Getting Amazing Wedding Photos or How Not to Go Crazy While Still Getting Shots You’ll Love

I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. I know – in today’s DIY world, where we try to make everything look gorgeous using only items found in a dumpster, .10 cents worth of string, and some glitter glue that’s an odd thing to say, but it’s true. Why do I hate Pinterest? Because it gives my brides an unrealistic expectation of what they should expect from their wedding photos.

Before you start saying that the only reason I can’t get those special shots is because I’m a horrible photographer, allow me to explain.

Bride A contacts me and is very excited about her wedding. She has a special board on Pinterest and would like to know if I’d like to see it. “Absolutely,” I reply, “send me the link!” I peruse all her photos and contact her back. “Those look great – I think I have a definite idea of the style of photos you’re looking for and we should be able to make that happen!.”

“No,” Bride A responds, “you don’t understand. I don’t want that style of photos, I want that photo, and that one, and that one, and that one – I want photos that are identical to those.”

Potential problem #1: Included in those “must-have” photo is a jumping shot. I line up the bridesmaids and groomsmen and get everything ready when three of the five bridesmaids absolutely refuse to jump. Their refusal irritates the bride which, in turn, makes the bridesmaids grumpy which makes the mood of the wedding start to plummet rapidly.

Potential problem #2: The bride wants 30 different setups – but the bridesmaids are tired and their feet hurt and the groomsmen just want to get to the beer.

And the list of potential problems with this type of situation can go on and on and on. Now I’m not saying that it’s not possible to get amazing wedding photos – it absolutely is! There are, however, a few tips that you should definitely keep in mind both when you’re hiring a photographer, and when you’re thinking about your special day.

If you can work with your photographer you can get fantastic wedding photos that you will love!

If you can work with your photographer you can get fantastic wedding photos that you will love!

Tip #1: Make a List, Don’t Download It

I always request that my brides send me a list of formal wedding photos that they would like that include family members – including the family member’s name. It would like, for example, something like this:

Bride & Mom (Penny)
Bride & Grandmother (Janice) & Mom (Penny)

This list allows me to make sure that I’m getting all of those important family formal photos without having to stress the bride out on her wedding day. Unfortunately far too often brides do not make their own list but rather go online to one of the zillion wedding websites there is and download one of those “must-have” wedding shot lists. DO NOT DO THAT. It makes sense for the photographer to have a list of the family formal shots you want, it does not make sense to dictate your photographer’s every single shot, and that all comes down to trusting your photographer…

IMG_8306

Beautiful family photos aren’t always ones where everyone looks directly at the photographer!

Tip #2: Hire the Right Photographer

Today almost everyone has a DSLR camera, and when you couple that with websites like Pinterest and the millions of tutorials online, it’s no wonder that so many beginner photographers are advertising their photographic services so cheaply on Craigslist. I always have, and always will, supported anyone who has a passion for photography, but it’s vital to remember that you only get one shot to get your wedding photos. You can’t thoroughly clean the dress, have your hair and makeup redone for the whole wedding party, and re-rent all of the tuxes, ect, easily. And even if you did, the true emotion of the day would be absent from the makeup photos. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that you hire the right photographer from the get-go.

The “right” photographer doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive, or the most popular in your area – it means the photographer who consistently produces the wedding photos that you love. It’s a photographer that you can work with and that you can trust to get the photos that you want to have on your special day. That’s why wedding experts always recommend having a sit-down (or, at the very least, a long phone conversation) with your wedding photographer. If you hire a wedding photographer that you can trust you’ll find that a huge amount of the stress you have regarding your wedding photos disappears.

Also: don’t set your ideas in stone. Having a great idea is perfect – being married to it isn’t. Weddings are long, hectic, emotion-filled days and if you have your ideas set in stone you will not only stress out yourself and your photographer, you may miss out on a perfect shot that you didn’t even know existed!

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I didn’t even know about this bench until we were doing formal shots – my assistant caught it first! We ushered the bride and groom to the spot and took what has become one of my favorite “formal” shots yet.

Tip #3: Have Realistic Expectations

You want your wedding day to be absolutely amazing and perfect – but let’s face it: it’s inevitable that something will go wrong. I’ve shot dozens of weddings and not one of them has gone off absolutely perfectly. Usually the thing that goes wrong is something small – and if it’s just something little that goes wrong you have nothing to worry about! But sometimes those little hitches cause a photographer to have to miss a photo that their bride wanted.

