A disappointed bride’s 5 tips to get better wedding photos

Guest post by watchthesunrise
5 tips to get better wedding photos
Thanks to Brooke for uploading this photo to our Flickr pool.

We know a lot of photographer types, and one offered to do our wedding photos as a gift. We recently got all the photos back and, unfortunately, I'm a little disappointed.

Being philosophical, I guess the photos don't change the happy memories of what was really the most amazing day of my life… but for the benefit of those of you who are still planning your weddings, here are some tips/things I'd do differently, knowing what I know now:

1. Discuss in detail exactly the kind of photos you want.

For me this would have been some atmospheric shots, and all the important moments — first dance, me walking in with my dad, my husband looking nervous before-hand. And I would have discussed exactly how long photography would go on.

2. Have a list of people you DEFINITELY wanted photos of.

3. Have a person assigned to locate and gather people for photos.

We ended up chasing people around and we'd find one person and then they'd wander off whilst we were finding others… and in the end we just gave up! This shouldn't be a job for the couple or the photographer.

4. Know that photo sessions can take a long time.

We only scheduled an hour for the “official group” photos which wasn't enough when you're chasing around to find people and they keep wandering off… and you're trying to mingle and have a drink, etc. But incorporating tip #3 would have been quite helpful time-wise.


Favours or “gifts” from friends are great, but if you pay a photographer, then you know you're going to get a certain level of service. If I was to do it again I would have rebudgeted and found some money to pay for photographs.

This post begs the question: Married peeps, what photography tips do you wish YOU'D known before your wedding?

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Comments on A disappointed bride’s 5 tips to get better wedding photos

  1. Oh yes! This!
    I hired a photographer and still didn’t get some of the stuff I wanted. I said I didn’t want the empty dress pictures and I didn’t want a stranger in the room when I was getting dressed.

    What this turned into was I didn’t get any pictures of myself before the first look pictures. Nothing of me with the girls or with my dad or mom before the ceremony.

    I didn’t know I was saying that I didn’t want to be photographed at all before the first look. Surprise huh?

    • I’m pretty good about getting ‘all the shots’. kiss, dad, isle, bouquet, garter, cake etc. but if you really want something specific, certain person, certain pose, certain location on the grounds…. tell your photographer!
      also, choose wisely! i drove 2 hours outside of town on a saturday, after a friday phone call, explaining that the friend who was supposed to take pictures got too stoned to leave the house. pay a professional so you dont hate your friends in the future

      • This is all true but certain things should go without saying. For instance there were no pictures of my decor or my bouquet and that was a very big part of my wedding. I even put in the form, detail decor shots! Also to brides to be before you go out to start photos take some test shots to be sure you look the way you want, everyone is rushing you to be on time but it is YOUR DAY guests can wait a little for you to be at your best.

        • I spent a LONG time making my bouquet out of wire and beads and didn’t get a picture of it.

          Actually, that’s not true. He sent me all the RAW unedited pictures as well, one of which included my bouquet. It’s a shame those images were about 300 pixles wide and completely useless….

    • I this ‘THIS’d you, cause I do, but I want to add: I totally would have interpreted your statement as equalling no photos before first look, too.

      I’m not a photographer, so it’s a non-issue, but it just goes to show how very, very important detail and clarity are with your intentions. I think a lot of people are worried about coming off as too controlling, and as a result don’t get what they want. Sure, be nice, but also be explicit.

      I happen to be a graphic designer (not wedding related) and one of my biggest challenges is always the initial step where I have to really iron out the brief and fully understand what the client’s looking for. This is only made more difficult when the client is vague … even if their intention is to avoid being bossy.

      tl:dr … Be really clear about what you want and no worries about being bossy, because everyone has very different definitions of what things mean. People can mess up, even with the best of intentions, if they misunderstand you.

    • I would definitely suggest being extra clear if you have something specific in mind! I am always glad when a couple calls/Skypes me to go over things–it’s better to talk too much than not enough (also: is there ever too much talking?!). 🙂

      Something that works for me is asking my couples specifically when they would like me to start photographing–not necessarily what time, but what part of the wedding.

    • Clear communication is key!! Being a wedding photographer, I can tell you there’s no such thing as ‘over-communicating’ when it comes to your photographer. Be as clear as you can. On the flip side, if you DON’T have specific things in mind and you like your photographers portfolio, it’s totally okay to just let them do their thing.

      And I probably would have interpreted that request the same way as your photog did, but I also would’ve asked follow up questions to clarify what you meant!

    • Something to keep in mind on your wedding day: If your photographer’s not around for something you want photos of, it’s OK to go get them, or send someone. Even if you said “I don’t want photos of X,” if you’re in the moment and decide you do actually want photos of X, GET THE PHOTOGRAPHER. I always come to a wedding prepared for last-minute changes to the shot list, so don’t be afraid to ask!

  2. we know had in our contract that the client needs to have a person assigned to gather folks. We don’t know who people are and don’t want to spend what little photo time we get chasing people around!! and in regards to the comment above- I’m not sure how as i photographer i would have taken your comment regarding not wanting a stranger int eh room, etc. but i totally would have asked!! we always do a final meeting with the couple to go over all the final details and formal photo list.

