There’s no secret here: we live in a digital age. The time of dropping off rolls of film down the chute at your local drugstore has ceased, and digital delivery is now king. I have been using digital delivery for images since my business began simply because it’s cost-effective and easy for clients. But after you get your images, you don’t want them to JUST live on the computer (or maybe you do?). After you hit download, what steps should you take to preserve your wedding day photos?
Back Up Your Images in Three Places
How many times have you downloaded your images (in high-res, right? You did pick high-res and NOT web-sized?) and just left them right on your desktop or in your documents folder? No no! Digital items that are near and dear to you should be saved in more than one location. Typically, it’s suggested to save your images in at least three different places. So one place could be locally on your computer; another could be on a USB drive or external hard drive; and another should be in the cloud. It’s helpful to have at least one of these places be NOT at your home (the cloud is a good spot or a safe).
Get a Cloud Backup System
I use a cloud backup system for my own personal photos and even my iPhone photos (I pay extra for iCloud space so I never lost anything). I also use a cloud backup system for my business. This makes sure that your photos are NEVER lost. I personally use Backblaze, but there are MANY companies out there that can help you constantly backup your images. I highly suggest investing in one of these.
The best part about services like Backblaze is that they usually automatically backup your images for you. So for my client work, I always have redundancy (two hard drives, one cloud system, and a memory card — ALWAYS) so that if something does happen (and it has happened to me), I have everything backed up so that nothing is lost. Technology is wonky and I’ve lost personal photos from a once in a lifetime trip when they were just saved on my computer (back in 2007 when I should have been backing up to disc). Don’t let this be you!
Create an Album
These days, there are numerous companies where you can upload some photos and have a wizard design an album for you. Most of my wedding collections include albums which is great for you – another place to preserve your memories. I highly suggest if you are investing a great deal into your wedding photography that you also purchase a professional, heirloom quality wedding album simply because it will match the beauty of your digital images. Plus, I know as a kid I ADORED looking through old photo albums of my parents. I don’t think this will necessarily go away; in fact, I would say that these heirloom albums are passed down from generation to generation. If you didn’t get a professional wedding album from me, the option is always there! Contact me!
If you don’t get a professional wedding album from your photographer, I suggest at bare minimum making a press printed album that you can flip through on your anniversary. It’s easy and anyone can do it. It’s a cost-effective way to make sure that you have a substantial number of images in print, just in case they go kaput one day (you just NEVER know).
Print Them & Hang Them
I’m a photographer, so naturally my home is filled with photos. There are a few wedding photos mixed in with photos from my travels or other important moments. Even if you don’t get professional prints of your wedding photos, print them somewhere. I can’t guarantee they’ll look as gorgeous as a professional print, but nonetheless, get them off the hard drive and onto your walls. And then send me a photo of them because I want to see it! I love seeing my work in your home!
Photos are meant to be enjoyed and I think culturally we have lost the tangible joy of having photos in our hands and on our walls. To combat this in my own home, the last time Josh and I did a session, I printed almost all of the photos just so we could flip through them whenever we wanted. Technology is great for allowing us to have MORE photos and lowering the cost barrier to entry, but I still love seeing my photos every day when I wake up and remembering that time we were in Italy on our honeymoon, or when we were eating delicious cake at our wedding. The photos may change over the years, but that’s okay.
Out there in the wedding planning world, there is just as much confusion about how to choose and hire a wedding photographer as there is wedding photographers (at least in my neck of the woods). For most people, this is the first time they’ve hired a photographer themselves and probably the first time they’ve had professional photos taken since their senior pictures. And there are SO MANY photographers, guys. SO MANY.
This world I occupy over here as a wedding photographer is foreign to most people. When I meet with potential clients and ask them why did you decide to reach out to me? (I ALWAYS ask this question) their response is usually something about feeling like my portfolio lacked posed shots and they want natural, candid photos, or they stumble through a response about how they’re awkward in front of the camera and they thought my photos looked natural and pretty. I always ask this question to determine how much I need to educate my client and how thoroughly I need to explain my approach.
If I hadn’t ever picked up a camera or taken a photography class, I’d probably be just as confused as clients are about photography styles, lighting, timelines, shot lists, etc. And having hired a wedding photographer right before I entered this world as a wedding photographer myself, I’ve learned a lot about how the differences between photography styles since then. I just always want to ensure the client is hiring me for the type photography I do, in other words my style and myself, and that if they don’t jive with those things, I can help them find someone else who would be a much better fit.
