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Photography tips for your wedding day

Planning for natural, relaxed images


1) Is time on your side?

Here's a thing - a dichotomy, if it please you - candid, natural images take careful planning and, above all else, time in which to create them. Two photographers at a wedding may help capture more of the unfolding events, but if your booking is for a limited time, or large portions of your day are spent traveling between venues, gathering people from various rooms or hurrying to find alternatives when the weather turns on you, those precious hours soon spin away and your wedding pictures may still appear stilted and posed.

So first off it's paramount to meet and comprehensively discuss your day's timings and events. You'll have two key timings to base things around: when your service ends and when your wedding breakfast meal is served. Between those two events sits the crucial stage for capturing formal groups, candid shots of the guests enjoying the festivities you've planned so carefully for them and a set of relaxed and stunning images of yourselves. From experience I'd recommend at least an hour and a half (if possible two!) from the time all guests are present at the reception venue until the call for seating at the wedding breakfast.

This sounds like a long period of time, but consider that each formal group can take 5-10 minutes to set up and you'll see how ten group shots can swallow up an hour of the day. That's a worse case scenario of course, but rather err on the side of caution and if things run smoothly you'll have more time to spend mingling. Remember to supply me with a list of all your group shots (listing the names of all the relevant VIPs) two weeks before the wedding.

I like to spend no more (and no less) than 30 minutes on the bride and groom's creative shoot. If you'd like to spend more time in front of the camera, no problem, but don't forget your guests. The day will fly by and you'll regret missing time with family and friends, and so will I. This part of the day is brilliant for candid images, the more time you and your guests have to chat and enjoy the venue the better I am able to record all those unforgettable moments.

In essence then let's take that two hour slot and divide it equally:
Formal Groups - 40 minutes, candid mingling - 40 minutes, creative bride & groom - 40 minutes. Perfect!

2) Light & space essentials

Images captured on the fly rely heavily on natural lighting to succeed. A large portion of your wedding day is spent on the move, with opportunities for pictures at every turn, so it's important to consider things that will ensure your photographer is able to capture as many candid images as possible without them interrupting the flow of the day or appearing obtrusive.

As a bride consider carefully the room you'll be preparing in. Natural light, space for you, your entourage.

Indoor ambience - add candles or lanterns to darker rooms, churches.

Outdoor images - avoid areas of bright, high contrast lighting. Evenly shaded areas are great. A white open-sided portable gazebo can be used, it could double up as protection if raining.

Time of year will play a big part in your day's photography. Here are a few things to consider:

Flash and studio lighting can be employed when weather or time of day dictate, but ideally they should be used as a last resort via a pre-considered back-up plan. Studio and flash kits are cumbersome and take time setting up to ensure natural looking results, so it's best to make use of the lighting your chosen venues provide.

One consideration to make for weddings in late autumn and through the winter is to plan an early ceremony, this will ensure some natural light is available for outdoor photography if required. If you do opt for a later start consider using areas of your venue which are well lit via windows and ambient light.

3) Thinking outside of the box

There are many ways to personalise your day and any tweaks or twists often aid your photographer. Autumn and winter weddings are a perfect time to alter convention: instead of canapes why not consider a high tea? A warm cup of tea and selection of cakes will have your guests chatting and mingling in no time.

Use inclement weather to your advantage: brightly coloured brollies and wellies can turn a grey, unsettled day into fantastic photo opportunities. If the lead up to your day is wet and wild remember to pack a pair of trainers or wellies into the wedding car. They can be worn during the photo-shoot to aid movement over soggy ground and your wedding shoes will live to fight another day.

Bands or wedding singer are a great addition to your wedding evening. Their rig tends to add atmospheric lighting which adds a nice touch to pictures taken during dancing.