Some of the city's premier photographers offer their input for achieving wedding-day images you'll cherish for years to come.
Paul and Danielle Nanda's wedding weekend was chock-full of festivities that mixed Western marriage traditions with Indian customs, from a Mehndi ceremony with henna tattooing to a rehearsal dinner with Indian fare. When hiring a photographer for their Nov. 17, 2012, nuptials, they assumed they'd get the usual wedding-day shots.
But after meeting photographer Julian Allen and briefing him on their pre-wedding agenda, they discovered he planned to document the celebration in its entirety-including a customary hand-painting the Thursday before the wedding and the rehearsal dinner with 125 of Danielle and Paul's family members, some of whom were meeting for the first time.
"I thought it was wonderful," Danielle says. "I didn't expect that from a wedding photographer."
By allowing Allen to share in these moments with them, the Nandas enabled him to capture what differentiates their love story from others. A close relationship with their culturally diverse families and the importance of tradition are representative of who Paul and Danielle are as individuals-and provides a bit of insight as to why they click as a couple.
"Everyone has got a story," says Allen, owner of Julian Allen Photography. "Each story is different." Identifying those differences "gives you the mindset on how to approach the wedding and find a way of painting that picture, really trying to reflect their personalities" through the photos, he says.
Sometimes, couples are open about every detail of how they met, where they're from, their families and their likes and dislikes. Other times, Allen says, "you have to dig around a bit."
While these details are not essential to capturing beautiful wedding pictures, photographer Chad DiBlasio says they help him connect with the couples on an emotional level-and the photos are better for it.
When clients are comfortable around him, DiBlasio says they are more inclined to interact as they normally do. Paying attention to what's natural helps him maintain that vibe during a photo shoot and capture shots that exude a truer reflection of the couple.
"It is a huge deal for me to know that when you hold hands, he holds your pinky," says DiBlasio, of DiBlasio Photography. "Because when I take a picture on your wedding day of you guys holding hands, I can say, 'No, hold her pinky like you normally do.' "
A comfortable relationship between the clients and the photographer is the key to shots that tell each couple's love story, says Wes Mosley of Wes Mosley Photography.
"You can't really achieve shots showing them in love unless they're willing to be a little more vulnerable [and] showing affection and being themselves on the wedding day," he says.
It's helpful to do an engagement session before the wedding to break the ice, "otherwise, it can be really awkward if you have this big camera in your face," he says.
Though it's admittedly easier to do during the engagement shoot, Mosley tries to incorporate locations that are meaningful to the couple into wedding-day shots. Whether it's the spot of their first date, the location of the proposal or just a place they spent time together, being mindful of location keeps photos personal and expressive, allowing couples to "look back … and their children can see something that was special to them at the time," Mosley says. He adds, "This can be done with enough planning."
In addition to the location of the shoot, sometimes what's featured in the photo helps keep it personal.
Mosley suggests incorporating little details that are meaningful to the couple or representative of their personalities in the photos. For example, Mosley recently worked with a couple who made a big, block "M"-the first letter of the name they now share-out of wine corks from bottles they had enjoyed together.
"I got some cool shots of them holding it out to the camera," he says. "It tied in their name and their love of wine."
DiBlasio encourages couples he works with to bring their ideas to the table, whether it's posing with props or recreating the story of how they met. If they met playing Ultimate Frisbee and want to toss a Frisbee back and forth in their tux and gown, he's game.
"We tell them, 'It's important for you guys to think about who you are and what's important to you,' " he says.
Thanks to Pinterest and other social media outlets, couples tend to approach photographer Garret Martin with pretty specific ideas of shots they want captured on their wedding day. But he's sure to remind them while it's a good starting place, their shots will always turn out different.
"And you really don't want them to be exactly the same," says Martin, owner of Martin Digital Photography. "Then, they'll just have the same memory, be reliving that same moment."
If you're trying to ensure your photos are a true reflection of your story, recreating another couple's wedding photo might not be the best route to take-unless that couple is your parents or grandparents.
It was in passing that Danielle mentioned to Julian Allen a photo of her late mother on her wedding day. Allen set out to recreate it for her.
"He got the timing just right," Danielle says of the photo, which casts her against a darkening sky, slightly lifting the train of her gown, just as her mother had done decades before. To a stranger, the photo might look like a pretty shot of a bride's profile. But to the bride, it's represents much more. "I was really touched that he made that happen," she adds.
