Give It Your Best Shot
15 expert tips on how to get the best wedding photos.
You’ve put countless hours into creating your wedding look and crafting the signature details. But years from now, your day will be remembered through the pictures. The significance of these photos can create a lot of pressure for couples posing together for the first time. Don’t fret! We’ve gathered advice from some of Minnesota’s top wedding photographers on how a little practice and planning can produce images you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
Start with Lighting
Most photographers agree that beautiful photos rely on good lighting. For photos traditionally shot indoors, such as shots of the bridal party getting ready, choose spaces where you can be as close as possible to windows, says Eliesa Johnson, owner of Photogen Inc. in Minneapolis. Also, try to secure a larger space. A hotel suite doesn’t just offer more luxury than a standard room, but also features bigger windows and more space for the photographer to work with, says Johnson.
Outdoor photos provide an easy and effective light source, but Minnesota weather doesn’t always cooperate. However, couples getting married in the winter shouldn’t sacrifice the natural light necessary for gorgeous images, says Melissa Oholendt of Melissa Oholendt Photography in St. Paul. “Find alternative, well-lit locations to take indoor photos, such as the Walker Art Center,” she says.
Schedule outdoor photos earlier in the morning to beat the strong, midday sun, warns Anna Grinets of Anna Grinets Photography in Minneapolis. “It’s important to avoid the sun at its peak, which creates shadows and squinting,” she says. If you must choose that time of day, find open shade, such as a roofed area with open sides, perfect for photos with a light and airy look.
Photography by Photogen Inc.
Work the Angles
There’s a reason starlets rarely face a red carpet camera directly. Posing at an angle nearly always looks better than a dead-on or sideways position. For a universally attractive pose, relax your posture, put your weight onto one leg and put the other foot toward the camera, says Jeannine Pohl of Jeannine Marie Photography in St. Paul.
For a fun variation that incorporates different angles, play with your veil or twirl your skirt, Oholendt says. She also directs brides to flirt with the camera or the groom. “These movements tend to look very natural, even if they seem silly,” she says.
Practice Makes Perfect
For couples being professionally photographed, Pohl recommends a dry run at home to gain some experience. (An engagement session is a great way to do this, too.) “If you haven’t been in front of a camera, stand in front of a mirror,” she says. “Practice hugging each other, and build confidence posing together.”
Even if you are comfortable being photographed, practice helps you find your “good side.”
“Get in front of a mirror and think about what angles and poses you find flattering. Use those as your go-to moves,” says Bradley Hanson of Bradley Hanson Photography in Minneapolis.
And though it seems easy, holding your bouquet takes practice, at least for photos. “As brides get nervous, they squeeze their arms into their body, which makes them look bigger,” Hanson says. Keep the top of the bouquet at belly-button height, and hold your arms slightly away from your body.
Photography by Bradley Hanson Photography
Give Grooms a Hand
Grooms don’t have the benefit of a bouquet to keep their hands busy. Planning some ideas specific for him to try will prevent awkwardness during his close-up.
“When the photographer has something to work with in terms of the groom, it makes the groom feel like he is more than just the background to the bride,” Johnson says. Your groom can dress using accessories and layers, such as a jacket, which he can button up or take off to create casual, relaxed poses.
Photography by Photogen Inc.
Tensions can run high the day of the wedding, and that often comes through in the photos. Instead, stay positive about the day and smile. “Say silly things and fake laugh,” says Aimee Jobe of Aimee Jobe Photography in Brainerd. “The end of that fake moment will produce more relaxed smiles, and laughter helps people smile through their eyes.”
A large audience can ratchet up the stress for the camera-shy bride or groom, but enlisting a friend or family member to tag along might help you forget all about the camera. “Who makes you feel comfortable and laugh? Have that person sit next to the photographer to ease the tension and get you out of the mindset that you’re taking photos that are going to last for the rest of your life,” Hanson says. “If you can be comfortable 1 percent of the time, that’s all you need for a few great shots.”
Photography by Photogen Inc.
Build in Buffer Time
One of the handiest accessories for stunning photos isn’t something you wear—it’s your timeline. Building in buffer time lets you ease into your photos and accommodates day-of surprises. “Disruptions in schedules tend to stress everyone out more, which can show through in the photos,” Pohl says. Wedding days tend to run behind schedule, so communicate your timeline to key people and vendors to ensure you’re not waiting for people or things, she says.
It takes time for couples to warm up to the camera, so allow extra time for portrait shots to minimize stress and give yourself time to loosen up. “I love it when we aren’t rushed and can achieve that airy, romantic look,” Grinets says. “At first, taking photos might be a little awkward, but after some time spent talking throughout the shoot, couples begin to feel more at ease.”
Take a Breather
If all you have is one minute to calm your nerves, use breathing to refocus. “Deep breaths calm and center you, helping couples from being too stiff,” Johnson says. Take a deep breath and continue just breathing for a minute until you decompress and relax your body language.
Many people forget to breathe in front of the camera, which creates tensed shoulders and uncomfortable-looking subjects, says Pohl. So simple breathing, even if it’s forced, will result in better photos.
Photography by Captured Glory Photography
Remember to Smile
For wedding parties walking down the aisle or a couple whose best man forgot the rings, the common advice to “act natural” can be misguided. Nerves can make people forget it’s important to smile and hold their flowers in the right way, says Pohl. So when something goes wrong, move on—immediately.
“If something didn’t go right in the ceremony and you can’t redo it, focus on how happy you are to be married, and walk out with a smile on your face,” Pohl says. *
Bonus tips for family photos
Designate a helper who knows both sides of the family.
“The biggest tensions of the day are the family photos. Putting someone else in charge gives the bride peace of mind and helps photos go quicker, which reduces stress for everyone.” —Aimee Jobe, Aimee Jobe Photography
Inform your photographer about relevant family dynamics, such as divorce or mobility issues.
“You don’t want to make the family members uncomfortable, because it will also make the bride and groom uncomfortable.” —Bradley Hanson, Bradley Hanson Photography
Head outside the church
“Getting people outside eases stress, even if the backdrop is just a tree on the church property.” —Melissa Oholendt, Melissa Oholendt Photography
“Instead of lining up everyone in a row, stagger people using a couch or some chairs to keep families from looking so posed and stiff.” —Anna Grinets, Anna Grinets Photography
Get everyone touching
“When people are touching each other, it looks more comfortable—even in families where there may be some strife. Touching someone might bring down the walls.” —Melissa Oholendt
Make your photographer a family cheat sheet of your seating chart
“The photos of your family at your reception will be the ones you want to put in your album, more so than photos of all the guests.” —Anna Grinets
Don’t overthink it
“Sometimes it’s just about keeping family photos really simple. It can be really lovely to line everyone up and smile, even if it’s a bit more formal.” —Eliesa Johnson, Photogen Inc.