Whether you love all the group photos taken at a wedding with friends and family or would prefer to spend more time smoozing with your guests the reality is that the only way to guarantee a photo with grandma is to plan to take one. These type of photos are the formal portraits at a wedding and I’m going to chat a little bit about how to do them quickly and efficiently so you can get on to the partying!
There’s been a trend in the last couple decades of couples wanting to have more of a photo-journalistic style of wedding coverage. A true photo-journalist should never stage a photo as they are there mainly to document the event. While this can often times capture some of the most emotional and memorable moments at a wedding, choosing a photographer who only offers this type of photography can often mean you miss getting photos with a lot of the people who are important to you that a traditional portrait photographer will take. You can have both styles of photography and the best wedding photographers will offer both!
I started out assisting my mother with weddings back in the nineties during the days of film when each wedding you photographed had a limited amount of film to shoot for each event. Photographers had to choose their frames very deliberately. In those days you took maybe 2-3 frames of each group shot and just hoped someone didn’t blink. You took one shot of the cake and maybe 2-3 of the cake cutting. Delivering 300-500 images back then was considered a lot! I’m thankful to have learned photography during that time period because not only does it make me appreciate the ability to take as many photos as I want at an event, but also it did teach me a lot of skills that I still use today to help with facilitating the formal portrait session quickly. Here are some tips for couples planning a wedding:
1.) First, if at all possible find a photographer that has a portfolio that includes group portraits and speaks about the importance of taking these types of photos at a wedding. This will ensure that you get a photographer that will be proactive in making sure the photos you want with others get completed and not missed.
2.) Ask the photographer to walk you through their process of doing group portraits. Each photographer will probably have a way of doing things that works the best for them. This way you can hear about any potential “red flags” they may state like “I really hate taking group photos, so I do the bare minimum” or “I’ll do group photos if you really want me to” or my favorite “Just grab me whenever you want a photo” That last statement is fine in conjunction with a well laid out plan for how and when you will be doing the bulk of the portrait photos and should be in addition to those photos not in lieu of a planned group formal photography time. The last thing you want to be doing on your wedding day is being in charge of grabbing all the people you want to take photos with, this is the photographer’s job.
3.) Most couples utilize the cocktail hour immediately following the ceremony for the time period to take these group photos. I am starting to hear more often that couples would prefer to enjoy some of that time-frame to meet and greet guests and are opting to do some if not all of the group formals before the wedding. If you are planning on doing this it’s imperative that everyone you’d like to be in these photos knows the time-frame that you will be starting the photos. I also suggest telling them a start time 30 minutes prior to the actual start time to make time for late comers (especially if you know you will have a few of these). Even if you plan to do all of the group photos before the ceremony leave some time directly following the ceremony to do just a few more in case someone doesn’t get the memo or you run out of time before the ceremony. If you don’t need the time it will just give you some extra moments with your new spouse and maybe some extra time for more relaxed photos of just the two of you which really are the most important photos you’ll want from the day!
4.) Utilize your wedding officiant or DJ/MC to make announcements for photos. Simply stated, if you plan to have the officiant tell the guests where they are supposed to go following the ceremony recessional, it’s a great idea to also have him/her mention that the couple has requested that immediate or all of the family of the couple should stay behind for a few moments for some family photos. This tells Uncle John that he can’t make a B-line to the bar just yet! And saves a lot of time looking for the family members needed for the group photos. Less time taking photos means more time to hang out with friends after wards. Family photos can be done as quickly as 15-20 minutes if everyone is present. The overtime comes when a photographer or another person has to go and look for someone who is missing.
5.) Start with the largest family first or with the side that has the most jobs to still do if they are helping out with the reception set-up or meal. Do the extended family photos first if you are doing them and whittle them down to smaller groupings and complete one side (if at all possible) before moving on to the other spouse’s family. If you have any specific groupings you’d like to have photographed give a list to your photographer. Every photographer should have a basic list of what they usually cover to show or tell you about (if you’ve been doing this for 20 years like me then your list can be in your head, but they should easily be able to tell you what their normal groupings are) and then you can decide if there are special groupings you want that are not on that list for instance: generation groupings, just cousins, just aunts and uncles, etc. This will ensure that the photographer knows what’s important to you.
6.) A loud boisterous photographer who is willing to direct people will get things done a lot quicker than a timid person waiting for groups to arrange themselves. If you get the feeling that your photographer is not going to be good at this, but still really like their work then utilizing a family member who can help with this is really recommended. A loud Aunt or Uncle who knows all the key family members and that wants to help is a great person for this role! You can also ask them to keep an eye on your dress and/or other things as the photos are being taken. A detail orientated photographer is great, but an extra pair of eyes is also helpful.
7.) Put the kibosh to others wanting to take photos while the photographer is doing formal portraits. I can’t stress this enough! I know the urge for the mother of the bride to want to take a duplicate photo of every photo the photographer is taking, I really do, but every time the photographer has to stop in the middle of their group arrangements to allow someone else to take photos it adds on to how long it takes to do the group photos. This also results in photos with people looking everywhere, but at the paid photographer’s camera. The couple is going to get a high quality large resolution digital images back from the photographer that they can share with everyone so why would they want a dark, crooked underexposed low quality cellphone picture of the exact same thing? The shocking answer is they won’t want them. Half the time they won’t even see those images as they will get forgotten about and never downloaded from the person’s phone. The best thing a couple can do is set expectations before the wedding by telling everyone that they think will want to take photos that it’s best to let the photographer do their job so that they can get through the photos quickly. This always sounds better coming from the couple rather than the photographer.