  3. Great advice! We hired pro photographers who were great, but had friends do the video … the result was our video friends in the background of all our first look pictures. D’oh! I was so disappointed when we got them back but luckily a friend was able to photoshop them out. (Advice within advice – find a friend who is really great at photoshop!) I wish I had asked our photographers to coordinate with the videographers.

    • Just now reading these comments. All pretty good advice. My plus is that when you hire a mix of pros and amateurs (friends with cameras), expect the lowest common denominator as a result. A pro videographer/photographer team, even if they’ve never worked together before, will know how to stay out of each other’s frames. They know how to communicate with each other and respect each other’s work space and required timing to get their own shots. Relying on well-meaning friends to save money, might end up costing you more money in the end to repair the damage, if that’s even possible. And usually, it’s not.

      • Not when you have amateurs in the mix. Even attempting to coordinate with someone who isn’t a wedding pro in a situation like that means you’re speaking different languages. And on the day of the wedding, there just isn’t time to educate someone on the reality of weddings. The pros will do what they can but they can’t do their jobs and manage your friend with a video camera too.

    • any decent photographer should know how to “do the dance” with a videographer….but the same should be able to be said about the videographer….. videographers often get in the way or fight for space with the photographer and it is a two way street. both should be courteous……professionals can handle this. friends might not be as adept

  4. Everyone’s experience is different, especially re point #5.

    Didn’t hire a photographer and had friends take photos and we have GREAT photos. Two variables here: 1) how good are the possible pros you will hire? 2) how good are your friends as photogs? In our case, our friends — mostly people in the visual arts — are better than any photog we could have hired for less than $5K.

    • I completely agree. We did NOT hire a professional and are so happy with our photos. We did, however, pick a friend whose portrait photography we were pretty familiar with and liked, and who knows both of us well. We had a list of must-take photos and shared Pinterest inspiration and other details with her beforehand. Another friend was in charge of making sure everyone was available for photos when they were supposed to be. There were a few hitches, but they were things we could not have planned for and we adapted. (The shots we missed were due to a missing wedding shuttle plus a record heat wave that drove everyone into the shade ASAP.) I think we got better photos than we would have from a pro because our friend knows us so well and was totally on the same page as us about what types of photos to take.

  5. Never “hire” friends/family! And I don’t just say this as a pro who wants your business. I’ve been hired by friends and shot family for free. The friends hired me because they felt obligated – our styles didn’t gel. She was a formal girl, and I’m an artsy girl. She only used about two portraits in her entire album. And I’ve shot family as a gift. They loved it but now ALL family expects it as a gift.
    See lots of portfolios. Ask to see a few FULL weddings. Stuff on our blogs are just highlights and our faves from events. You want to know how we cover an entire wedding ask to see a bunch. You should see consistancy with the shots from each event.
    As a photographer, those details are important in telling the story of your day. The dress you spent all that $ on that is now in a closet, the flowers that died, your hair getting done which you spent a ton on. Those quiet candid moments are the best! Because it’s not just about capturing the details it’s getting the environment and atmosphere of everything also going on. Typically when brides say they don’t want the “getting ready shots” the day would start at the ceremony. Your photog should have gone over that with you.
    Splurge on photos! It’s really the only thing that’s left after the wedding besides the memories. Once again, not because I’m a pro but because I went budget on my own wedding years ago and they’re all blurry (and that photographer had the same gear I shoot with today and get crystal clear photos)

    • We used a photographer that is my husband’s cousin’s wife, who offered to do our photography as a gift. The pictures turned out great, so I guess this is a case by case basis. She was very professional (even asking if I wanted her to wear all black or black-and-white to blend in…No! You’re a guest too!) and got all of the “usual” shots, plus lots I wouldn’t have thought of. The only thing we missed that I didn’t think to request was a picture of our whoopie pie favors and more shots of the bouncy house (to me fair, it was raining to the bouncy house didn’t get used much).

  6. I would add “Have someone else know how you want to look in your pictures and have them keep and eye on you and your accessories.”

    We LOVED our photographer (Hi, Megan!), and the photos she took were great. However, I do not have a single shot in which my headpiece is on straight because no one knew that it was supposed to be centered. Then when I took off my veil for the reception, I had a HUGE tangled mess in the back of my hair. Everyone was having a great time, and I’m generally a bit of a rambunctious thing, so nobody noticed. However, as a result, I have a lot of great photos in which all I can focus on is my hair and only one or two photos of me from the whole day that I really like.

    • Aw HI! That’s totally good advice. Because, yeah, your photographer’s not gonna be all “Um, is [blank] SUPPOSED to look like that?” I totally had no idea your headpiece was supposed to be centered because I thought it looked fabulous. But even if I didn’t — you betcha I wouldn’t have risked making you (or any bride) feel self conscious. Excellent tip D!

