Tips for Successful Images

Having been in the business of shooting weddings for several years now, I’ve seen a lot. I always tell brides that they have the ability to call on me for any aspect of planning — especially when it comes to timing and itinerary — and I really mean it. There’s a lot that goes into a wedding and a lot of tips that it’s good to know about when you’re planning your wedding photography. There are lots of posts out there like this, some more spot on than others, but I wanted to tailor this to me a little bit. While I take what I do very seriously, I don’t take myself that seriously. So here’s the inside scoop:


I wish I could stress this more. I think I say this at every consult, but it often seems to be forgotten when the actual timeline is planned. Here’s the deal: on your wedding day, things are not going to always run completely on schedule. We’ll do our best to keep you on schedule, but it doesn’t always work that way. Common offenders? Makeup and hair can run longer than anticipated. One of the groomsmen may wander off to grab a drink during cocktail hour leaving everyone waiting on him. Herding family for pictures may be like herding cats, especially if there’s a lot of them. And there are always, I repeat, ALWAYS things that come up that you don’t anticipate. These have all happened at weddings I’ve shot:

The groom cut his finger during the first look and got blood on the bride’s dress.

One of the bridesmaid’s zippers broke while she was getting dressed.

The florist forgot that the wedding was that day and barely got them the flowers on time.

Accidents on the beltway caused all the wedding guests to be a half hour late.

The groom’s mom fell down a flight of stairs.

The father’s toast lasted for about twenty minutes.

The bride fell on the dance floor and sprained her wrist…(oh wait, that was me at my wedding!).

Don’t panic. It’s okay. Things happen. It really won’t ruin your wedding — none of the things I mentioned above did, and those are just a few things I remembered off the top of my head. Those weddings were all happy and wonderful. But, there is something that you can do to try to make incidents that arise a little less stressful: build lots of margin into your wedding day. With margin, you get the best of both worlds. If something comes up, you have enough time built in to accommodate the loss of time to an incident. If nothing ends up happening and your day runs perfectly and smoothly, you have time to spare and enjoy, catch your breath, actually hang out with your friends and family, and maybe have a sip of champagne, too.

I recommend adding about 15 minutes to each time block, just to give yourself a little bit of breath. If you need more detailed advice, I’m happy to help you figure it out.

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I know budget constraints can have a big impact on whether or not you choose to hire a professional or do it yourself. Most of my brides go ahead and at least have their hair done, but I still run into a few who do their makeup themselves or have a friend do it. Unless your friend or you are really (like REALLY) good at makeup, your wedding day photos aren’t the day to experiment. And while “less is more” might be your general philosophy (I’m pretty sure most makeup artists hear the phrase “I want my makeup to look natural,” more than anything else), a “natural” look doesn’t necessarily mean “barely any makeup”.  Think about it this way: professional photo shoots always, ALWAYS involve makeup artists. Television and film stars start their days out with the makeup department.  There’s a reason for that. storyboard005


Pinterest junkies, I’m talking to you. Pinterest is a great tool — very useful for organizing ideas, inspiration, color palettes,  and decor. But there’s also a reason why there are a whole bunch of websites devoted to Pinterest “Fails”. (If you haven’t seen them, google it. It’s actually pretty darned funny.) The thing is, though, there are some things that magazines and staged shoots and wedding blogs don’t tell you about the pictures. For example, they don’t tell you that while you may love the look of creamy, soft, and golden backlit images, you can’t get those type of images unless it’s a little bit before sunset. So, if you’re planning on doing the bulk of your pictures at two in the afternoon, that lighting just isn’t going to be available to you.

They also don’t tell you that all poses don’t work for all people. My husband is almost six two. I’m five one. While I’d love to be able to put my arms around his neck in a natural way, it’s just not going to happen unless he’s leaning down or I’m standing on something. Simple ergonomics.

While I’m happy to look at your Pinterest pins and find out what inspires you and what types of shots you’d like to have, keep in mind that not every shot is going to be exactly as you pinned it. I’ll do my best to give you everything you’d like, but we might have to get creative with some things. It’s ok: a little creativity is a good thing.

liquor Guys do best with photos when they have a drink to take the edge off. They are next to impossible to photograph when they are hammered. I’m serious about this. There is nothing more difficult than trying to wrangle a group of drunk guys for pictures. And while drunk girls are difficult to pose (more because they don’t seem to get the instructions I give them at that point), drunk guys can be obstinate, unfunny, and downright infuriating. Now, if it’s your wedding day and this is the case, you won’t know that I’m mad because I can still keep a smile on my face while barking out orders. However, it really is a tough job to do if your groomsmen are being uncooperative. Make it clear that the getting smashed part should wait until after pictures, even if it means being a little bit of a bride or groomzilla. Honestly, this goes for all members of the bridal party, it just happens less with the ladies.


slow down

Our cameras aren’t that fast. Okay, so this sounds crazy to say. I mean, actually, our cameras are incredibly fast. They can capture amazing action shots. They shoot between 6 to 11 frames per second. That’s really, really fast.

That’s not the problem. The problem is anticipation. I guess it’s better to say that WE’RE not that fast. So, if we’re adjusting focus or zooming or something and your bridesmaids are booking it down the aisle (which happens a lot — ladies why are you in such a hurry?!), we have less of a chance of getting a great shot of them. The same goes for the first kiss and other cute moments like dips in dances. Or, if I ask you to kiss while doing posed shots, give me a chance to frame the shot before pulling away. We’re really doing our best to get it all…but if you really want it on camera, our best advice is to SLOW DOWN.


There are two main places where this is a chronic problem: bridesmaids walking down the aisle and brides getting their dresses on. You don’t know HOW many times bridesmaids walk down the aisle staring at their feet with a frown on their face. You also don’t know how many getting ready images I have of the bride with a miserable look on her face. SMILE ladies. Like seriously. You want happy-looking wedding day pictures? Then smile, darn ya, smile!

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I understand that not all people want an engagement session. I also understand that not all people like getting their picture taken. But if you ask me about the pros and cons of an engagement session, I have a bunch of pros and no cons. This isn’t a sales pitch: I actually don’t make a lot off of engagement sessions. There is a huge time investment on my part for them since they tend to be about two (sometimes three) hours long and involve travel. Then, I take these sessions home and spend hours editing, fine-tuning, and blogging the pictures. I give everyone the complete, edited shoot, allow you to go elsewhere for prints and albums and call it a day. So it’s really not about money here for me.

When I say that engagement shoots are helpful, I honestly mean it. Guys tend to be pretty nervous about pictures/don’t like getting their pictures taken. This actually does a lot to alleviate some of those anxieties. I can’t tell you the number of times guys have told me how much they enjoyed the shoot and how it helped them know what to expect. (And this goes for some girls, too!) It also gives us a chance to work together before the wedding day. This helps me to get to know you as a couple, to see if there are any problem areas with posing (like height issues), helps me to get to know your best angles, and establishes a rapport between us. It’s the best pre-wedding picture prep I can recommend.

photo ops

I can still remember it like it was yesterday: it was quite literally one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen. We were on the right side of the Bay Bridge to get a perfect shot….and the groom didn’t want to do any more pictures. Instead of having an awesome sunset shot, the image of that sunset resides in one place alone: my memory.

Listen, I really do believe it is your wedding day to enjoy, not my photo shoot. And I’m not going to force you to do any pictures that you don’t want to do. But if I come up to you to suggest you take advantage of a gorgeous opportunity, it’s for a reason. I promise to make it quick. I just want you to have a spectacular shot, that’s all.

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