Sometimes there’s a real shutter bug in the family as well that likes to bring his/her DSLR which is great, but can also sometimes become an issue. For example if they are taking key members of the wedding party away to do photos of their own while the contracted photographer is trying to get their shots. This has happened to me on more than one occasion and it’s really not helpful and again makes the portrait session take longer. I think it’s great when another photographer comes up and introduces themselves to the photographer and asks permission to take photos. When this occasionally happens I can tell them exactly what they should and should not do. The most beneficial way to take additional photos is to get photos of things the contracted photographer can’t take. Examples of this would be photos of the guests at cocktail hour and dinner or even covering the rehearsal the day before. If someone in your family has expressed interest in taking photos at your wedding it’s imperative to chat with the photographer you have hired beforehand to discuss what this might look like. Most photographers have clauses in their contracts that won’t allow a second professional unless they are hired by them and this is to ensure another photographer is not impeding their job. Having an extra person covering stuff that contracted photographer can’t cover is a great way to utilize someone else with a camera.
8.) Overall, if you really feel like group portraits are not for you, at least consider doing photos with your immediate family with you and your new spouse in them immediately following the ceremony. A few frames of each side of the family should at least be enough to appease mom and dad. These can take as little as ten minutes. If you are worried about it turning into a long session tell the photographer up front that you only want “X” photos. This will let them take control of the situation should more group photo requests come up on the day and allow you an easy way to escape the multiple groupings if you don’t want to do them.
I’m going to start off by saying that I am not a wedding planner, but as a wedding photographer who has been covering weddings and events for over 23 years I have a unique perspective on planning weddings… what works and what doesn’t. I’m also going to say that a wedding planner is almost always worth the investment even if you can only afford the “day of coordination” services. I always remember the story about a mother of the bride that came up to me after the event. I told her it was an amazing day and she had done such a good job setting everything up and coordinating with all of the vendors and then she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “I feel like I missed my daughter’s wedding because all I was doing was taking care of everything so that she could have a perfect day!” After that day I started looking at wedding planners as more of a necessity than a luxury, especially if you want your friends and family to enjoy the event instead of spending all their time working.
We still do work with tons of couples who decide to do it all them selves whether that’s because they don’t have a budget for a coordinator or because they really, really enjoy the planning aspects of party planning. Sometimes it’s because the venue or the caterer also offers some sort of set-up and/or breakdown service for the event. And when this happens we often run into no concrete plan on how things for the day are going to go and I find myself helping the couple come up with a timeline that not only makes sure there’s enough time planned for all the special events, but also enough time to get all those posed photos that they want too! Because of this background I thought I would share some helpful tips for planning your wedding timeline especially if you are going to host an event in Colorado. Because of our beautiful scenery a lot of Colorado weddings are held outdoors (at least for a portion of the event). Outdoors can bring a whole extra set of challenges that you need to consider such as time of year, weather, location and guests’ comfort. I’ve seen it all – Winter weddings held outside with a snowy landscape to Church weddings on one side of town and a reception over an hour away. All of these things can effect a timeline. So here are some things to consider when you start planning out your timeline.
1.) Are you hosting the ceremony and reception at the same location?
If your ceremony and reception are being held at completely different locations then you have to remember to include drive time between the two venues in your timing. Make sure to leave in extra time for things like traffic problems and construction. If you are having a shuttle bus take guests between the two locations or from accommodations to the venues make sure you find out if they need multiple trips or if a large bus can be used to take all the guests who would be using it. Again make sure you have extra time planned in the timeline for things that come up.
2.) What time of the year are you getting married?
Sure there are savings to be had for couple willing to brave hosting a wedding in the middle of Winter, but it’s also not without risk. Colorado ski towns are notorious for getting blocked in with snow that close down roads in the Wintertime. If you are having a mountain wedding in November-March you should prepare for all scenarios with the worst being yourself, guests and vendors unable to make it to your venue. I highly suggest that you plan an extra day for arrivals prior to the wedding to ensure that yourself, vendors and others can at least be able to get to town prior to the wedding date. We covered a wedding in Silverthorne in 2019 where the bride mentioned frequent tunnel closures and ski traffic in her invitations. She suggested that guests give themselves an extra hour to get to the venue and because of that all of her guests were able to make it just before the ceremony started because the Eisenhower Tunnel had a closure. It’s a good idea to see if there are any festivals, planned road closures, or other travel issues in the area during your planned wedding date and take all of that into consideration when planning a timeline. And offer up alternate routes than what the map on your phone will give or suggestions for time management.
Next, the time of year can most definitely effect when you should plan an outdoor ceremony. The sun starts to go down earlier in the Fall and because of the mountains you may loose light for photos even sooner than other locations. If you are planning a sunset ceremony than you should plan to do the bulk of your formal portraits prior to the ceremony because once it’s dark out a photographer can use flash, but no amount of flash will bring those beautiful backgrounds back into the light and all that money you spent on a venue with views is wasted for your photos.
3.) Start your timeline early… from when you are planning on getting ready.
