Photos let you look back on the big day.
Naomi Chen and Sumit Bhatla brought elements of Indian and Taiwanese customs and traiditons to their July 21, 2012, wedding.
Jim Sanders Photography
When Lauren (Jones) and Brian Smith decided to marry in Lauren’s hometown of Celina, Ohio, they expected that the Columbus photographer they hired would be willing to travel there on their March 2012 wedding day. What surprised them, however, was when their photographer, Julian Allen, made several trips to the northwest Ohio town on his own the week of the wedding, just to scope things out.
“He went to where we got our hair done, he went to all the different wedding locations—the church, the reception site. He checked everything out,” Lauren says. “It was way more than I’d expect someone from Columbus to do for a wedding two hours away. It was awesome.”
So what was Allen doing during these extra trips, besides cementing himself as an outstanding vendor in the Smiths’ recollection of their wedding day? “In my mind, it’s all about planning,” he says. “The photographer needs to invest a lot of time in planning and prepping for the wedding.” By making those pre-wedding trips to Celina, he was able to map out the photographic flow of the day in advance. He also may have had a few surprises up his sleeve.
“I like props. Sometimes I’ll go and pre-stash some props along the way,” he says. “It might be a bunch of frames. Maybe it’s a ladder if I want to shoot high up. I’ve gone and stashed things in half a dozen places—I walk up, pull them out and boom!”
The effect is a surprised but delighted wedding party, impressed by their photographer’s foresight. And the result—great photos—is what wedding photography is all about.
More than any other wedding artifact, a couple’s photos have ramifications that last far beyond the big day. Your photographer’s work will become a family heirloom, revisited year after year and pored over by future generations. The wedding photos are souvenirs of the happiest day of your life, so you want them to look their best.
Fortunately, Columbus boasts a wealth of talented photographers, specializing in a range of styles. Once you decide what you like, you can narrow your options down until you find the photographer who is right for you. After the flowers dry up, the cake is eaten and the dress is hung in the closet, you’ll be left with stunning photographic evidence that your amazing day did indeed happen.
Getting to know you
At the beginning of their photography quest, many couples peruse the Internet, deciding what kinds of shots they like—formal versus casual, photojournalistic versus artsy. They then look for photographers whose styles seem like a good match. “You have to find someone that fits your vision of your wedding,” says Lindsay (Schell) Swartz, who married Kory Swartz on March 3, 2012. She was looking for a classic photo style, and she found it with Lambert Photography. “I had a pretty traditional wedding,” she says. “I wanted something classy—I was drawn to them because of that. All their pictures online showcased a traditional style.”
But don’t let your initial impressions of a photographer’s style be your only guide. Many photographers are flexible. “I adapt a lot to what they’re looking for,” says Amanda Marie White of Marie White Photography. “Through getting to know my clients, I get to know their style. I’m able to morph into what they want.” A balance of different kinds of shots within a photographer’s portfolio is a good indicator that he or she can fluctuate easily from fun to formal and back again.
Other couples don’t rely on style so much as on personality. “We didn’t know anything about photography, just that we wanted someone we could trust,” says Lauren. After meeting Allen, she and her then-fiance knew they could rely on him to get the right shots and keep the day progressing smoothly, she says.
It was also important that they felt comfortable around him. “Julian’s personality was fun—everyone had fun with him,” Lauren says. “He made friends with everyone, wanted to know everyone’s name and how everyone knew everyone.” She points out that, since your photographer is with you every step of the way on the big day, personality counts.
For Sarah (Laughery) Rigsby, comfort played a big part in her decision to work with Natalie Kurpita of B&N Photoart for her marriage to Russell Rigsby Jr. on Oct. 7, 2011. “I’m a little bit of a heavier bride,” Sarah says. “That was a big concern of mine—I didn’t want to over-show that. She was very open and willing, and very honest. She didn’t make me feel uncomfortable with having that conversation.” One look at the photos and Sarah knew she’d made the right choice. “I can’t think of any pictures I was dissatisfied with.
“First and foremost, find someone that makes you feel comfortable,” she says. “It’s the most important day of your life and you want to feel amazing. It’s truly about you and your future husband that day and if there’s something that doesn’t feel right or sit right, you have to make sure you speak up. Technically, you can’t re-do it.”
The price of photographer is another concern for many couples. “We were on a very strict budget,” Sarah says. “[B&N Photoart] was really willing to work with me on price. We were able to work out the amount of time they were there and they were also willing to veer away from their normal packages. That was a big factor.”
