The 5 Most Important Parts of any Wedding to Be Photographed | Wedding Photography Advice from Twig & Olive
We’re suckers for a good storyline, and there’s no better place to find a good one than at a wedding. We call it the “wedding day narrative,” We approach every wedding we photograph, trying to capture the narrative that tells the wedding day story through photography.
Why this is Important
Your wedding is a never to be repeated experience. It’s also a day that goes by in such a blur you won’t believe it. All those months (and sometimes years) of planning…poof. Over and done in the space of a few days at most.
As photographers, we are keenly aware of this, probably even more so than our clients. We know what time constraints we are up against, and this has to be balanced with capturing those moments that are so crucial. Our goal is to produce both detail-rich images along with editorial photos for the perfect blend of photos.
Each part of this narrative is important, too. So, when we’re talking to our clients about what’s most important, our answer is “All of it.” Let’s dig into why.
The 5 Parts of a Wedding Day
Some people think the parts of a wedding day are dictated by time, but in most cases, not really. It doesn’t matter if your wedding spans 8-10 hours or 4-5 hours; the main highlights of a wedding day include:
- The getting ready process
- The ceremony
- Friend and family photos
- Couple portraits
There’s a feeling of awe, ritual, and gravity in the getting ready process. There are also hilarious bursts of laughter, amped-up nerves, good-natured ribbing, and some happy tears. It’s this amazing blend of LIFE, and we love this part of the day so, so much. It sets the tone for the day, and it’s one of the parts that, as a wedding couple, you don’t really get to “see” as well as we do as photographers. Don’t skimp on photographic coverage on this part of the day. There are some really magical photos taken during this time of the day.
We love to give advice, and here’s a piece we think is gold; if at all possible, get ready somewhere that means something to you—your grandma’s living room, your childhood bedroom; somewhere calming and centering. The photos will be priceless in years to come.
If logistics, space, or whatever means you can’t do that, and you’re in a hotel or other co-mingled space, then look for the light. Big light! Lots and lots of windows! Spend the money and get the suite. Get the penthouse if you can. Not only will you and your wedding party be more spread out and relaxed, but your photos will also be better because of it.
A word about First Looks: If possible, we do first looks immediately after everyone is dressed and ready to leave for the ceremony. Our clients like this as well; this gives them some time to see each other and have those private moments alone they want to be photographed.
We don’t believe any photographer should dictate to you when a first look should happen or if you should have one at all. But we do believe in telling clients the difference between doing them at certain times of the day and the results they can expect. The key with a first look is that everyone is on the same page.
During the getting ready, we focus on details and emotion. We script the details, photographing those items that you’ve spent so much time choosing. It’s a big part of our brand, and we show a lot of these details like attire, shoes, and floral in our work.
If you don’t see detail photos in the portfolios of the photographers you are considering, do not assume they do them. There are many different philosophies on photographing details; some photographers do them sparingly without staging. Make sure you understand exactly what you can expect.
The approach to photographing the actual getting dressed part can vary too. We don’t take awkward photos of people getting dressed, as our specific style doesn’t believe that is what drives your wedding narrative; we prefer to focus on connections with the people who are there with you during the getting ready.
We’ve photographed hundreds of kinds of ceremonies from casual backyard hand-fasts to austere cathedral weddings. In each case, the focus is on the commitment you are making, and preserving the moment is the narrative our clients hire us to capture.
We’ll let you in on a little secret: ceremonies can be tricky for photographers. There’s the unknown of not being able to control where people are, and there’s making nice with the church ladies so we can get as close to the action as possible without offending anyone. We need to be able to capture all the parts of the ceremony without drawing attention to ourselves and disturbing the guests. It’s a bit of a dance!
For that reason, we believe that two-photographers shooting the ceremony will always get you the most complete coverage when it comes to a church wedding. We can’t sprint from one side of the church to the other or up into the balcony for the ring exchange without being disruptive (remember the church lady’s wrath!), so having two cameras will mean more angles we can get. However, if that’s not possible, then discussing with our clients where the focus should be and what is most important to them is a good compromise.
