This post has been a long time coming, but it wasn’t something that I could have written before now. It’s not something I fully, COMPLETELY understood until this point in my career, or even had the guts to communicate. When I first started out in this business, I almost felt selfish trying to dictate a wedding timeline, now I feel selfish if I don’t!
This post is also from a deep place in my heart… You see, I planned a wedding before I was a wedding photographer. I knew what it was to love beautiful imagery and the pictures that you see on pinterest (though there was no pinterest then!) and to truly have an idea of what I wanted my wedding to feel/look like. I also know what it felt like to have a hundred other people’s expectations to please. I know what it felt like to try and breach their misunderstandings of what I saw in my head and what they felt was safe and traditional. To be honest, I didn’t know how important it was back then, and to be COMPLETELY transparent, I failed at creating what I fully wanted to create because I wasn’t true to my gut feelings and didn’t know what it truly took to make it happen. The good part is that I still have the memory of how wonderful it was to be joined to the one I love eternally, I only wish my pictures represented my memories.
If there’s anything I’m really into in my business it’s communication. Along with communication, I also value realistic expectations and giving 110% of myself to every bride and groom. What I’m hoping to accomplish through this little article is to not only help my brides, but any bride who is reading this article to bring to real life the picture she has of her day in her head.
DISCLAIMER: This article will be aimed toward people geared more toward my style… lots of natural light filled images with soft tones:) If you prefer another look, by all means find a photographer who produces that and communicate with them on what it takes to achieve these images.
Dreams < Reality (How to Get the Most from your Natural Light Wedding Photographer)
1. Hire carefully. This almost goes without saying, but it’s the number one mistake I made. I had engagement photos done by one of my favorite photographers Courtney Dellafiora, but when it came time for my wedding, I had a budget of around $1500 for photos and she was at $3200 plus travel back then. I had no idea, but my budget was incredibly unrealistic for great imagery. To get an amazing established wedding photographer you’re usually looking at spending anywhere from $2500-$7000. Look at it this way: no matter how much you spend on everything else, if it’s not captured by great photography, it’s money wasted. You’ll never remember the beautiful details exactly as they were. I went with a company in the area that hires many photographers. My photos did not have the “magic” in them that I try to create in my photography. Trust me, they had all the beautiful photos on their website, they promised a lot and had the nice office. Be smarter than me brides. Find a photographer that you bond with their style at a deep level and do whatever it takes to afford them.
2. Many people think that number one is where it ends. This is the second most common mistake brides make. I think when you are not a photographer, some place in the back of your mind says, I see these beautiful images on their blog… they must use photoshop to make that look, so it doesn’t matter where we shoot, my images will come out like that! Now, it is our job as photographers to communicate what we need to create the look you want, but it’s also a savvy bride’s job to truly listen, take to heart what her photographer is saying, and establish realistic expectations with the situations that the day presents. As a professional I know how to take a good photo in any lighting situation. That is my job. The simple truth is though, if you want light filled ceremony images, there’s no way to create them in a dark church. I can create what I think is a beautiful look utilizing flash and a high ISO, but to have a light airy look, I will need large windows or an outdoor ceremony. I’ve attached two photos below (both that I love) in entirely different lighting situations, so you can see what I mean.
The outdoor look in my opinion is completely different than the more contrasty indoor look. To create the image indoors I was shooting at an iso of 6400 plus adding a little fill flash. To create the outdoor look I was simply looking for natural reflectors and backlighting. The next few points are all kind of sub points of this point. None of these are must do’s, but they are my wish list to be able to create a day full of light and airy photos for my brides and grooms.
~Always get ready in a room with large windows, and have the makeup artist/hair stylist working within 4 feet of the window with you facing toward the light. The funny part about this one is that it’s truly better for the MU artist or hair stylist to work in good light, but the amount of times I’ve showed up to a wedding and have seen the MU artist working with a bride in a tungsten lit bathroom would surprise you. Again, I can take photos in the bathroom with a flash etc. but this tutorial is on how to get the best natural light photos.
~Do the majority of the family photos, bridal party photos, bride & groom photos and an outdoor ceremony in the two hours before sunset or at least after 4 pm… OR be prepared to work in the shade. You might think that that rose garden at noon looks beautiful to your eyes, and it does… but trust me, the camera does not agree with you on the beauty of portraits in that brightly lit garden. Your skin will have shadows and the colors will be a bit garish. Unless we are shooting in the two hours before sunset, we will have to shoot in the shade of a building or some large trees and the colors will not be the same as late afternoon photos. They will not be bad colors, but it’s a different look. Here are three photos I shot at this weekend’s wedding. One is in full sun, on in the shade of a building during the heat of afternoon and the other is at sunset. You can see the difference.
~Try your hardest to convince your family to do family formals outdoors. I do indoor family shots. I use two flashes for these and/or bump up my ISO. My preference always is to move the family outdoors though. Near sunset is even better. You can take a family photo from perfunctory to a work of art by this simple principle!! It might take some convincing, because dad might have never seen it done this way, but trust me, he will thank me later when it’s hanging on the wall getting all kinds of compliments.
The right lighting can take any portrait from drab to fab!
~Lastly, once the sun goes down I will need to use a flash or two to create a dramatic look for your party pictures. It’s important to be aware that if you don’t like the “flash” look, to communicate this to your photographer so that they can shoot at a high ISO and/or use black and white conversions for tricky color casts. The trade off is that your photos may have added graininess. Another big thing I often run into is sabotage by the DJ and the hall. Even when I communicate with them, it often gets lost in translation, so I think it’s important for the bride to insist on two things to get amazing reception shots:
1. Ask the DJ to keep his colored lights off until after the first dance. It’s fun to have party pictures with red and green spotlights on people’s faces, but it doesn’t look great for your romantic moments.
2. Ask the event hall not to dim the lights until after the cake cutting and the first dances. This is also good for your guests who will want to see these important events. For me, it’s almost essential, because I get my settings ready for your special moment and if right in the middle of the first dance they change the entire lighting of the room (this has happened to me on more than one occasion) I may lose a perfect moment in the 20 seconds it takes for me to change my settings on my camera and flash.
I’ll end this article with a piece of advice I truly hope doesn’t offend anyone!!! I think you should live a life for others, to be unselfish, to be thoughtful. On your wedding day though, because it is essentially at it’s core about TWO people that fell in love and are starting their lives together; do whatever it takes to make it a day that YOU want to remember for the next 50 years. Tune out all the voices, figure out what’s important to you and make it happen!
Happy wedding planning and XOXO! ~Kina