Corey Talks: Tips For Best Photos

Regardless if you had a budget for each vendor before your wedding or not, most couples know where they want the bulk of their money to go and where they’re willing the splurge and what they are willing to skimp on.  Some people splurge on the venue, some on the food, others on the bar and some on the photographer.  There is absolutely NO wrong or right choice in my opinion – although I’m sure it wouldn’t take long for most photographers to insist they are the most important since it’s one of the few tangible items left after the wedding day.  Personally, I think that each element is important and it’s all about what is important to YOU!  The very most important thing of the day is the commitment you are making, the rest is just icing on the cupcake!

Recently I had a client meeting where a bride asked me how to best plan her day around getting the best images possible.  I was flattered and elated to be able to give some input on items that really help a wedding that much more beautiful in images. It also made me think there may be other clients out there that are wondering the same thing, so I thought I’d make it a blog post!  Here’s some tips for future clients to think about if having beautiful images is a key element in your day, broken down into times of the day.

In General

– Hire a photographer that suits your tastes!  I cannot stress this enough!  If you want a candid approach to your day, find a photographer that is a photojournalist (WPJA is a great place to find this style of photographer!).  If you want more of the “get together and smile” style pictures from the day, look for a traditional photographer.  The single best way to get the best images (for you!) from your wedding is to hire a photographer that suits your needs and style.

– I hate to say it but it has to be said, often you get what you pay for.  Sometimes you will score a great up-and-coming photographer that is starting out low but it isn’t always the case.  If you are going to go with a cheaper alternative make sure to check review sites and the BBB to ensure that they are running a legal business and have satisfied customers!  NOTHING ruins images faster than having a photographer that doesn’t know what they are doing.  The sad thing is that you won’t know until much later when pictures can’t be saved.

– If there are certain images you have seen and have to have, I want to know!  Email it to me so that we’re both on the same page.  Keep in mind that if you send 50 images, I may not be able to get them all but it will still give me a better idea of what your mental picture is of the day.

– Trust us the day of to do our job.  Believe me, this helps a great deal with getting you the best imagery from your big day.

– Having a wedding planner often is the key to staying on time during the day and also allowing the clients to RELAX and enjoy the day – which in turn makes the pictures SO much better due to happier people and more time!  I realize it’s not always in the budget but even a day of coordinator can make a world of difference!

– Details, details, details!!!  The more little details, the more of you that is a part of the big day and the more the images will reflect you.  If having your wedding featured on a blog or in a magazine is something high on your want list, details are a must.

Getting Ready

– You’ll hear this often but the more natural light in the room, the better.  If you are getting a room at a hotel, see if you can make sure you have windows that will have sunlight filtering in the time of day you’ll be getting ready in your room. Hotel lighting is usually very warm so the more natural light, the better you look!  If you are getting ready at a salon you are most likely at their mercy – most salons have atrocious lighting from a photography standpoint.

– I always tell my clients that unless they totally love and rock the no-makeup-and-I-was-up-late look, the best time for the pictures to begin is after the makeup is complete.  I don’t know about you but I’m not a pretty person first thing in the morning (ok mostly never, but ESPECIALLY then!) and I’m most self-conscious of my looks then.  If the pictures start after your face is on (or just when it starts to get the transformation) it’s the best for everyone!

– For all dresses – bride, bridesmaids, mothers – REMOVE THE STRAPS! Not spaghetti straps or the like, but the ones that keep the dress on the hanger. Those suckers pop out all day long and are one of the most requested items for me to photoshop. I can usually (but not always) get them out of the picture but it saves you cost (as retouching is an additional charge) and time worrying about it if you just cut them out from the get go. If you plan to rehang your dress, save the straps and safety pin them back on after the wedding. Some of these straps need to be removed by seam rippers and resewing as well – David’s Bridal bridesmaids dresses are notorious for having them in the lining and on dark dresses – even cut – the white straps are quite obvious.

– Another tidbit, make sure anyone wearing a dress does a bra trial run!!  Those suckers pop out a lot and it is often because someone thought any bra would do!

– If your bridesmaids are going to be helping you get in your dress, make sure that they are dressed and ready before you get dressed.  It looks better in pictures if everyone is dressed and ready.

– This also goes for Moms and any other family members that may be a part of the getting ready process. It looks more polished if everyone is dressed and ready by the time the bride is getting into her gown.

– When you put your dress on, try to put it on in an area of open space with ample natural light. Not only does this help with the images, but open space will be very much needed for the dress and amount of people that will be around.

– If the dress involves a corset back, make sure the strings are flat when doing the corset up.  It sounds silly but it really does make for a prettier look in images AND in person!

– Guys usually are a bit easier when it comes to getting ready, if they are going to be photographed make sure they know to wait for the photographer to arrive for the fancier digs to get put on and tweaked.

– Again, the more ample natural light the better so if the guys are getting ready in a church basement, perhaps see if they’re able to get shirts and jackets on near windows.

