We asked one of our long time Preferred Vendors, Caitlin Miller, for some insider advice from the perspective of a wedding photographer. Spoiler alert - there are LOTS of great tips in here, so make sure you keep scrolling!
How important is it for couples to meet with photographers before hiring them?
One of the most important vendor relationships on the day of your wedding is the one you have with your photographer. You need to feel comfortable with them directing the photos, and confident that they will capture your day in the best way possible. If you don't"click" with their personality or trust their vision, it can show in your photographs themselves. Because of this, it's vital to meet with your photographer before hiring them. Not only will you get a sense of their personality and your comfort level with them, but your photographer will have a chance to assess your personalities and how you like to interact with your partner. This information will later inform how they capture your personalities and prompt you in your wedding photos.
What can couples do to prepare for photos?
It's always helpful for a couple to put together a board of their favorite photo ideas. This is a good way for your photographer to see what types of poses and styles you respond best to. I always recommend getting engagement photos done as well - especially if you haven't had professional photos taken before. The practice in front of the camera will give you an idea of what to expect during your wedding photos, and the great shots you get back will give you the confidence to trust your photographer on the big day.
Is it okay if couples don't have poses in mind?
Absolutely. I view formal photos as a collaboration between the couple and their photographer. It's great to bounce ideas off one another and it really amps up the creativity. Of course, if the couple needs direction, I can always step in with lots of ideas. It's often the couple's first time posing for wedding photos, but we do this dozens of times a year, so a good photographer is always prepared with pose suggestions.
What are your thoughts on doing a first look before the ceremony?
I always respect a couple's choice to wait to see one another down the aisle, and this can be a very special moment for more traditional couples. However, doing a first look before the ceremony is, in my opinion, ideal for several reasons. In my experience, first looks are more emotional and heartfelt. Often couples feel the pressure of their friends and family watching when walking down the aisle and this can stunt the emotion they are feeling in the moment or cause them to try to hold it all in.
A first look eliminates this stress & pressure, and allows the couple to truly react to seeing one another. I've seen more tears (from grooms!) in first looks then I have down the aisle. A first look is also a "safer" option if it's really important to the couple to capture this moment. Imagine waiting to see your partner come down the aisle, and the moment they enter everyone leans in to take a photo with their phone. They block your view and you're left unable to see, and without a photo of your reaction. It happens more often than you think - a first look completely eliminates this risk.
Another reason a first look is a great option is if you would like to take advantage of unique photo spots nearby. Especially in the Adirondacks, there are so many beautiful spots to photograph. If you do a first look, you can schedule it as far ahead of ceremony as you like - which allows for travel to dramatic spots like waterfalls, gives you time for a romantic boat ride in a classic wooden boat, or travel to where your proposal took place. Finally, doing a first look allows you to join cocktail hour right after your ceremony so you can enjoy all of your guests, and those yummy hor d'oeuvres you looked forward to!
What time of day is best for your photo shoot?
The best times of day for photos, generally speaking, are early morning or late afternoon. But there are several things to consider beyond just the time of day. If the day is cloudy, anytime of day can be beautiful because the clouds create a natural "soft box" for even soft light. If it's a sunny day, however, photographing at high noon can cause unflattering shadows under the nose and eyes. A good photographer will know how to balance this with flash to adjust to any environment. Sunset light and "golden hour" is famously the favorite light for photographers because of the warmth and softness of the light. But I wouldn't schedule a sunset ceremony unless you've done a first look, or you'll find yourself in the dark for your formal photos!
Any tips for winter couples?
Winter can be one of the most beautiful times of year to capture soft and romantic wedding photos. The light is often soft due to how overcast winter skies tend to be, and everyone planning a winter wedding imagines being surrounded by fresh snowflakes and snow-covered pine boughs.
My recommendation for winter photos is to plan like you would for a hike. Wear appropriate shoes with warm socks and bring along a fur or warm jacket you can throw on in between locations to keep warm. One of my best tips is to bring hand warmer packs that you can hold to warm up fast. Don't be afraid to let your photographer know when you need a warm-up break; we want to make sure you're comfortable and relaxed! If you're fair skinned, or get cold easily, be sure to also let your photographer know so they can pay special attention while editing so your skin doesn't look red in the photos. Finally, if you do get a snowstorm on your wedding day, ask if your photographer can capture some backlit night photos in the snow - these are my favorite and might become the stars of your wedding photos!
