Your Wedding Photography – what happens on the day
Even if you happen to have been a wedding guest a few times, you probably didn’t take much notice of what the photographer was up to, apart from maybe during the group shots where you were most likely standing about wanting to get back to your drink. So I wanted to put together a guide for you to explain how I approach photographing a wedding day. I’ll walk you through all the different parts of the day, share some images with you and give you some useful insights as we go.
I have based this on a ‘typical’ wedding day timeline but please don’t worry if your order of the day differs from this. I am 100% supportive of you making YOUR wedding work for YOU but I’m sure you will still be able to take from this my relaxed, calm and unobtrusive way of working and get a feel for how it will all run.
The Before ……
There is a really unique sense of anticipation and excitement on the morning of a wedding. When I photograph preparations, I like to arrive between two and three hours before the ceremony time depending on where you are getting ready and the distance between you and the venue. I take a few shots of where you are getting ready and look for little details around the room that tell me the kind of morning that you’ve had. It is like setting the scene of a play and within your gallery it is an introduction to you and the rest of the preparations.
I don’t usually start at the same time as hair or makeup artists. If I did it would be a super early start, particularly if you have a number of people getting ready with you and would be hours of your coverage used before you are anywhere near ready. The finishing touches make for lovely shots and you’ll feel calmer and more confident with things underway when I arrive.
I take shots of you getting ready with those around you and also of your dress or suits, shoes, jewellery and anything else that may be important to you and that you want to be remembered. I ask about these kinds of things a few weeks before the wedding so you don’t have to think about them, knowing that I have it all in hand.
This might be a good time to mention the room that you are getting ready in. Makeup artists will most likely position you in front of the window which is perfect and much nicer light than artificial room lighting. It is also worth thinking about how tidy you’d like the room to look in your photographs. If you aren’t worried then neither am I.
I feel strongly that your day should be recorded authentically rather than looking like an editorial for a house magazine. But, if you’d like your preparation background clearer, then perhaps a little tidy up first thing could make you feel better.
I ask in advance if you want any ‘first looks’. Perhaps the people you are getting ready with haven’t seen your dress or suit yet. It can be such a special moment to reveal this to them once you are ready. Be sure to have some tissues at the ready though, they are usually real tear jerkers (for me too).
If I have to drive to the venue, I like to leave before you, at least 20 or 30 minutes earlier. This gives me the opportunity to photograph the venue, set the scene, record details in the ceremony area and of course, those shots of your husband or wife to be, waiting nervously for your arrival.
Obviously I can only be in one place at a time so when I am shooting on my own and have been unable to cover both of you getting ready, I ask that you hold off on adding final details like button holes or jackets until I arrive. It is a great way of balancing out the gallery and telling the story of both of you before the ceremony. Any time that is left will be spent photographing your guests arriving, saying a quick hello to the celebrant or registrar to check where they are happy for me to shoot from and in no time at all it will be all systems go for the main event.
The ‘I do’
Your entrance to your wedding ceremony is the most exciting bit I think! My favourite spot of course is to be front and centre, if you are being walked down the aisle I am able to move my focus between your husband or wife to be and you making your way towards them. There are so many variables to this part of the ceremony for example whether the registrar or wedding party member walks in the way or a guest holds their Ipad in the way (this does happen!) so these shots aren’t always possible but they are always the goal.
You may not know this but it is actually the celebrant or registrar that dictates to photographers where we can or can’t stand. That is why I always say hello to them before the ceremony. I am super nice and smiley and flattery can usually get me anywhere. In some Church ceremonies though we aren’t even allowed to take any pictures at all or at best be only allowed to photograph from the very back, both of which make me sad BUT doesn’t mean that I still can’t take the best possible images that I can for you.
If I can, I love to stay in my front position for the ceremony itself. That way I get the best seat in the house for you saying your vows to one another but I can also get glimpses between or around you to capture those gorgeous guest reactions too. After you have signed the register document I head to the back ready to capture those gorgeous, beaming, just married smiles as you walk out. Imagine that being you, I’m smiling even as I am writing this thinking about it!
It is also a great time to have a confetti shot if you are allowed one. Your guests can grab some on their way out of your ceremony room, I can get them lined up and away we go.
Contrary to what some other photographers do at this point, I don’t like to go straight into your group photographs. You have JUST got married and this is most likely the first time in the day you have seen most of your guests. They will want to give you hugs, congratulations, look at the dress, suit, flowers, rings, just generally swoon over you and these moments and embraces make wonderful pictures.
