Getting the Best Shot With Your Wedding Photography and Videography

by Kathleen Murray

It goes without saying -- this is not your parents' wedding. Unless you love the idea of setting up smileless, formal black-and-white family portraits for the retro chic factor, you're probably looking for natural yet beautifully composed photos and videos that together capture the real essence of you and your wedding. That's right, together -- it's essential for photo and video to work as a combo to get the best shots (no competing flashes or egos). Want more advice? Take a peek at our favorite photo and video tips and trends.

Give A Personality Test

You've flipped through tons of ads, you've looked at online proofs -- there are so many incredibly talented photographers and videographers out there, how do you decide on the one? The professional's artistic style and your budget will be the driving forces behind the selection process, but the truth is your pros' personalities are central to the decision. Why? Well, you spend the entire day with these people. How well you get along with the individuals responsible for documenting your day on film or through video, plain and simply, will dictate much of how the day unfolds -- as well as how you look in the final prints.

When you meet with potential pros, ask questions. A lot of them. Inquire about overall philosophy, experience, specialty, and flexibility to see if his or her vision meshes with your own. Most important, are you comfortable around this person? Do you feel like he's genuinely interested? Do you feel like he can handle your family? Seriously, think about how this person is going to interact with your crowd. If you're a wild wedding bunch, a soft-spoken shooter may not have the vocal chords to get your gang to sit still -- for one second. If your family is more conservative, you don't want someone who is overly intrusive or who might make lewd comments. (And do ask what he or she will wear.) Exceptional people skills are a must in these professions since photographers and videographers work closely with you and your guests. However, don't get too comfy with someone's charm. What you see on film is what you get, so if you love his or her personality, but think the work is so-so, don't sign on the dotted line.

Knot Note: You and your fiance should plan to meet with both the photographer and the videographer to make sure you're comfortable with each of them. Consider asking your photographer to get together before the
big day -- maybe to shoot your engagement portraits as a sort of test run for the real thing.

Set A Sound Schedule

The most common component of a photo or video package is the number of hours -- usually between two and ten, sometimes unlimited -- that a photographer or videographer commits to being with you on your wedding day. You decide when the clock starts -- in the morning when you're getting ready, or just before the ceremony, for example. Consider splitting up the team: Send the videographer to your groom to catch some preceremony jitters while your photographer shoots you and your bridesmaids adding final beauty touches. Allow adequate time for getting-ready footage -- you'll definitely want to capture those emotional and intimate moments.

Many couples, especially those who don't want to see each other before the I dos, prefer to have portraits taken after the ceremony -- when they can relax a little. However, because brides and grooms want to attend the cocktail hour and spend more time with guests, it's becoming increasingly popular to take all group photos and portraits before the ceremony.

Knot Note: If you're ultratraditional and don't want your fiance to see you before the ceremony, create a schedule for right after the ceremony takes place so that you can get the shots you want without sacrificing tradition (or your time at the cocktail hour).

Whatever you choose to do, keep this basic timetable tip in mind: At noon, the sun hits directly above casting harsh shadows, so your photographer and videographer will have to compensate for this by using more flash to fill in the shadows or by taking photos in the shade. In general, late afternoon light is more flattering and easier to work with since there is a warm, natural glow at that time of day.

Find A Great Backdrop

Boring photos have got to go. There are plenty of ways you can help your photographer and videographer record personalized portraits. First, use your environment. After all, there's probably a reason you chose to marry where you did. Whether it's by a huge oak tree in the courtyard of the fanciest hotel in town, or in the buzzing downtown area where your church is located, scoping out interesting settings will help create a colorful and playful palette. Don't be concerned if the backdrop isn't perfect: just let those kids continue their snowball fight and the trolleys full of tourists come and go -- remember you're capturing real moments in real life.

Don't Say Cheese

If you're leaning toward a photojournalistic approach (read: more candid, documentary style), your photographer and videographer will be attracted to whatever you were doing -- they're trying to capture the true spirit of your day, not an artificial smile. For portraits where posing is a necessity, think of ways you can get the shots without having your wedding party lined up looking stiff, uncomfortable, and unnatural. Try to take more active portraits: Have the wedding party walk toward the camera on the beach, down a city street, or even through a wooded area. Stage a jumping shot. Get people laughing. And don't be afraid to speak up if you feel your photographer is giving either too much or too little direction. Trust your instincts -- if you don't want the standard bride-gazing-at-her-ring shot, say so. Likewise, if you're at a loss for what to do, ask for guidance.

Be Wary Of Special Effects

If you have your heart set on special effects -- infrared film (adds an ethereal glow to your picture), sepia-tone prints, handmade wedding albums, voiceovers, star filters (added to accentuate candlelight) -- be sure you see examples of the photographer and videographer's technique. You don't want your prints or video to be guinea pigs for their darkroom experimentation. That said, if you're impressed with their mastery of certain techniques -- and you feel confident they won't overdo it -- go for it. These extras can turn a traditional picture into an inventive image, and spice up a standard video.

Ask your photographer to use a variety of films (black-and-white and color) at different speeds to capture a rich array of colors, textures, and tones. For something really hip, try the tool music-video directors have been using for years: the fish-eye lens. This wide-angle lens records more than the normal vista, spanning the spectrum from floor to ceiling and everything in between, all in one shot. Because the lens is putting more in the frame, the angle is distorted from what our eyes normally see, creating a roundness at the corners.

Knot Note: There are so many technical terms and cameras out there, but you don't need to be an expert to secure good pictures and a great video. Still, if you'd like a quick 101, check out

There are plenty of postproduction tricks that your photographer and videographer can use to amp up your recollections of the event. In the editing room, text can be added and animated; color can be supersaturated or softened, or converted to black and white; images can be in slow motion; and your favorite song (perhaps your first dance track) can be looped through for a final sentimental touch. Now that's a memory worth preserving!

A special thanks to: Philippe Cheng, Philippe Cheng Photography; Terry deRoy Gruber, Gruber Photographers Inc.; Jeremy Faryar, LIFEStories; Johnny Boston, Milk & Honey Productions.

Photo: Javon Longieliere Photography

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