Whether you're a client of mine or not, your photography will be one of the most important aspects of your wedding. After the party's over, after all the flowers are gone, the gifts are opened, and after years have passed, your photographs will still be there to bring you back to this day- this incredible time in your lives!
I created this guide for anyone getting married that wants to make the most of their photography. Share this with your planner, your mom, your maid-of-honor, or anyone who's helping you plan out your day. These insider tips, ideas, and guidelines will give you the knowledge to make your day go smoothly as possible. So get a cup of coffee, sit down, and dig in!
Venue + Style. The venue and locations you choose for your wedding will make a huge impact on your photos. First and foremost, you'll want to choose a venue that reflects your own style. Really think about what you're drawn to- what excites you? The more creative you can get, the more personal your wedding will be. The best thing about weddings these days, is that the days of the traditional, cookie-cutter weddings are over! Anyone can plan a fantastic, memorable wedding day that showcases their own personal style. Get creative- have fun! It's your day, do what makes you happy!
If you prefer a rustic style, you might want to consider a barn wedding. See a barn wedding here.
If you like a more industrial chic style (think delicate florals, antiques, and industrial elements), maybe a brewery or warehouse wedding would be perfect. See a brewery wedding here.
Intimate elopement or outdoorsy style: woodland or lakeside wedding. See an example here.
Other ideas include romantic vineyard weddings, bohemian style weddings on the beach, or vintage weddings in historical settings. There are so many fantastic wedding venues in Michigan, and if you're leaning towards a natural setting, Michigan is abundant in woods, lakes, beaches, sand dunes, even mountains (in the UP)!
For the most seamless and stress-free day, have your wedding and reception in the same location! If you have to have your ceremony and reception in different locations, try to keep the style of the settings cohesive so your images will flow nicely.
If you need any advice or recommendations for the wedding venues in Michigan, get in touch! I'd love to help you find the perfect location! If you're planning a destination wedding or elopement, or you're in another state or country, use these guidelines to find your perfect wedding spot. Your wedding should be a reflection of your unique personality and style as a couple.
Decor. The most fun I had when planning my own wedding was picking out the decor. I loved choosing the color scheme, the flowers, and all the details that made our wedding unique. There are so many ideas out there, and so many easy things you can do to make your wedding uniquely you!
For a few more tips on ways to personalize your wedding, read this.
I love capturing the moments when everyone is getting ready, before the ceremony. In photographs, they help to "set the stage" of your wedding day story, and this is the time I use to "warm up" before the day starts to move faster. I love to hang out and be the fly-on-the-wall, grabbing images of the moments that occur just before the most anticipated part of your day.
Here are some things you can do to help make your getting ready photos the best they can be:
The Location. Choose a great location to get ready in. Keeping with the overall style of your wedding day is an important thing that most people don't even consider. If you're having an elegant vintage wedding at a gorgeous venue, and are getting ready at a generic, poorly lit room at the nearest hotel, it just doesn't mesh well. Consider looking into renting a nearby Airbnb. Oftentimes you can find a beautiful flat or house that's decor will match your style!
The Room. In a perfect world, the room you get ready in will be spacious, clean, have white or light neutral walls, and have plenty of large windows and natural light! This isn't always the case, however, but as long as I have natural light to work with, I can work with almost any space. Your hair and makeup artist will prefer natural light as well, so set up your space right in front of a big window if you can. As far as artificial lights such as lamps and overhead lights, we'll want to turn those all off to minimize color casts and weird shadows. It might seem strange or even dark in the room, but trust me- it's better this way!
Getting Dressed. Give yourself plenty of time to get dressed! Things usually start running behind, the closer to the ceremony start time. Give yourself at least 20-30 minutes just to get your dress on, and then leave yourself extra time to take care of any last-minute things like figuring out how to bustle a dress, gathering everything you need, doing last minute hair and makeup touchups, etc.
Consider getting ready together. Sometimes the best moments are captured when a couple is getting ready together! My husband and I went this route, and I wouldn't change it. He helped me get into my dress, I helped him with his tie, and we'll always remember those moments together, sharing laughter, nerves, and anticipation for our ceremony.
