What can I do to get the best wedding photographs?
It's a question that comes up time and again, so I thought I would throw my hat into the ring. First and foremost, if you're booking a wedding photographer like myself, who's best work comes from reportage and documentary shots, none of this should come across as prescriptive. Nevertheless, I think it's handy to have heard, since if any of it sticks, it could be a good thing. Do not, however, stress over it. I would rather you let the chips fall where they may, than stress about whether you're 'doing it right'.
1. Be present.
If there is one thing to take from this list, it's this. Just be into one another. You already are, otherwise you wouldn't be getting married. Just revel in it. When you take a stroll off, just the two of you - just focus on one another. You don't need to meditate and find inner sanctum (unless that's your thing) - but just try and clear your mind of all things.
There can be a lot to think about on your wedding day. But your photos will be so, so much better if you just switch off all that background noise. Unless you're eloping there can be precious little time when you're actually are alone together, so make the most of it.
2. Hang out in window light.
The best light is natural light. So, if you're near a window, things are going to look 100 times better than if you're getting ready at the back of the hotel room.
If you catch me turning some lights off, it's just because things invariably look better in natural light - and natural light alone. When there are two sources of light; natural and artificial, daylight and lightbulbs, we have colour casts - and that generally doesn't look great. I can turn them back on again, but if we can do without them, so much the better.
Not to get technical - but this isn't an issue in rooms where there is no other source of light. Obviously in the hotel bathroom, that mirror light will look brilliant (and is all we've got), so leave lights on where you have to, turn them off where you can use window light instead. It's the mixture of natural and artificial light that is the problem. If there's no natural light, there's no problem with that artificial light.
3. Use golden hour.
The only element of your day which is hugely dependent on light, is your photographs. Food doesn't taste any better at sunset, nor do the speeches sound any better. Yet golden hour (when the sun is low 60 - 90mins before sunset) is simply unbeatable in terms of gorgeous light, and that certainly does help with photos.
So, unless there's a great reason for it, try not to have something else major scheduled into your day for that sunset time. At least nothing that you can't slip away from for a few minutes - because it's a real shame to watch the sun go down during speeches. Venues rarely give a thought to sunset, but you can find out by just typing "when is sunset on <your wedding date> in <location>" into google, and it'll tell you.
Even at dusk - shortly after sunset, when everything's a bit magical and pink - who doesn't love that?. It honestly is utterly, 100%, totally the optimum time to take photos.
Sure, it may turn out to be cloudy in which case there won't be a sunset or golden hour as such - but plan as if there will be so you're not kicking yourself if there is. Plus, at that point of the day, you're often more relaxed, you've had a few drinks, it's a great time to take some photos for those reasons alone.
4. Don't be bossed around on the day.
Registrars, vicars, planners, venue managers, suppliers all do a lot of weddings, and inevitably have their own views on the way it's best done. A lot of that is just habit. There are very few things that have to be done a certain way. There is a declaration you both have to make, and you have to sign a certificate in front of two witnesses. There is nothing else that you have to do.
Nobody's marriage was rendered void because the groom stood to the left of the bride. You don't have to face the front when the other is walking in - even if the registrar tells you to. Turn around - take it all in. Have a kiss when they get to you if that's what you do. There should be nothing to stop you having the first dance outside if the weather's fine. Just because a venue's never done something before doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Or don't do a dance at all. My wife and I had 8 guests and were in bed by ten. It is: Your...Day....
I can't wait to shoot your wedding. And if I'm not currently photographing your wedding, hello - nice to see you here - you can check if I'm free here: