Wedding photography approach
Want to know what it would be like to have me and my camera around on your wedding day? Grab a cuppa (you’ll need a big mug; you’re about to live an entire wedding day!) and follow my footsteps through a typical wedding day…
GETTING READY PHOTOS
‘Morning, sunshine! Things are about to get exciting!
Because whether you prepare at home, a hotel, or at your wedding venue, there’s lots of action and emotion to capture. And if you book a second photographer, you and your partner can have photos of this time.
Think giggles as you rip open gifts, happy tears when you read the card from your partner, dad entertaining his grandchild, granny laughing so much she spills the champagne, last-minute speech writing, ushers battling it out at swing ball, flower girls admiring your dress, your doggo curled up asleep through it all…
Yep, it’s about far more than photos of makeup and ties. It’s about photos of little moments (which we all know are the big moments) with your VIPs.
I’ll work in the background, totally around you, and capture everything just as it happens. Nothing will be staged, I won’t interrupt you, and I’ll give you space.
“Sarah’s calm presence is the perfect tonic for a nervous bride and groom.” Hugo & Laura Day
I usually allow 2-3 hours to photograph preparations. Think that seems like a long time? Well, it’s not just about photos of you getting ready…
Hidden advantages of wedding getting ready photos
Having your photographer around during your pre-ceremony preparations will also give:
- A chance for everyone to get used to having a photographer around. This helps them relax before the really important photos. Imagine how uncomfortable it’d feel to arrive for the ceremony feeling nervous and then spot a complete stranger with a camera pointed in your direction… Whereas if I’ve been around for a few hours already, the only person batting eyelids when the ceremony starts is your partner – at you.
- More photos of your guests during your drinks reception (assuming you get ready in the same place as your ceremony and/or reception). If it works with your timings and logistics, I’ll give you some space during the preparations to take photos of your venue and décor. This will give me extra time later on to capture the action and atmosphere of your drinks reception.
- An opportunity for me to warm-up before the main event. If I can ease in gently and capture some strong shots early on, that sets me up for the rest of the day – and means I’ve found my flow before the pressure hits a high. Which simply means better photos all ’round.
Getting ready photo alternatives
Really not keen on having a photographer around that early? Why not start with photos of a pre-ceremony pint (and cheeky chaser, shhhh!) or walking to the church?
WEDDING CEREMONY PHOTOGRAPHY
I usually start photographing at the ceremony location about an hour before the ceremony starts. In the first 15 minutes or so, I’ll take photos of the venue and any decor before your guests arrive. Think wide scenic photos to show the setting, a silhouette of a weather vane against a bright blue summer sky, your beautiful floral arch in all its glory…
Then it’s onto one of my favourite parts of the day to capture… your guests arriving.
Imagine photos of your families being introduced, university friends hugging as they see each other for the first time in ages, musicians warming up, Ushers handing out the order of service, your partner checking their watch (will anyone ever believe this photo isn’t staged?!), mischievous page boys playing tag while their parents try desperately to keep them clean… and finally, the most special walk you’ll ever take.
The main event
The moment everyone has been waiting for! A guest dashes in at the last minute, the ushers take their seats, the music starts, your guests stand, and you take a deep breath… there’s no other moment like it.
Whatever type of ceremony you have… church, civil, fusion, humanist, Pagan, just the two of you, 400 guests, Persian, Korean, outdoor, candlelight… my T-shirt collection tells me it’ll make for fab photos!
I’ll document as much of your ceremony as your officiant allows; sensitively and discreetly. I repeat: sensitively and discreetly. No flash, no running about, no distractions.
If you book my two-photographer service, we’ll work from two different angles. Usually one of us will be at the front and the other at the back. But this is totally up to whoever leads your ceremony – they’re in charge of this bit.
Handy hint: Before the day, check your officiant’s house rules for photography so you know what to expect and don’t get a disappointing surprise when you see your photos.
I’ll capture all the obvious moments, like your walk down the aisle, making your vows, and exchanging rings. But I’ll look out for the less obvious – and arguably more meaningful – moments too. Like the reassuring glances you exchange at the top of the aisle, the sigh of relief when no-one objects, the stolen kisses, the sideways glance, and the tiny smiles that say “OMG! WE’RE GETTING MARRIED!” during the hymns.
The signing of the register
The grand exit
Pweh! Hoorah! Congratulations! You’ve done it! And you didn’t fall over walking down the aisle (I hope)!