Clean Up. Clear the clutter! It's best to put away all of the gym bags, fast food leftovers, piles of shoes, and other things laying around that will clutter the background of your photos. Here's an example of a space that wasn't cleared of clutter:
What is a First Look? It's where you and your partner meet each other in a quiet, intimate setting, alone, before the ceremony. You get to see each other for the first time on your wedding day (unless you were in the same room getting ready!), and have a very special (and often emotional) moment together without being in the spotlight in front of all of your guests. Yes, it goes against "tradition". But isn't that awesome? Weddings are becoming less traditional anyway, and more unique and creative!
Although I would never try to talk you into doing a First Look if you want to stick to the traditional plan of seeing each other for the first time at the ceremony, let me tell you why I love them:
It takes the pressure off. Your nerves are guaranteed to be a factor during your wedding ceremony. A First Look takes a lot of the pressure away, because you've already seen each other and had a chance to calm each others nerves. You'll be much more relaxed during the ceremony.
You are fresh. You just had your hair and makeup done. You aren't all sweaty yet. Your clothes are clean and wrinkle free.
It frees up time after the ceremony. Typically, if we do a First Look we also do a set of couple's portraits and your family portraits- before the ceremony starts! You're going to be very busy after the ceremony, getting congratulated, hugged, getting a drink, and wanting to enjoy yourselves. If we can get the bulk of the portrais done before the ceremony, this frees up your time afterwards to do whatever you want, instead of being stuck in front of my camera! I'll still grab you to do sme photos around sunset, but more time to relax and enjoy yourselves is a win-win for everyone!
Keep it private. It's best to keep this moment just between the two of you. No moms, no bridal party, no one but just the two of you. And me there to document it. This is such a beautiful moment, meant for the two of you to cherish alone, and I recommend keeping it as private as possible!
This is truly my favorite part of the day! I love capturing just the two of you, on this incredibly special day- your love, your connection, your emotions, and your vibes. These are the photos that you'll share for the rest of your lives with your family and friends and each other. These are the photos you'll hang on the wall or frame and put on your mantle. These photos will be around for a lifetime or more, so make sure you allow enough time for them when planning!
I typically like to break these photos up into 2-3 sets. It makes it easier, it changes up the lighting, and this way you aren't away from your friends and family for a long period of time. Ideally, this is how we'll plan your portraits together:
Before the ceremony. If we'e doing a First Look, it's only natural to do a set of portraits right afterwards. You're already alone, and you're fresh and looking your absolute best. The pressure of seeing each other is off, and you're a little more relaxed.
After the ceremony. I like to grab just a few portraits right after the ceremony, just because this is the time you're buzzing with excitement! You just tied the knot and you're going to be grinning ear to ear!
Sunset. Let's talk about lighting again...shall we? I've said it before, and you'll probably hear me say it again- the light just before sunset and at sunset is the best! It's warm, soft, golden light that makes for the most beautiful photos. The sunlight gets filtered through little particles in the air making it “softer,” which is what makes it amazing! There’s less harsh shadows and the light is much more flattering on both your skin and the landscape around you.So during your reception, plan on taking a little break around this time to go outside for around 15-20 minutes to do these. Of course, the more time I have, the better the photos will be and the more you'll receive! I highly recommend you plan your timeline first and foremost around beautiful light for your portraits together.
Just the two of you, please. I know it can be difficult to get away from mom, dad, and everyone celebrating with you, but it's better if we keep your portraits private. People watching can be a distraction, and almost always someone is whipping out their phone/camera to grab snapshots behind my back. That's not only distracting, but it really messes up the vibe of the photos. So let's keep these photos just between us, ok?
Most of the time on your wedding day I'll be capturing moments, documenting the events of the day, and telling your story through photographs. Even though I love the candid moments, family and wedding party portraits are also important, and I do take them seriously.
I help all of my clients plan out their group portraits ahead of time, so there are no surprises and everything flows seamlessly. I recommend limiting family portraits to 10 or less groupings, to maximize time. I typically start with set of parents, each immediate family, and each extended family. When there are tricky situation like divorced parents, it's good to have a game plan figured out to avoid stressful siuations. When you work with me, you and I will fill out a worksheet designed to map out the family and group portraits so you don't have to worry about it.
