Advice from a Photographer: 11 Insider Tips for Your Wedding Day

Planning a wedding is completely new territory for most couples. There are so many variables that lead up to this one special day, and often times, we have to navigate them with little to no experience, making it difficult to achieve our vision without knowing the logistics to make it happen. 

So, I’m taking what I have learned and sharing it with you, so that your wedding photo dreams can become a reality!

1.  Have Realistic Expectations for Your  Wedding Day

No matter how much time you spend planning your wedding, things rarely go 100% according to plan. The day goes by so much faster than you can ever imagine, and those carefully planned details sometimes aren’t fully realized. But, that’s okay! 

Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate as expected, but rainy weather can be beautiful for photos. Sometimes, the flowers aren’t exactly how you’ve imagined they would be, but nobody will ever know except for you. Sometimes, traffic keeps us from the reception longer than we had hoped - but, while we don’t want to keep our guests waiting, the party isn’t going to start without you! Relax, and have fun. This is your day!

If, however, you want to minimize these “surprises,” and the stress that can accompany them, I highly recommend a wedding planner. The amount of stress that they are able to lift off your shoulders is drastic, and the last thing you want to do is to be stressing over last minute details the day-of, instead of enjoying one of the most special days of your life!


2.  Consider the Pros and Cons of the Seasons

Every season has its pros and cons. The summer is nice, because the sun sets later in the evening and the nights are pleasant, allowing for beautiful photos later in the day. On the other hand, I’ve also had couples cut short photo shoots with ambitious locations mid-day, because the bride and groom are overheating and the party is exhausted. In that case, perhaps plan on a location with less walking time and lots of water on-hand to keep the wedding party hydrated, or a shoot that takes place later in the day.

Outdoor weddings are a favorite of mine, and I love tented weddings. But making sure your guests are comfortable outside on a warm day is important, too. Featuring some ice cold cocktails and perhaps some handheld fans is a creative way to stave off the heat. An air conditioned tent is even better!

Winter weddings are lovely, as well - and I love photographing snow! Just make sure you layer up to keep yourself warm, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a pair of boots for the bride, so that her feet don’t get soaked if it’s snowing. The wedding party will be braving the cold for pictures, also, so give them a heads up. Perhaps some fancy hand warmers would be a pleasant gift for your wedding party, even! 

3.  Be Mindful of the Sun’s Bedtime

Usually, the bride and groom photo session takes place right before or after the ceremony, and you want to make sure you have nice light to work in. I prefer to have at least an hour during this time for photos. 

If you are getting married in the Fall or Winter, you may want to keep in mind that the sun sets earlier. If you have a 5:00pm ceremony in or after September, you’ll be cutting it real close if you, in regards to your couple photos. You probably want to avoid being stuck in the dark when it’s time for your “money shot” photos to be taken, and lean towards an early afternoon ceremony. If you are unable to push the ceremony up, planning on a First Look would be smart!

Conversely, in the summer time, noon emits the harshest light possible. You’d probably want to aim for a late afternoon ceremony, so that we can soak up the softer light in the evening. 


4.  Rain is Okay!

Guess, what? If it rains on your wedding day, don’t let it put a damper on your day! Rainy weather is actually quite lovely to shoot in - and 9 times out of 10, the skies will be courteous enough to give us a break for some picture taking in the beautifully soft light that those rain clouds have provided.


5.  Know and Love Your Photographer’s Style

Choose your photographer because you absolutely love their work! If you are into natural photojournalistic wedding photos, then choose a photographer that specializes in that style. If you are into something fun and a little goofy, pick a photographer that you know can give you what you want! 

Photo references are great for ideas, but handing over 10 “must have” images is a bit much. The day will go by so fast, and realistically, unless you want to compromise other parts of the day, you may have time for 2 or 3. 


6.  Understanding Pricing and What You Are Paying For

Photography is expensive. For many, it is difficult to understand what it is, exactly, that you are paying for, but keep in mind that, though it may seem like a days work to untrained eyes, there is so much pre/post work that goes into delivering a wedding package. 

Pre-planning and consultation, anywhere from 5 to 20 hours of editing images, image gallery hosting, album design and cost, usage rights, prints and packaging materials; business expenses, including thousands of dollars worth of equipment, hefty maintenance and repair fees, business insurance… (Basically, it costs a small fortune just to be in business!) 


7.  Understanding Photo Usage and Copyrights

Sometimes it’s difficult for one to understand copyrights. After all, you are paying all of this money, and you want to make sure that you can do whatever you want with your photos, right?

