How to Get the Best from your Wedding Photographer

For this week’s guest post I enlisted the help of the lovely David McNeil. As someone I’ve known for years (like before either of us ventured into this wedding world!) I know from first hand experience that his advice is killer…and damn it, he’s always right! This week, he talks to us about how you can get the very best from your wedding photographer.

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So, you’ve booked a kick-ass photographer for your wedding and you’re confident they are going to produce a set of images that you’re going to be looking at for years to come.  Can you just sit back, relax, and let them get on with the job?  Sure, of course you can – but when you come to planning your day there are a few things you might want to consider to help your photographer really capture the images you have booked them for.

1) Insist on a pre-wedding shoot

A pre-wedding shoot takes place a couple of months before the wedding and is a great opportunity to start building a relationship with your photographer.  On my pre-wedding shoots I experiment with different ways of directing you, positioning you, and what kind of things I need to say to capture the most natural shots I can.  At the end of it you’ll know that having your photograph taken really isn’t that scary, so when it comes to the actual day you can be fully relaxed for the photographs.

2) Consider a “first-look” and pre-ceremony photographs

It goes against tradition but something becoming more popular is having a first look and scheduling your bride and groom portraits before the ceremony itself.  Why would you do this? It means that your gorgeous husband really is the first person to see how beautiful you look in what can be a very special and intimate moment.  The pre-ceremony portraits are usually more relaxed as this allows for an extended session where you can use even more of the venue or location you’ve chosen to get married.  Even better is that after the ceremony you can relax and enjoy being with your guests.

3) Think twice about group photographs

It’s a part of the job few photographers enjoy, but one that features at nearly every wedding – the group shots.  The more shots you ask the photographer to shoot, the more people need to be found, the longer it will take, and the more time you will spend at your wedding standing in the middle of a lawn wondering where Auntie Ethel has wandered off to.  The group shots can sometimes be an interruption to the day, and to get them done quickly your ever-so-friendly photographer momentarily lapses into Mr. Bossy while the mother of the bride gives them evil eyes implying it was the photographer who insisted 20 group shots was necessary!

I advise my couples to think small with the group shots – parents, siblings and grandparents.  Partnered with one shot of the whole wedding party and you have a set of photographs that’ll please anybody, and take ten minutes to rattle through.

4) Schedule in enough time

Your wedding day will fly by so fast – you’re not likely to get bored – so schedule in enough time for a strong portrait session – especially if the strength of your photographers portrait work is one of the main reasons you hired them.  A good length would be around 40 minutes.  Also, listen to your photographer when they try to whisk you away from the party to shoot them.  There’s nothing worse than wishing you’d spent that extra 20 minutes with your photographer when you had the whole evening ahead of you to spend with your guests.

A good tip is to schedule your portrait session immediately after the ceremony.  This gets it done and dusted before you’ve had too much to drink and once it’s done, you can relax and enjoy the reception with no interruption.

5) Tell your photographer of anything particularly special

Different brides have different priorities.  Some may have spent a lot of time sourcing vintage jewellery; others may have created a really fabulous table plan; the car might be very special to some; and there may be some couples who really love the interior styling of their venue.  Your photographer will probably capture the most important elements of the day – but if there is something really important to you just let them know!

Likewise, if you’re really fond of a particular relative or friend – point them out.  At a recent wedding I was told that at a previous wedding there were very few shots of the elderly relatives so could I make sure to focus on a particular group of people?  Of course I could, but only because I was told.

6) Book the right photographer

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Finally, it may seem like common sense – but really make sure you book the right photographer for you and your wedding.  Be really clear about what they offer and that their style is what you are after.  As you look through their portfolio look at how relaxed the couples are – do they look like they are enjoying their time in front of the camera?  Are they  natural or forced?  Relaxed or stiff?

If you can imagine the photographer at your wedding and fitting in with your guests then chances are you’re a good match.  Getting that bit right is probably one of the most essential aspects of creating fantastic photographs.

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Thanks to David for talking to us today. Aren’t his photographs fab as well!? And YES fret not, I am going to be blogging the full scoop on that amazing leopard print dress/lesbian wedding awesomeness.I can’t wait!

