Wedding Week – Day 1 – Brittani Schultze-Gardner on Photography

Happy Monday everyone!  I am so excited about this week’s blog series!!!  Five talented ladies will be sharing LOTS of information to help you make the best of your wedding day preparations by taking care of yourself & tackling all those last minute To-Do lists without going stir crazy!

I get the pleasure of kicking this whole week off by sharing some tips for your wedding photography.  Coming from someone who was just recently married and who photographs weddings, I feel like all 6 of these tips are so crucial in creating the wedding day images you so desperately desire.

1.  Choose a photographer that you like.  It seems as if there are as many photographers in the world as there are brands of clothes which is all the more reason to do the research and find a photographer who’s style you genuinely like.  Look at their site.  Spend some time looking over their blog and their Facebook albums.  Every photographer, like every person in the world, sees & captures life’s moments differently.  Chances are if you like the photos you are seeing on a photographer’s site, you will like the photos you see in your wedding album.  If something about their work doesn’t “speak to you”, it doesn’t mean that its bad or that there is something wrong with  you.  It may just mean you aren’t a good fit for them & vice versa.  Once you find one that you do like, make contact with them.  Talk with them.  Email them.  Chat over coffee.  Get to know them.  After carrying on a conversation with them, whether it be through email, over Skype, in Krispy Kreme, or on the phone, most likely you will know whether or not you want them to be a part of your special day.  I’ve met with brides before who I instantly knew we’d hit it off and would be a “match made in heaven” if you will.  On the contrary, there have been times where after meeting with a bride I just knew that something didn’t click.  Was I upset?  Absolutely not.  I wanted her to have her dream photographer to photograph one of the most important days of her life.  And if that didn’t include me, so be it.  In the long run, she will be a happier bride & I will be a happier photographer because she gets a photographer that she loves & I get a client that I click with.  Make sense?

2.  Don’t skip the engagement session.  I genuinely LOVE engagement sessions.  I love reading the questionnaire’s my clients fill out before their session & hearing all the sweet things they say about one another.  I love the bride’s excitement in picking out just the perfect outfits for the day.  I love the way the groom is most often a little nervous about the session but after he and his love start giggling at the thought of their future together, he immediately relaxes.  But more than all of that, I love engagement sessions because it is the first time ever that I get to capture my clients on camera.  I get to see them through the viewfinder & learn how they feel most comfortable.  I value engagement sessions so much that they are now included complimentary in all of my packages because I don’t want my clients to skip out on them.  Ok…so how is an engagement session really beneficial to the client?  You get to see your photographer in action.  I’m not saying you should show up with a rubric & grade them, or use the engagement session as the ultimatum as whether or not to keep them as your photographer, but what I am saying is that you get to be behind the lens & be the subject while you see your photographer work their magic & turn moments into priceless memories with just you and your love.  Its phenomenal.  Plus, there is the added “cute bonus” of getting your engagement photos back and realizing that you and your man do indeed make a cute couple & will have pretty babies one day.  😉

Oh, and one other thing about engagement sessions, you get a date night out of it!  I always suggest to my clients to take the day off & forbid talking about the wedding to do list.  Rather than focusing on the wedding ALL THE TIME, take some time to yourselves to work on your relationship. Go out for breakfast, watch a movie (chick flick or manventure…I’ll let you decide that one), plan out your honeymoon, decorate your house together, laugh, have a tickle fight, go on a hike in the park, do anything that will allow you to spend time together…and ENJOY IT!  Then, after your session, go out for dinner AND get dessert!  Engagement sessions capture great memories & will give you amazing photos to look back on (not to mention, they work great for Save the Date cards & they look nice at your reception in frames for easy pizazz to a centerpiece!) Trust me on this, you’ll look back on your engagement session (& on the dessert at the end) and you’ll be so glad you did it!

3.  Consider a first look experience.  A lot of couples won’t even consider doing a first look because of their traditions and family expectations; they want their weddings more traditional, they desire to have that moment when the bride walks down the aisle and sees the groom for the first time, and that’s totally fine.  However, as a photographer I believe it is my job to provide you with ideas that lead to beautiful, intimate moments for me to photograph.  A first look is more of a modern way to photograph the bride & groom seeing each other for the first time on their wedding day.  First looks can be set up anywhere, a field, a barn, a gorgeous wooded area, grandmother’s flower garden, or anywhere else your heart desires.  You can also determine the atmosphere around you, whether you want to make it very intimate, just the two of you, or you can have the bridal party surround you, which can be very energetic and cheerful, as opposed to seeing each other for the first time at the ceremony, where you have no control over lighting.  A first look also allows you to not miss out on the cocktail hour with your guests.  By choosing to see your man before the wedding, your photographer can arrange your timeline so that all the group photos with family members and friends can happen BEFORE the wedding ever starts so that you can have time to greet your guests before the reception kicks off.  First looks are very ideal, too for fall weddings where the sun begins to set earlier.  Our wedding was in September and our ceremony started at 6:00 pm which didn’t allow for very much light after the wedding.  So, we chose to do a first look and knock out all the photos before the ceremony so we could enjoy the evening afterwards.  My last suggestion for the first look is also from experience at my wedding.  I was full of so many emotions before I arrived to see Kevin.  I had just read the letter he wrote me, I was anxious as the wedding was only an hour away & the reception hall was still being set up, there were so many things going through my head, but as soon as I arrived at our location and began walking forward to see him, its as if time stopped.  Nothing else mattered.  He was the reason…We were the reason this day was happening.  Our lives were coming together in a great celebration.; we were becoming one.  I’m so grateful for these images of our first look that Ginny Corbett captured.  I will truly treasure them forever.


4.  Choose a GOOD location for your getting ready photos.  A vast majority of your wedding photos will happen in the room that you choose to get ready in.  Think about it — your hair, makeup, details, stepping into your dress, mom admiring her sweet girl, dad seeing you, bridesmaids watching their friend turn into a princess….all of those photos, though candid shots, occur in the same space.

When looking for a room to get ready in think about these things:

  • Is there good light?  I always have my brides face a window when they are getting ready.  The beautiful lighting from a window illuminates their face & creates dynamic lighting to shoot in naturally.  Look for a room with good light & preferably a window to get ready in.
  • Is it pretty?  Is the room cluttered?  Are the walls an odd color that will be a distraction?  Think about these things when you choose a room to get ready in.  Anything that is in the room will be in your photos; if Noah’s Ark is painted on the wall in the nursery and thats where you are getting ready, chances are, the animals 2×2 will somehow make their way into your photos.  If solo cups and trash have collected from the rehearsal dinner festivities and they haven’t quiet gotten cleaned up, guys, they will most likely be shown in your shots.
    I suggest to look for an open room with a neutral color paint.  Many venues have bridal suites that are available to rent & sometimes they are included in the wedding package.   Another option is to rent a suite at a hotel; it will have windows and a neutral color scheme to make you look good!  Plus hotels have lots of amenities that just work for a wedding party: a big mirror and sink for bridesmaids makeup/prep, plenty of comfy places to sit, a TV or radio for entertainment, and a closet to hang the dresses in.
  • Does this room mean something to me?  Are you very close with your grandmother & would love to get into your gown in her house?  Do it!  If a location means something to you, I highly suggest using it for your photos.  Just make sure the room is free from extra furniture and bulky objects so you aren’t having to fight for space to stand and get in your dress.  I’d rather photograph a bride who gets married in their sentimental home church or in a venue that really means something to them, rather than discounting an otherwise-perfect place because they have little more than a dark closet for getting ready.
  • Is there enough space?  Sounds basic, but if you have a big wedding party, you need a big getting ready room. Make sure that the room you choose will have enough seating and space for everyone to have a place to sit for some of the really important getting ready stuff: like relaxing, telling stories, and laughing.  Somehow the “getting ready room” has a way of attracting a lot of people into it, so just make sure you have an adequate amount of space & that the appropriate people know to be in there so the room doesn’t become crowded.


5.  Schedule plenty of time for photos.  This is why I love the first look experience so much, but even if you choose not to go that route, work with your photographer to make sure you have plenty of time for photos.  The more time you allow for your photographs, the more your photographer can get creative, help you to relax, and get some great shots.  The best albums I’ve created came from brides and grooms that allowed a good amount of time for photographs.   Here are some things to remember.

  • Most couples want the following captured: family formals, bridal party shots at a location, creative shots with just the couple, the reception hall before guests arrive, and more.  If you are not seeing each other before the ceremony, all of this must take place between the ceremony end and the reception beginning.  Most often, one hour is not enough time to capture all of these well.
  • If you choose not to do a first look, allow your photographer at least 1 hour after the wedding to capture all the formal family portraits & the remaining portraits of the bridal party.  If you have a receiving line, add at least 30 minutes into the time needed.  Most take at least this.
  • Plan for time for you as a couple.  I always recommend at least 25 minutes of alone time with me after the group formals & bridal party shots.  If you choose a first look, this will already be included during that time.  If not, tell the bridal party to head over to the reception venue a bit early and wait for you there.  This gives your photographer time to capture you in a cool location without 10 pairs of eyes staring.  It’s hard to look cool when your bridal party is cracking jokes.  Trust me.
  • Let your bridal party know in advance what the plan is.  Some party members may have never been in a wedding before and may not realize that you would like them to go somewhere after the ceremony.  Try to nail down your wedding timeline at least 2 weeks before the wedding so you have plenty of time to communicate it to everyone involved.  Then it can be printed out & handed out at the rehearsal dinner as a reminder & also taped to the doors of the getting ready rooms so that everyone always knows where to be and at what time.
  • The last thing you want on your wedding day is to feel stressed.  More often than not, when a couple tries to squeeze all the photographs into a small amount of time, stress follows.


6.  Do your best to RELAX and enjoy the process.  Some things just will NOT get done.  There will be a pin on Pinterest that doesn’t get incorporated into your day & NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW EXCEPT YOU. Don’t get so caught up on the little things on your wedding day that you miss the big moments that you will always want to remember.  Take a deep breath.  Laugh.  Spend your last few minutes as a single lady dancing in your BRIDE underwear with your best girlfriends. Do whatever it takes to feel beautiful.  You’ve got a team of people who love you & have worked so hard to make your dream day become a reality.  So, trust them & enjoy it.


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Rebekah MiuraMay 7, 2013 - 3:53 pm

Excellent article Brittani! Great tips and so well written!

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