The confetti has been swept up and the thank-you cards are away: it’s time to look back at your fabulous day. So make sure your photographer knows exactly which shots you want captured for ever – and which pics to delete!
Words by Jessica Kiddle
For me, there are three photographs that sum up my wedding day earlier this year: a snatched moment as I lay my head on my new husband’s shoulder – relieved and elated that we’d completed the ceremony in style and could get on with the party; a shot of our son breaking out his best dance moves as we listened to the string trio; and, lastly, one of the pavilion where we had dinner – the lens looking in as the room filled with candlelight and laughter, awaiting our arrival as husband and wife.
Everyone will have their personal favourites from their wedding, but when it comes to the not-to-be missed images of the day, what do photographers consider to be the essentials? We spoke to some of the best in the business to find out what’s on their list – and why.
“I’d say the obvious must-have shot is a lovely portrait of the bride and groom looking at the camera – it’s an image that will be a favourite with their mothers, and will take pride of place on the sideboard or the mantelpiece for all to see,” says photographer Alice Alves (alicealvesphotography.co.uk).
Russell and Laura Hogg of Aboyne Photographics (aboynephotographics.com) also have this shot at the top of their list. For them, getting beautiful images of the couple means focusing on three main moments: the kiss, the confetti and the first dance. “The first symbolises the completion of the marriage ceremony perfectly – what better way to emphasise the joining together of two people than a wee smooch?” says Laura. “The second can be tricky to get if the venue doesn’t allow confetti. But, if it is, a confetti shot is fantastic for capturing the joy being experienced by everyone present. You’ll get great facial expressions, full of emotion, and at times quite a beautifully poignant shot.”
“The first dance is a great way to end the sequence of images,” adds Russell. “As the pair take to the floor as a married couple, the guests all swarm around them. When photographed well, you get some beautifully lit shots, bursting with emotion.”
To get his all-important shots of the bride and groom, wedding photographer Craig Stephen (craig-stephen.co.uk), who prefers to use traditional film rather than digital, has his own technique. “I keep the couple reasonably prominent in the frame, isolating them from the background so they really stand out – this is where the 3D-like qualities of shooting on medium-format film really come in to their own. I like this image to have a light connection between the couple – nothing too formal and stuffy. Secondly, I’ll shoot them relatively small in the frame, placed in the landscape of their chosen venue. This image works really well as a wall print if they’re looking for a piece of art from their wedding day.”
Craig is also a big advocate of photographing formal groups. “I believe these play an important part in telling the story in every wedding I shoot. One picture that I implore every couple to feature in their album is what I call the ‘full bridal line-up’. It features the key people of the wedding day in one image – the bride and groom with their parents, best man (or men) and bridesmaids. For me, this picture is important as it’s usually the first one taken on the day to feature both families together post-ceremony – I think that makes it quite special and memorable.”
Even if big group shots are not for you, it’s worth capturing a few of the important smaller combinations. Alice reminds us not to forget mother and daughter in particular. “Bride and mum together is essential – I often hear of brides who are so disappointed that their photographer has missed it out,” she says.
What your photographer can capture will, in part, dictate how long you’ve booked them to be there on the day – but do not underestimate the power of the off-the-cuff shot. Laura and Russell Hogg, for example, place an emphasis on the detail shots – those finishing details that set your day apart. Craig Stephen, meanwhile, always shoots the sky. “A few years back I was photographing a wedding on the west coast and the sky was so beautiful that I took a picture of it and included it with the proof photographs when I showed them to the couple,” he explains. “They loved the photo and asked if it could be the first image in their album. Since then, I photograph the sky at every wedding I shoot!”
All this means that it’s important not to get too hung up on getting the shots – the best, after all, have a tendency to just happen. “I listen to the clients and try to understand what the most important shots are for them,” says photographer Simon Lees (simonsstudio.co.uk) of his approach. “But I always tell them that if you worry too much about the ‘must-get’ shots, you take your eye off what’s happening around you. In my opinion, it’s very often the images that have no planning or organising that turn out to be the most beautiful. You just have to keep your eyes open.”
Russell and Laura Hogg agree. “We always try to allow key moments to happen organically throughout the day,” says Russell. “Laura and I take more of a documentary-style approach to photographing weddings. We feel that lots of natural, candid shots and capturing the details and context of the day help to tell a fuller, more interesting story.
“When speaking with our clients before the big day, we take a note of timings and find out what kind of shots they like or dislike. But we never make concrete plans as you have to be able to adapt and change what you were thinking of doing as not everything runs to schedule. Our experience helps us make the right judgement calls if this kind of situation arises.”
So, by all means, write up a list of the images you want for your album, supplying the photographer with a note of who you want in each shot and where it has to be taken. But at the same time, leave space for them to improvise and be creative – you’ll probably find those images are the ones you love the best.