Wedding Planning: 10 Photography Tips for Couples
Planning a wedding is not a simple task! There are an abundance of choices and options for couples to make, from choosing a venue, to creating your guest list, selecting colors, decorating, floral, catering, etc. On top of it all, choosing a photographer to capture your wedding day — and your vision — is paramount to ensuring you can remember your wedding day through photos. While you can trust the photographer you hire to ensure your day is well documented, here are a few tips to help you get started in your planning.
Wedding Planning Photo Tip 1: On Choosing a Photographer
Find a photographer with a style you like. You should feel drawn to their composition, the way couples are posed (or not posed, if you prefer natural-looking images), all the way to their editing style. But, beyond style, make sure you also can connect with them on a personal level. Your photographer will be with you for a good portion of your wedding day. Choosing someone with whom you share a mutual interpersonal connection and can meet you at your vision, makes the process fun!
Wedding Planning Photo Tip 2: A Great Photo Schedule = A Great Experience
A well-balanced photography schedule is key to ensuring you have enough time for the photos on your shot list. Too much time, and you may feel like there’s too much waiting around. Not enough time, and you might end up feeling rushed, or not get everything on the list within the designated time frame.
I like to plan one-on-one with all of my couples to create a custom schedule. More often than not, when we have our first conversation, couples will know the high-level plan, and we use our time to detail a photography schedule to fit their vision.
You can get started on a schedule on your own! As a starting point, I recommend planning your day in 45-60 minute blocks — one for each type of portrait set you’d like. This most often includes couples portraits, wedding party portraits, and your family portraits. Start at your ceremony time, and work backwards and forwards around the schedule, based on the specific circumstances for your day (first look or no first look, travel times, location(s), family photos before/after the ceremony, etc.).
Wedding Planning Photo Tip 3: Do We Need a Second Photographer?
The answer is: it depends.
Choosing to add a second photographer is great if you’re looking for well-rounded wedding day coverage. A second’s goal is to capture all the alternate angles to your important wedding day moments, as well as helping the lead photographer with the smaller tasks (checking off the family photo shot list, capturing small details, and behind-the-scenes moments, etc.). Sometimes leads and seconds will also separate for wedding party photos – especially if you have a large group of friends standing with you on your wedding day. If you have separate venues, the second photographer may travel ahead to the reception to capture photos of your venue before guests arrive, while you and the lead photographer are finishing up the post-ceremony schedule.
If everything takes place at one venue, you have a small guest count, or you have a specific budget, you’ll still be happy with single-photographer coverage. Photographers who shoot solo will still get as many alternate angles and shots of your guests and details, in addition to capturing your portraits and all the most important moments.
About 50% of my couples choose to add a second photographer to their wedding coverage.
Wedding Planning Photo Tip 4: Do We Need an Engagement Session?
Most couples use engagement sessions for save the date announcements and invitations, as well as for their wedding day guest book. It can be fun to have professional portraits for your home and social media too!
Engagement sessions also provide the perfect opportunity for your photographer to get to know you and your partner through the lens of their camera. Through your time together, your photographer will learn how comfortable you are (or aren’t) being photographed, and can take that experience and apply it to their approach on your wedding day. Likewise, you can use the session to give your photographer feedback too.
That said, in my experience, engagement photos with your wedding photographer aren’t always necessary. Perhaps you have a friend or family member who has offered to take your engagement photos as a gift. Or, maybe you just don’t think they’re that important. That’s okay too! I’ve worked with hundreds of couples, and can tell within the first 3-5 minutes of our session how much (or how little) direction I need to provide couples.
Wedding Planning Photo Tip 5: Put Together A Details Kit!
Photography coverage often starts with getting ready moments — but that time is also the best time of day to get your details photographed. If your photographer will be with you while getting ready, put together a kit for all the detailed shots. Details often include wedding rings, shoes, bouquet/floral, jewelry, jackets and ties, wedding dresses, and invitation packages.
Wedding Planning Photo Tip 6: Pre- and Post-Ceremony Couples Portraits
If you’re planning a first look and intend to get all photos finished before your ceremony, plan for a small block of time after your ceremony for photos too. First, you can’t beat golden hour lighting. Second, you and your partner will be more relaxed after you’ve said your vows — those feelings show in your photos!
Wedding Planning Photo Tip 7: That Family Photo List
Family photos are often one of the most important sets of images your photographer will capture. Making a list ensures everyone is included and nothing is forgotten.
I create family photo lists for couples who book with me, but you can create your own! Whether you create the list, or your photographer makes it with you, I’ve found there are two keys to a great family shot list: a guide of who’s who, and a list that’s arranged in consecutive order. Providing your photographer a list of names will help them understand who is in your family (first names without context can create confusion). Creating the list to be photographed in a consecutive order ensures people aren’t constantly reshuffling from photo to photo.
As an example, here’s a bride’s family and her family shot list:
- Sarah & Daniel = Bride & Groom
- Mary & James = Bride’s Parents
- Samantha & Mark + Jacob, Liesel = Bride’s Sister & Husband + Son, Daughter
__ Sarah, Mary (Mom)
__ Sarah, Mary, James
__ Sarah, James
__ Sarah & Daniel, Mary & James
__ Sarah & Daniel, Mary & James, Samantha & Mark + Jacob, Liesel
__ Sarah & Daniel, Samantha & Mark + Jacob, Liesel
__ Sarah, Samantha
__ Sarah & Daniel, Jacob, Liesel
__ Mary & James
__ Samantha & Mark + Jacob, Liesel
Wedding Planning Photo Tip 8: Embrace Bad Weather (just a little)
Rain or snow on your wedding day? While we always want perfect weather for weddings, it’s always good to have a backup plan. Adapt for indoors/covered areas, but also make sure to get outside for a couple shots in the weather. There are some amazing things your photographer can do with just a single light.
Wedding Planning Photo Tip 9: Lean Into Unexpected Moments
We plan for the perfect wedding, but no matter how much we plan, something unexpected will almost always occur. Lean into these unplanned moments. Whether your dog decides to photobomb, your veil takes off in the wind, the champagne pop is initially lackluster, or you find grasshoppers in the tulle of your skirt, the photos from these little moments between your portraits will add to the memories of your day.
Photographers: Shoot through these moments. If the wind takes the veil for a ride, keep shooting. If a dog jumps in front of your camera, keep shooting. If the groom’s boutonnière gets stuck to his mother’s dress, keep shooting. Portraits are always lovely, but unexpected moments add feeling and emotion.
Wedding Planning Photo Tip 10: Cap off Your Coverage
Cap off your photography coverage with something fun to complete your photo gallery! Wedding celebrations have a beginning and an end, but your package may not have your photographer there to capture the very last moment. Celebrate with a send-off, sparkler photos, some gorgeous night pictures, or even a group shot on the dance floor! This helps your photo gallery feel complete, even if your coverage doesn’t go through the end of the night.
Planning a wedding? Let’s chat photography!
Rachel Lahlum is a professional photographer with experience in hundreds of weddings, portraits, and events. From the moment a couple connects with her, her goal is to guide them through the photography process and make them at-ease. She’s detail-oriented and organized, but also quick to pivot, and she loves making sessions fun for her couples.