Photographing beautiful, stylized, and emotional events for over 16 years has taught me that there are elements that can work against even the most talented and experienced wedding professional. After you've contracted the perfect photographer, help your chosen professional achieve the level of art and camera work that inspired your selection by following four simple (but effective) tips.
TIP 1: KEEP IT CLEAN
Some of my favorite shots are from the quick beauty session I'll do with a bride when the excitement in her eyes is unparalleled: the moment she puts on her dress. These shots are usually taken in the bridal suite, and this mini shoot goes a lot less smoothly if there are towels, bags, and bathrobes all over the room. If you are having "getting ready" shots taken, try to keep the bridal suite as uncluttered as possible and assign a closet for everything not related to the photos. De-cluttering goes for human beings as well as luggage and bags. It's okay to have your bridesmaids in the room if the space is large enough, but if the room is overcrowded with people, it can be difficult to get a clear shot of the bride.
TIP 2: TAKE ROMANTIC SHOTS BEFORE THE CEREMONY
Many brides prefer that their groom not see them before the ceremony, but photos tend to be more relaxed and flattering if you get them done early when your hair, makeup, flowers, and dress look the best they're going to look. Unless you have a large gap between a morning service and an evening reception, consider taking your portraits with the groom before the ceremony. A good photographer can visualize the shot when your groom sees you in your gown for the first time, and choose the very best location from which to capture this amazing moment. I tend to shoot these moments with long lenses as they unfold in front of me. These are often some of my favorite documentary shots from the wedding. Believe me, when you walk down the aisle, the groom will still be moved, but he needs to keep himself together at that point. Also, many churches and temples have specific rules as to where a photographer can stand or even move within a space. Flash is usually also restricted, so a pre-ceremony shoot allows your photographer to work freely.
TIP 3: WORK THE SHOT LIST
A short list of must-have family shots is more for the benefit of you and your groom than that of your photographer, but it is important to take 15 minutes to consider which historical photos will be important to your newly joined families. No one likes the idea of doing long, drawn-out photo sessions; I do, however, take it very seriously that part of my job is to document your family history. If you have 90-year old grandparents flying in from another country just to attend your wedding, a shot of you with them is going to be a very special photo. It's good for your photographer to have this information ahead of time so the must-have shots can be planned in advance. If you don't want any posed family photos ( a policy I don't recommend), then let your photographer know well in advance so the shooting schedule can be constructed appropriately.
TIP 4: PAD YOUR SCHEDULE
Time is the biggest enemy of a wedding photographer. It is something that he has no control over (and in the organized chaos of a wedding, time seems to fly by at double the speed). While the urgency of the day is part of the excitement, nothing is worse for a wedding photographer than watching the most beautiful light of the day (and all his visualized shots) fade away because his beautiful subject is tardy. Start your hair and makeup an hour before you think you should, and add many extra pockets of time to your schedule that you can.
JAY LAWRENCE GOLDMAN