    • This was my husband for me! Makes sense as the person who is supposed to be gazing intently at me all day. He kept leaning over and flipping the pendant on my necklace back over when he saw a camera pointed at us. For which I was always appreciative 🙂 You can tell it was him because in the candid pictures where he’s distracted, its often backwards 😛

    • I had a similar thing…My sister tied my sash for me, and apparently asked, “Do you want the ends even, or can they be off?” I said I didn’t care, so she tied the sash with one end long and one shorter. I saw the pictures later, totally forgot that I said I didn’t care, and then joked, “Hey, how come nobody told me all day that my sash was crooked?” Everyone told me later that they noticed, but they thought it was cute and supposed to be that way.

      I splurged on a fancy photographer. Spent money on a quirky, but beautiful venue and also bought a very expensive and lovely dress. I did this because I really wanted one set of amazing photos. I usually make weird faces and am the blur running out of photos.
      No one knew how my hair/hair brooch were supposed to look. The photographer kept sweeping my bangs to the opposite side of my head and they did this weird straight down thing that looks stupid. The brooch kept sliding down my hair and they kept just pushing it up and tangling it.
      I have zero wedding pictures where my stupid hair and brooch don’t look stupid.
      So much for spending about $4k to have one set of nice pictures in my whole freaking life.

    • Oh, definitely this! I just came back from a wedding where I was a bridesmaid. We knew the bride wanted tons of pictures of the building at the venue rather than only greenery as the backdrop. The maid of honor had to bug the photographer to change locations, because the bride had already done so and felt too shy to speak up about it again. Most of us also didn’t realize that photos with family had to happen, so we ended up late for the reception while we got those taken care of. So definitely not only talk to the photographer, but to your wedding party, about the shots that you want, because the more people you have on your side, the smoother the day will go.

  7. We haven’t gotten our photos back yet, though the previews are great, but we weren’t very happy with the actual experience with our photographer. We met very early in the planning process and I don’t think I was very clear on what we wanted, but she didn’t adhere to many of our guidelines. We said we wanted mostly fun pictures and lots with the bridal party, but she was more interested in getting the shots SHE wanted–a lot of serious, gazing off into the distance poses that didn’t capture our personalities, and refused to do more than a few pictures (max eight) with our party. I think the lesson here is to find someone who you really click with and preferably someone who has done some offbeat weddings; our photographer clearly had a very traditional mold of what wedding photos “should” be.

    We also wish we had recruited someone to round everyone up. Our photographer really rushed us to get to the “just the couple” pictures and we ended up only getting one picture with each set of parents instead of the extensive list of formals we had sent her because everyone was just too hard to round up.

    In the end, we got what I’m sure will be gorgeous photos at a pretty good price, but not what we had asked for or that represented us and our personalities. It’s worth shopping around until you find someone with whom you have a connection!

  8. While there are some missed-photos you can never recapture, a supplemental photo shoot can help! Overall I was thrilled with our wedding photos but there were three things missed (and they were all things that I had discussed with the photographer beforehand); 1) I asked for photos of all the tables and she missed two. This is totally on her. 2) I wanted a photo with my extended family and it never happened. This one is actually on me as when she suggested we do it I put it off & we never found time to get back to it. 3) I asked for photos of my train extended down the stairs. We tried but they just came out lousy – the light in the space was all wrong and it was too cramped for the train to spread out as much as it needed to. 1 and 2 were missed forever but we scheduled a supplemental shoot to take care of 3 and she gave me a discount on it because she recognized that 1 was totally her fault. This was the result: http://www.flickr.com/photos/plymouths/sets/72157630472791098/

  9. For our wedding we had a lot of different groups of family and friends from different times in our life, so planned a lot of group shots. We made a list ahead of time for our photographer but also made copies for guests which were put up around the venue (see here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vondage/5040510190/in/photostream). This (along with Fran’s brother double checking everyone was there) really helped us with a) getting the shots we wanted and b) letting our guests know when we needed them and when they could relax/rest/get a drink etc!

    Sitting down beforehand to go through it also helped US think about who we wanted photos of, etc. We made a pretty detailed list of the details we had put effort into that we wanted captured too. A photographer coming in may not realise that you’ve handcarved those pumpkins, or that the sweets you’ve scattered tone in with the colour scheme, or that your tiara represents hours of twisting wire in front of the TV, but will probably be more than happy to take a photo if they know!

    That said, we found a photographer that we seemed to click with, so even though we jokingly apologised for our mega-planning we felt comfortable doing it. That said, hopefully any professional you’re working with SHOULD have that level of comfort. Even more so if it’s a friend doing it as a gift/gesture!

  10. I am so thrilled to see this posted here, although I am so sad for the OP. Being disappointed in your wedding photos just sucks. I highly recommend you do a “newlywed session” with a pro.

  11. Something else to keep in mind is that it’s better to book more time than you think you need than less. We made the mistake of not booking enough time when we got married, so when we went into business, we decided to offer all-day coverage from the getgo.

    There’s not much worse than becoming stressed during the formals or this or that because it’s taking much longer than you expected and your photographer’s time expires in half an hour.

