There are wedding albums, and then there are show-stopping narratives of a couple's big day that tell you who they are, where they've been and where they're headed. Experts share their tips for making sure your wedding-day photography stands out from the rest.
There are wedding albums, and then there are show-stopping narratives of a couple’s big day that tell you who they are, where they’ve been and where they’re headed. Experts share their tips for making sure your wedding-day photography stands out from the rest.
You’ve flipped through a wedding album, so you know the drill. The bridal party and parents are photographed with the newlyweds in every possible combination. There’s a shot of the venue, the dress, the flowers. She’s walking down the aisle; he’s slipping the ring on her finger. These photos, though posed and predictable, are an important part of commemorating the day and capturing memories for years to come.
And while you don’t want to miss any of these must-have shots, it’s important to infuse a bit of creativity into the process. With the proper setting and a little ingenuity, these standard smile-at-the-camera photos can be turned into fun and original images that better tell your love story—after all, although the shots may be similar, every story is different.
Julian Allen of Julian Allen Photography calls them “killer shots.” They must be candid, have good composition and show emotion. These powerful images of his clients are the ones he tries to capture on their wedding days.
“Each bride and groom needs at least 10 killer shots,” Allen says. “These are the shots they’ll look through to pick the photos they’re going to hang on their wall.” They need to be super-romantic and taken in a beautiful setting. Allen plans ahead so he knows exactly where he’ll take his killer shots.
Photos of the couple are, of course, the most important shots of the day.
Emily Beuerlein and husband Jacob chose not to see one another before their July 2012 ceremony. The Beuerlein’s wedding photographer—Lambert Photographs—snapped a photo that captures the emotion behind their anticipation—and it’s one of Emily’s favorites.
“[Our photographer] took a picture of us on either side of a door,” Beuerlein says. “We held hands but we couldn’t see one another.”
For Benjamin Derkin of Derk’s Works Photography, it’s crucial that the couple get some time alone for intimate, personal shots—whether before or after the ceremony.
“It’s really important to take some time to be yourself … to have a few moments where you’re not worried about anything,” Derkin says. “In a kind of zen-like way, this is a must-get shot. I like to separate the bride and groom from all of the chaos that’s happening around them and stand somewhere away from it all. Then I tell them to just look at one another and forget about everything else.”
It’s also important, Derkin says, to infuse a bit of humor into the day.
“I call one of my must-get shots ‘the most hilarious joke in the world,’ ” he says. “I ask the bride and groom to pretend that they’ve just heard the funniest joke ever, and we all force out a tremendous laugh that is, at first, very fake. But then of course it becomes actually hilarious, and the ensuing shots are of a genuine laugh. It really captures the joy of the day.”
When it comes to photos of the bridal party, having a good selection from which to choose is a must. And these shots don’t need to feature the bridesmaids and groomsmen simply standing in a line. Pairing members of the bridal party into small sections spread throughout the frame adds personality to these often dry portraits.
Bryce Koechlin of AddVision refers to this method as semi-posed. Sometimes the bride and groom plan scenes out; other times it’s done on the fly.
“You put them in small groups and have them each do something different,” he says. “One pair leans back-to-back, while one [groomsman] puts his hands in his pockets. One bridesmaid puts her flowers down, while another lifts hers up.”
“The perfect pose is a blend between something that looks good and something that feels natural, Derkin adds. “My style is to do some loose, general guiding to help people get into a pose. Then we take some time to make [the pose] comfortable.”
Another trick Koechlin uses while taking group shots is to ask the party to pretend he isn’t there, to talk about the wedding or tell jokes. It leads to pictures that are more natural than contrived.
Columbus’ Best Backdrops
The place where a photo is taken often holds its own sentimental value. A picture in front of the church where vows were said or in the park where the proposal was made commemorates the day by setting the scene and creating a narrative.
Ohio State alumni relish pictures by cherished Mirror Lake, and Ohio Stadium is a popular backdrop for Buckeye fans. The Ohio Statehouse draws couples with its rich, historic architecture.
