

The room that you get ready in will be in a multitude of photographs. It isn’t overkill to check things out beforehand and plan where you want to make this monumental moment happen. Make sure that you like the decor, color and light in the room. Sometimes simply moving from a kids Sunday school classroom to the pastor’s study makes a world of difference. It doesn’t hurt to tidy up a bit either.

getting ready before wedding

If you are going to a salon for hair and makeup, rather than having the artists meet you at your location, choose a salon that you appreciate the interior design in. This may sound obsessive but you will have these photos forever and a shallow depth of field in a photo can’t clean everything up.

Don’t over-do the make-up and hair. If you want to love your photos for decades, keep it timeless. Photoshop isn’t for updating style.

Rushing before the ceremony is not fun, ever. Budget your time wisely. If you want photos with you and your attendants, or you and your immediate family alone, you need to make sure you have set aside time to do this. Some of the best and most honest photos I’ve taken happened while the bride was simply waiting to the ceremony to begin for a little while. There was enough time for what was about to happen to sink in rather than being in the middle of the ceremony before things really hit you!

bride waiting for wedding ceremony

High noon=Harsh Light

The two hours leading to sunset and the two hours after sunrise= Gorgeous Light

Photos and formal portraits take longer than you think. No matter how hard your friends and family try to focus, they will be very excited, and I don’t mean about the photos. They will want to celebrate, just like you. There are two ways to improve the progression of this notoriously challenging task, for both the photographer and the family. First, make sure that everyone that you want to be in the photos, is aware that they should be there. Finding people takes time, and that’s time people aren’t able to enjoy the cocktail hour and reception. Secondly, have a well planned idea of what photos you want to take so that the photographer can go down the list, take care of business, and set everyone free. The faster the formal family photos happen, the faster you can do some romantic couple shots which means you more TIME for the couple shoot overall.

formal wedding photo

Make sure there is plenty of time in the cocktail hour for everything to be taken care of photographically and for you to arrive at the reception on time, without having to rush your photos.  You should budget at least an hour, if not an hour and a half for this. Sometimes couples opt to be whisked away immediately for a couple shot session, and then return for formal family photos after about 45 minutes. Other times, couples opt for a “Day After Session” where they meet with the photographer the following day, get back into their wedding attire and “look” and spend three relaxed hours on amazing photos: think jump-into-the-ocean-in-your-dress kind of photos! No matter what you choose to do, make sure that you have time allotted for formal family photos and couple shots.. and more time than you think.

wedding couple walking

Remember, this day goes by fast no matter what. Decide what is important for you and make sure that you have budgeted your timeline around those things. It’s your day and you can choose what happens.

Having a cute umbrella or parasol on hand wouldn’t hurt either, just in case.

wedding umbrellas

Related posts:

Honeymoon Planning
Awesome, Free Wedding Planning Spreadsheets by Google
Our How-To Guide for DIY Save the Dates
32 Responses
  1. May 12, 2011

    Great tips!! I am a big fan of the hanger comment!

    • May 13, 2011

      I thought so, too! I’ve been on the lookout for the perfect hanger ever since I read it!

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