When you choose hair and make-up artists tell them the time that every person in your wedding party must be done for photos starting plus half an hour to an hour. The artists should know how long it takes for themselves and/or a team of stylists to complete the job and they will tell you what time you need to start getting ready. I’ve been to many weddings where someone from a stylist’s team doesn’t show which puts everyone behind or one of the bridesmaids hates their hair and they have to start over. Having that extra wiggle room for time will either be needed or it will give you some time to just relax.
If you are planning on doing any of the decorating yourself utilizing family and wedding party members then I highly suggest doing all of this either the day before your event (if at all possible) or plan on it being completed by the time you need to get ready as you can’t do both at the same time. Couples often forget that a lot of the wedding portraits can be done before the wedding as well and if you are too busy setting up instead of taking photos then you are just paying your photographer to stand around until you are ready. Also you probably don’t need the photographer there for all of the 3-4 hours of the wedding party is getting ready. One to two hours before the ceremony should be sufficient to capture the last minute touch ups and getting dressed. The photographer and videographer’s start time will depend on whether or not you are doing a “First Look” and how many portraits you plan on doing before the ceremony.
4.) Utilize the experts in the industry.
Talk to the owner or coordinator of the venue and ask them what timelines work the best for the time of year you are getting married. Chat with the caterer to find out what order for service works the best for them because if they have a way that they normally do things sometimes if you change anything up it can also affect the level of service they can provide you. Take into consideration time for things like “room flipping” which is when the same room the ceremony is held in is switched during the cocktail hour to a reception set-up. If you have to do this at the venue you have chosen then plan a little bit extra time for your cocktail hour in case things take longer to do. Of course talk to your photographer and videographer about the important things you want to make sure are covered from your day so that you can utilize their coverage time the best.
5.) Distribute your written timeline widely.
You should have a nicely typed out timeline that is given out to all of your vendors, as well as anyone in the bridal party and important family members. This way everyone knows where they are supposed to be and when. Having to look for a missing groomsmen or waiting on a family member to arrive can not always be prevented, but it’s a lot less likely to happen when everyone knows when and and where they are supposed to be. It can also take some of the stress off of everyone involved. Make sure your venue and/or a trusted wedding party member has a copy of it so they can help keep you on track if you are not using a wedding planner.
Destination weddings in Colorado have become big business in the wedding industry. Couples from all over the world are imagining themselves saying their nuptials with majestic peaks in the background. Maybe the couples has previously vacationed here and fallen in love with the state or perhaps like one of the couples I photographed a couple years ago the bride had never seen snow before and had always wanted to get married on a snow covered mountain top! Whatever your reason for getting married in Colorado it’s now easier than ever to do! The internet has given everyone the key to searching out thousands of venues and vendors. Couples can check out photos and videos of properties, search by price point and even view reviews from others who have used the vendors in the past. Tools like email, FaceTime and Skype make is easier to do virtual meetings to discuss your needs and concerns that some couples choose to book some or even all their wedding vendors without ever meeting in person! If this is something you plan on doing here is some tips to help you navigate choosing the best vendors!
1.) Consider hiring a Wedding Planner – I’m all for do it “yourselfers” that want to save money, but sometimes a planner is a huge help in facilitating the wedding of your dreams; especially if you don’t live or know anyone where you plan on hosting your event. A planner can have more insight on particular venues and vendors and can even in some cases save couples money by helping them find the best value for what they want to spend. If hiring a planner isn’t in your budget, look for venues with amazing on-site coordinators. When booking a site that includes an on-site coordinator make sure you get a list of their duties so you know what you’re getting. Some venues provide a coordinator purely to protect their own interests. The coordinator is just there to turn on and off the lights, show you what you can and can not do and make sure guests don’t destroy the property. Others offer full on planning services as well. They help with decorating, organizing guests and the wedding party and more. Just make sure you are aware of what they will and will not do especially if you are paying extra for them.
2.) Hiring Pros…when to choose someone from home and when to go with someone locally – Hiring some local vendors are much more obvious. Hiring a caterer from home and expecting them to haul out all of their gear etc. can become very cost prohibitive. So looking at local caterers is probably recommended. Others might not be so cut and dry… not to shoot myself in the foot, as I would love your photo and video business, but sometimes you have built a repertoire with a photographer who lives near you and you really want to use them. I completely get that! I myself have covered a number of destination weddings for people who have grown to love my work. I’ve covered weddings in Florida, the Virgin Islands and even Costa Rica! But sometimes choosing a photographer who lives and works in the area you’re getting married in can be very beneficial. They might work at your venue on a regular basis or know some amazing off the beaten path spots to take photographs. Consider the travel costs you might have to cover when bringing a vendor with you. Sometimes these costs can double the cost of the service they provide.
3.) Do your research and set a budget in advance – Talk with all the parties involved to set-up realistic budgets for each service you are looking for prior to meeting with venues and vendors. In your research don’t be afraid to ask the business what their starting prices are and a rough estimate of what their services would cost for what you need. Caterers this might go off of an estimated guest count and food preference. Photographers and videographers might charge for how much time you want them to document your event and whether or not you want more than one cameraman present. Disc Jockeys and musicians usually start with the time-frame they will be playing music and then add-on for things like extra lighting. Once you have found a few vendors in your price range only set-up meetings (whether they are on the phone or in person) with vendors who are in the range of your budget.