Kristina Kurpita of B&N Photoart seconded that sentiment. “We have set packages that we offer but we have had couples say, ‘We really don’t need you for this many hours but we love everything else the package has.’ So we take some hours off and then lower the price of the package. We really try to work with the couple.”
If your budget is an issue, don’t hesitate to bring that up, Sarah says. “In the long run, I think people want your business, and they’re pretty much going to work with you to get it.”
Have a plan (A and B)
Once your contract is signed after the initial consultation with your photographer, you’ll typically be in regular contact with him or her until the wedding—if not in person, then by phone or email. You may also see your photographer again if you opt for an engagement shoot.
“I think it’s important to build a good relationship with your photographer so you can double your ideas by bouncing them back and forth off each other,” Lindsay says. “We did a lot of emailing and meeting and talking. I think it really enhanced the overall result.”
“We send out newsletters a lot so they can see what’s going on and what kind of things we’ve been doing,” Kurpita says. “Right before the wedding we like to have another meeting to get any questions or concerns they might have out of the way so they can focus totally on the wedding.”
This last meeting or conversation usually involves a run-down of the wedding itinerary. “The day goes so quick, and people can be super organized or super unorganized,” Allen says. “Something I suggest that clients do is make a timeline of the day so they can get their heads around how long things are going to take.”
Couples often underestimate logistics like travel time between locations. “Slowly and gently, you have to guide brides and grooms to the reality of what the day will feel like,” White says. “You have all these lofty aspirations of, ‘Oh, I want to go here, here and here,’ but really we only have an hour and a half between the ceremony and the reception. You might get to go to one or two places.”
Kurpita says a photographer’s experience and knowledge are valuable resources. “Looking at the timeline, we can make suggestions to the couple,” she says. “Being able to suggest options to couples is really beneficial to them because the photographer has been to a lot of places.”
Allen concurs. “My job is to bounce my experience around with the bride so she’s making informed decisions,” he says. “I might not think it’s such a good idea, so I tell her the downsides. But if the bride really wants it, I see how I can make it work.”
Photographers can also help fine-tune the timeline by taking things like weather into consideration. If it’s the middle of July, and the bride wants to shoot outdoors at a sunny park, the photographer can draw on past experience to know that a sweaty wedding party doesn’t make for great pictures. He or she may suggest an equally lovely indoor (and air-conditioned) photo location.
Patience is another factor to consider. “Your bridal party might not want to stand around for an hour,” White says. Also, “most grooms don’t really love to be photographed. So you need to figure out how long he will tolerate it. We’ve definitely been in those situations where the groom has had it.”
Sarah Rigsby’s photographers took pictures of the wedding party between the ceremony and reception, which both occurred in the same location, The Boat House at Confluence Park. “Our wedding party was very small—just one bridesmaid and one maid of honor, and then my husband’s best man,” she says. “It didn’t take a super long time, although if you asked Russell he would probably think it went on for hours.”
As helpful as a timeline is, don’t be surprised if your photographer goes off script to get a great shot. At the Rigsbys’ wedding, B&N Photoart pulled Russell and Sarah out of the reception to get some photos on the waterfront with the sunset in the background. “Oh my gosh, they are beautiful,” Sarah says. “Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.”
Expecting the unexpected is a good strategy, Allen says. “When you step into this environment, whether it’s rainy or sunny, you need to be flexible,” he says. “You always need a plan B, and you need to sell plan B to the bride. If the weather turns south, you’ve got to make the most of that. I’ve had brides have a vision and stick so closely to it, they dig themselves a hole.” Trusting your photographer to have a backup plan can save you some stress.
Documenting your day
Another matter to discuss with your photographer: Who you want in the photos. Of course there will be lots of shots of you and your groom, along with your wedding party and families. But are you hoping for group shots of extended family? A particular group of friends, like your college roommates? Tell your photographer who you’re expecting to see in the final proofs.
“There are a lot of stakeholders in a wedding,” Allen says. He discussed essential shots with the Smiths ahead of time, and was sure to capture the key players. “He actually had a wristband that he would wear listing out every shot he had to get,” Lauren says.
Some photographers like to get the lay of the wedding day at the rehearsal the night before. Even if the photographer isn’t shooting the rehearsal, it’s a good time for him to meet all the key players (and to let those folks know where they need to be for photos and when).
At the rehearsal, the photographer can also check the church’s policy regarding photography, as this varies from venue to venue. Some will have a list of rules photographers must follow—anything from restricting the wanderings of the photographer during the ceremony to prohibiting flash photography. The couple should make sure in advance that the photos they want taken don’t conflict with the church’s policies.
