Photographers share their top tips for pre- and post-wedding shoots

Nervous about being in front of the lens? Just fancy some cute snaps for your save-the-dates? The professionals tell Nicole Conner why so many of us are opting for a pre-wedding shoot – with some even having a dedicated photography session after the wedding too

Moody wedding shots at Glencoe
This couple headed to Glencoe with Samantha at Mad House Weddings to get their moody post-wedding shots

Familiar with the phrase “doing it for the ’gram”? We’ve all taken quick snaps in front of a nice view or posed with pals to put on social media – it’s just a laugh, and more than likely we’ll look relaxed and happy. But what happens when you’re standing in front of a professional camera on the most important day of your life?

If the answer is looking awkward or downright anxious or stiffening up so you feel completely unnatural, a little rehearsal of the whole process could do you the world of good. We caught up with five big players in the business who explain why engagement and pre-wedding shoots can make all the difference.

Couple hugging at the beach
Mad House Weddings captured the love radiating from this couple on a scenic beach shoot

Trial run

A pre-wedding shoot can be a lifesaver for several reasons, one of which is that you get to see how your photographer operates and therefore what to expect come your nuptials. “This works as a dress rehearsal and means it isn’t a strange concept on your wedding,” says Allan Forrester of Biggar Picture Photography. “It also means your photographer isn’t a random stranger with a camera. They get to know what you’re comfortable doing – and, more importantly, what you’re not comfortable doing.”

Amy of Amy McGilly Photography echoes this: “It’s important to gel with your photographer on the day,” she says. A pre-wedding shoot may be a deciding factor in the style of photography you want for your wedding snaps, she adds: “You might think you want candid rather than posed, but once you work alongside your photographer on the shoot, you may completely change your mind and go in a different direction. It’s such a good opportunity to work out what makes you feel comfortable and special.”

Couple in a boat
Amy McGilly Photography makes a staged snap in a boat still feel natural

Tips and tricks

So, what do the experts think you should know before embarking on a pre-wedding shoot? If you’re experiencing any nerves, Suzanne Lister of Kalisterscope Photography suggests picking a place and time that will be quiet.

Nerves are a normal part of the photography process, she points out, explaining that she breaks the ice by chatting with her couples beforehand. “This wee chat quickly starts to put my clients at ease as they realise I’m a friendly human who loves taking photographs of people smiling and laughing,” she says. “Then, we head towards a nice spot and simply hang out there to take some relaxed photographs – nothing too stiff or awkward.”

Allan Forrester also has a trick to help those early nerves: look at each other. “I find this really helps couples to relax,” he says. “It almost makes them forget they’re being photographed.”

He lets his subjects find their stance naturally, very occasionally prompting them into position. “Allowing them to place their hands as they normally would helps eliminate ‘mannequin in a shop window’ poses,” he smiles.

Where your pre-wedding shoot takes place is also crucial in creating the best images. Picking your venue is a nice thought, but it’s not always practical, says Allan. “You don’t want to be stepping on another couple’s toes on their big day. So, choose a location that means something personal to you, or that’s just randomly cool!”

Once you have your snaps, make use of them. They’ll work as lovely save-the-dates to send to your nearest and dearest.

Photo of couple hugging. Captured by Biggar Picture Photography.
Vibrant autumnal foliage plays a starring role in this warm shot by Biggar Picture Photography

Pop the question

Engagement shoots are soaring in popularity, and Rachel of Rachel Spence Photography is a huge fan. “I recommend them to everyone – it’s so much better for a photographer not to be taking the first images of the couple on their actual wedding day.”

The feeling that engagement shoots are an important part of the wedding journey is echoed by Amy McGilly, but she also has a warning: communication is key. You’ll have to discuss exactly what you want from it. Is it a surprise engagement where one party is unaware of the other’s intentions, or do you both know how you want such a special moment to be captured? If you’re the one who’s planning it, keep your photographer in the loop.

Couple in a vibrant autumn scene and same sex couple posing. Photos captured by Biggar Picture Photography
Left: Vibrant autumnal foliage plays a starring role in this warm shot; right: A happy couple pose for a smiling shot, both by Biggar Picture Photography

Timed To Perfection

If you want a shoot simply for a confidence boost, there’s a bit more leeway with when to put it in the diary, according to Suzanne at Kalisterscope. She says some couples wait until the month before their wedding, when their plans are more settled. This way, the shoot can act as “a final run-through for their day”.

If you want the session images for save-the-dates or invitations, anywhere between six and ten months ahead of the wedding will do, suggests Samantha Madden of Mad House Weddings.This is echoed by Rachel Spence, who says six months before is ideal: “It’s fresh enough to be memorable and you’ll still have the confidence boost so it’s going to be relaxed and fun on the day.”

Photo of couple hugging. Captured by Rachel Spence Photography
Rachel Spence Photography likes to capture her couples before their big day to get cosy shots like this one

Get your glad rags on

“Clothing is such a personal choice, but my advice for pre-wedding sessions would always be ‘co-ordinated, not matching’ for a couple’s outfits,” Samantha tells us. She puts us in mind of those 1980s family portraits with everyone wearing jeans and white T-shirts as an example of what we don’t want to emulate.

She’d like you to feel comfortable, so nothing too formal is required, but she suggests a few things to bear in mind when picking your look: avoid neon; avoid massive logos; keep things neutral; take a jacket with you, even if it won’t be in the pictures; dress for the terrain (hiking up Glencoe in heels won’t work); and bring a backpack with essentials, such as a change of shirt if you’re prone to sweating.

Doing this will give you shots so good you’ll be itching to get in front of the lens again when it really matters.

Relaxed photo of couple holding hands. Captured by Kalisterscope Photography.
This couple look effortlessly relaxed and beaming on their shoot with Kalisterscope Photography

Once the fun is over

There aren’t enough hours in the day: that’s a phrase familiar to anyone planning a wedding, just as it is to someone taking pictures at the event itself. “By the time the family group shots have been captured and the newlyweds have had a chance to catch up with everyone, they may feel there are not enough photos of themselves the way they’d like,” Amy tells us.

This is where post-wedding shoots come in. They’re a chance to capture those all-important mementos that you might have missed the first time around.

Samantha says clients who opt for one of these shoots usually do so to take the pressure off themselves on their big day – and that most don their wedding finery once again for it. “It means I’m not taking them away for a period of time for their couple pictures on the day. Instead, I can focus on documenting events, knowing I have a few hours dedicated to the two key people in a few days’ time.”

Amy appreciates the way the atmosphere is much more relaxed post-nuptials. “You probably won’t worry if there’s a little bit of dirt on your hem, and you’ll have much more time dedicated to the two of you.”

When it comes to post-wedding shoots, the week after the wedding is normally when newlyweds look to get snapped, according to Samantha, as many will be going on honeymoon and may want to get it done before they head off. She once accompanied one of her couples on a mad jaunt to Glencoe where the bride climbed across the hills in a massive wedding dress to get shots that were “uniquely them”. Why not?!