According to federal law, the photographer always holds the rights for their work. This does not necessarily mean that you can’t post, print and share your photos how you wish. Every photographer has different usage rules, so pay attention to the contract. Some may limit your printing rights, because they rely on their print sales for a large portion of their income. Others may focus more on the wedding day for their income, permitting more open usage rights to their clients.

Signing over the copyrights to the client means that the photographer is forfeiting their right to use images for self promotion. Your beautiful images serve the same purpose as those images that lead you to choosing your photographer, in the first place. They are essential for finding new clients and keeping the business fresh and updated, and thus must remain the property of the photographer’s as it is their namesake.

It’s relatively safe to say that if any reputable photographer offers to sign away their rights to their clients, you can expect to pay at least triple their normal rate. 


8.  Lighting in Churches and Venues

One thing to keep in mind, is that your photographer is always at the mercy of the lighting environment. 

For some, getting married at their church is super important. What some couples aren’t always aware of, is that churches are often dimly lit, and many congregations have rules against flash photography, or prohibit photographers to step in front of the first pew - meaning most of your photographs may be from behind. If your church is special to you, you should absolutely incorporate it into your day!! Just have a realistic expectation of what those photos will look like so that you don’t end up being disappointed with the photographs when it’s all said and done. Having a conversation with the officiant helps to clarify what the situation will be like for your photographer.

As far as a reception venue goes,  my favorite venues are those with lots of natural light, neutral walls, and romantic, warm lighting come sundown. 


9. Thinking About Travel Time

The more travel time in between locations, the less precious time you have for photographs. 

Having a different location for the ceremony and reception is one thing, but when 3 photo-op locations in downtown Chicago are thrown in, just be aware that the travel time really cuts into the amount of photographs you have. More than once, I have been stuck in traffic for 45 minutes trying to get those sought after urban shots, and left with less than 10 minutes to photograph the bride and groom before we had to head back to the reception. 

If you know that you are absolutely dying for that downtown city scape shot with your bridal party, let’s do it! But, let’s make sure to prioritize our list of stops, and to also double check that there isn’t a coinciding Taylor Swift concert monopolizing the flow of traffic on that particular day!


10. Coordinate With Aunt Flo.

This tip is less about photography, and more about personal comfort and enjoyment for the ladies. Make sure “shark week” doesn’t land on your wedding day. It’s the biggest bummer to feel bloated and uncomfortable on your wedding day - and it might put a bit of a damper on the wedding night, as well.


11. Timing Your Honeymoon.

This tip is 100% just from my own experience having been married, but I think it’s worth noting. I was mid-semester in grad school when we got hitched, so we couldn’t take our honeymoon right after. We did, however, plan a nice weekend getaway. It was lovely, but in all honesty, we basically spent 2 days almost exclusively in the hotel recovering from our wedding day, with the occasional food outing. We didn’t see much. We were completely exhausted!! I couldn’t imagine having to get on a plane for a Euro backpacking trip the day after! I would especially avoid the possible hangover + early morning traveling combo. 

We made up for our lost post-wedding weekend getaway by taking a 2 week euro backpacking trip a few months later!


So there you have it! I hope these tips serve you well in helping you to avert any unpleasant surprises along the way, and to assist in making your wedding day everything that you want it to be!

Happy Planning!



Jackie + Pablo’s Lake Bluff Wedding Party

Jackie and Pablo’s lake front wedding party in Lake Bluff was graced with gorgeous weather, and stunning scenery. The happy couple wanted an intimate party to share with their friends and family, many who aren’t able to attend their wedding ceremony in Guatemala. The party took place outdoors on the main grounds and boathouse of Jackie’s dear friend’s home. The party was classy casual, and I absolutely loved the vibe - especially when I found out that they were serving fajitas for dinner, and churros for dessert! 

Congrats, Jacke + Pablo!



Wedtoberfest 2015

As we approach the second half of summer in Chicago, newly engaged couples may already be in the midst of planning for their wedding next year. Chicago has a lot to offer for the creative couple who might be looking for something a little bit different to compliment their vision, but where to begin searching for the perfect vendor match might be a little tricky. 

Fear not, my friends, because I have the perfect solution for you, especially if you happen to love craft beer festivals, like I do. On September 17th, 2015, Naturally Yours Events and Indie Wed team up to bring you Wedtoberfest, a beer festival specifically for couples who want to shop alternative wedding vendors in the Chicagoland area. 

This event is more selective and intimate than your typical bridal show. And because it’s a beer festival, it might be more enticing for some otherwise uninterested grooms to participate.

Now that I’ve sung its praises, I have to admit that I slipped up and booked something previously for that date - I’m kicking myself in the butt for that, but while I’m doing that, you should check it out - and do expect to see me at Indie Wed’s wedding show in early February!



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