Planning the Most Photogenic Wedding
Updated: Jan 20, 2022
When it comes to photography, it’s a common assumption that it’s as easy as “point and click”. This is merely one step of many. To create amazing and breathtaking photos, you have to act and think like a project manager. You have to previsualize, plan, analyze, rethink and execute. Wedding photography is its own beast and may take a lot of the agency a typical studio photographer enjoys. The location, the time, the models aren't choices a wedding photographer ordinarily makes. This field of photography requires improvisation, quick thinking and decisive action.
There are things you can do as the soon-to-be married party, to ensure your wedding is as photogenic as possible. First big decision to consider is the time of day the event will take place. If you ask any photographer their opinion on a time, most would reply with 'Golden Hour'. This is the time right before sunset, when the sun lays lowest in the sky and shines beautiful rays of orange, red and deep yellow light. Here is a photo from a wedding I shot that highlights this beautiful time of day.
This light comes in from the side and allows the photographer to utilize and play with the lighting for some interesting highlights and 'bathed in light' effects. To best identify what time of day Golden Hour is in your part of the world, use this Golden Hour Tool. Better yet, make your photographer do this, you are paying them after all! This is something I suggest to all my clients who are considering having outdoor weddings. It should be mentioned the weather could turn south on this and cloud cover could disrupt this effect. Though, worry not, cloudy skies are not a curse. Matter of fact, they are great light diffusers and soften the light and destroy harsh shadows. Given those clouds don't produce rain, which can be a stressful thing but don’t worry we can handle any weather. Here is an example of a cloud covered sky during Golden Hour.
The sun was setting directly behind this couple which makes sense because we were standing on a beach facing the Atlantic sea in lovely Virginia Beach, Virginia. After Golden Hour ends, another photogenic hour starts. This is known as 'Blue Hour' and while is beautiful, produces darker more moody lighty, versus light and airy for wedding portraits. Here is an example of that type of lighting.
This beautiful model is my wife, Sami. This was just at the tail end of Golden Hour and the beginning of Blue Hour. This darkish blue light can be trickier to work with and is very dramatic but still can produce powerful images. Most couples opt for the Golden Hour and hope to be done with portraits at the beginning of Blue Hour.
Next up is the location of your venue. There are few things to consider with a venue and its score in regards to how photogenic it is or not. Natural light is always a plus but if your reception is happening at night, natural light won't be a factor. Now, if your ceremony and or reception will be earlier in the day here are a few things you'd want to consider before selecting a venue. First, figure out where the sun is going to set in relation to your venue. Are there useful windows opening out to the west? Is the landscape outside something you'd like to see in the background of your photos? Determine the importance of these items when choosing your venue and select carefully.
Light is the name of the game for photography. Shooting a reception in a dark venue can put any photographer through their paces. Though, the actual construction of the venue can alleviate some of these concerns. The height of the ceiling can become an issue because camera flashes are not able to bounce light upwards then downwards again to the subject. This will show in the photos as the flash will light up the subjects immediately around the photographer but the background will be pitch black, as seen in the example photo below. This can create a moody and dramatic, cool effect that if desired, will result in a memorable photo. Optimally, we look for a few of these photos if they can be captured but adequate lighting can produce more high quality and detailed photos across the storyboard of the event.
The color of the ceiling itself can pose a challenge. Brown and dark colors are notoriously problematic and can cause bounced light to return a different color than it did when it left the flash. There are tools and techniques a photographer can employ to combat this but it's always best to avoid these situations if possible. I do realize this isn't always feasible and your selection of venues may be limited by budget or availability. Making your photographer aware of these characteristics beforehand is key in their planning. Providing pictures, or video walk-thrus of the venue to your photographer is helpful. Also, if your photographer isn't asking about these details that may be a red flag. When interviewing potential photographers consider summarizing some of the issues I've stated here. You might be able to gauge their experience and photography knowledge.
If you sit down and think about it, there are going to be a ton of backgrounds in your photos. From getting ready pictures, ceremony and wedding portraits, your photographer should improvise and make the best of the backgrounds they have available. Though, it is mutually beneficial to make sure your photographer gets dealt a good hand by controlling the controllable factors and planning with your photographer these locations ahead of time.
First tip I would give on this subject, is to make sure the space you and your wedding parties are getting ready is clean and well lit. This is a great job for a few bridal party participants to help clean and organize the space prior to the photographer arriving. It's your day and you have enough to worry about, delegate those tasks!
Second tip, for ceremonies you should consider the backgrounds of your chosen area. Highways and populated areas can be nuisances. Again, the photographer can work around these problems if they are skilled enough. You would be surprised how much an angle can totally change a photo. Remember that photo from earlier with the nice couple on the beach? Here was the view from level with the sand dune.
This same shot is just over the top of the dune. A beautiful shot ruined by a parking lot. A lot of shots can be reposed and taken from different angles but there is nothing like unscripted candid shots to really document the amazing moments of your day.
At venues, there can be many unattractive backgrounds to be considered but you will most likely spot them right off the bat when choosing. Just take some time to investigate and plan out where NOT to stand or be for photos as well as attractive areas that are well-lit. . I have mentioned the height and color of ceilings but also the overall attractiveness should be examined. Dropped ceilings rank high on the list of ugly ceilings and rarely ever make for a beautiful photo. If possible stay clear of these sorts of venues. If there is no choice in the type of ceiling, using ceiling draping is a great way to hide the ceilings, provide dimension and add some light for the camera flash to bounce off of (like we discussed above)!
It all comes back to light for photography. We have discussed in great detail about natural lighting but it is also important to consider the color of the lights in the light fixtures found in your home, ceremony location and reception venue. There are two common lights: tungsten and fluorescent. Tungsten lights are orangish yellow and fluorescent lights are blueish white. Of the two, I'd choose tungsten over fluorescent any day of the week. Though an issue can arise if the lights are mix matched or the photographer didn't bring the correct colored gels for their flashes and hot lights. If the flash fires a fluorescent color temperature and there is a tungsten light source illuminating the side of your face it causes some difficult editing situations.
Overall, the success of your photos falls on your chosen photographer. For any situation there is an answer, technique or piece of equipment that can be employed to resolve photogenic issues. Though, I implore you to take these considerations seriously when choosing your venues and locations. Look to see if your photographer has shot at these venues before. Ask questions and ask for their opinion in planning.
These are photos that you will have for forever so set yourself and your photographer up for success. You don’t want to look back on this day with these pictures and have regrets. We will work our magic to make your photos bring back your memories of your special day for the rest of your life!