  12. Our photographer was amazing and we love her– we just randomly found her on the internet and clicked when we met with her in person. She got some incredible shots! The only thing I wish I’d done differently regarding photos was planning some shots. I don’t mean specifics, but my mom and I both kind of wished we’d asked her to go and take photos at all of the tables during the reception, just so we could have pictures of everyone who came. That was the biggy– we had some people show up who we NEVER get to see, and of course, our photographer had no idea who those people were, so she was just looking for great situational shots and the ones we asked for specifically. But if I were doing it again, I think I would be very careful to include a list of people I wanted photos with/of outside of the formals list.

  13. I second the comment about seeing the whole range of photos that your photographer does before you book them. By the whole range, I mean the whole set of the last 2 or 3 wedding they’ve done, so you can see the flop shots as well as the best ones, and the type of style they go for.

    I wish I’d asked to see the whole run of photos. Our photographer was great and really professional and not in the way. So we were really excited about getting the proper photos back. When we got them, it was obvious that he was more of a ‘portrait’ photographer – so there are lots of great pics of individual people, and lots of us from the waist up. But there were very few ‘landscape’ shots, which was a shame as we got married in a scenic city. He took loads of individual people (some not very flattering), but none of the outside of either the church or the reception venue, or of the tables or some of the DIY details we had spent ages on. [so I can’t submit our wedding to this blog, as we’ve just got pics of people from the waist up!]

    I looked at a whole set of the previous wedding he did on the client’s bit of the website, and he’d done the same. So he was playing to his strengths, and that’s fine, and most of the pics are great. But we should either have gone with a photographer who shared our vision of the day, or been clearer with him that we wanted some variety in the pics. But it’s one of those things you don’t realise if you’ve not hired a photographer before.

  14. maaaaaaaaaaaaan
    the VERY REASON i became a wedding photog was because I could NOT for the life of me COMMUNCIATE what i wanted for my wedding pictures. I “trusted” that i would get what i wanted…and didn’t hire anyone AT ALL. So disappointed. 🙁

    I ended up “settling” and getting exactly what I got – images with no true soul or spirit to the day. It actually makes me so sad I don’t have better pictures of my details, the people there, and the things going on. (Blue Men)

    I LOVED the post above for OVER COMMUNICATING! I just started asking folks to show me their pinterest ideas…as well as using my ideas AND theirs…to create some images that will forever bring up the EMOTION you feel on that day.

    I know I try as I may to get anything and everything that is over above and beyond – and still might miss some things – but I hope that if you talk talk talk talk about the images and really, just go with the EYE of the photographer you are hiring…you should have a win-win wedding! 🙂

  15. Oof, I know that feeling. Our biggest problems came from three things:

    – Not scheduling enough time for formals before the wedding, so that when prep ran late we lost all of the wedding-party-posing stuff, and had to improvise mid-reception, which took us away from our party.

    – Not emphasizing to the photographer that not only did we have a *really* minute list of formals, but he should *turn down* requests from guests to do posed pictures of them… we hired him for his lovely candids, and he spent three-quarters of the reception in a side room.

    – Too! Many! Effing! Kids! We had a child-friendly wedding, because many people we love have kids… but we’re not close to most of them. And the kids are photogenic. As a result, a huge number of the candid shots are of cute babies that we don’t care about, rather than of adults (including their parents) that we do. It never even occured to us to tell him to focus on the adults. Whoops.

    It also would have been good to plan in advance how we would be facing for the swordfight, and tell him… but we were improvising at that point, whoops. The photos there are fine, but they could have been better had we been thinking about it. The same, I would think, goes for dancing or any other active photograph-worthy event.

    • The “focus on adults” thing is such great advice and something I would never have thought of. We’re expecting about 40 young kids at our wedding, and while I love them, a couple of kid pictures would probably be enough. I’d rather have pictures of my best friends, the parents! But I know those pictures are “cute” so there would probably be a lot of them. Thanks for the reminder to talk to my photographer about this!

  16. This is a great warning post, and I will definitely be making lists of shots I do/don’t want on the day.

    After my stepsister asked me to shoot her wedding, I realised I wanted an experienced professional to do mine. Not that I did an astoundingly bad job or anything, but I spent too much time being a guest instead of a photographer. And I definitely wasn’t good at directing people around! There’s a world of difference between a good photographer and a good wedding photographer.

  17. Great post! Let it be a sign that your photographer should go over all of these points and more and if he or she doesn’t consider it a warning sign…

  18. Our photographer suggested making a pinterest or similar of particular poses/shots we’d like to get and things we want to avoid. As a designer myself I find it hard to express myself in words so this seems like a good way to get ideas across.

    • This is something I also do. It is a lot easier to see photo ideas than it is to describe them.

      While I don’t drastically change my style of photography (if you’re hiring me then I have to expect you’re hiring me because you like my style), I will obviously consider ideas the couple may have and try to incorporate them into the day.

      Ultimately it often comes down to time, if there isn’t enough time set aside to do all the funky stuff (and that stuff does take a lot of time) then I have to make a decision about what to drop and it’s often those fun ideas that go in order to facilitate getting photos of family and guests etc.

