Photography Tips & Advice for the Bride

Planning a wedding can be very exciting and nerve-wrecking at the same time. As a wedding photographer I have compiled a list with a few tips for the bride on her wedding day to insure that the bridal couple will get the most out of their wedding photography.

Gauteng Farm Wedding Photography © La Bella Photography

1. Choosing the photographer

When choosing your wedding photographer there are a lot of things to consider as with all the service providers for your wedding. Two things are very important when selecting your wedding photographer – Personality and Quality.

Personality is very important as the bridal couple needs to feel at ease with their photographer. Note the phrase “bridal couple” – it should not be the choice of the mother of the bride, or your uncle’s best friend – it is very important that the bridal couple feel comfortable and confident with their photographer and that their personalities match. If you choose a wedding photographer that you are not comfortable with, this will translate into your wedding photographs.

Quality should also be considered, so when consulting with your photographer give attention to the quality of their work. Ask to see an example of one complete wedding’s photographs because many wedding photographers will show you only their best pictures taken over the span of their careers. Remember that quality is better than quantity. It is no use selecting a photographer that promises to give you hundreds of photographs but not one of them is frame worthy. Fewer good shots are better than hundreds of mediocre images.

2. Location, Location, Location

When selecting the different locations that will form part of your wedding day, keep the following in mind:

Preparation Location / Dressing Room

Light is one of the most essential ingredients to taking good photographs, flashes and other artificial light can be used, but the best light is natural light. Both your wedding photographer and make-up artist need light, so when considering your preparation location note if the room has plenty of natural light seeping through the windows.

There is usually a lot of activity at both the bride and groom’s preparation venues, so ensure that the room you are selecting has enough space to accommodate all the various role players that will be involved, including the mother of the bride, bridesmaids, friends, family, hairstylist, photographer and make-up artist. It is hard for your wedding photographer to capture all the moments of preparation if there is no space.

Ceremony Location / Church

Once again light, light, light! If possible try and select a ceremony venue with plenty of light. In low light conditions your photographer might have to use flash which can be disturbing during proceedings, and this will implement the amount of photographs you get as the wedding photographer will take fewer shots. Do remember to ask your ceremony location if flash and photography is allowed as certain churches do not permit photography or light flashes.

Reception Location

At an evening reception, the bridal couple will most likely choose a lot of candle light and fairy lights with the house lights switched off to infuse the ambiance en romanticism of the evening. Have a balance of lighting: during speeches have the venue switch on the house lights so that your guests can clearly see people delivering speeches and the bridal table, consider doing this for all the key events of the evening.

Photography Session Locations

Most of the day your wedding photographer will take journalistic style photographs, photographing events as they happen but there are usually two very important photography sessions with the photographer that are more stylized, and they are the most important part of your wedding photography : the pre-ceremony session and post-ceremony session.

The pre-ceremony session is done before the service and takes at least 30 minutes. This can include pictures of the bride with her bridesmaids, the brides parents, flower-girl and bride-only pictures, and vice versa for the groom (if groom is covered by photographer). The pre-ceremony shoot is usually at the preparation venue, so ensure that your preparation location has enough space to shoot pre-ceremony shots and that these spaces are pleasing to the eye. A photograph taken in front of a pre-fabricated concrete wall with razor wiring does not exactly make a pretty picture.

The post-ceremony shoot is usually shot after the ceremony with a few quick group photographs, and then photographs with just the Bride and Groom. These photographs are the most important pictures of your wedding as these are the photographs that will be framed, enlarged and proudly exhibited for all to see.  Your wedding photographer can take a perfect shot, with perfect exposure and focus but if the background is unappealing there is nothing your photographer can do about it. If you ceremony or reception area does not offer many photo opportunities consider what is in close proximity… a neighbours green finger garden, a city park, a character filled old building. Mention these possibilities to your photographer on consultation.

In short, keep photography in mind when choosing all locations for our wedding day, giving particular attention to light, space and photo-opportunities / surroundings.


3. Planning and Timing:

Planning the events of the day and having a running order is often neglected by brides, but it is a very important part of the wedding day to ensure that everyone knows what is happening when and to keep everyone on time.

Often when things are running late, it is the wedding photography sessions that suffer as in the moment the bride, brides parents or wedding couple may decide that they do not want to keep their guests waiting and they cut their photography session short. It’s heart breaking for any photographer to know that a couple could have had double the amount of pictures for their wedding with just a little bit of planning.  Remember –  the more time you allow for your wedding photography, the more photographs you will receive in the end.