This part of a wedding day is the highest of highs. There are so many lovely expressions as everyone hugs, kisses, and congratulates you. Soak it up, don’t stage anything. It’s magic as it is. I’ll leave you to enjoy your first married moments with your guests while I fill my
boots memory cards with lots of lovely natural photos.
Pop the corks! Let the music play!
While you enjoy champagne, canapes, and chats with your guests, I’ll candidly capture the action and atmosphere.
Pictures of people are a priority at this point. I’ll look out for photos of your guests just being themselves. I’ll catch happy smiles but I’ll mainly watch for moments with a story to them. Images that show personalities or relationships, the way different generations enjoy weddings, and most of all, love.
Perhaps your guests from overseas are enjoying a nice cup of tea in the English countryside. Maybe your grandfather has escaped to a quiet corner and is reading the newspaper. Quite possibly your aunt and uncle are embroiled in uncovering the magician’s secrets. And more than likely your uni mates are snort-laughing while they recount the story of that wild night out.
A pinch of formality
For most couples, a few group photos are important and a staple part of wedding photography. Because how often do you all get together at the same time – dressed in your finery?
But you’ve probably heard some horror stories. And sure, group photos can be a chore to endure. But they can also be a fun, enriching, heartwarming, bonding, and special part of your day. What makes the difference? A carefully curated list of pictures.
Over the years, I’ve found a long list (and even a medium one) needs to be a micromanaged process to ensure it doesn’t drag on and delay dinner. It’s simply something to get through as efficiently as possible. But a shorter list can be a relaxed experience. With less time pressure, I can give people space to greet each other, chat, and share a laugh as we go. And guess which photos will feel and look the happiest?
Here are some other things to know…
When we’ll take your group photos: If you’d like any group photos, we’ll take them during your drinks reception. If it works with your plans, I recommend having a breather at the start of your reception to quench your thirst, tickle your taste buds, and say hi to a few people. But then crack on with the groups before people wander off to explore the grounds or go to the bar.
Couples often ask me if I can take some group photos before the ceremony to save time later. On paper, this is a great idea because it gives you more time to chill later on. And if you’ve got young children involved, outfits always look best earlier on! But I don’t recommend pre-ceremony groups as a formal plan. Here’s why: You’ll have lots on your mind, everyone’s nervous, and with the best will in the world it’s easy to run late. All that combined means posed photos at this point have to be rushed and don’t tend to look as relaxed as ones taken later. But of course, if you do happen to be ready well ahead of schedule, then we can absolutely bring some groups forward. It’s a magical mind game … if you plan to do formal photos before the ceremony but then time is unexpectedly against you, the thought of squeezing in or not doing your planned photos adds worry and stress onto your worry and stress. Whereas if you just plan to do all your groups later, when they’re definitely achievable, and then spontaneously bring them forward if you have time, you’ll feel – and look – far more relaxed.
How long we’ll need: With a carefully thought-through list and the help of your Ushers or Toastmaster to gather your guests, I’ll do these as quickly as possible. As a guide, allow 3-5 minutes for a group of around 8-10 people.
“You did a fab job and were so fast too. I was concerned they might take a long time but you got us straight through them and they’re still great photos!” Ian & Kristy McDougall
I’ll set up each group carefully so everyone looks good, with ties done up, buttonholes straight, and nothing distracting in their hands. And I’ll take plenty of duplicates to make sure there’s a winner where everyone has their eyes open and is looking the right way and smiling!
Want a photo of everyone?
It’s a-ok with me as long as there’s a high vantage point (like a first-floor window) or some steps that will allow everyone to be seen.
Allow around 10 minutes for 80-100 guests. I recommend doing this either right at the start of the reception when everyone is already together or right at the end when you need to get your guests together to go for dinner.
We’ll take a little time to create some stylish and romantic photos of the two of you, with your venue as a big feature.
Room for romance
You might be nervous about this bit, most couples are, so we’ll find a private spot. No heckling Hattie’s or Harry’s allowed! That way, it’s also a great opportunity for you to spend some quality time together away from the hubbub of the party.
My portraits tend to be a blend of classic, natural, and romantic. But we’ll tailor the style to suit you, your venue, and the time available. It’s a joint effort with me guiding you and you bringing the love. Think lightly directed but with room to relax and be yourselves.
The best time to do these will depend on your wedding day plan and timeline, and any ideas you have for the location.