    • Honestly, we discourage photo lists (other than a list of family and/or formals) and pinterest boards. We will shoot everything that happens on your wedding day. We will shoot the first kiss and the cake cut and all of that stuff, as long as it happens. But if we (and I mean the photographer and the couple) spend hours trying to recreate the moments in other people’s weddings, we’ll miss the genuine moments in your own. My husband and I have a meeting about 3 to 4 weeks before the wedding with the couple to talk about the schedule and make sure we know any special requests (ignore the kids! shoot the adults!; there will be a candle ceremony at the reception instead of at the church; watch out for crazy grandma, etc). The important thing is to find a photographer that you like and trust (pro or friend) , communicate expectations to that person and then don’t throw them a curve ball at the last minute.

  19. I can echo this experience – my brother-in-law had a fancy new camera and offered to do our photos for free – what we got were plenty of pictures of what interested him (like the other brother-in-law in a gorilla suit) and no bridal portrait, etc., I even had to chase him down to take a photo of me with my grandmother.

    what’s worse is that we were never able to get our negatives from him, just a few prints.
    when my son got married, they hired a great photographer but many of the best photos were taken by family and friends, so solicit all of your friends to send you their photos!

  20. I recently attended a wedding where the bride told me after the reception that she was disappointed I didn’t come over to pose in photos with her before the ceremony … but I had no idea she wanted me to! I stayed out of the way for family photos. So remember, too: Tell people beforehand if you want them to be in photos and when!

  21. If you have two photographers make sure they know who is taking pictures of what!

    I was super stoked when, after hiring my first choice photographer he asked if a friend could coshoot with him and he brought in my second choice photographer! I got BOTH my faves for the price of one! And since they have some differences in style the variety in created was gorgeous. However, I have almost no pictures of how the reception room looked and all the little decorative pieces because he thought she was doing all the detail shots. And while she did the ones that caught her eye, she didn’t try to be comprehensive.

    • That, unfortunately, comes down to poor planning by the photographer. They should really have set up a shoot list to ensure their second knew exactly what was to happen and who was to shoot what. There’s not much that couples can do to stop this aside from asking how the photographer manages their second.

  22. supplment a friend photgrapher with a disposable camera on every table. It’s great insurence!

    I had a friend who was a photo student do my photos. Is seen her work before and it was always my taste. She did awesome job for everything until about halfway through the reception when she became to drunk to recall she was also our photographer.

    On each table was a disposable camera, people used them and that filled in our missing pictures. The cameras were shots of things we certainly wouldn’t have gotten otherwise…… Ie, in the bathrooms, food in friends mouths at dinner, aunts flask, silliness

      • We nixed the disposable camera idea because we knew we would mostly get shitty blurry shots or the best men’s butts.

    • That is one of the key differences between hiring a pro (ie: it’s their job) versus getting a friend to shoot your wedding. Obviously it doesn’t apply to all situations as there are always exceptions but I find it true in most.

      A pro is there to work, they won’t be getting drunk or hitting on your guests.

      A friend is there as a guest, there’s no guarantee those two things won’t occur.

  23. We hired a student photographer and sent our photo share site cards with the invitations. I love our photos but momentarily wish for more photojournalistic shots. That said, I have the one or two beloved shots that I show and frame, so those would have mostly ended up in an album on a shelf.

  24. I was not super type-A about anything with my wedding, except the family photos. I knew that even if some things didn’t matter to me, they really really mattered to everyone else. I made this huge list of every single posed family shot that we wanted, in the order we wanted them taken, including when people were “dismissed” for lunch. We got through all the family shots in less than a half hour, with no drama, and happy family all-around. Also, I highly recommend putting on your family-shot-list a by-themselves couples photo of your parents, siblings, grandparents. (And, to be fair, a single-and-fucking-loving-it photo of single family). After both my brothers’ wedding photographers got zero (count em, zero) pictures of me and/or my husband (outside of the huge family shot), I wanted to make sure that people had a photo of themselves looking nice in their finery that they could use on a holiday card or whatever.

    • Oh, and for the record, we hired my brother’s friend who does photography on the side and is trying to expand his portfolio. It was a win-win because we got photos for the price we could afford, and he got experience and a nice bit of extra money.

  25. As a wedding photographer, I can’t stress enough how important it is for the bride & groom to put someone in charge of gathering bridal party and family members for photos! So much time is wasted on trying to find people who have wandered off! Just because someone is “in the bridal party” doesn’t mean they will follow you around all day.
    Be specific.
    Have a list of photos you’d like to get and family members you’d like to have in photos. Grandmother from out of town that you never see… check. Getting every aunt, uncle, and second cousin twice removed in a photo? Probably unnecessary and will cause more stress than it’s worth.
    Remember, this is YOUR day. Focus on photos that YOU want, and remember to communicate what you want to your photographer 🙂

  26. Definitely make sure they know what specific pictures you want, including events, poses, and people. But also go through their portfolio (or whatever they have available) to be sure they have experience taking the sorts of photographs you want taken.

    My best friend hired this girl she knew in high school who takes amazing landscape pictures and some really great quirky artsy-type pictures as well. The price was right, and she was local (in a very small, back-woods town) so she was hired. But the pictures came back and we couldn’t find a single picture that was in-focus, straight, with the subjects for *posed* pictures actually looking at the camera, and without heads and/or feet cut off. Taking a picture from 15 feet away, at 20 megapixels, you should be able to include 3 people without cutting off body parts.