Wedding party photos are usually kept pretty simple- I take a few shots of each side of the wedding party, then the entire wedding party together. Very easy, no stress, no being made to pose in front of a camera for long periods of time while everyone else is celebrating!
Family portraits work best prior to the ceremony.
Family portrait time is always the most challenging part of the day. Gathering people together after the ceremony is always the most challenging part of all! Everyone is waiting on cousin Bob to get back from the bar, and Grandma isn't anywhere to be found. This can really cut into your time to enjoy your cocktail hour, and I'm sure you'll be very thirsty at this point! It's much easier to gather everyone before the ceremony, when everyone is basically in the same place and more focused.
Lighting. You might have your heart set on a certain location or backdrop for your photos. However, sometimes the light doesn’t want to cooperate with your intentions, bringing harsh shadows streaming across your faces, spotty light coming from trees, or blinding light coming in your eyes causing you to squint constantly. If the quality of light isn’t good, then your photos won’t be good, and I will move you to a better spot. So when we choose the place to do your family and wedding party portraits, the lighting is going to trump the setting. Simple, clean backgrounds are the second most important factor. So, even though your wedding might be at an amazingly gorgeous venue, having group portraits with nice, even light and a clean background is most important.
Trust me, and don’t be disheartened! Try to remember that it isn’t the location or the background that makes a good photo. Trust me- I'll get lots of photos of the setting and location details! :)
Lighting. Your wedding ceremony is going to be amazing, it will fly by in the blink of an eye, and I'll be there to capture it so you can re-live those moments for the rest of your lives. However, bad lighting can really compromise those beautiful photographs! It's easy to focus on the beautiful location you chose to be married, and forget about the lighting. But the lighting will play the most important role in how your photos turn out!
What does that mean? For outdoor ceremonies, harsh sunlight coming from a bad angle, or spotty light coming through trees are the most difficult light to photograph in.
For indoor ceremonies, there usually isn't much of an option, but if it can be avoided- mixed lighting from windows and artificial lights can cause color casts on skin (think one side of your face looks blue, the other orange).
How do I make sure the lighting is ideal? For outdoor ceremonies, schedule your ceremony to start later in the day or early in the morning, when the sun is lower in the horizon. The light is so much better and softer when coming from a low angle.
Try to make sure your ceremony is backlit (the sun is behind you). If your ceremony is in the afternoon or close to sunset, your guests should be facing West (towards the sunset). For morning ceremonies, your guests should be facing East (towards the sunrise).
Sunset is best. With few exceptions, I plan portraits right before sunset because the lighting is the most beautiful that time of day! It’s soft, golden, warm light that's the best for photos! That same light also works for your outdoor ceremony. I recommend doing outdoor ceremonies about 2 hours prior to sunset allowing time for portraits (if we didn't do them before the ceremony) as well as potential delays and timeline emergencies.
For indoor ceremonies, you might not be able to do anything about the lighting, and that's ok- I can still capture your ceremony and all the moments during it. Depending on the room, there may be adjustments that can be made to the lighting that will improve your photos. We'll evaluate the options together, before your wedding.
Rain Plan. No one wants to think it’s going to rain on their wedding day, but having a plan can help to relieve the stress if it does. Lighting is absolutely the #1 aspect that I'm always working with, and natural, outdoor lighting is always the best light! I LOVE outdoor weddings! Of course, if it’s raining cats and dogs, it's better to have a backup plan just in case.
Clear umbrellas can be bought in bulk on Amazon. Having a pop-up canopy handy for smaller weddings has worked in the past. (See a recent wedding where it worked here.) For larger weddings, having a tent or backup area indoors can be a relief if it downpours. (Just a note- I have no problem shooting in the rain!)
Unplugged Ceremony. An unplugged ceremony is when you ask your guests to refrain from taking any photos. Asking your guests not to use cameras or cell phones allows all guests to really take in your ceremony, without fussing with cell phones and flashes.