– For both guys and girls – drink in moderation before the ceremony and/or pictures. Drinking can make an otherwise cooperative bridal party go amuck! If drinks are a must, make sure there’s plenty of water on hand to keep hydrated and sober!  Hydration is key for the best looking skin in images 😉


– If you are having an outdoor ceremony, please please please have an indoor backup. Nothing ruins pictures quicker than a rainstorm and no place to have a ceremony!

– Another tip for outdoor ceremonies is to look at the location during the time of day and near the time of year you will be married. It’s amazing how different light can change a ceremony location outdoors! One location that I’ve shot at was GORGEOUS in June but in October the shadows fell so that there was a line from a tree across the groom’s face. Make sure that where the bride and groom will be will have similar lighting conditions (not one in full sun and one in shade which is really hard to shoot and doesn’t look the best in images).

– If you have an indoor ceremony, it really helps when you get the officiant on board with your desire to have quality images from the wedding. Many times indoors we are “stuck” to certain areas of the building – balconies or the end of the aisle. Sometimes a pre meeting with them and assurances from me allow a bit more freedom in the church areas to get the best images of the key moments of the ceremony.

– If you are carrying a bouquet (unless it’s the kind that lays in your arm) remember that your thumb should be at your belly button.  This way the bouquet doesn’t creep up so that it eventually covers your face.  We want to see all the pretty ladies smiles!

– The more of YOU that is in the ceremony, the better the images are.  Write your own vows.  Have a reading that is something meaningful to you rather than a standard poem.  The more of you that is in the ceremony, the more you will react to the service!

– Hankies are a beautiful way to wipe away tears.  If you don’t have a pocket, either tuck it in your bouquet or wrap it around the stems.

– When processing and recessing please do not dash!!!  Slow and steady not only looks graceful but also is much easier for photographers to get a sharp, clear image!

– My easiest ceremonies are ones where the programs request either no flash or no photography during the service in the programs.  While I love that guests are as eager as I am to get that perfect picture of you, it’s often very hard to get that picture when I have to compete for it (especially if I’m stuck to the back and they are in the aisle).

– Make sure you don’t lock your knees – this goes for the bridal party too.  I’ve had a few go down during the ceremony and it’s never a photographic moment and it often ends up requiring some recovery time for the person that passes out.

– When you kiss for the first time, make sure it’s not a peck! The longer you kiss, the more angles and looks you’ll get of that very important first moment!

Family Portraits

– Know ahead of time how much time we have for pictures at the ceremony location after the service. Often there are events happening after and we are on time constraints. If I know ahead of time, it helps me plan and make sure everything runs on time.

– I love being able to take family portraits outdoors! It’s my first go-to place for family portraits if they are willing.

– I cannot stress this enough but please make sure that the members of the family you want to take pictures with know that they are going to be included.  Also let them know when and where the pictures will be.  This helps eliminate a lot of the chasing around of people and time wasted trying to find everyone that was supposed to stay.

– Having a list of the group shots you want taken is extra helpful.  You then have a list to hand off to a friend (see below) but you also then are thinking about who you want pictures with before the crazy stuff begins at weddings.  If you leave it to spur of the moment there is often someone left out.

– Having a people wrangler is a HUGE help.  I can yell out who is supposed to be in pictures but it really helps when someone is there that knows the people and can help sort them out.

– If you have little kids that are going to be a part of portraits, try to do them either before the ceremony or immediately after.  Much of their “I have to be good” quotient of the day is taken with the ceremony so the longer after the ceremony their pics are taken, the less likely they are to smile for the camera.

– Understand that sometimes, kids just aren’t going to cooperate.  They may be in the shot in body, but it’s possible that they will be crying, laughing or looking away.  If you are okay with this, things go a lot smoother than trying for that ‘perfect’ shot from the 2 year old that is just done for the day.

– If we are under a time constraint (and nine times out of ten we are) it is best that I am the only one shooting the family portraits.  Once more and more people are taking pictures behind me, it’s more time we have to wait and that time usually comes from the pictures that follow the family portraits (bridal party/bride and groom).

Bridal Party

– The key element to getting the best pictures with the bridal party is (again) limiting the alcohol intake.  I knowwwwww – trust me.  I know.  It’s your big day and you want to celebrate with champagne and cocktails!  However, I’m sure you’ve seen how alcohol can affect people.  People don’t tend to listen to direction, get sick and sometimes get belligerent.  I want you guys to have fun, but I also want you to have pictures with all of your bridal party looking at the camera 🙂

– Choose an outdoor location that has some shade.  If it’s a really bright day often the best places to shoot are in the shade.  Not only does it look best in camera, but it also helps the squinting.

– Is your location going to have a bit of walking?  Think about doing pictures with the girls early on in their heels and letting them kick off the heels for flip flops or the like to make walking around easier (and less painful).  If you are feeling pain, it will show on your face and then will be in pictures.  Happy feet = happy smiles!