    I don’t care how pretty the stained glass window above their heads might be, or how cool it looks at a 32-degree angle. We didn’t choose the church for that window; we chose it because it’s the only church in town with air conditioning – a necessity for a wedding at the end of July. We have 23 pictures of that window (nothing else; just the window and the brick wall around it), and not a single one where you can see the bride’s mother’s face.

    As a bridesmaid, I managed to get more decent pictures out of quick snapshots from a pocket camera before and after the ceremony than the hired photographer managed over the course of 4 hours.

    Wow, it’s been a year, and it still makes me this riled up. The bride herself was a little disappointed, but she just kept saying she couldn’t expect much considering how little the girl had charged. And she cheered right up when I made her a few extra scrapbook pages out of my own photos. So it wasn’t a total loss. But it shouldn’t have happened that way, and I’ll be going to great lengths to ensure my photographer understands my expectations and is capable of meeting them.

  27. I had my guests use Capsule and their mobile app CapsuleCam. Everyone played photographer! All their candid shots streamed instantly to my wedding album..I opened up my phone on the way to the hotel to find all of my photos already there. I spent all night looking at them 🙂

    I had tons of pictures and was able to delete any photo I didn’t like!

  28. I was really pleased with our photos. One of our family members is semi-professional (she’s a journalist), and three other friends are really serious about photography as a hobby. The result was lots and lots of different shots of very varying styles, and I love it. It prevents the memories from appearing monochrome.

    With four people shooting throughout the day, we captured almost every important moment and some really great surprises. It was also great that some of the photographers got their photos to us soon after the event while others took their time – I hate pressuring someone to hurry up, but I also hear that many couples wait months before they see a single image.

    My one tip would have been to tell our friends to try to take two shots of everything (at least anything involving people) because we have many photos with incredible composition, but the subject is in the middle of blinking or scowling. I’ve seen professional and amateur photographers produce pictures like that, but at least with amateurs you have the right to be a bit more specific in your requests.

  29. I was super pleased with my photos, but probably because I did do the over-communication thing.

    The only thing that ended up missing were shots of my display of “this is how we made our wedding eco-friendly”… But I found out later it was because it was taken off the table before the reception because someone thought it didn’t belong! So, sometimes people other than the photographer need to know these things too! (in my case, letting the venue people know what I was putting on the receiving table, since I did my own setup. Then I wouldn’t have ended up losing something I felt was important!)

  30. GREAT post! These are all things I go over with when talking to wedding clients – especially designating one person who knows as many family members as possible to herd the cats.

    Other tips I like to put out there to people planning their days would be, communicate to your family and close friends a time window and location to assemble for formal photos – you won’t get everyone, but it’s a step in the right direction and will save time in hunting people down.

    If you’re going to have multiple friends or family members photographing your day, designate one of those people to do your formal shots. Otherwise there’s a crowd of photographers all standing there and your family photos will wind up with everyone looking at a different camera!

  31. I asked friends what their regrets were from their weddings. Almost all said they wished they’d spent more and hired a pro photographer. I am so glad I did!

  32. Well, all this is also great advise, since I’ll be shooting at my cousins wedding.

  33. I don’t suppose you have a post for those where its too late and they ended up disappointed? :/

  34. As a wedding photographer I can say I have seen & heard all of the above. From every viewpoint imaginable.
    here’s my advice to couples when I meet them:
    1. Choose me only if you love my portfolio AND me. Don’t pay attention to my package prices until you’re sure of those first two points. And if I don’t feel the right vibe between us, please don’t take offence if I refer you to someone else – I mean to help you get the best capture of your day for you.
    2. Once we’ve signed the contract, schedule a time to meet with me in the last 10 days before your big day to run through the finer details. Don’t send your wedding planner. Or your fiance. BOTH partners come.
    3. Then trust me

    Whoever you entrust to take your photos – a professional, a budget friendly photographer or a friend – don’t start criticizing the photos when you have them. Love the good one’s, and let everything else slide.
    Wedding photography is not just a case of charge batteries, have a big memory card, run through a checklist and get it all. It’s like walking into a bank and expecting the person at the information counter to be able to manage your new account enquiry, follow through with a deposit you wish to make and handle your foreign exchange needs. It’s not a common practice in general to be proficient at everything in any business yet a wedding photographer needs to acquire multiple skills and lots of experience. If you don’t carefully select someone after viewing their recent portfolio, then expect glitches to crop up. Will it ruin your marriage and the rest of your life because 2 tables out of 20 weren’t photographed? or because not all 17 family members had their formal photos taken? Or because 27 of your guests’ smart phones and cameras and ipads were in the background during your first kiss?
    Only if you let it.