4.) Visit your Destination Location – If at all possible schedule a scouting trip to the area you are looking to getting married at during the time of year that you plan on hosting your event. Photos of a property are great, but we all know that photographers have ways to take the photos showing the venue off in it’s best light and can doctor the images using Photoshop! It’s good to see and meet vendor in person whenever possible. Remember that great venues and vendors book up quickly so while I recommend doing your due diligence with all services, if you have a particular date in mind it might be wise to do this sooner than later because for most vendors once they are booked they’re no longer available to take on more work. Don’t be afraid to ask for past client referrals!
5.) Get it in writing! – Make sure the vendors you hire always use a contract and be sure to review the contracts before signing. Bring up any concerns to the vendor before you sign and give them a deposit. If the vendor doesn’t provide it for you, ask them for an itemized list of everything that is included in the quoted price. At a destination wedding, it’s especially important to make sure things like pick up and drop off of items are being handled by the vendor and everyone is on the same page of timing and what’s included. Be sure to think about things that make it easier for guests traveling to your destination like room blocking at hotels and shuttle service to and from ceremony and reception locations.
6.) Go with your Gut – If after meeting with a vendor for any service something feels “off”, but you can’t put your finger on it listen to what your subconscious is trying to tell you. Some red flags to consider: disparaging talk about a current or past clients (unless it’s to explain how they handled a challenging situation without naming the clients), how quickly they return emails and phone calls (sometimes with emails it’s just technology failing, don’t hesitate to pick up a phone and call them), trying to strong arm you into features or add-ons that you might not need or judgemental comments about your budget and an unwillingness to work within it. While vendors all understand budgets please don’t call a vendor that says their prices start at “X” price expecting them to do basically the same service they are advertising for at a 1/3 of the price! There may be a little wiggle room in some vendors prices, but don’t expect over a 5-10% difference.
I received another amazing personalized gift from Bridesmaids’ Gifts Boutique this time it’s a monogrammed makeup bag with my initials. The bag is nicely made, comes in a variety of different colors and has a lovely tassel on the zipper. Super cute! This would be an adorable gift for each one of your bridesmaids or for the bride herself as a bridal shower gift! As always the delivery was super fast so if you are procrastinating on the gifts check out this site! And their associate site Groovy Groomsmen Gifts
For the bridesmaids: Put in a lip gloss, a nice lotion set, maybe a pair of flip-flops for when the dancing starts, some tissues, mints and maybe a cold brew coffee or other caffeinated drink as it’s going to be a long day!
For the bride: Fill it with bridal emergency kit items and you have the perfect accessory for her big day! Need some ideas on what to include for an emergency kit here’s my go to list: 1.) A Tide Pen – for any spills or stains 2.) A small sewing kit – for wardrobe malfunctions 3.) Super glue – I’ve seen this save many a heals on shoes and even boutinears! 4.) Scissors – Everyone always forgets to remove tags 5.) Gum and/or Breathe Mints – Fresh breathe speaks for itself 6.) Pantyhose – In case you get a run in one and they can be used for other things 7.) Lip gloss! 8.) A small first aide kit with band-aids, etc. 9.) Clear nail polish – Also stops pantyhose runs 10.) Tissues – For inevitable crying! 11.) Aspirin or Ibuprofen – For pain relief 12.) A nail file 13.) Sunscreen – Especially if the event is outdoors! 14.) Bobby Pins 15.) Fabric Tape – This has also saved someone from embarrassing clothing mishaps 16) Lint Roller – Keep fuzzies off that dress! 17.) Deodorant – Bride’s forget this all the time! 18.) Pens – To sign the license! 19.) Antacids – In case dinner doesn’t agree with you. 20.) Water & Snacks – the day goes so fast she often forgets to eat!
So a bunch of couples got engaged over the holidays and possibly Valentine’s Day! And they are wondering what they should start with first in the planning process! Well, before you get knee deep in the planning process a fun thing to do is to announce your engagement to the world! And one of the best ways to do this is by having some amazing photos taken of you both during an Engagement Portrait Session! Whether you and your significant other have been together a year or longer, a lot of times there are not a ton of photos of you together as a couple. This is a great way to add some photos to your albums, meet and try out a photographer that you might possibly use for your wedding and to have some fun casual photos of you and your fiance’ for things like your wedding website, save-the-date cards and more!
Here are some great poses and ideas to make your session fabulous!
1.) Beautiful View – Choose a Location for an Outstanding Natural View! (Especially if you can’t hold your wedding at a location with a spectacular view!)
2.) Incorporate Your Pets – Let’s face it your dogs are your family! Bring them along to the photo-shoot for some fun photos. This is a great way to include your furry family members, especially if you can’t bring them to your wedding venue.
3.) Highlight the Engagement Ring – Did your fiance’ do an excellent job picking out your ring? Make sure the ring is the focus for a few shots!
4.) Choose a Fun Activity for Photos – Maybe you are avid rock climbers, role-players, bikers, etc. Use the hobbies that you like to do together to create a fun photo-shoot that shows off what you love to do together!
5.) The Hand-Hold Pose – is a must for every engagement session! It shows how connected you are to the one you love.
6.) Lovely Portrait – Don’t forget to do some traditional poses looking at the camera too! Grandma wants to see your faces!