Outdoor weddings do tend to be less formal and have more latitude with the placement of the altar or sacred area where you are getting married at. In some cases, with smaller weddings or well-designed layouts, one photographer might be able to capture all the moments you are looking for.
When interviewing photographers, find out if they usually have one photographer or two. Ask to see examples of both kinds of coverage. And also, ask them to define the word “assistant.” Assistants may also be second photographers, but not always. Some of them are hired to assist the photographer by moving gear and helping them out, but they are not photographers.
Friends and Family Portraits
These are the photos everyone wants, but no one wants to spend hours doing so we’ve flipped the narrative and created a system that gets these done in about 10-15 minutes.
We believe in getting these done quickly, and that’s exactly what the clients that hire us want, too. We accomplish this by having them fill out a Pre-Wedding Questionnaire and doing a final consult with them.
By doing this, we can help our clients understand exactly what most people are looking for in these photos and exactly how we can style them to make them go quickly and smoothly.
If that sounds crazy fast, it’s designed to be. We’ve got our system down pat, and we know people want to get on to the party! This also allows us time to take more fun and casual photos at the reception with loved ones, and often clients tell us these are their favorite photos.
When you’re looking at a photographer’s portfolio, pay attention to these family groupings. Do people look happy, well-lit, and are the photos well composed? Ask them how long they would like you to allow for family photo time, and make sure you’re okay with the time they need.
Capturing your friends and your family is an intrinsic part of your wedding day narrative, but we don’t believe it means endless variations of every single combination of people. We believe that happy people are people who are photographed quickly and are not wilting in the heat when they’ve got a cocktail hour to get to!
We show a lot of couples portraits; it’s a huge part of our brand. But what often surprises people is we don’t require several hours of time to be carved out on your wedding day to make this happen.
Every photographer you talk to will have a different approach to this, and it’s not good nor bad; it’s their style. So if you fall in love with a photographer’s photos and they tell you that it takes several hours to create the photos you love, believe them.
We won’t bore you with technical stuff here, but the way an image is captured varies significantly from photographer to photographer. All you need to know is that you love the way the photos look, and you have to agree you will do what is required to let that photographer capture those photos.
Our style is classified as “editorial,” and what that loosely means is that we don’t hope that the couple wanders into the right light at sunset; we plan for it, and we put them there. From there, we lightly direct and let beautiful things happen.
Depending on when dinner is served and when the sunset happens, we’ll ideally do several smaller sets of you together throughout the day as the right light and circumstances present themselves at your venue. This will give you more variety in your final edited set of photos and allow you to enjoy your friends and family.
When working with a photographer, make sure the package you choose includes the right amount of time for your reception, so it covers the reception’s highlights. Most clients want cake, cutting photos, toasts, and specialty dances.
Believe it or not, when this happens can vary by region! In some parts of the East Coast, the cake cutting and first dance happens right when the wedding couple walks into the room before dinner is served. In the Midwest, where we hail from, the cake cutting is usually done shortly after dinner, and the first dance can lead off the night or be an hour or two after dancing starts.
For us, this part of the day is where we mix our editorial style with our love of details, so our clients have the best of all worlds. If possible, we work with the waitstaff at your venue to get into the room before anyone enters to get overall views and room shots; all that hard work you put into planning needs to be documented!
We give priority to details such as place settings, the desserts, and the name cards, but we also photograph quality candids of friends and family. If guests approach us and want groupings of friends or family in a photo, we always accommodate them happily!
Be sure you talk to your photographer about the timeline. If they say “we conclude after the first dance,” and that’s before dinner, that means you may not have any other coverage of your reception. Some photographers work in blocks of hours, so be sure when you have things scheduled and that the events fall within that timeline; otherwise, it may take you into overtime hours you’re not keen to pay.
End of evening events are not uncommon such as lanterns, fireworks, or a limo send-off. These typically happen at the very end of the night, so again, check your schedule and ask the photographers how they handle these additional charges if needed.
See what we mean about all of it being important? Creating a wedding day narrative means we can produce beautiful albums and artwork for your walls that you will enjoy for years to come.