Usually, we’ll take 10 minutes while your guests find their seats for dinner. (Your guests won’t miss you at this point and it means you get to spend as much time enjoying your drinks reception as possible.) And then, depending on the season, another short session during golden hour.
But if you’d like pictures at your ceremony location or a stop-off en route to your reception, or if they need to be fitted around an outfit change, just let me know and we’ll work your portraits around your plans.
Golden hour portraits
If the glorious golden light isn’t enough to convince you, read this blog post about the magic of wedding photos during golden hour.
I confess! I’m 50% magpie! And there’s a lot to look out for: the venue, food, drinks, music, shoes, tablescapes, rings, flowers, invitations, favours…
But I get that it’s not about details as ‘things’. It’s what they represent that’s important. I don’t always know the story behind the details but my intuition tells me there will be a story and meaning to you.
So throughout the day, I’ll look out for all the little things that make your day yours.
DINNER & SPEECHES
The gong has been struck! It’s time to eat!
The wedding breakfast
So-called because it’s your first meal as a married couple. #pubquizgold
I’ll be there to photograph your grand announcement into dinner, guests whooping and clapping, waving their napkins, and hopefully standing on their chairs.
But I’ll take a break during the meal itself. Pictures of people eating and putting forks into their mouths aren’t flattering, your catering team needs clear access to serve your meal without a photographer in the way, and I need to eat and rest for a while #hangry
But if you’ve planned something specific to happen, like guests donning chef’s hats and carving at the tables, singing waiters, selfie props or face mat ice breakers, or my personal favourite – the after-eight game (anything for chocolate) – then I can pop in and get some photos while that’s happening.
Whether you have the speeches before or after your meal, I’ll be there with (silent) bells on to capture them.
This is a great opportunity to capture relaxed photos of your guests. I’m not sure whether it’s because they’re less listening intently to the speaker and are less aware of the camera or because they’ve had a few drinks and don’t care so much about being photographed… but either way, I’m here for it!
Sometimes my pictures are wonky because I’m laughing, but I promise to straighten them before I give them to you!
Did someone say cake?
As with your speeches, whenever you do it – before dinner, after the speeches, or in the evening – I’ll be there to capture the action.
Now it’s called ‘cutting the cake’ for a reason. As amazing as it looks, your cake is for eating! So the best photos are taken as you actually cut the cake, rather than staging it.
For bonus pictures, actually cut a piece and share it there and then. That’s a good way of making sure you get some too!
EVENING WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY
This part of the day (like most of the rest of it!) is all about capturing natural photos of everyone having fun.
There’s usually a bit of time between dinner and your first dance. Oddly, it’s the only part of a wedding that doesn’t have a name. Let’s call it ‘twixhour’ – because who doesn’t love a Twix.
During twixhour, you might enjoy a balmy summer evening with coffee and cake outside, indulge in a dessert table, or try every flavour at the ice cream cart. Or maybe you’ll be more active and compete in drunken rounders or make a human pyramid. Whatever you’re up to, it’s time to chill for a while – and for me to capture relaxed photos showing a different side of your guests as they let their hair down.
The dancefloor is calling
Before you know it, everyone will be cheering you on for your first dance. Whether you’re gritting your teeth through a simple shuffle, lapping up a money dance, being bound together with streamers, or performing an all-out choreographed routine to rival Strictly, I’ll capture it exactly as it happens.
And at this point, the choice is yours…
You can end your photos with your first dance. Or you can upgrade your Uptown Funk with photos of your evening party.
Planning to show your band which wedding busts the best moves? Expecting your mates to carve up the dance floor whilst wearing their ties on their heads? Placing bets on who’ll be first to start the conga?
Then you’ll need
bribe material photographic evidence.
This is a great opportunity to capture your guests at their most relaxed. Because after a few raspberry gins, even the most camera-conscious wallflower will be begging to have their photo taken.
Because after everyone has been sitting down for a couple of hours for the meal and speeches, there’s a lot of pent-up energy to be expended.
A final flourish
Every wedding album needs a big finish.
And if you choose to have evening photos, yours will be serious wow.
We could end with a dramatic night portrait or whatever sensational send-off you end the day with – firepit, fireworks, fireman’s lift…
And that’s it! A wedding day in a blog-post-shell.
Want to see how this came to life for some of my past couples?
Check out some true love stories in my wedding photography portfolio.