If you want the feel of your wedding photos to be natural, relaxed and candid, it pays to include this in your planning. Some of that is obvious, like choosing your venue, flowers and dress, but there’s more to planning for natural photography than just these points.
1. Your kind of weirdo?
It’s so important to meet your photographer (or at least have a video call with them) before the big day. You’ll probably spend a big chunk of time with your photographer on your wedding day, so they have to be professional and personable. Basically, you need to check they’re not a weirdo...or at least if they are, that they’re your kind of weirdo.
Beyond that initial meeting or call, good communication with your wedding photographer is key to this whole process. It’s good to talk through the whole day from start to finish, emphasising things that are important to you - the details you want to remember. Let your photographer know about the important relationships you have with your wedding party and guests.
Maybe you have a particularly tight group of work friends, or school friends you’ve stayed in touch with. Perhaps this is the first time distant family members will meet, or a chance for old friends to see you again.
Perhaps there are ways that you want to honour particular guests at your wedding, but there isn’t time to do this in your speeches or the ceremony itself.
Knowing about these things in advance will help your photographer to watch for those natural moments between certain people, and they’re more likely to catch those lovely, little natural moments that you’ll treasure afterwards.
It’s so important to be honest and open about what you want, and ideally you can then trust your photographer to honour your priorities and vision in their own artistic way.
2. Sit Down
I’m pretty sure I didn’t sit down at any point during my own wedding day: it was so hectic and full. Naturally we want to get the most out of the venue, the food, the champagne, the decorations, dancing and the food, and so we fill every second with something going on.
But often the most memorable parts of the day don’t have anything to do with the physical ‘stuff’ - it’s often about enjoying time with your guests and your spouse. That takes time and it’s helpful to be deliberate about planning in time to spend with your guests, but also time alone together, without feeling the pull of another activity or the next part of the day.
Right after your ceremony, people often want to celebrate with you, and offer their congratulations. But this can quickly become overwhelming - by allowing time and space to be alone, you can give yourself space to just be together, while your guests relax. This is a great time to head off with your photographer for some photos together without distraction. If you have a second photographer, they can be with your guests during this time, and that can be a lovely surprise when you see your images - you’ll see what happened while you were elsewhere.
However you structure your day, I promise you won’t regret planning in time to just linger, talk and connect with the people you’ve invited to witness and celebrate your wedding.
As photographer (and self confessed nerd), I’ve trained myself to be aware of the direction, colour and quality of light when I’m photographing. There are lots of technical aspects to light and photography and these are squarely the photographers responsibility to be aware of, but there are a few things you can consider to help get the best, most natural looking (and feeling) photographs on your wedding day.
When you're choosing a venue, choosing locations and which rooms to use, here are some points to consider:
Direction - harsh overhead artificial lighting that points straight down (like those ceiling mounted recessed led lights) can be really unflattering - casting weird shadows on people's faces. It’s not always possible to avoid and a good photographer should be able to work around these areas and this type of lighting, but it’s worth considering the impact of poor lighting.
Colour - sometimes venues will add an optional lighting package to your wedding. Often this adds extra glamour to your venue, but sometimes it can cause problems with photography. If coloured lights are used (even to light a wall or the ceiling) it can reflect off surfaces and can be difficult to remove from skin tones and clothing. Coloured lights are great in the background, but can be a problem when there’s too much coloured light and it’s reaching people’s skin or clothes. Again, your photographer should be able to work around this - and hopefully it’s important to them that you have exactly what you want on your wedding day.
Quality - often the best light for weddings comes from big open shade, or big windows rather than harsh sunlight or bright spot lights. Being close to windows, or in open shade outside can give a lovely gentle light that is really pleasing. Harsh daylight should be avoided, so if you’re having an outdoor ceremony, planning some sort of shade might help create beautiful light. Evening light from warm lamps creates a really intimate feel and can also look absolutely beautiful.
One final note about lighting: one of the skills of a great wedding photographer is being adaptable and being able to create or find beautiful light in almost any situation, so let them worry about the light for the most part, but maybe let these points inform your planning a little.
Put simply: this means asking people to leave their cameras at home and their phones in their pocket. Some people also ask their guests to refrain from posting phone photos to social media on the day of the wedding too.
Pros: People are present in the moment, rather than watching the ceremony through a screen or viewfinder; there is more opportunity for your photographer(s) to capture genuine emotion and reaction without having people’s faces obscured by phones or cameras; and some of the first images you see of your wedding are the ones you’ve paid money to have a professional create.
Cons: some guests (especially family members) might find it difficult to understand why you would want this; and you’ll probably end up overall fewer photos of the day. On that last point, although most modern camera phones are really good, they struggle with dim light, and you’re unlikely to want to frame a phone image, or include it in an album, so quantity isn’t always better than quality.
From my point of view as a photographer, often unplugged weddings have a different feel, and people are more present in the moment. There’s a range of ways to go about this, from just asking people not to take photos during the ceremony, or not to post on social media during the day, to a total ban on cameras and phones for the whole day. It’s up to you to what extent you take this idea to, but it can really help natural photography throughout the day.