  35. I was married May 18, 2002. I looked high and low for a wedding photography style I wanted. I didn’t want a stuffy traditional wedding look. I wanted a photo journalistic style. I thought I found the perfect photographer. All paid, confirmed and contract signed and it want’s cheap! However, just a week or so before the wedding he backed out but found us a replacement photographer. He was a studio photographer by trade but said he had done weddings in the past. I felt stuck and went with him. Big mistake. Yes, I got a lot of images (400+) but I didn’t get key shots, the composition was awful and the style was all wrong. I ended only using 25 images in my album. I later found out the photographer dropped us because of my husband’s religion. Talk about being hurt on top of it all.

  36. As a wedding photographer I can see both sides of the argument re: friends/family or professional. When it comes down to it, some times you just don’t have the budget for it.

    The super benefit of hiring a professional is not only hopefully gorgeous in focus, well composed and well-lit photos – but well, their expertise and planning. I cannot over emphasise the important of chatting with whoever is taking the photos to plan, plan, plan.

    We generally do a meeting with couples before they commit to us (to make sure our styles fit and give them a general overview of how we work), and then have another planning meeting closer to the wedding date or if it’s not possible we send out a planning questionnaire that covers the basics like timing and locations (we even ask for officiant details so we can contact them beforehand to have a chat about their photog rules) and then we have group shot lists (work from biggest to smallest groups, to make it go quickly and smoothly) as well as a bossy family member or guest we can use to wrangle for photos.

    Of course, when you’re hiring a professional – you’re also paying for their point-of-view and style but with a whole lot of planning before the big day, it can save a lot of stress on the day and disappoint after.

  37. I just wanted to add to work in usage and rights and how you share them. It’s hefty, but you can sometimes buy the rights, which allows you to do w/e you want with them. I had one photographer tell me I wasn’t even allowed to crop them (Facebook profile)

  38. I’m editing photos now so I have to be brief. We’re wedding photographers (both of us are professional photographers) and we do a great job covering all of the special moments, details, location, friends, family-everything. If there’s something out of the ordinary you want photographed, make sure to tell your photographer, but my best advice is to just pay an experienced professional. Most professionals we know wouldn’t miss photographing the getting ready shots, the details, the handmade bouquet, etc. Our coverage starts at $4200 for the day and this doesn’t include products. I wouldn’t pay someone less than $3500. Those who are charging less often haven’t done it for long and don’t know how to charge properly to even be able to stay in business. You want someone on that day you can trust. Our clients have no worries in regards to photos on the wedding day.

    As far as having a runner for your friends and family, I doubt it’ll help. Better advice would be to have a schedule and to tell your bridal party and family where to be at a specific time. If your family/BP can’t follow directions and be where they are supposed to be for picture time, there’s no one who will be able to help. Try to give everyone who’ll be involved in the group photos strict instructions on where to be and at what time and then keep your fingers crossed that Aunt Sally doesn’t get too drunk too early!

    I know it’s really hard to do the research and find a photographer for such a special day, but in this case, you get what you pay for!

    Happy Weddings!!

  39. Tip #5 would have resolved tips #1 – 4.

    “One offered to do our wedding photos as a gift” = person who does not have enough experience to know how to comprehensively or competently photograph weddings, but is kind enough to work for free for you as a GIFT.

    I do not care if your “photographer type” friend is Annie Leibovits. If she/he does not have at least a year of consistently shooting weddings = at least once a month over a year = they will most definitely miss things and not be proficient yet.

    It takes at least one year of consistent shooting to just learn the basics — the moments and people that CANNOT be missed. It takes longer than a year to even begin to start doing this job well at EVERY wedding = consistently good. It takes even longer than that to have your skills and knowledge of how the wedding day flows mastered so you can be more confident in your work and become more creative, and not just consider it a major accomplishment to merely make it though the day not missing anything important.

    This path of professional growth is common for most people, no matter what you do for a living, and photographers and other creative professions are absolutely no exception.

    Every single point in this post is extremely routine for any experienced photographer. But, even with experienced photographers, communicate communicate communicate.

    Believe it or not, every wedding has adjustments for each couple’s expectations and preferences. Some couples want to do a ton of portraits, and have everyone at the wedding to have traditional portraits. Some couples think they don’t want any portraits, and want just photojournalism. And all couples vary in between those two extremes. It is photographer’s job to go over these preferences with you in advance, discuss pros and cons based on past experience so you really know what you are asking for (e.g. “do you really want to turn your wedding into family portrait day?” or “won’t your mother come hunt me down and kill me if there are absolutely no portraits and only candids?). Also, getting details is pretty routine, but if you are wearing your great-grandmother’s pearl earrings, and they are hugely important to have a special detail shot, and it is not enough that you are wearing them in all of the photos, then speak up and request special attention be paid to special details. You will have unique aspects about your wedding, so have conversations about what is important to you with your photographer, because they are different for EVERY couple.

    If your photographer is not discussing in advance your preferences for portraits, locations, details, working with family, then for sure initiate the conversation in advance. Don’t wait for the week of the wedding – 30 days out is a good time to check in. If you have not been in touch with your photographer within 2- 4 weeks before your wedding to review your schedule and finalize a game plan, then they are not really doing their job, no matter how experienced they are. A photographer’s work is not just done on your wedding day.

    And granted, not everyone can afford to pay for a professional. So, be happy and gracious if a friend is willing to work at your wedding for free or as a gift. But don’t expect professional results.