How do you make couples feel comfortable and loose during their photo shoot?
I naturally love to joke and laugh and this translates really well to helping make my couples feel relaxed. If a couple is feeling nervous, I'll encourage them to play, skip, joke, and whisper "sweet nothings" to one another - or simply just "shake it out." If they don't understand a pose or a prompt, I'll step in and show them exactly what I'm talking about so they can copy me. I always have a lame joke in my back pocket to create smiles and I tell lots of stories while photographing - often about funny things I've seen while shooting, or about the groomsmen who split his pants during a jumping photo! This helps to keep the couple's mind off their nerves and helps to make the photo session less stiff and serious.
How can couples make their wedding day even more special?
One of my favorite "new traditions" to make the wedding day extra special is to write one another a letter to read on the wedding day. This can be done privately or with your photographer present. Letters can ease nerves, cause groans, create laughter or act as a reminder of why you love the person you're about to marry. Another way to make the day special is to consider more creative guest favors. Photo booths are fun and interactive, and give your guests an instant photo to hang on the fridge. One of my favorite"favors" this year was the arrival of a Ben and Jerry's stand and free ice cream for everyone! I even had a groom who was a forester - so for their favors the couple gave out tiny trees to plant and watch grow for years to come. I love this personalization and creativity.
Should brides bring a different (comfortable) pair of shoes for photographs?
I famously cannot last more than an hour in high heels and I don't expect my brides to suffer "for the photo." Nothing is worse than departing for your honeymoon with blisters all over your feet! I always encourage thinking about where you'll be taking photos. If you'll be comfortable walking in heels for an hour in the grass then go for it, but if not, consider a pair of blinged-out sneakers or classic sandals to save your feet! Your toes won'tshow in most wedding dresses so it's best to be comfortable. And once you get to thedance floor, kick off those shoes and show us your moves!
Any scheduling tips for the day of?
My best advice for timeline is always to err on the side of too much time. Often someone will get stuck in traffic or take longer than planned in hair and makeup and you don't want to throw off the schedule for the whole day. I usually recommend starting getting ready photos at least an hour and a half before ceremony, even earlier if you'll be doing a first look. Its best to consult your hair and makeup team to get an idea of how long it will take from start to finish, and then add a half hour of "just in case" time.
For first looks, I recommend starting these photos 2 hours before the ceremonyif you're shooting on site. This allows for a relaxed couples session and plenty of time for family to arrive for photos. It also allows you to tuck out of sight 30 minutes before your ceremony,so guests don't see you before the ceremony. And remember, timelines can be adjusted to accommodate anything you want on the day. I once had a couple who wanted to prioritize adventurousphotos all over the high peaks instead of the reception. So rather than doing a traditional timeline, I met them at the top of Whiteface mountain at 10am for a first look! We spent the next three hours photographing at all the best spots in the high peaks before heading to their ceremony!
What do you like to see at ceremonies?
My biggest advice for ceremonies is to consider an "unplugged ceremony," which requests that guests do not photograph or use cell phones during the ceremony. Everyone has phones at weddings, and they can be very disruptive to not only the photos, but also to the couple getting married. Requesting that guests be "unplugged" creates nicer, more classic images and guaranteesa cell phone won't ruin your photographer's shot of the first time you see one another. It may seem like common courtesy that guests would focus on the ceremony and not their phones, but I've seen everythingfrom guests standing in front of the couple to take iPad photos, to a guest watching the football game in the back row on the church WiFi!
For ceremonies taking place outside in colder weather, I recommend blankets or hand warmers to keep guests comfortable. These blankets can be personalized to double as wedding favors as well. Flower petals are always a classic thing to throw as the newlyweds recess down the aisle - perhaps consider putting twists on this idea with fall leaves or colorful confetti!
Any new trends for wedding photos?
It's always great to see new trends in wedding photography and they've gotten more and more creative in the past few years. Some of my favorites include sparkler send-offs, colorful smoke bombs to add texture and color to photos (especially when backlit at night), and chinese lanterns. One of my specialties is backlit night photos - especially in the snow or rain. These shots can be very dramatic and capitalize on the inclementweather rather than letting it dampen the celebration.