So, when you’re choosing a wedding photographer, what should you be looking for? Here are my top tips for you.
Most photographers are probably approaching the logistics of your wedding the same way.
I’d say that most wedding photographers out there have moved towards a photojournalistic approach to shooting a wedding day. What does this mean? Pure photojournalism is literally the most unobtrusive kind of photography. The photographer steps back and captures events as they unfold. They are not there to create the moment, but to capture it as it occurs. Most photographers today will capture your wedding as it happens. If you’re not cool with being moved and posed all day, please ask your photographer if they take a laid back photojournalistic approach or if they are more traditional (think mom and dad’s photos). I am a wedding photographer who captures the day as it happens AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, excluding portrait sessions which are a little more directed, and I’d say most of the other people in the biz are the same.
Moments I didn’t create.
But the end result can be COMPLETELY different.
Every photographer has a different take on how they tell your love story and the story of the day. This comes out through the photos they take, how they take these photos, where they stand, what lens they use, and ultimately how they process the photos.
It comes down to lighting, composition, and overall storytelling style.
More dramatic lighting. This was created with a lamp they were using for makeup and some magic in the camera.
Lighting: consider your venue
Lighting is hands down the most important thing to a photographer. If it is not, you should run away and find someone else.
Working with some harsher natural light and crouching in the sunflowers.
Good photographers know how to work with the light they’re given or create lighting situations that work for the style they shoot. Photographers play with light differently and often play with light differently depending on the venue and wedding vibe. For instance, some photographers like to create really bright photos while others go for a moodier effect. Neither is correct, it’s all just style. Find the style of photos you like and look for photographers whose portfolios match. If their portfolio is inconsistent, really ask a lot of questions about style.
This photo would look different in a room with windows.
The biggest thing to take stock in when considering how lighting will effect your photos is your venue. If you’re hiring a natural light photographer and you’re having your reception in a dark banquet hall, make sure your photographer knows how to handle that (with flash I’d assume). Your photos will look different that that tented reception but the storytelling shouldn’t change.
Composition: where the story is
If creating a solid photo is mostly about the lighting, then composition is really where the storytelling lies. Composition is really just how does the photographer choose to set up the photo? Where are they standing? What are they shooting through? Are they laying on the ground?
Composition can make photos interesting. It can make photos romantic (think snuggles). It can make photos private and intimate. When you look through a portfolio, look at how the photographer has framed the shots. Are they all close ups? Is there a mix? Do they like to cut off people’s heads and focus on other parts? Do they focus on detail elements? Are the shots really wide?
These are all questions you can ask yourself to help identify the composition style of the photographer. For example, I’d say my style is definitely more focused on intimacy than on really wide shots–think sweeping landscape shots. I like to shoot through things. I sometimes get on the ground. Maybe I stand outside the door as a bride and bridesmaids chat and I snap a shot with the doorway in the frame to create a more interesting story than just a photo close up of the bride laughing.
Composition is a huge part of art and I could go on and on about it. But long story short: ask yourself how the photographer make things more interesting? Do the photos feel like they’re in the moment?
The most important element: overall storytelling style
I’m an English major, so I’m a sucker for all things story. It’s a big reason why I became a photographer. There is a right way to take a photo, of course. But photos are also art, or at least I consider them to be. There is an element of leeway there. And like I think some art is bad, people may think my photos are bad. It’s entirely subjective.
But when you’re looking at portfolios, ask yourself how the photos make you feel? When your wedding day is long gone, these are what you’ll have left. That and your fading memories honestly. You’re hiring a photographer to help you remember.
So are the photos funny? Are they romantic? Do you feel like you sense the personality behind the couple? Are they playful? Serious? A mix?
My photos are usually more on the playful side. I love a joyful, laughing couple. In fact, most of my couples don’t nail the serious look at all. But that’s the type of people I seem to attract. We literally laugh our way through sessions.
The bottom line? Do the photos and/or photographer make you happy?
If this has been an overall read for you, no worries. I promise that so long as you ask questions and make sure you’re hiring a legit business, it will be okay. The most important thing to remember is your photos will look similar to the work you’re looking at. Are you okay with that? Do they provoke some feeling in you?
And most of all, do you jive with the photographer? I purposefully do not book weddings without meeting at least the bride, preferably the couple together, because I’m one of the only people who will be with you through the entire wedding day. If you can’t stand me as a person, please don’t hire me. Meet your photographer. Make sure you’re comfortable with them. They may see you at your most anxious, stressful moment, and at your best moment. We don’t want to be strangers!