Ditch the receiving line. They can be very time consuming, especially for a medium/large wedding guest list. They can also get very exhausting and they take away from the burst of excitement right after the ceremony. However, I do love the energy right after you walk down the aisle, and your wedding party or family walks out and greets you, hugs you, kisses you, etc. So having a few minutes there to laugh and love is great. I just recommend that it not become a 20-40 minute event. Many of my couples opt instead to greet and mingle with guests during dinner.
Space out. During the processional, space each couple out far enough so that they won't be bunched up in the photos. You don't want one couple blocking another couple's faces. The same goes for flower girls and ring bearers. When you walk down the aisle, try keep your gaze on your fiance. Have everyone walk slowly and not rush down the aisle.
Face each other. At the altar, don't face the guests, and don't face the officiant (unless it's required)- face each other! Stand close- about 2-3 ft. apart. You'd be surprised at how far apart couples stand sometimes, and that space is amplified in photos! After you exchange rings, hold hands and keep each other's gaze. Forget the audience, and that I'm there with my camera. Try to enjoy and be present in the moment!
Lighting. I shoot using natural light as much as possible (with exception to dancing/party photos)! This means instead of setting up artificial lighting during your reception, I’d prefer using the available light already in the space. I don't like lugging around a bunch of lighting equipment, and it helps me to blend in better if I'm not constantly lighting up the room with bright flashes. This, in turn, creates better, more authentic photos, in my opinion. The photos look more natural, and the vibe of the photos is more natural.
Having a few candles around may feel great, but will likely not be enough light for me to capture your reception without using flash! Candles and lanterns are awesome for soft, warm, cozy light, but please supplement that light (it's dim!) with other lighting. I recommend using market lights or similar string lights. I can work with any space or lighting condition, but for outdoor, open air receptions, the more lights the better!
Avoid colored spotlights and uplighting. The bright, colored light looks awful on skin and can cause weird color casts if you're near it!
As a quick note, I AM 100% comfortable using flash if the need arises! While I prefer to shoot without it to preserve the feel and vibe of your evening, I always have my lighting setup with me just in case! If you have any questions on your reception lighting setup, don’t hesitate to reach out!
Food. Please feed your photographer! Most wedding days are fairly long, and I burn a ton of calories. After a few hours, I tend to start getting very hungry (dare i say- hangry?) and that messes with my ability to think and create. I'd like to eat while you guys are both eating, that way I’m not missing anything when the two of you finish your dinner and start mingling. I'm gluten-free and don't eat beef, pork, or chicken. Most caterers/chefs are more than happy to accomodate :)
I've been photographing weddings full time for three years, and part time for six, so I have a pretty good idea now of how much time I need to cover the different aspects of your day. This varies from wedding to wedding, but typically these are the amounts of time I need:
Getting Ready: 60-90 minutes
First Look: 15 minutes
Together Portraits: 15-30 minutes each set
Family Portraits: 30 minutes
Wedding Party: 15 minutes
To give you a better idea of what this looks like, I've put together two sample timelines- with a First Look, and without. Of course, these are just an example, to give you an idea of how things could go, but is customizeable to your own wedding timeline.
With a First Look + Group Portraits Before Ceremony
2:00 Getting ready
3:15 First look
3:30 Together Portraits
4:00 Family Portraits
4:30 Wedding Party
5:45 Together Portraits
6:00 Reception Begins
8:30 Sunset/Dance Floor Opens - Together Portraits
Without a First Look
3:00 Getting ready
5:00 Family Portraits
5:30 Cocktail Hour Begins/Wedding Party Portraits
5:45 Together Portraits
6:30 Reception Begins
8:30 Sunset/Dance Floor Opens - Together Portraits
Keep in mind that sunset times vary by season. I recommend researching sunset times for your location and date before you plan out your timeline!
A NOTE ABOUT PADDING:
It's always best to make sure you "pad" your timeline so that if things run over (which they always do!!!) you won't be crunched for time. It's the worst feeling when you've spent all this effort getting your timeline perfected and something ends up taking longer than expected and then you're stressed out the rest of the day or feel rushed. Some of the things that typically take longer than planned or are:
Hair and Makeup: if the stylist says 45 minutes for makeup, plan on an hour and a half!