To keep on time, draw up a running order/schedule for your wedding, including what time each role player is expected to arrive, what time make–up and hair should start and what time it should finish, what time the bride should get dressed, what time the pre-ceremony photography starts…. Draw up a running order for the whole day including the Ceremony and Reception, when the first course is to be served, the first dance…. Once your running order is finalized, distribute this to all your service providers, and key people (i.e. bridesmaids). This will ensure that all parties are aware of what should be expected when. Put someone in charge of timing on your day, choose a reliable person that will keep check of proceedings for example a bride’s maid – doing this will give you the peace of mind that everyone knows what to do.

4. Communication

Do communicate with your photographer if there is any concerns on your part and also any changes in timing, or location. Consider if there is any family politics that the photographer should be aware of that will impact on your wedding photographs – for example divorced parents and discuss these with you photographer in advance.

Also share the important people and shots that you want your wedding photographer to capture, it is a good idea to draw up a shot list including what and who you think should be photographed on the day, and discuss this with your photographer.

5. Comfortable Clothing

The bride should wear comfortable, loose fitting clothes while in preparation, be sure that you wear a loose top or button-up / zipper top that is easy to get out of once your make-up and hair is done. If the wedding gown is strapless or shoulder bearing, consider removing your bra it least an hour before getting dress to eliminate any bra lines on your skin and shoulders. Consider two pairs of shoes for the day – your gorgeous ceremony and photogaphy shoes and a more comfortable pair for later in the evening – if you have a bushveld wedding consider bringing a pair of gumboots and socks along on your portraiture session.

The bridal gown should also be comfortable and well fitted, you will be spending approximately 12 hours in your dress and if you are uncomfortable it will show.

6. Posing on you wedding day

If you are feeling nervous to pose for photographs on your wedding day – you are not alone – every bridal couple I have are concerned about posing and have a fear of being in front of the camera, however if you choose a reputable photographer there is no need to feel any bit nervous about your photo session.   “Nose down”, “ Chin Up”, your photographer will direct you on your wedding day to capture you in the best way possible. There is good reason for your photographer giving you direction – the wedding photographer knows how to get the best shot and make you look your best. So play along with your photographer, if he or she asks you to do something, don’t hesitate, just do. Relax, have fun, and enjoy every moment. You might sometimes feel that you are doing something silly, something you won’t normally do, but there is reason in the madness as your wedding photographer is directing you to do these things for a reason. Not everyone is photographed by a professional photographer everyday, so make the most out of the time you have with your wedding photographer. Remember the hour you as a couple spend with your wedding photographer is the closest you as a couple will be to being alone on the day – so make good use of it and enjoy the session.

7. Make-up

Bridal make-up is very important, and hiring a professional make-up artist will make a big difference in your wedding photographs and your confidence level.

Commercial make-up or normal over the counter make-up do not last as long as professional make-up and you may find your make-up starts running before the ceremony even begins. Another problem with commercial make-up is that the ingredients used in the make-up does not reflect light as well as professional quality products. Therefore when you look at yourself in the mirror you may look perfect with normal make-up but once the photographer takes a photo the make-up looks flat, and your eye shadow, base and blusher seems to fade to nothing as they do not reflect the light particles correctly. Your wedding day is not the time to experiment with hair and make-up so be sure to do a trial well before your wedding, and feel open to ask them to change things the way you want to – you are paying for a service, your wedding day is not the day for you to feel akward to say to your make-up artist that you dont like your make up because you are to polite, or to walk around with a hairstyle you dont like because dont want to hurt your hairstylists feelings – they are professionals and would rather do something right and get a referral from a happy bride than a bride being unhappy and giving them bad reviews.

8. Best time to take photographs

The best time to take photographs is an hour before sunset, this is what we as photographers refer to as the “magic hour”. Try and plan your day that the photographer will have the opportunity to take your pictures during this time.

If however your ceremony starts late which means that it will be dark once the ceremony is over, consider taking your photographs of the bride and groom before the ceremony, although not every bride wants her groom to see her before the ceremony one should consider the implications of not having enough light to properly photograph you as a wedding couple.

9. Just let go!

The most important thing you can do to get good photographs is to relax, have fun and enjoy the day. Being stressed, poor planning and having an unrealistic expectation of the day will imprint a negative memory of your weddign day and will translate into your photographs.

Remember that even if you plan everything perfectly something could still go wrong, do not let this throw you off track. Your wedding day is about marrying the love of your life, so do not allow small, nitty gritty things to stand in the way having a memorable and enjoyable wedding day. No one will notice if the wedding favors did not arrive, or if the menu is printed in the wrong font, but everyone will notice if the bride is upset.

So, to recap: Choose a photographer YOU like, think of light and background when selecting locations / venues, plan and communicate the event’s of the day, allow enought time for photography, relax and remember to ENJOY EVERY SECOND of your big day!

Happy Wedding Planning!