– When choosing bridesmaids dresses, keep movement in mind.  Some dresses are gorgeous on the rack but require constant tugging to make it stay put all night – strapless dresses are notorious of this.  Photographers call that style of dress “the tug” for a reason and I’ve had plenty of beautiful bridal party shots ruined by “the tug.”

– If you want to go to various locations for images, make sure to have the names and addresses handy.  Not only does it help me when driving but your limo driver will thank you as well.  Also make sure to think of alternative locations!!  I usually suggest one alternative “dry” spot in case one is crowded (many locations are often overrun with bridal parties making it not easy to get pictures).  I also suggest having “wet” locations as well in case of rain.  As long as it isn’t pouring I’m not opposed to taking pictures in the rain but often my couples aren’t as keen!

Couple Portraits

– Every emotion you are feeling tends to show itself on your face.  If you are in pain, it shows.  If you are uncomfortable, it shows.  So make sure that all elements of your ensemble are going to make sure you are comfortable, happy and pain free!

– Brides, please please please do a movement test in your dress.  Jump.  Dance.  SIT DOWN!  Shake it like a polaroid picture!  Make sure that everything stays put and you are able to move.  As I mentioned above, “the tug” is not a pretty look – especially on a bride!  You want to be comfortable in your dress!

– First looks are the best way to get the most out of your time.  I understand that it’s not always ideal but keep it in mind if you know you are going to be tight on time between the ceremony and reception. It’s also the best way to spend the most time with your guests as it frees up that time between events that is usually taken up with pictures.

– The best time and light for portraits is the hour before sunset when the light is golden and beautiful.  If you can schedule your day to have portraits taken during this magic hour as it’s called, you will be guaranteed to LOVE the images.

– It is best if it is just me + the couple during this time.  It’s the most efficient way to make the most of the time we have together.

– I can’t say this enough but plan for enough time for pictures!  I suggest to set aside 90 minutes of SHOOTING time to get everything done (family, bridal party and the couple).  This doesn’t include driving times to/from locations.  I can work with times lower than that but shorter than 90 minutes and things get rushed and we end up having to cut images out (usually from the bridal party pictures).


– I cannot stress enough how much lighting can change a room.  I’ve been so lucky to have been able to shoot some wonderfully lit receptions and they make a HUGE impact on images.  Uplighting is such a fantastic way to bring beauty into your reception without killing the floral budget.

– If having pictures of the reception room empty and details are important to you, make sure that the photographer has a way to get in the room before the guests are let in.  Often having the cocktail hour in a separate room easily solves this and allows us to jump in the room for some quick shots and jump back out to continue our coverage of the cocktail hour.

– Brides, please please please have  backup shoes.  I don’t care if you work in heels every day.  PLEASE bring a back up pair of comfy shoes – flats, flip flops or even slippers.  It’s much better to have brought them and not needed than to be in pain – which again, shows on your face.

– I usually urge my brides to get bustled before we head outside for pictures but if we don’t, I definitely recommend it before the reception gets going.  Make sure that at least two people know your bustle other than your Mom.  Usually the bustle point person (Moms, sisters) aren’t around when we have to bustle.  Most of the time I can figure it out but sometimes the bustle is a crazy puzzle that isn’t easily figured out.  If done wrong, it can look wonky in pictures and also get stepped on!

– Putting the main “events” of the night (special dances, toasts, cake cutting etc.) at the beginning of the reception AND all together (no open dancing between) not only gets you the best use of your time with your photographer, but also makes sure that the big events are captured when you are still looking your best.  Once the fast dancing and drinking begins, you don’t look quite as perfect.

– Having a great DJ or band really helps set the tone for the reception.  They are the key to a fun or boring reception.  Make sure that you check reviews and hire the perfect person to suit your needs!

– While choreographed dances are crazy fun, the standard stand-and-sway dances do lead to the best images.  When you are dancing fast, you’re concentrating and most of us aren’t blessed with the best looking concentration face.  If you do a choreographed dance, make sure to either bookend it with some standard slow dancing or get a slow dance in later so that you have some of those intimate images as well.

– While a dark dance floor may be fun it is really hard for photographers to be able to focus in the dark.  Make sure that the venue leaves a little bit of light on for us to focus with and be able to see who we are focusing on!  It also helps the DJ be able to see what they are doing as well – bonus!

– Make sure that you and your new spouse take a few twirls on the dance floor – to both fast and slow songs.  Not only does it make it great for pictures since you’re out there but guests faces light up when you are on the floor with them.


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  • KateOctober 5, 2010 - 2:57 PM

    WOW, *such* awesome tips. I’m bookmarking this to reread later. Also, you’ve had people pass out during the ceremony?? Holy smokes, that’s scary!ReplyCancel

  • AndreaOctober 9, 2010 - 9:34 AM

    Aaaaaaaaaaaah ‘The Tug’. I know it well! This is such a great read Corey! Many points I will be making sure to pass on.ReplyCancel