David is based in Chiswick, London but will soon be moving to Edinburgh, Scotland. He is always on the look out for awesome couples to shoot all over the country…and in fact the world (ps if you book him for your wedding in New York/California/Australia/Europe etc I’m totally gatecrashing! I need a holiday…)

38 comments

  1. This is some great advice. However beautiful the location, however stylish your wedding, however amazing your photographer is, you can have a massive influence on how your photos turn out by following this advice.

  2. Katy Thomson

    Love this article and can’t agree more! The more people who read this the easier our jobs as photographers will be.

  3. Amanda

    Great advice from a wicked snapper. David was so amazing as a photographer and it was a pleasure to have him on our special day. From the white dress wearing lesbian in the shots, Amanda x

  4. thank you for asking me to guest on the most-awesome wedding blog out there!

    ..wanna do another one now!

  5. Great advice – thanks for sharing it! I have never hired a photographer before and I’m so glad we did a pre-wedding shoot.

  6. Really great tips. I’m not getting married anytime soon, but it’s still good to have this for reference.
    I’ve seen MANY couples do the ‘first look’ and I haven’t exactly warmed to the idea until… well, just now as a matter of fact. It *would* be wonderfully intimate and romantic, and gosh, wouldn’t it just make for the most lovely photographs?
    Thanks very much for this!

  7. Excellent advice. I try to advise all my couples to keep the group photos to a minimum but it’s a difficult point to convey. If there are too many group shots, then there’s no time to capture guests in their most relaxed state, chatting.

    I also try to do the EVERYone photo first, as then the guests that aren’t required for family/friend/bridal party shots can go off and relax.

  8. I’m planing for my own photoshoot for m own rock and roll wedding! It’s great to find an article like this

  9. As a wedding photographer this is awesome advice! I often suggest many of these tips with my clients. With that said, there is always the one family out of the bunch that wants photos of all the possible family/group arrangement’s. Yesterday’s wedding we spent about an hour and half doing group photos in the hot heat and then we only had an hour worth of bride and groom photos.

  10. some sound advice that the majority of us photographers give but hopefully more an more clients are realizing the importance and that we are doing this for their benefit!

  11. Great piece Kat – I will be sending this link to my potential brides to have a read so they really consider everything.

  12. David & Kat,
    Brilliant article, really hones into the important elements which B&G’s should consider if they value their investment in the photography for their big day and want a final set of images they absolutely and totally adore…

    Good luck in Scotland David.

    Mary xxx

  13. Rhianne

    great article! Its getting to the point where I want to get married just for the amazing photos I’ll get from it lol

  14. Michelle Crawley

    When is David moving to Scotland. I’m in Scotland and would be keen to meet up with him for a chat. Getting married next winter.

  15. Post author

    michelle – hes moving near the end of this year (booo i will miss him!) so defo email me him to see if he’s free on your date!

  16. As a photographer, I second everything on this list…. especially the first look! I cant even tell you how much easier and less stressful it makes the day…. and if you are doing a first look, then go ahead and do all the posed pics before the wedding – and then just enjoy the day and let the photographer do his job….

    *as a sidenote, to get on the photog’s really good side, insist they eat cake or set them aside a plate of something… oftentimes, at a wedding, Ive been on my feet 6+ hours and dont get to eat… even though Im surrounded by food…. any bride/groom who insists that I eat, I feel indebted too!

  17. Michelle Fox-Reynolds

    Thanks David and Kat

    Yet again a brill blog and advice, Recently been a course with David mcneil and he really does help you, he’s a fantastic photograher and look forward to doing more course with him in the furture xx

  18. Az

    David

    That was perfect advice, at the end of the day we want to take great photographs, and if we are given the time too, we can let the creativity fly!

  19. Excellent article! We always do a pre-wedding session, and even the most resistant couples end up loving the whole idea of being photographed afterward. I agree with everything you have said here 100%. We are lucky with most of our couples giving us time, but we always say that the process is very much a team effort, the more time and energy they give us, the better we can capture amazing images for them.

  20. Great advice from David. I think it’s also worth bearing in mind that truly great wedding photographs come from a synergy. You can treat your wedding photographer as a supplier there to do a job, and you may well get very good photographs. But if you treat your wedding photographer as an artist and a member of the wedding party, you are likely to get truly wonderful wedding photography. They are the one supplier who will be there all day, so it really helps if there’s some kind of alchemy. Treat them generously and they will be generous in return.

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