Wedding Photos: Advice From the Pros

Ask friends to snap photos during the ceremony and reception. This shot I took of a college pal as she walked down the aisle last September isn’t professional caliber, but she loved it.

I’ve had at least seven friends get married in the past year, so I did a little reconnaissance work (okay, I sent out a group message on Facebook) to find out what, if anything, they would have done differently on the big day. Surprisingly, every one of them mentioned something about photos. “I wish I had more professional pictures with my family taken at the wedding instead of so many with the bridal party,” wrote one. From another: “I’ve had some moments where I wake out of sleep and think, ‘Oh, my gosh! I forgot to get a picture with so-and-so!’ ”

Bridesmaids, groomsmen, cousins, camp friends . . . it is a lot to handle. I asked three local wedding photographers what they tell couples to do before the “I do’s.”

1. Plan ahead.
One tip these pros couldn’t stress enough: Be über-organized. Make at least two lists—one of formal portraits you want taken and one of photos you want snapped at the reception (for example, your parents dancing). You may want to split the informal shots into two lists—photos you must have and photos you’d like to have—so the photographer can prioritize.

For the first list, remember that the more portrait groupings you want, the more time you’ll have to spend posing. “The day may run more smoothly if you’re not bogged down with formals,” says Jennifer Lust of Jennifer Lust Portrait Design.

2. Be flexible.
“Often brides will ask for the shot ‘the first time he sees me enter the room,’ ” says Elaine Studley, a photographer based in Maryland. “I smile and say, ‘Okay, but don’t be surprised if he looks like a deer in headlights. His biggest smile may well be when you say the words ‘I do.’ ” Bottom line: Be excited about the magical pictures you didn’t expect, not sad about the ones that didn’t turn out.

3. Think big picture.
Couples should not only decide who they want in shots but also discuss places and general photographic preferences with their photographer, says Studley. She suggests considering these questions:
• Do you like a casual feel in images?
• Do you like sunset images?
• How do you feel about flash?
• Is there a place at your wedding site that’s special to you?
• Is there a special ritual on your day that’s unique to your culture and family?
• Would you like to take a walk rather than posing for “couple” images?

4. Get friends to help.
Remember that list you made? Give a copy to a pal who knows what your relatives and close friends look like, and let the photographer know who has that list, says DC photographer Len DePas.  “I often ask for a few key friends who can fetch and arrange the groupings so I don’t take too much time from any one particular friend,” he says.

Another tip: Tell your friends to snap tons of shots on their digital cameras. They won’t be professional portraits, but they may be the pictures you laugh about the most.

5. Remember—photos aren’t everything.

Put the Kodak moments on hold to savor the little moments—like the time right before you walk down the aisle. “Stop all photography a half hour before the ceremony and rest,” Studley says. “Hide. Relax. Have tea.” Even my friend who admitted to panic attacks over forgotten photo ops said that, after a few weeks as husband and wife, a few missing photos weren’t a big deal. “All that matters,” she said, “is that you are married!”


Brides and grooms: Share your own great photo tips in the comments section.

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