    Would it be realistic for you to perform as well as the top and most experienced professionals in your field on the first day you started working in your career? No, of course not. It is equally unrealistic to have that expectation for any photographers, or “photographer types”, who might have pretty photos on their blog or facebook feed, but who have absolutely no experience with weddings.

    When people say they are happy with their friends or family member who shot their wedding, they have no idea how extremely lucky they are. You might get lucky and your friend might do a great job….or they might not. Or, really, you might not ever really know what you were missing because you have a personal connection with your friend and would not look at the results with the same critical eye as you would someone you are paying. Or, at least you shouldn’t.

  40. As a wedding photographer, one of my tricks to help get everything shot in a timely manner is to have the maid of honor and best man help find people for shots a few shots before they’re needed. Also, tell people that they are going to be photographed a half hour before the actual time – if they’re a little late then chances are they’re still on time!

  41. Take My advice please!! DONT get family or friends to take your wedding pics no matter how good they are..
    I learned the hard way and now have to live with never seeing most of our wedding day she gave us a hand full of photos that i had to wait almost two years for and not with out a fight at that… all because of a disagreement over something that was so stupid and not wedding related..I have to look at this person on a regular basis and bite my tongue.. i have had every excuse in the world from this women and even that they were left on my front porch and that someone must of stole them i have cried alomst lost my head well i think i have…All i want is our memories our special moments given to me but No..These moments you can never get back never redo…so please pay the high dollar study the photographer make sure they are all that you want and the number one thing is make sure you or your hubby are not related or buds with them its your special day you only get one go at it…:(

  42. Tell your photographer all of your ideas. There was a playground near our ceremony site and I wanted to go over there after the wedding to get some fun pictures. It wasn’t until the day after that i realized I was so caught up in just getting married that I had totally spaced the play ground. I’m positive that if I had let our photographer know she would have made it happen. She kept us on task with all of the other photos on our list.

  43. for me the biggest thing about my wedding would echo the HIRE SOMEONE comment because I had been married before I didn’t think it was important and I trusted family members to take photos….. well NONE of them turned out the way I would have wanted them to. I handed my camera to my brother but every photo he took was out of focus BADLY, same camera honeymoon photos all in focus taken by me of course and then the lab screwed up the negatives from the other camera. So out of everything from our wedding, my only regret was not hiring someone to photograph the wedding and take portraits afterward. Now I am trying to eventually fit back into my dress to do photos, but I have my doubts it will ever fit again.

  44. Great points, which have been made time and again. On point 3 I ALWAYS ask my couples for a list in advance of group shots (though I will be flexible on the day if needed) and to nominate a couple of people who are organised and don’t mind being a bit bossy to round people up. At the beginning of the group shots I hand them a list each and ask them to “Keep them coming”
    Group shots are like herding cats and they can become a real headache for all concerned, but my main aim is to get them done as quickly and smoothly as possible to allow the couple time to enjoy their day with their guests.

  45. when hiring a photographer for your wedding, please do yourself a huge favor and look at their work, look at what they typically capture for their weddings, if you do this and you verify they indeed took these pictures, you can be reassured you would get the same coverage for your wedding. I also feel that you should hire someone you like personality-wise, you will be spending a good portion of your day around your wedding photographer, if they make your skin crawl, you are not going to enjoy the process.

  46. I think that it’s important to have a list of expectations and most importantly, bring your photographer to the venue with you. Many brides are not aware of how lighting affects a photographer’s ability to capture certain things. Also, I don’t think photographers are supposed to keep an eye on how your hair is supposed to be parted. They are there to capture a “REAL DAY”, once the day begins in reality it is no longer rehearsed so there is only so much control one can have. Communication is key, write down your expectations and wishes, be realistic also because you may want the world but if you only give a photographer 15 minutes to cover what normally takes 30 minutes you will miss things.

  47. It is always sad when someone trusts a friend to do their wedding photos and they are disappointed – not only are you left without beautiful pictures of the day you dedicated so much time, energy and money to, but it can sour the relationship permanently. Yet I still get told on a regular basis “thank you for your time, but a friend has offered to do it.” All I can do is point out the obvious pitfalls and wish them a happy day.
    The point about having someone to gather guests is also a great one, I always ask the couple to nominate two people to help with this – one from each side so that they will know most people. Often it ends up with someone else doing it, but by setting the expectation the bride and groom are then clear that it is their job to stay put and someone else’s to bring the guests to them. I think brides do often get caught up in the wanting to make it perfect for everyone haze and forget that the day is about the two of them and other people should (and generally will) step up and make sure that it if perfect for them.

  48. Oy! In total agreement. We were on a shoe string budget, and my brother (who was then a totally amateur photographer) offered to take photos using a halfway decent camera my dad got for Christmas. LOL. The pictures were terrible- so sad!! We just didn’t know what we were doing, had no money, and were planning a shotgun wedding. An engagement shoot would’ve been killer awesome too. But alas.

    The point: Do everything you can to fit some level of professional photography into your wedding budget. That day only happens once. And you’re gonna want at least a handful of amazing shots.

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