7.) Nightime Photos – Be unique and schedule your session close to sundown so you can also incorporate some night-time poses, especially if you got engaged around the holidays and Christmas lights are still hanging up around town.
8.) Wall Art Backdrop – Want an urban/edgy look… find some Graffiti Wall Art to pose in front of!
9.) Epic Kiss Photo – Don’t forget the romantic Hollywood kiss photo!
10.) Sun Glow Photos – Use the sun as an interesting/creative element in your photos!
It’s a whole new ball game for photographers when it comes to weddings…. gone are the days when one “Uncle Bob” shows up with a nice camera wanting to take photos of the same wedding the photographer is getting paid to cover. Now every person attending a wedding has a pretty decent camera in their pockets in the form of a “smart phone” and for some reason this has given wedding guests the idea that the photos taken from such phones are wanted and/or needed making it more difficult for the actual paid professional to complete their assigned duties! A couple years ago it was a nuisance at best, however in 2018 if you have not asked your guests to refrain from taking photos at least during the ceremony it can become an all out war fighting guests for the best spot to photograph the happy couple.
Now you may be asking yourself “What’s the Big Deal? Why wouldn’t we want more images from our wedding that can be provided by our guests?” And that is a great question because I have seen some great photos taken by guests over the years, and maybe they capture something that the photographer has missed while he or she is photographing other things. It makes me happy knowing that others have captured other angles or events that I may have missed, but it literally breaks my heart when a guest ruins a perfect photo opportunity by jumping in front of me when I’m capturing a key moment of the day; mainly because I know that the photo that they just had to get will more than likely be blurry, low resolution or perhaps the couple will never see because it doesn’t get posted or even given to them! If I had been able to get the shot that I had prepared myself for than my clients would be happy. Shots like I knew we were just seconds away from like “the first kiss” that would’ve been a key element in their wedding album!
I’m including some photos from recent weddings that I’ve covered in this blog post with the faces of the couple and guests blurred out because my objective is not to shame these people, but rather to inform the public the benefits of an “Unplugged Wedding” or at the very least an “Unplugged Ceremony”. I’ve been in the business for 18 years. Not to make myself look old, but I started out assisting my mother who was a pro in the days of film. It’s been sad watching the progression of seeing the smiling faces of wedding guests during the ceremony when the bride walks down the aisle to seeing faces hidden behind cameras and tablets. It really looks like the guests are more engaged with their phones than the actual wedding.
The most recent wedding I covered I literally had to push between at least four woman all vying for a position to photograph the couple. How was I ever to get the photos I was getting paid to take without having to be a little rude to guests. One time I was covering a Jewish wedding and I and my 2nd cameraman were both positioned for a crucial shot. When the rabbi got to the end of the ceremony and the couple were about to smash the glass an important Jewish tradition. Suddenly, a big guy sitting up front jumped up with his iPad blocking both of our views and so you can’t see the groom stomping on the glass at all! It’s not like I could yell, hey you up front move! Guests standing in the aisle of the photos also makes me sad because no matter what when you look at the photo your eyes go directly to the person standing in the aisle taking the photo and not to the actual subject of the photo.
I also really cringe when guests try to take photos over my shoulder during the formals. Usually, we are already under a time crunch so this extra interference doesn’t help. Flashes from others cameras can ruin my photos and the eyes of my subjects tend to wander to whomever is trying to take an additional photo and so they won’t be focused on my camera. And it can make guests angry if I have to tell them to put down their cameras. It’s better just to leave these photos up to the professionals. I’m not even interested in making money off print sales as most of my clients are getting all of their high resolution digital files anyways. I just want their photos to be the best that they can be, so the respectful thing is to let the photographer do their job.
So for the distinguished couple comes the new trend that is actually kind of sad that it has to be done… “The Unplugged Wedding”. Other than having your guests surrender their phones at the door to the venue like they do at some comedy shows now to protect the artists’ routines, some wise person came up with the idea of the “Unplugged Wedding”. The idea is plain enough in that it’s a simple request from the couple to their guests to turn off all of their electronic devices (even if it’s just for the actual ceremony only) and to be present in the moment for their special day. To facilitate this couples will not only write this in their wedding program, but also create signs to have displayed at their event and/or ask their wedding officiant to make an announcement during the opening remarks before the processional begins. I’ve only actually been to a couple weddings so far that put this idea into practice and I can tell you it was completely worth it! The photos and video during the ceremony that we took at these events were all amazing and the guests look like people participating in something rather than screen zombies!
I know selfies are a thing now and so are wedding hashtags, but if I were getting married today instead of 12 years ago when I did get married I would be going for a fully unplugged wedding with the reception included. Smart phones were around when I got married, but they weren’t as prevalent as they are today. My mother has always been the photographer in our family, but I ordered her not to bring her camera to my wedding because I wanted her to be present, to enjoy herself and to not be concerned about whether or not she was getting enough photos. And for one of the few times in my life I saw her at an important event in our family’s lives without a camera in hand and she was loving it! I also ended up with some beautiful photos with her in them which are few and far between because she was always the person taking them. I researched my photographer thoroughly, I had seen his work and I spent more money on that then almost everything else (besides food) because photos were that important to me. And I didn’t worry about a thing. He covered every moment of our big day, nothing was missed. I saw maybe two people pull out other cameras that day. I received one disk of photos from one of those people and almost every image was either blurry, over exposed and just not up to my standards. The other person posted a few on Facebook and I never saw the rest. I’m so grateful for the photographer that I hired and happy that I got married in another time!