When I feel the time is right I’ll come and grab you to start your group shots. I tend to do these before your portraits so that we can catch your guests before they drift to the bar, or change their shoes, take ties off, go to move the car or book into the hotel ( yes, all of these happen too!)
I recommend that you keep the numbers of groups fairly small, around 5-7 ish. I can whizz through them pretty quickly but they can still be time consuming.
A top tip is to choose a member of your wedding party to give me a hand. Preferably someone who knows both sides of the family and can gather the next groups whilst I am photographing (we all have that one friend who LOVES to organise people. They are usually the perfect choice! I bet you are even thinking of them right now haha)
I do organise you into lines as this looks so much better in your photographs but I don’t make them too formal or stiff. I’ll talk to you all as I photograph and say things to get some lovely big, natural giggles and smiles from everyone. The pictures of you all laughing together are my favourites.
Then we are onto your portraits – actually my favourite part of the day. You have experienced the nervous build up to the day, the excitement of the morning and have just married your best friend surrounded by all your friends and family. Now is the time to pause and actually take it all in.
I will have a few ideas already of where we will head for pictures, a stunning backdrop or beautiful light, but I’ll snap away as you walk hand in hand behind me, laughing with each other and beaming from ear to ear that you have actually done it.
The thought of portraits can be intimidating but I promise you they are so easy and relaxed and the high that you are experiencing carries you right through them. If you can look at each other, chat about things I’ll ask you, kiss and cuddle then you’ll do amazingly and you’ll have plenty of gorgeous images of you looking head over heels in love with each other.
If I could, I would make this part of the day last a couple of hours because I LOVE being able to create these portraits for you to look back on. But, I also know how important it is for you to spend time with your friends and family. It is your Wedding day, not a photoshoot and you sure as heck haven’t planned to spend all day with me so portraits usually last between fifteen and thirty minutes so you can get back to the celebrations.
Dinner and dancing
Next up is your wedding breakfast and if you have chosen to have speeches, they will most likely be before your meal or after.
I’ll let you into an industry secret that I would actually love you to know and it is that if you have speeches separated with one in between each course, it makes it really hard for us photographers and videographers to have a meaningful break to recharge ready for the evening. We have to be up and down like yoyos and actually guests aren’t ever that happy about us hanging around whilst they are trying to enjoy their food. Either before the meal or after makes having a proper rest must easier for us.
Speeches can be a little challenging depending on the room layout and space between tables and in front of the top table. My usual method is to find two of three spaces across the room where I can either stand or kneel down and capture the speech giver, your reactions and of course the reactions of your guests too and I will quietly move between spots when I can.
If one of you plans something like a surprise video message, flash mob or singing waiters, it is a great idea to give me the heads up before hand so I can be ready for it. I would hate to be getting flashes from my car or have nipped to the loo just as they enter and miss the amazing reactions.
Quite often, the start of the evening entertainment kicks off with a cake cutting followed by your first dance. If I can, I like to move the cake to a position where you can stand behind it and also be surrounded by your guests. I love having them in the background of your pictures rather than you next to a wall but this isn’t always possible.
In all the weddings I have photographed, I have never had a couple that said they were looking forward to their first dance. The having a boogie bit afterwards, yes, but standing alone in the middle of a dance floor being watched, definitely not. I completely get it! So let me reassure you that you don’t have to dance it all alone if you don’t want to.
I will capture images of you both dancing ( or the gentle swaying in me and my husband’s case) in the first minute of your beautiful track and I can give a little nod to your DJ or band to invite everyone else on to the floor to join you. I love a shot of you in the middle of the floor packed with loved ones just as much as those of you on your own and then you can relax again.
My last top tip is to choose a couple of complete bangers for the next few tracks to keep the dance floor full. My coverage is usually timed so I can capture your first dance and a few songs afterwards so let’s make these good ones!
So there you have it, my approach to a whole wedding day. When I write it out like this it makes it sound a little regimented but honestly that really isn’t how I work. Your day will flow beautifully and whether or not you have this timeline or have adapted your timings to suit you, the majority of the day I will photograph it as it happens and will fit seamlessly into your wedding and working around your timings.
You can find more inspiration about planning your wedding timeline right here.
I hope that this gives you a little insight into the type of considerations that I have in the day to get the very best wedding photographs from your day to take you back to all those warm and fuzzy feelings and creating memories that will last a lifetime.
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I'm a Kent Wedding Photographer for happy, relaxed, loved-up couples who want to look and feel amazing on their wedding day. I also cover Surrey, Sussex, Essex and beyond.
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