Incorporating nostalgic settings into wedding-day photos, though sometimes unconventional, can lead to some truly original shots. Ben Barnes of Ben Barnes Photography once took photos of a bridal party in the field of concrete corn in Dublin, all for the sake of childhood memories.
“It was the bride’s idea,” Barnes says of the shots among the people-sized ears of corn. “She grew up near there. She had a huge bridal party and wanted to do some cool shots.”
Locations aren’t always chosen for their sentiment, though. Photographers often make suggestions simply because they provide a scenic background.
“Backgrounds can make or break a shot,” Barnes says.
One of his favorite places to shoot is Bicentennial Park. Photos taken there can capture a nice view of the city behind the Main Street Bridge or landscaped images by the river. It offers an urban and a natural setting at once.
Frank Fetch Park in German Village is another favorite for its beautiful gardens and surrounding cobblestone streets.
Surveying the location and planning the right shots are important preparatory steps for Julian Allen. He spends two days before the wedding walking nearby streets and picking out possible sets.
Some of the places he shoots often and knows well include the Darby House and the Bryn Du Mansion in Granville.
“Bryn Du has a good feel to it,” Allen says. “There’s a picture of the lady who used to own it [hanging in the entryway]. It’s a gorgeous portrait of her. And that location has fantastic composition. You can really see the mark of that lady.”
Franklin Park Conservatory is another classic spot Allen—along with most of Columbus’ photographers—frequents for scenic shots.
Wedding photography that reflects a documentary or photojournalistic style is increasingly popular. Photos that tell the story rather than simply showing the scene are in high demand.
Barnes views each photo he takes as a work of art with a photo-essay application. He strives to document each moment as it happens, as well as the raw emotion attached to it.
Perhaps the most important moment to capture is the kiss.
“That’s a given,” he says. “You have to get the kiss.”
But before that, Barness likes to secure a shot of the look on the groom’s face as his bride walks down the aisle.
Photos taken of the bride in preparation for the ceremony are some of photographer Courtney Mason’s favorites. The owner of Courtney Mason Photography doesn’t direct these shots but rather snaps photos as moments unfold when the bride has her hair and makeup done, her bridesmaids help her into her dress and her father walks in to see her for the first time.
“She’s getting ready. She’s nervous,” Mason says. “Those are nice, quiet shots.”
Mason also positions herself to capture the emotions when her father gives the bride away. It’s a personal and often tear-filled event.
But above all others, Mason’s favorite moment is when the bride and groom are for the first time alone together as husband and wife, after the ceremony is over and the posed pictures have been taken.
“When it’s just the two of them and everything is quiet, it finally sinks in that they are husband and wife,” Mason says. “It’s really sweet to see them like that. And it’s a moment they’ll surely want to remember forever.”
How to ensure you capture it all
A wedding day is a busy one, and successfully photographing all of the bride and groom’s desired images—in all the right places—is a feat. Proper planning and communication between the couple and the photographer are crucial for capturing it all.
Make a list
With so much activity on the big day, it’s easy to forget things.
“It’s such a whirlwind,” says Lori DeFrank, who married Nick in July 2012. “Write down the photos you want so you don’t forget on the day of the wedding.”
Have a plan
“It’s all about logistics,” says Julian Allen of Julian Allen Photography, who once worked with a bride who presented him with three pages of specific shots. “It must have been 100 photos. I thought, ‘There’s no way I can get all those!’ But I made a logistical plan to get as many as I could in the timeframe.”
Adds Benjamin Derkin of Derk’s Works Photography, “My shot list is typically centered on each individual couple’s personalities and likes … what brought them together and where they like to go and who they are. Maybe we’ll go to their favorite bar or the place where they met. These are the shots that are rooted in some sort of emotion that the couple connects to, as opposed to just a thing that we want to make happen.”
Consider the crowd
Group shots can be tricky. “If you’re bringing the whole entourage, be aware of who is with you and how long they can maintain composure,” says Ben Barnes of Ben Barnes Photography.