With Summer wedding season just around the corner I thought it would be helpful to share some ideas for warm and sunny day events. While there might not be as many weather challenges as when you host a Winter event there can still be some hiccups in your big day and also ways to make your event more special. Here are some really great tips for Summer Weddings! And if you are interested I also wrote a blog post about “Plan B” for a Rainy Day and it’s here if you want to check it out: http://crystalinephoto.com/blog/2017/04/28/what-to-do-if-it-rains-on-your-wedding-day/
1.) Have a non-alcoholic drink station set up for guests upon arrival. Whether you are having an outdoor or indoor wedding during the Summer the one thing you will be dealing with is the heat. Offering your guests a way to cool down and to stay hydrated is a really great idea, especially in the higher altitude states like Colorado.
2.) Speaking of drinks, it’s a good idea to refrain from opening your bar too soon! Allowing guests to partake in cocktails before the ceremony on empty stomachs can be a recipe for disaster. Often times the wedding party might do a celebratory toast with either the bride or groom in their preparation rooms, which is a really nice photographic moment with one or two drinks, but allowing the guests access to unregulated drinks can sometimes result in unruly guests. Save the open bar for the cocktail hour and also save your pocket book.
3.) Consider a not so formal wedding. Floor length gowns and black tuxedos can get quite uncomfortable in 70-100 degree temperatures. Picking shorter dresses for your wedding party and having a more laid back affair can sometimes be the best thing for mid-Summer events when the days are scorching hot! While you still might want to have some sophistication by not have everyone show up in their jeans you can just list your wedding as semi-formal or dressy casual attire on your invites or if fancy dress is not for you go ahead and open it up to “come as you are”! It’s your wedding do what you feel is right for you!
4.) Stock bathrooms with items to freshen up that you can grab from any travel size section at a store such as mini deodorants, face blotters, sunscreen, bug spray, wet wipes, mints, mouth wash, feminine products, mini water bottles, etc. Guests will appreciate the extra thought and effort you put into this tiny detail!
5.) Try not to plan your outdoor ceremony to take place right in the middle of the day when the sun is at it’s highest point (bad for photos and also the hottest point of the day). But if you must do it around this time provide relief for your guests like a basket of sunglasses as wedding favors, or inexpensive paper fans, or paper parasols (I would save those parasols for after the ceremony so as not to block the view of other guests). There’s a lot of ideas out there for creating wedding programs that also double as fans!
6.) Here’s an idea that florists will appreciate… Order a couple back-up boutonnieres and a few extra replacement flowers for larger designs if you plan on re-using your floral arrangements for decorations at the reception. Hot sun can wilt flowers quickly, especially if they are a more delicate type flower. Also I’ve seen flowers on boutonnieres fall off a groom or groomsman before the ceremony and photos, having a quick replacement avoids unnecessary repair work on a boutonniere.
7.) Providing chair covers for an outdoor ceremony not only adds elegance to an event, but it protects bare legs from getting burned on hot chairs that have been sitting in the sun. While again it’s not an absolute necessity, it’s a nice touch!
8.) If your Summer reception will take place somewhere outdoors or without air conditioning than serving foods that will stay fresh in hot weather is also a great idea. Here is a list of the most common foods to avoid for hot weather – Chocolate (melted hot mess chocolate covered strawberries, yuck), hot soups, salads made with mayonnaise (if they will be left out for a long period), cheese products (also a gooey mess), fresh fruit can quickly brown, seafood, and deviled eggs.
9.) If your ceremony is going to be near water or in an area known to have a lot of bugs and mosquitoes strategically placed citronella candles are a must! Use them to decorate the ceremony aisle or even place them in your table centerpieces, along with providing some nicely scented wearable bug spray for guests you can help save them from getting eaten alive!
10.) My favorite thing to see at Summer weddings is a bride & groom send-off of any kind. The sunlight lasts longer, the evenings are warmer and guests tend to stay later at these events so it’s quite easy to have your DJ round-up your guests at the end of the night for a special send-off. If your venue will allow sparklers these are always a crowd pleaser, other ideas are: glow in the dark sticks, bubbles, flower petals, and a balloon release.
Looking forward to those long Summer days ahead and some amazing events! ~Jamie
Most of us have been to a wedding where the couple getting married takes off right after the ceremony to do photos with family members, the wedding party and some photos by themselves. This happens and we don’t see the couple we are there celebrating for about an hour, there are a few different ways to alleviate the amount of time spent on these photos and I will list those really quick so that you have them as well, but this post is mainly to help with some ideas to entertain your guests if you have to do the bulk of your formal portraits immediately following the ceremony… So if you are looking for some fun and creative ideas to keep your guests busy while you are getting some important photographs taken please read on…
But real quick…. to take the least amount of time possible with your formal portraits after the ceremony here are three suggestions:
1.) Do a First Look with the Bride & Groom and schedule all of your formal portraits or a vast majority of them before the ceremony. This is for the couple that doesn’t care about the tradition of seeing each other before the ceremony. Often times it requires adding extra time with your photographer before the ceremony to ensure that you have enough time to do them before the ceremony is slated to start. You will also want to add a little extra wiggle room in case preparation and getting ready takes longer than expected. Plan on guests beginning to arrive about 30 minutes prior to the ceremony start time. You will want all of your photos slated to be done or just finishing up with the groomsmen at that time. If you don’t want to do a first look try and do at least the bride and bridesmaid photos beforehand and groom and groomsmen photos as well to get some of the formals out of the way.