Providing a photographer with ideas of desired shots can serve as a solid foundation, but sometimes it's best to let the professional do the directing and just focus on being you.
Danielle Dunn and husband James found that mindset helpful on their wedding day. When they married on Nov. 10, 2012, they relinquished all artistic control to photographer Nicole Dixon-and Danielle says she's glad they did. Instead of having Dixon follow a specific list, Danielle told her to shoot with her gut and "work with what she thought was best," she says.
Among her favorites are a photo of she and James spontaneously kissing in the hallway of the Columbus Museum of Art and a close-up Dixon snapped of she and her dog face-to-face.
"[Dixon] picked them all," she says. They'd spent time with Dixon before their wedding, which helped her get to know their personalities.
For Dixon, owner of Nicole Dixon Photographic, this step is crucial.
"Personalities are what I love to concentrate on and draw from," she says. "After we've talked it through, I know how they're comfortable with each other and if they're a lovey-dovey-kissy type versus a funny couple who likes to joke around."
Once she has a good read on the couple, she knows which direction to take the photos, and an album that reflects their personalities naturally follows.
"Each couple is unique, and we try to emphasize that," Dixon says. "Just that alone will make each couple's album different."Best Wedding Shoot Memories
DiBlasio's most memorable wedding photos were taken at a wedding on New Year's Eve two years ago. The couple had already been officially married for two years before they hosted the celebration with friends and family.
"[The groom] was in the military full time, and so they had gotten married quickly before he left for Afghanistan," DiBlasio says.
While it is always special for couples who are close to their families to have a wedding ceremony, this one was extra special, he says.
"Their family had been waiting two years to actually celebrate this with them," he notes. "And it was so cool that they could all be ushering in the New Year together."
The groom's family came into town from Oregon, bringing wine from their family's vineyard, and the bride's grandmother was cutting the rug on the dance floor. "I took a bunch of pictures of her dancing with all the groomsmen," DiBlasio says. "She was tearing it up, laughing, taking some hilarious pictures."
Sadly, seven months after the wedding, the bride's grandmother passed away. "After she died, [the bride] emailed me and told me how much it meant to her to have all of these photos of her grandma. Not just who she was and what she looked like, but [pictures of] her grandma being her grandma."
It's difficult for Allen to spotlight just one memorable wedding photo shoot. He has so many and, because he dedicates an entire week to the soon-to-be-wed couple, each makes for some fantastic stories. He's followed a groom to the airport to see his mother for the first time in months, traveled to a small town in New Hampshire for a same-sex marriage and even wielded a handsaw to create a "lovers' lookout" on the side of a wooded hill for just the right shot. But one of his memories is notable because of its simplicity.
"It was a lovely, very personable wedding I really enjoyed," he says of a wedding he recently shot at the Kelton House Museum and Garden. "I'm not sure if it's the [rumored] ghost, but [weddings at the Kelton House] are more emotional than you would've ever thought."
The couple, he says, was involved in community gardening and used flowers they'd picked from a neighborhood garden for the ceremony. A friend made their cake, and the guests brought candles to decorate the reception. It was simple, but "they were so in love with each other," he says. "The love that [family and friends] were showing them and the love they had for each other was so special."
When the groom pulled out a guitar to serenade his bride with a song he'd written, Allen admits his eyes filled with tears. "It wasn't that he was brilliant at guitar," he says. "It was the emotion behind it and the giving of a beautiful song to his girl."
The recreation of an iconic photo is one of photographer Mosley's favorite wedding-day memories. A few years ago, Mosley worked with a couple who, from his very first meeting with them, made it clear they wanted a very specific shot on their wedding day. They wanted to capture a picture mimicking the famous LIFE photograph of a U.S. Navy sailor romantically dipping and kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day in 1945, celebrating the announcement of the end of WWII.
"The groom was in the Navy, and the bride was a nurse," Mosley says. "They were both in the exact roles."
Though there weren't skyscrapers to serve as the backdrop, Mosley positioned the newlyweds in front of the towering, gothic-style buildings of Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington. "It kind of served the image in that way," Mosley says. The shot, which he captured beautifully, "was one of the first things they brought up," he adds. "They knew they wanted it from the get-go."