The Ceremony: oftentimes the ceremony doesn't start exactly when planned because of unexpected things happening just before (I once had a bride accidentally dump her makeup all down her dress 5 minutes before the ceremony), or guests coming in late, etc.
After the Ceremony: sometimes couples think we'll be able to start the family group photos right after the ceremony. But they forget to account for the time it takes to sign the marriage licenses (it takes longer than you think! Plan on at least 10-15 minutes) and also plan on 5-10 minutes just for family and guests coming up to you and congratulating you.
Be sure to involve me when planning your wedding day timeline!
I want to make sure you're getting the best experience, and the best photos, and part of that is making sure I have enough time to do a great job.
What if we don't want to see each other before the ceremony?
It's totally up to you if you want to do a First Look or not. Either way, I'll be there to capture your day!
Can you plan our wedding for us?
I know what works best for me, as a photographer, and am more than happy to help you with your photography timeline. That being said, I'm not an honest-to-goodness wedding planner, and I never have been (except with my own wedding). ;) If you need help planning your wedding, I recommend contacting a REAL wedding planner to help you with that, and make sure they're in contact with me! I know a bunch of really awesome planners, so if you need a referral, just let me know!
We want our outdoor ceremony to happen with the sunset, but don't want to do a first look. How will that work?
We're going to need 30 minutes for family photos, and around 45 minutes to do wedding party and together portraits before the sun sets and we lose our light. I’d definitely recommend either doing a first look before your ceremony, or bumping up your ceremony time to 2 1/2- 3 hours prior to sunset so we can fit all your photos in after the ceremony.
What about stuff like the grand entrance, cake cutting, the bouquet toss, the garter belt toss, etc?
As things are getting less traditional, and more personalized and creative, a lot of my clients choose to ditch some of these older traditions to focus on having fun and spending more time with their guests. Of course I love that many of my clients are laid back and would rather hang with guests and family, but I’m there to capture any important moments that happen while I'm there.
Do you have venue/location suggestions for if we want a _____ wedding/elopement?
I sure do! I've been around a lot and know tons of awesome venues and location in and around Michigan. Get in touch and I'll be so happy to help with that!
Should we add a second photographer?
Sometimes a second photographer can be awesome, because you get a bigger variety of shots and angles. For large weddings or extra long weddings, a second photographer can be awesome! However, when it’s just me, I can blend in and be less intrusive while still covering all of the important moments. So I leave this up to you to decide.
How long does it take for us to get our photos?
It depends on the season, but you will have your images within six weeks after your wedding. I usually post a “sneak peek” on my Facebook Business page within 48 hours so make sure we’re Facebook friends so that I can tag you! You can friend me here.
Do we get all the photos?
After I shoot a wedding, I go through all of the images and delete any that don’t make the cut- usually because they were test shots and the exposure was off, someone’s eyes were closed, or that particular image was not in line with my standards. I also typically take several frames of the same photo, just to make sure I don’t miss the moment. I also creatively “work a scene” to get the best angle, composition, and focus. Believe me, I don’t gain anything by keeping beautiful images from you.
Do you edit/retouch the images?
Every last image you receive from me will be carefully and creatively edited in Lightroom and Photoshop in my signature style. Post production is what makes my style unique, and no un-edited photos are ever released. Ad far as retouching, I believe in telling stories naturally, and with authenticity. I will do minor retouching, but nothing over the top like making people skinnier/younger/etc.
We are photographers. Can we edit the photos ourselves?
When you are paying for my services, you’re paying for the final edited images, much like the cake you’re having made for your wedding. Asking for pictures that weren’t edited or in the final delivery would be like asking for the egg shells from your cake. It’s the finished product that makes it my work. Hours and hours go into perfecting each image to jive with the style of my brand and the reason you hired me. Applying Instagram filters or effects takes away from the finished product. When someone sees the altered image, they aren’t seeing work that represents my vision. It is important that the images I create for you remain authentic.
We have more questions about what you do/how it works/your pricing.
I'm more than happy to chat with you and answer any questions you might have! Feel free to shoot me a message! You can also check out more FAQ's on this page.
I've worked very hard on this guide and ask you to please not copy it in any way, shape or form- but feel free to share it as much as you'd like!