2.) Tell everyone that you want to be in your photos that their presence is requested and when and where these photos will be taken, don’t assume that your aunts and uncles will stick around after the ceremony for photos… Give them a heads up beforehand… sometimes handing out a timeline at the rehearsal and/or putting something on your wedding website alleviates confusion and precious time looking for people who have wandered off. It doesn’t have to be a lot of details something like this (being specific to who you want and where you want them) –
3:30pm – All Family Photo of Bride’s Side by the Alter (all relatives are requested to be in the photos)
3:45pm – Immediate Family of the Groom’s Photos at the Front of the Building
Doing this one simple task can make the difference between family photos taking 20 minutes or an hour!
3.) In most cases couples will receive all of their digital images from their photographer or the very best of the group photos taken so with this in mind, it goes a lot faster if the photographer doesn’t have to stop every few minutes to let someone else take a photo of something they just took. If you have a limited amount of time to do formal photos…for example if you’re getting married in a Catholic Church and they gave you precisely 30 minutes to take photos after the ceremony before parishioners come into the sanctuary for confession. If time is absolutely of the essence, any deviation from the photographer’s job will effect the outcome of your photos and the amount you can actually take. It’s best if you as the couple just ask everyone else to put their cameras away and let the photographer do their job because it sounds better coming from the people paying for the photographer than the actual photographer themselves.
Most couples will usually still use the “cocktail hour” following the ceremony for the time period to take their photographs. Traditionally, this is the time that guests will mull around the venue, chat with other guests, eat appetizers and have a few beverages while searching for their seats for dinner. It’s also the perfect opportunity for you as a couple to put your personal stamp on the event by introducing some fun items to entertain guests and here are some ideas for entertaining those guests –
1.) Lawn Games or Table Games – Many companies rent out lawn games like the photo of “Connect” below, other items they might rent are large chess pieces, Jenga Blocks, Corn-hole and more. These are perfect for a laid back wedding with more of down home feel to it. Board games are also fun and can be used at more of an indoor location. Both ideas give guests who might not know each other a way to bond.
2.) Photo Booth – There are many companies in Colorado that offer the old school photo-booth with print on site capabilities. We offer a portrait station which is similar, but rather than print on site we just provide all the images along with your wedding photos and you can share them with your guests after the wedding either in digital form or print one out and mail it with your “thank you” cards. This option allows for more space for larger group photos and is less expensive than printing on site. (Print on site option are also available, but require an additional assistant and thus cost more). We’ll include props for no additional charge (only available with a 2-photographer package).
3.) Live Band or Musician – If you already are having a live musician for your ceremony you can see if they will stay through the cocktail hour to give your guests a more unique experience. I’ve been to some events that just hired a musician for the cocktail hour. A musician like a piano player, flutist, or bagpiper would be great for just that.
4.) Hire an Entertainer – Examples: A Magician, A Celebrity Impersonator, A Belly Dancer, Etc. I’ve seen Frank Sinatra impersonators belt out tunes and walk among guests during the cocktail hour, belly dancers, and even balloon artists hired to entertain at a wedding with a lot of children. A medieval themed wedding with fire jugglers would be amazing to see! Anything that really sets your event apart from others is awesome!
5.) Interactive Food Stations – Examples: Make Your Own Cupcake, Make Your Own Omelette (great for a morning wedding), Roast S’mores Over a Fire, Wine or Beer Tasting Station, Etc. Nothing is more Colorado than camping, so as a nod to that, let guests do their own S’mores either during the cocktail hour or as a late night snack over a fire pit or fondue pot. Setting up fun food stations with exotic foods is also a great way to incorporate the food tastes of a couple. Watching a chef flambe’ something is always fun!
6.) An Interactive Video Booth Where You Can Leave Messages to the Bride & Groom – Here’s another one we will offer if you are doing a two person videographer package for no additional cost. This way you have a videographer to go with the guys and one with the gals while they are getting ready and to get more angles of the ceremony. Then one videographer goes with the couple while they are doing photos while the other sets up in a quiet area as guests enjoy the cocktail hour to get “well wishing toasts” from the majority of guests before dinner. Do this in lieu of a guest book and you’ll be glad that you did!
How does one go about choosing a photographer for their wedding… there are a lot of lists out there to give you some ideas on what to look for. Most of them say to look for someone with experience, insurance, back-up equipment, etc. So I’m not going to touch on qualifications in this blog post. I figure once you weed out the contenders by their qualifications and the price point for your budget the next thing you are going to look at is their style of work. And really there is no right or wrong answer to this question. It’s really choosing the photographer whose photos speak to you and what you like.