I hope this is helpful. If you have more questions about photography or what questions you should ask potential wedding photographers, please reach out to me!
When I initially meet with a couple, we talk a lot about them: how they met, how they got engaged, what they are like together, what type of wedding vibe they’re going for. But no matter what, the conversation always turns towards the wedding timeline.
If you haven’t planned a wedding before or haven’t been in a wedding before, then you might have no idea what’s even being discussed when a vendor first mentions the words “wedding timeline” in conversation. We vendors throw that phrase around like no one’s business because it’s one of the most important parts of our jobs. Timelines are part of large events with many moving parts, like a wedding.
So what’s an ideal wedding timeline? Where do you even start planning a wedding timeline? How long do things take? Many of my couples turn to me to help them with this process. I encourage you to work with your photographer, videographer, and your coordinator (if you have one) to craft your timeline, as every wedding and every vendor is different, but I’ll share my take on the process, from a photographer and former bride’s perspective.
Decide what is most important to you.
This is a general rule of thumb for planning your wedding. Almost no one can have EVERYTHING at their wedding. Even amazing $100,000 weddings are up against time. Take a moment early after getting engaged and decide what is most important to you both. Is it a ton of photos of you and your new spouse? Is it to hang out with all of your guests as much as possible? Have you always envisioned getting married outside in mid-June?
Deciding what is most important will not only help inform where to hold your wedding, the type of wedding you want to have, and how to budget your day, but also will help determine where you’ll spend allocate time on your wedding timeline. For those that want to be with their guests as much as possible, they might prefer to do photos before the ceremony and get right into the party. For those that might want a mid-June wedding outside, the ceremony will need to happen in the evening (or under a tent) for best photo results and for guest comfort.
First look or not?
The first look, or seeing your new spouse-to-be before the ceremony in a special “reveal,” is a popular trend and debunks the down the aisle tradition. My couples opt for it both ways (it’s a very personal choice), but this decision impacts your wedding timeline from a photography perspective. It’s a matter of doing most of your photos before the ceremony (with as much time as you want to plan for) or after the ceremony (usually a little more pressed for time if your reception immediately follows your ceremony).
For most of my clients, this is the big pivotal wedding timeline decision. Generally, those that plan the first look usually get more portrait-style photos just because we have more time. However, for weddings with a large time gap between the ceremony and reception (this works well for Catholic weddings), a first look isn’t necessary to reduce stress and give more portrait time.
Know how long things take
Even the most well-meaning couple has made a mistake and thought that a list of 30 family formal photos would only take 15 minutes. Your vendors are your resource! Ask them how long different aspects take or how long they need. It’s so nice to be included in this process so you’re not disappointed and expectations aren’t dashed.
I can only speak as a photographer, and not as a DJ/band or coordinator, but here are the guidelines I give my clients for average times:
- Getting ready: 1-1.5 hours
- Couple portraits: 1 hour
- Bridal party portraits: 45 minutes to 1 hour
- Family formals: 30 minutes to 1 hour
- Ceremony: 30 minutes to 1 hour
- Cocktail hour: 1 hour
- Toasts: 15-20 minutes
- Dances/traditions: 15-30 minutes
Other wedding timeline considerations
Sometimes people forget that it takes time to move large amounts of people from one place to another or how long it takes to walk around in a large dress and heels. Be kind to yourself and plan more time than you think you need for travel. If anything, you’ll end up with extra time and you won’t be as stressed.
Time of day/year
A good photographer can work at any time of day but most will tell you that no one looks flattering in high-noon July sunshine. Think about when the sun sets — a big must for December weddings who wish to have all of their photos taken outside — and how that impacts your day.
Talk to your venue about any recommendations they may have. Many venues have their timelines down to a science as well, or they may have restrictions about how long you have for photographs following the ceremony or when you must vacate the premises. Find out as soon as you can and plan for it!
You’ve spent all this time planning. Now communicate it! Don’t forget to tell your bridal party, family, vendors, etc. about your timeline. This happens more than you think!
Planning a large event like a wedding can be stressful, but my biggest piece of advice to couples is to think through their timeline. As I mentioned in my reducing anxiety post, a well-planned wedding timeline is the best way to reduce stress on your wedding day. Though things can fall apart and weather can happen, having a plan keeps everyone calm and gives a structure that you’ll end up being thankful for in the end. And your vendors will thank you too.