Depending on the couple’s preferences and the church’s policy, formal portraits may begin a few hours before the ceremony. Some photographers will want to start as much as two and a half hours in advance, shooting the bride, her family and the bridesmaids. When they’re done, it’s the groom and his side’s turn.
For extended family shots, White suggests waiting until the reception. “That way everyone’s had some food and beverages and is relaxed,” she says. “Then you can get all the cousins and great-aunts together for a picture.”
Traditionally, the bride and groom don’t see each other before the ceremony, but more couples are considering the advantages and choosing to do so. “I did it with my wedding,” says White. “You do have a lot of extra time that way. I know it’s not the traditional way to do it, but if pictures are a priority and you don’t have much time between the ceremony and reception, it’s definitely the way to go. I’m very traditional with most things, but I was very thankful that we saw each other.”
One of the biggest objections couples have is that they want that “special moment” when they first see each other as the bride comes down the aisle. But your photographer can arrange a special “first look” location that’s completely private for you and your groom. You won’t be as nervous in front of an audience, and that shared moment can result in some ultra-romantic shots.
Whatever your decision, it’s a personal one, and most photographers will make the schedule work with whatever the couple prefers.
Once any pre-ceremony shots are finished, the photographer may set up the camera on a tripod for ceremony scenes or wander around to capture more intimate, emotional moments during the vows. Photographers who bring assistants or second photographers likely will do both. “There’s a benefit to having more than one photographer. We always go out with two,” Kurpita says. “If one photographer is taking pictures here, another is already trying to find the next shot.”
“I like to get a sense of place when I’m taking photographs,” Allen says. “There’s so much to capture on the wedding day. Whether it’s photographs of the church or other location, when you have the album, it’s good to have those shots among all the others. It’s very much about capturing the story.”
Lindsay appreciated her photographer’s eye when it came to detail shots. “They were really good about saying, ‘You have to capture the experience. You don’t just get the family photos—you want those, of course, they’re important—but you need to capture the venue and the decorations and the experience of the whole wedding,’ ” she says. Looking through her photos now, the wedding theme, “Because Two Friends Fell in Love,” is immediately apparent thanks to the shots of decorations. “Make sure your photographer captures the theme, if there is one,” Lindsay says. “You put so much work into it. You want to make sure it all happened the way you wanted it to.”
After the ceremony, you may stick around to take more photos, or you may head to the off-site locations discussed previously with your photographer. Then it’s off to the reception, where many of the traditional photo ops happen in quick succession: the introduction of the wedding party, announcement of the couple, toasts, first dance, father-daughter dance, cake cutting and open dancing.
Some favorite shots are captured during the reception, when you may not realize your photographer is even there. He or she will be roaming the room, taking photos from afar. When you get them back, you’ll see candid moments of pure joy that you didn’t even realize were unfolding.
“The first dance picture wasn’t just a picture of us dancing,” says Lindsay. “It was me looking up at Kory—it really showed the emotion. You could see the happiness and the love, and you could see that everyone was having fun. They weren’t just photos of people—it was almost like the emotion was flowing through the pictures.”
Indeed, wedding photography is all about capturing something beautiful. “There are different times with each bride and groom that I get to see their deep love for each other, whether it’s at the engagement session or a private moment at the wedding where they’re being very honest about their emotions with one another,” White says. “I think these are really gratifying moments and they make me love what I do. You’re seeing people love each other, and we don’t see that a lot in our culture.”
When the party’s over, all that’s left (besides a little R&R on the honeymoon) is to wait for the proofs to come back. Depending on the photographer, that could be anywhere from one to six weeks, although with digital technology, many times the couple can view their proofs online before they even return home.
“I post everything up on my website like a week later,” says White. “I’ll post a few for them on Facebook, and it’s very exciting to see everyone’s responses—all their friends liking pictures. That’s definitely one of the most exciting things.” Once the physical proofs are ready, White hand-delivers an album to her clients. “When they’re looking through it, and reliving everything, sometimes I get emotional,” she says. “I think those are some of the best moments, when they’re flipping through the album and being so satisfied and excited to have it. It’s very rewarding.”
How does Allen know he’s done his job right? “When they’re looking at the pictures and they’re crying because I captured the emotion on their wedding day. Getting the call from the client—‘Oh my god, these are fantastic!’—just makes you feel so good,” he says. “I get an opportunity every week to do that, with people looking their finest. What a privilege to be right there, right in the middle of everything that’s going on. In a way, it’s a dream.”