Recently I shot a wedding for a couple who had a young child. The young child was stressing out simply because they weren’t sure what was going on. When you add on the fact that the hairdresser didn’t show, the babysitters weren’t there yet, and the young child was starting to bawl and fight about getting into their wedding attire, you have one stressed out bride. The bride had really wanted a shot of her young child looking at her wedding dress (she’d seen it on Pinterest). The bridesmaids immediately realized that the bride’s sanity was much more important than that shot, rounded up someone to watch the little one, and got the child out of the house so that they could calm the bride down and focus on getting her ready for her wedding.

So we missed out on one potentially cute shot. But we gained the sanity of the bride as well as true, happy smiles during the ceremony and after. If the little one had stayed and we had fought for the shot it’s very likely that the faces during the wedding would have been strained smiles, not lovey-dovey smiles. So strive for amazing, but have realistic expectations and make sure that you focus on what is truly important on your wedding day: celebrating the day in the way that you have always dreamed!

This shot wasn't set up in any way (aside from me telling the kiddos to go look at the fish in the water) but because I was ready to go, it came out too cute!!

This shot wasn’t set up in any way (aside from me telling the kiddos to go look at the fish in the water) but because I was ready to go, it came out too cute!!

Tip #4: The Best Moments Aren’t Set Up

There are definitely some formal shots that can be a blast to set up, but from my experience the best, most loved photos are the ones that aren’t set up! Candid shots at weddings tend to be some of the most treasured, which is why it’s important to get a photographer who not only knows how to set up the formal shots that you like, but one who also knows how to capture those sweet candid moments that will remain treasured photos for forever as well.

Completely not set up but how freaking cute is this shot?!

Completely not set up but how freaking cute is this shot?!

Tip #5: Even Mistakes are Memories

I recently shot a small wedding during which it seemed like everything was going wrong. The original minister was not going to be able to do the ceremony, the church was locked when the wedding party got there – you name it, it went wrong. The bride was definitely stressing about it, but I told her to stop and breathe.

“These are the things that you’ll always remember,” I said, “little things like this ensures that you will never forget your wedding day!”

She smiled at that but it was during the ceremony when I knew that she truly got the message. The minister asked for the rings and she burst out laughing. The wedding rings were downstairs where the bride had gotten ready!

“Well,” she said, “there’s another memory!” Everyone laughed, we quickly retrieved the rings, and the rest of the wedding went beautifully.

Learn to embrace the mistakes that happen during your wedding day. The most important thing to remember is that you are getting married to the person who is your other half, and as long as you hire a wedding photographer who is able to go with the flow, and who may even take shots of the mess ups to preserve the memories, things will be great!

The bride and groom's daughter decided that she needed to be the center of attention during the ceremony!!

The bride and groom’s daughter decided that she needed to be the center of attention during the ceremony!!

Perfection is Not Perfect

The big problem I see today is that wedding websites, and sites like Pinterest, put SO much stress on a bride to make sure that her wedding is perfect. She has unrealistic expectations and high hopes that no amateur photographer can even hope to match. She then gets extremely upset when things don’t go perfect. Say it with me: perfection is not perfect! Don’t look at those “picture perfect” weddings and stress yourself out trying to make sure that your wedding is as perfect. Those “perfect” wedding photos you see? Chances are huge that events leading up to the photo, and even during the photo, definitely were not perfect. Don’t assume that just because you see a perfect moment snapped in time that everything went smoothly – it likely didn’t.

I hate seeing brides so stressed! EVERY BRIDE IS GORGEOUS! EVERY GROOM IS HANDSOME! EVERY WEDDING IS PERFECT, even if it’s not that story-book wedding that you always assumed it would be. One person’s perfect is very different from another person’s perfect, so make sure, on your wedding day, that you focus on making sure that your wedding celebrates what is important to you: friends, family, and, of course, love!

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2 thoughts on “Getting Amazing Wedding Photos or How Not to Go Crazy While Still Getting Shots You’ll Love

  1. This is great advice to all brides-to-be or anyone who is looking for that “perfect” photo, perfection is highly over rated as there is no such thing as perfect. Being comfortable and able to adapt easily to the situation at hand is what will make the photo session “perfect” as we know things do and will go wrong especially when there is a set-in-stone way of wanting things done. Photos are about making memories and not being perfect because when all is said and done the photos will most likely be “perfect.”

    • Thanks Veronica! I definitely hold with the ideal that photos are about making memories, and my biggest wish is just that the bride and groom are able to have a fantastically im-perfect perfect day 😀

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