Planning for Great Photographs | Getting Ready

It's March, and here in Wisconsin that means there are all kinds of couples gearing up for their weddings this year. Our wedding season is heaviest from May through October, so this is an ideal time to write my newest blog series: all about planning for great photographs! This blog series will cover all kinds of things you can do to give your photographer his or her best chance to create the images you're hoping for. So why is this series important? Shouldn't your photographer just be on their game and able to do anything you ask them to? Well, yes and no. We photographers should certainly be experienced in wedding days and how varying they can be, and yes, we should be able and willing to stay on our toes and work with whatever comes our way. But we're not perfect, and we can't be everywhere at once. There are fairly simple steps you can take to save your photographer time and work, which will make them even better able to create great images for you. I'll break down these suggestions into specific parts of the day, starting with today's post:

Planning for Great Photographs | Getting Ready

I absolutely adore the energy in the room where the bride prepares for the wedding day. This is usually where I start my day with my clients, and the excitement and anticipation that buzzes around the bride is tangible! Bridesmaids flutter around the room and moms are all smiles as they watch their daughters go from their usual, beautiful selves into elegant and extraordinary almost-wives. Oh, I love the surge of emotions that goes on! And many clients are excited for the photographs that result from those tender moments. So how can you get the best pictures out of this part of the day? Here are some ideas to consider! Most of these are for the bride and the girls, but there are also some thoughts for the guys- so read all the way through!

  • Choose a room with as many windows as you can. Whether it's a hotel, your home, or a designated space provided by your ceremony site, it's most ideal if the room where the bride puts her dress on has lots of natural light. Natural light through a window is the most flattering light available indoors. Without windows, your photographer may be forced to combat challenges such as mixed lighting temperatures and unflattering light angles. Trust me, the combination of fluorescent ceiling lights and a few scattered tungsten table lamps will not flatter you, your dress, or your family members. Yes, it can be supplemented with flash or re-arranged for better results, but the very best option will be natural window light. If your ceremony site does not provide a space with windows, consider getting dressed in a nearby hotel or other location that will provide better options.
getting ready on your wedding day
  • Reserve enough space to keep your dressing area de-cluttered. One of the things that takes a few minutes of my time in some situations is clearing out the unnecessary items in the background of the room where the bride is doing her final prep. To save those few minutes and let your photographer get right to work, make sure you've got enough space to separate the clutter from the photos. If you're getting a hotel room, consider a suite instead. If you're using a home, designate a different room for accumulation of stuff. Keep the room with the best light as clutter-free as you can! What kind of clutter, you ask? I'm talking bridesmaids' junk, make-up and hair stuff, bags and boxes and hangers, gift bags, coffee cups, brunch or snacks (with the exception of champagne, that's always welcome in photos!), phones and MP3 players, etc etc etc. Your girls love you, but they also want to look good- so if they're getting ready near you, give them a designated area to drop their tote bags and ask them to keep things as tidy as they can while they prep.
  • Bring your own cute hanger for the dress. This doesn't mean you have to spend $50 on Etsy for a perfectly custom-made hanger with your new name (though those are fun!), but I do encourage my brides to bring SOMETHING other than the hanger the gown goes home on. Grab a single wooden hanger, preferably with grooves for those hanger straps and without a pant bar (meaning not a suit hanger). Save a pretty piece of ribbon from a bridal shower or leftovers from a DIY decor project and tie it in a little bow on the hanger for a simple splash of your wedding colors.
  • Set aside your must-have details so they're ready to go. I shoot a lot of my bridal details as soon as I arrive, so I encourage my brides to put everything that's important to these shots in a single place. A tote bag is a great way to keep things together because I can literally grab it and go! I'll take these little details on a field trip while I search out the best spot to shoot the dress. What should be in the bag, you ask? All the beautiful things! Your jewelry, garter, shoes, veil, purse, and anything else that falls into the old, new, borrowed, and blue categories. You might also include the gifts to your bridesmaids- just one set will do, so ask one girl part with theirs for a few minutes! **Just a note- this does not need to include the wedding rings. I often photograph those later on in the day. I won't complain about a few extra minutes with them, but it's not necessary to part them from their designated care-takers before the ceremony- I'd hate to be the one responsible for missing rings!**
photographing details on the wedding day
  • Have your VIP ladies in their dresses before you're ready to put on your gown. I have had many-a-mom ask me on the wedding day, just before the bride is about to slip out of her jeans, "Should I have my dress on for this?" The answer is YES. I can speak from experience, and even my own mom would tell you that she wishes she'd have dressed before me, as she regrets that she's in her casual clothes in one of our favorite mother-daughter pictures as she zipped up my gown. Mother-of-the-bride is a busy role on a wedding day, but be sure to tell her to take the time to get picture-ready before this big moment. She'll be grateful later! The same goes for bridesmaids. Your girls should have their dresses on if they're going to be in the photos while you get all bride-ified! This will infuse your wedding colors into the photos as well as ensure that the girls all feel happy with how they look in the images. And yes, this goes even if you are doing a first look and the wedding party pictures are later on. So plan accordingly and let everyone know what time they will need to be dressed. Then they can all swoon with you as your bridal outfit comes together!
Wisconsin wedding photographers
  • Open gifts from one another while your photographer is around. If you've decided to exchange gifts before the day starts, having your photographer around for this special moment can make for wonderful story-telling images. Arrange for a bridesmaid and groomsman to deliver the gifts- this is a great best-man and maid-of-honor duty! Then, clear the room of everyone except your photographer and enjoy your exchange. Budget 10-15 minutes for this process so you can really soak it in- and dry the tears before final touches!
And now for the boys. The getting-ready process for the groom and his guys is not nearly as intense or detail driven, but there are still fun shots to be had. These are my recommendations for the grooms and their getting-ready arrangements!
  • Get any details together that you'd like recorded. Perhaps the bride or a friend gave you some custom cufflinks, or you've gifted your guys with some awesome argyle socks or custom engraved beverage accessories. Maybe you're wearing a meaningful tie pin or carrying an heirloom pocket watch- those details should be photographed!
Details_BarrelBW
  • Keep your pants on. Well, PUT your pants on! While the bride will often need to be in her unmentionables in the photographer's presence, this isn't warranted for the guys. So feel free to have your shirt, pants, and socks on before the photographer arrives to shoot the rest of the scene. They'll want to shoot the rest of the dressing process, including your vest, tie, cufflinks, jacket, and shoes.
  • Go ahead, have a moment. Yeah, I know, you're a GUY. You don't do sappy. But this is a special day and you're surrounded by the men in your life who you respect and trust- and they're happy for you. So if dad wants to give you a hug, don't mind the camera in the room. We won't take your man-card, we promise.
  • Have fun! Since guys get dressed so much more quickly than us girls, you might have time to goof off with your gents just a little bit. So make a plan. Play poker, hit up the pool table in the lobby, enjoy a cigar, get outside and show off your matching socks. Do what feels like you & the guys. Just don't compromise the ceremony or the day's festivities (read: don't get wasted!). Your photographer or second shooter will be glad to document some of the fun!
And there you have it, folks. My best advice for giving your photographer the greatest opportunity to document the very beginning of your wedding day. Organization and preparation can go a long way to making your day seem like it was flawless from the word GO. Now go bedazzle that tote bag, ladies! Next up in the Planning for Great Photographs series: The First Look! _blogSignature