Our Top 10 Favorite Wedding Photography Shots

Want to capture the true spirit of your big day? Here are the shots you can't miss.
by Lori Seto

We see thousands of wedding photos a week. Every once in a while, an image will shine through the formal portraits, cutting-the-cake poses, and couple dance dips. Below are our top 10 favorite standouts, the photo opps that perfectly capture the unedited emotion or serene impact of the day. Some of these may sound sappy, but believe us -- you'll love the results.

Today's The Day

Behind-the-scene shots at the hair salon, Mom and Dad's house, and in the dressing room are absolute must-haves in order to record the bride's and groom's nervous joy and quiet contemplation on the morning of their wedding. Looking at these pictures, we can almost feel the realization sinking in that today is the day -- it's really happening! Black-and-white film reflects the poignancy of these moments best and acts as a nice prelude to the burst of color photographs at the wedding, for a surreal Wizard of Oz effect. Be sure to wear a nice bathrobe or clothes when getting ready, and clean up the house or ask one of your bridesmaids to keep the dressing room tidy (that is, stash your discarded thong away from the camera lens.)

Dress As Art

That gorgeous confection of tulle and lace that you just emptied your bank account for is a work of art and should be photographed as such. (Plus, this may be the last time it's perfectly ironed and stain-free!) Have your photographer take a shot of the dress -- sans bride -- in all its glory. We like them best hanging in a window that's pouring in sunlight, but the back of a wood door works well too. Put it on a proper hanger and lose the plastic bag and any other visible stuffing. This is your expectant gown in repose; don't take it out of its element. A dress shot in its natural surroundings -- like a dressing room -- is beautiful. Slumped in the backseat of your sedan on the way to the church is just tacky.

Mom & Dad

No shot captures the conflicting feelings of parents on your wedding day better than one taken of them watching the ceremony. While you're focusing on your husband, they're focusing on you, feeling proud, happy, and sad. Be sure your photographer knows who each parent is, and ask him to take a shot of each of them during the ceremony. You can't watch them during the proceedings, but you'll get the full tidal force of their emotions when you see the photographs.

Palm Reading

If the eyes are the mirror of the soul, the hands are the mirror of the heart. Clasped tightly or draped gently, they say a lot about the states of their owners. We love black-and-white, medium-range shots of a couple's hands during the highly charged moments when they recite their vows or exchange rings. (Important: No heads allowed in the frame!) It's a much better way to capture your wedding rings on film without staging a shot that includes all your wedding paraphernalia stacked in a still life, because it's an authentic moment. To get this shot, make sure there will be room for the cameraman near the altar and forewarn your officiant that he or she may be scrambling about.

Alone At Last

Take away a church full of guests watching your every move and the din of cheers, and you just have each other. Married. Finally. Driven by a surge of emotion, relief, and excitement, what you do in those first few quiet seconds as a married couple is something no photographer should miss. These are some of our favorite photos of all time. Couples can finally relax, and often this is when the emotions from the ceremony are finally released. The trick here is to give yourselves a few moments alone after the ceremony -- perhaps in an available empty room. Make sure there's space for the photographer to follow you and then ignore him -- and revel in the moment, because it will never happen again.

Still Life

Why place your bouquet or ring pillow against a boring background to be photographed like a prop? We like to see these sentimental accessories being held or hugged by your flower girls or little ring-bearing boy (or dog). By pairing the two, you knock two shots off your list with one -- you get an endearing image of your helpers and a record of the accessory -- and the resulting image is far more engaging than a lifeless prop shot. Be sure that there is adult supervision so that the bouquet is returned to you in one piece. This is something for kids and your photographer to do during the dinner hour and it gives your flower girl the chance to play bride.

Runaway Bridesmaids

We too are tired of seeing a line of gals holding their bouquets just so. While this is always a good shot to have in your album, we love the alternative we've been seeing. It involves a bit of exercise and a carefree attitude -- bridesmaids and bride trotting toward the camera. No one will be able to keep a straight face, which makes for an absolutely vibrant, energetic shot. Shoot outside, in color, and what will develop is more about personality than perfection. Watch the gowns and shoes in the grass -- you might want to try this after you've finished your close-up portraits.

Twinkling Tableau

The reception table -- from its overall ambience down to a single thoughtfully orchestrated place setting -- encapsulates the spirit of your wedding. Be sure to photograph the table before the reception starts. Why? Because you won't get to see it in all its perfection (the result of months of planning!), and because once guests arrive you can forget about those fanned napkin folds. Double-check with your reception venue that your photographer can access the site before guests swarm in.

Life Starts Here

We call this shot "...and they lived happily ever after." You know, the one where the couple walks off together, hand in hand, into the sunset. Or maybe they skip away, laughing. Either way, the keys to giving this admittedly staged and sappy shot a timeless ring are that the couple holds hands and that they are photographed in the distance, moving away from the camera toward a visually "limitless" background with lots of sky. The idea is that this is the beginning of your new life together and the sky's the limit on your dreams! Turn around if you want, you can even do a little jump for joy. We agree that you'll feel a little silly doing it, but the results will be worth your embarrassment. Promise.

Bon Voyage

When we see mug shots of the couple in their getaway limo -- or carriage or Rolls-Royce -- we imagine them thinking, "Sure, the wedding's been fun and all, but let's start the honeymoon!" Shot from the outside in through the window or inside the car from the front seat, this sayonara shot of the nuzzling or beaming couple is not only adorable but also a good image with which to close the "story" of your wedding. This should really feel like a snapshot -- as though the photographer has merely poked her head in the window of the car to sneak a peek.

Photo: Nicole and Brad Wolf/SOTA Photography

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