A helpful, stage by stage guide to ensure the little things aren’t overlooked.
Most weddings involve some degree of planning. Whether that be table decor, stationary, of where everyone sits on the day. Sometimes, this is so overwhelming that when your wedding day comes around you find you haven’t considered the lighting during morning prep, or whether the disco lights should be switched on or not for your first dance. To help with the planning stages and to ensure your wedding happens and is captured as you imagined here are my tips on lighting, timings and a few other things!
Morning preparations is one of my favourite parts of the day to photograph. There is lots of excitement, mixed with nerves, and almost always a few moments of quiet contemplation. It’s one of the few parts of the day where we have alot of control over the direction of natural daylight, and I have lots of time to be creative. But, all the good stuff can be ruined by a messy, artificially lit room. Here’s some useful tips on how to get the best out of preparations.
It’s no secret that window light is my favourite and I really recommend getting ready in a room with lots of natural light. Soft and diffused it’s super flattering, and noone wants a flash firing in their face before lunch. I’ll always turn off artificial lights in the room (such as ceiling lights of uplighters) as the mix of window light, and ceiling lamps can create nasty shadows and slightly odd skin-tones. I want to keep things as natural as possible. Even if that means photographs are a little darker and cinematic.
It’s really difficult to keep this under control, especially if others are also getting ready in the same room or apartment but try to keep clutter to a minimum and hide away as much as possible. I suggest keeping bags and suitcases in another room and the tops of surfaces clear. I will move things but it’s not ideal and takes time out from when I could otherwise be photographing important moments!
Hair and Makeup
Hand in hand with the lighting section above. If you have booked a make-up artist or hairdresser they will be looking for spot with as much light as possible. In front of a window will work best for both of us.
If there is time, I will always try to take a few portraits before leaving the preparation venue. At this time, there are no distractions and your emotions are at their most raw.
I’m a bit biased, we had a first look when we got married and it was one of my favourite moments of the day. There are so many reasons for having a first look. For me, I felt really nervous…I’m self-conscious and the idea of everyone’s eyes on me the moment I walked into the church made me feel sick. It felt overpowering, the moment was supposed to be about me marrying Rhodri, not shitting myself because everyone was looking at me. So for us, it was definitely to calm the nerves.
Another of my favourite reasons is you get to see what each other are wearing before EVERYONE else. You get to take it in, you get to say “WOW! you look incredible!” I fretted over my wedding dress. In the end, I chose a strapless tulle dress with a lace peplum detail. Two months before our wedding we were guests at a family wedding. I remember so vividly trying on a dress with a peplum and Rhodri’s reaction being less than enthusiastic.
Of course, first looks are not for everyone. If you’ve always dreamed of these first moments happening as you walk towards the ceremony, that’s fine too. We’ll capture it as it happens!
Like prep, lighting for the ceremony is important but I understand it’s not always within your control for indoor venues. If possible, try to plan for the light to be in front of you (i.e behind the officiant) which allows for you, and your guests to be naturally lit. For outdoor ceremonies, you have much more control. If your ceremony is around 1pm, again try to set up for the sun to be behind the officiant. If timings are flexible, slightly later, say around 3pm would be even better. A ceremony in the woods would help shade any strong sunlight and prevent any hard unflattering shadows.
Guest Photos during the ceremony – aka unplugged.
Have you ever went to a gig where you can’t see the band for a sea of iPhones? Or have you done this yourself? My guess is you have little recollection of that gig. Weddings create a similar phenomenon. Asking your guests to put down the cameras for the ceremony, aka having an ‘unplugged ceremony, means they really take in what’s happening. Oh, and those further back will be able to see ever moment too.
If you would rather not ask guests to refrain, instead ask them to stay in their seats. Sometimes guests stray into the aisle for big moments like the kiss, or as you go to leave. I would hate for any moment to be missed by me, because of a guest blocking my shot.
Confetti is a bit like marmite. But if you are in the love camp, then I’m there with bells on. On the day I’ll give alittle direction to guests who wish to throw confetti OVER you. I can’t stress that enough. Confetti isn’t designed to be launched AT you! Usually, this is nothing more than getting everyone to shimmy up nice and close to create a kind of lined path for you to walk along. Again, like the ceremony – it’s best to ask guests to put the cameras aside for this. The more confetti throwers, the better.
The best time for group shots is immediately after the ceremony. At this point most guests are still on their feet and haven’t split off into groups for long overdue catch-ups. I recommend keeping the list of groups short. Around 20 minutes should be enough time for around 5 combinations but short enough to keep everyone smiling!
I recommend allowing for two 20 minutes slots for portraits of just you both. One after the ceremony when you are brimming with happiness and excitement, and a second later in the evening, after dinner and before your evening guests arrive. The closer to sunset the better. The light has a different quality and your emotions are more reflective (and you might be a little tipsy too!). We can drive to a nearby location, or simply explore on foot around the venue.
Wedding days can sometimes feel a little like a whirlwind with friends and family all wanting your attention, it can be easy to forget that the day is actually about you. So often couples spend much of the day apart, speaking with friends and family. I believe couple portraits is one of the few points in the day where you get the chance to really spend time together. Don’t worry, I won’t be in your face with the camera, I’ll hang back, and give you a little space.
As you know by now, I do love a bit of sultry lighting. My approach to photographing the reception is to make use of available light if possible. Using a mix of candles, hurricane lamps, festoon or fairy lights creates just about enough ambient light to capture the mood without flash. Try to stick to golden lighting, rather than shades of pink or purple which create weird colour casts on faces. It’s really not a good look! Of course, if ambient light levels are a bit too low I will bring out the flash but ideally, I like to keep this for the dancing later on. If you need a hand planning this, or a bit of extra advice, ask!
Oh and a little note on DJ/disco lights…these are fantastic for when the party really gets going but can spoil the mood of your first dance, or any other special dances you have planned. I will always ask the DJ to turn these off until after the first dance, and any family dances take place. Afterwards…go crazy and I’ll create some fun light paths!
So many couples stress how important having natural wedding photographs that capture the feel of the day is to them. Try to spend as much time together as possible throughout the day. It’s easy to go your separate ways to chat to respective families or friends. But work the room together, walk into the reception together. This gives the best chance of capturing those natural candids of you both TOGETHER.
It’s best that I’m served as soon as the guests are. This means I’m finished in good time for any toasts or speeches that are due to take place. Sometimes venues will suggest feeding me as a ‘vendor’ but this often means my meal will be served after guests and means there is a chance I might miss important happenings. The easiest away around this is to ask your caterers to serve me as a ‘guest’. Don’t worry about including me in the seating plan, I’m more than happy to find a quiet spot away from the party.
I’m here to help, so ask me anything! Want to know more about morning prep? Sure…ask away! Need help planning your reception decor? I’m all ears!