Last week I overheard a bride talking to her bridesmaids at a bridal show we did and her conversation went something like this ” I looked at the venue’s preferred photographer and his work was so bright and washed out. I don’t know, I didn’t like it so I went to such and such’s site and and their photos were bright and colorful….” Just listening to her talk I knew immediately that my blog post was going to be about “Style” this month! From early on while I was in photography school myself and fellow students were encouraged to develop a style. In other words, ” a way we saw the world in our photographs.” Close to twenty years ago there were only two categories for wedding photography: Film or Digital and then in the last ten-fifteen years or so film sort of went out the door and it became traditional or photo-journalistic. Now there has become a wide arrange of photographic styles and even a resurgence of film photography! I can kind of see the appeal for film photography again since it is so different from what’s out there nowadays. Film photography has such a different feel to it than digital, but it also has a lot more challenges. The number one challenge is not being able to see the image until it’s processed after the wedding! So if you go this route you better make sure the photographer you hire knows what they are doing because they won’t be able to double check the image as they are going along! This is the number one reason photographers would get out of shooting weddings in the film years! And the other large hurdle is the cost of film and processing. When I started out photographing weddings twenty years ago if you shot it with film you maybe took 100-300 images and they had to be very deliberate. One photo of the cake, two photos of the first dance. With digital I can take as many as I want to get the best shot… and probably the number one reason I will never go back to shooting film for weddings! While I love the feel you get when you are processing an image in the darkroom, I hated the stress of waiting to see if I got a usable shot for someone’s wedding! No thanks!
As far as digital goes… there are so many ways you can shoot a wedding with a digital camera and the look is pretty much all done after the wedding in the post processing through Photoshop. I thought I’d touch on what’s most popular right now and what my style is and why I prefer it! But first touching on the three different approaches to actually photographing the wedding:
Traditional – A traditional photographer typically will photograph the parts of the wedding that are most important. They may go off a list of the most important shots to the client and may focus heavily on posed portraits. They might have a modern take on the posed portraits, but a lot of what you will see is basic wedding coverage. Someone who considers themselves only a traditional photographer might spend a lot of time with setting up groupings and poses and might not be very good at capturing the emotion of a moment.
Photo-journalistic – A true photo-journalist will never stage a photograph. They will only document things as they happen. Since the term comes from newspaper and magazine photographers you may want to imagine the style of someone documenting an event purely for shock and awe. If having some family photos taken at your event is important to you then I would stay away from someone who says they only do photo-journalism style of shooting. Photojournalists usually do not like taking staged photos at all and may not be willing to do any group portraits.
Mixed Artistic & Documentary – This is the best of both styles. This is a person who is willing to photograph what the client wants, while putting their own artistic spin on the photographs. They will also focus on documenting the entire day much like a photo-journalist. Sometimes a photography company will offer two photographers. One photographer will concentrate mainly on getting the must have traditional shots while the other may spend more time capturing candid moments. This is the way we approach every wedding we’re hired for (even if it’s just one photographer). We do a little bit of the “traditional” poses because it’s the only way to guarantee a shot with grandma and then a whole lot of documenting everything that happened on your special day. From close-ups of your wedding accessories to fun photos of your guests dancing!
Styles of Post-Processing Photos After the Wedding –
Straight Out of the Camera – This will be the cheapest available from the photographers out there… If someone is charging $500 or less for a full day of shooting 6 Hours or longer, more than likely this is what you will be getting. They are what we call the shoot and burn photographers. They will download your images and hand you a disk with the photos with nothing done to them to improve the image. If you find someone who will do more than that for that price snatch them up because they will be burnt out before too long!
Light & Airy – Or what I like to call bright and overexposed. Sometimes I really like these images and then other times I look at them and think how much better the photos would look if the background was just a bit darker and not washed out. Often times the photographer will de-saturate the colors in the photos to make the colors more pastel in tone. The photos tend to have a dreamy feel to them, which I think can work for some photos (including the one below), but if it’s done on an entire wedding can be a little bit too much. This trend typically leads to images with super bright highlights, little contrast, and a more whimsical feel.
Moody & Dark – A relatively newer style in wedding photography is the dark and moody way of editing the images. So it’s the exact opposite of the light and airy look. I sort of compare it to watching a dark Batman movie or murder mystery flick. Really, what the photo editor is doing is editing the photos so that the color is gone and replaced with greys. Again, with some images this can be cool, but doing it on an entire wedding I think is going to date your photos. Much like selective coloring on black & white images back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s was a fad. Do you really want to go back and look at your images and go, wow I should not have gone so trendy!?
Classic/Natural – This is processing the photos closest to the truest color and exposure of the day so that the photos match the natural look of the surroundings. I say that the images will look classic which means ten years from now you won’t be going through your wedding album and go “ugh” look at how dark my wedding images were because I went with the trendy fad that was popular at the time. Your photos will look as good as the day you took them! This is the style that we aim for… correct exposures, colors that are true to how they looked on the day of your wedding which will give you timeless images that you will cherish for years to come!
So after 18 years in the business, I really have developed a style! It’s a hybrid of the traditional and photo-journalistic styles… Or what I like to call documentary storytelling! Along with an appreciation for classic naturally edited images! So now you know what the different types of “styles” there are in wedding photography… I even think there are more than what I listed as I also found one called “Adventurous Style” which I guess is like hiring someone who works for National Geographic to photograph your wedding (often times an elopement because I don’t think many guests are going to hike a peak to watch you get married). Hopefully, this will help you discern what kind of photographer will work the best for your vision… and if my style appeals to you please check us out!
Oh and by the way, I’m not opposed to adventure… just haven’t had much opportunity for it in the wedding world! I would love to go climb a mountain top with the right couple! Most of us photographers are willing to do just about anything to get “the” shot!