Design Your Wedding for Great Photography Results

I love great wedding photography and so do many of my clients. But great wedding photography does not stop at hiring a really good photographer. You can help improve the photos you take by creating the right environment for great photos. Below are some suggestions to incorporate into your wedding plans.

 Photo by Hoffer Photography. Rose Hall Great House, Jamaica

Photo by Hoffer Photography. Rose Hall Great House, Jamaica

1. Choose An Interesting Room To Get Dressed In

Splurge on a beautiful spacious light-filled corner room, preferably with large windows on more than one wall if possible or a room with high ceilings as it makes the room look grand. If you are getting ready in a chain hotel, try to negotiate the use of the best suite. To ensure you have access to the best rooms available, book your getting ready suite right after you book your venue. If you don't have a good getting ready room, improvise by finding an appropriate room for the bridal party to hang out and shoot in after getting dressed.

2. Keep The Room Where You Get Dressed Neat And Uncluttered

Put away plastic bags, luggage, and paper cups. Clutter means the photographer has less options. Clutter in the background can mess up a great candid shot. To cut down on clutter, try not to have more than one other person stay with you the night before. You may be tempted to help your bridesmaids save money by having them stay in your room the night before the wedding. The more people stay with you, the more clutter there will be to manage. You probably don't want to be the one going around cleaning up or reminding your bridesmaids to put things away. Consider subsidizing your bridesmaid's hotel rooms. Make it a part of your wedding budget. It is a wonderful gift to give your bridesmaids and it makes your wedding day go much more smoothly.

3. Use A Separate Room For Hair And Makeup

With stylists’ equipment, food trays, and the bridal party and family walking in and out of a room, it is really difficult to keep the room neat and fresh and the energy calming. With hair and makeup in another room, the photographer can shoot your dress and shoes without bumping into people or having to wait for the room to be cleared, and you get to come back to a zen bridal suite to relax just before putting on your dress. 

4. Schedule Enough Time For Photography

Wedding photography today takes a lot more time than it used to. Couples today expect more scenery changes and a larger number of shots than years ago. And those relaxed candid photos that are so popular today, often require partial set up as well as time for you to relax into the shot. 

A big misconception couples have about wedding photography is that by choosing a “photojournalistic” photographer they won't spend much time posing for photos because the photographer will stand in the background shooting almost the entire time.

The truth is weddings are, by design, part photojournalistic (for example the ceremony) and part posed or photographer directed (for example, the formal family shots, bride and groom's portraits, bridal party portraits). Often the photos that we think are candid, were skillfully directed by the photographer. I have observed that the posed part of the photography takes about the same amount of time regardless of the style or experience of the photographer. 

If you have less time for photography than the photographer requires or don’t want to spend a lot of time taking photographs, then reduce the number of photos you take and the number of locations you will shoot in.

5. to Stay On Schedule, create a realistic time

A timeline is a well thought out plan of how the day is going to flow. Your timing will be more accurate if you  align your timeline with the time requirements of your key vendors. It is important that your timing is realistic because it is usually the photographer’s time that is shortened when you are running late. If the photographer has less time to shoot, it could reduce the number of great shots, or it could mean you don’t get some of the shots that you wanted.  If you start of with a realistic timeline, you will have wiggle room to make changes if things don't go as planned. 

6. Avoid the Time Busters

These time busters can eat into your precious buffer time, so eliminate them and save your buffer time for the real emergencies. Here is how to avoid three common time busters.

  • The night before, be sure to gather your shoes, jewelry, and other items like stationery that you want the photographer to shoot. Make sure your wedding dress is out of the bag and on a decorative hanger, ready to shoot.
  • Have the mothers and bridesmaids get dressed before you put your dress on. It takes more time to get dressed together and the risk of delays are higher.  
  • Have the bridal party gather your things (purse with makeup, toiletries, and cell phone) and their things before you put your dress on. That way everyone will be ready to leave right after you put your wedding dress on.


It only takes one person who didn't know where they were suppose to be or when, to hold up the entire wedding party, keep guests waiting, or shorten your photographer's shooting time. I find it is most effective to communicate in writing and verbally to all your bridal party, parents, those in the formal family portraits, and any other non-professional wedding helpers who are helping you with tasks on the wedding day. 

8. Coordinate The Post Ceremony Formal Family Portraits Effectively

When it comes to taking formal family photos, the goal is to be organized, efficient, and quick. The moments right after the ceremony can be very chaotic if not properly organized. This is because after the ceremony, everyone is in celebration mode, everyone wants to rush to the parents (not just the newly weds) to offer congratulations. Immediate family members may not know where the photographer wants them or may even forget they’re suppose to be taking pictures and wonder off to the cocktail hour. Trying to gather folks can eat up a lot of unnecessary time. So how do you avoid it?

  • Always create a list of family members you would like to be present for formal shots after the ceremony.
  • Be sure to communicate to the family members that they will be included in the formal shots after the ceremony. In fact, include this in your rehearsal the day before.
  • Keep the list of members for formal family shots to a manageable size. If possible, keep it to immediate family (parents, grandparents, bride and groom’s siblings and their families). Larger groups become difficult to manage and take a longer time to shoot. Of course if it is very important to you to have an uncle or aunt in the shots, then by all means do it, but understand that there is a trade-off...more pictures with family, may mean less time for you to take portraits of you and your groom. 

9. Consider Unplugging Your Ceremony

Unplugging means no electronic devices—no cameras of any kind, smart phones, games, or other personal electronic devices. Even if you don’t mind the distraction of having guests focusing on their cameras and electronic devices instead of you, sometimes guests with cameras can get in the way of the photographer. Photographers generally don’t tell you to go unplugged because they feel it is not their right, but more and more brides are catching on to the importance of this and more ceremony officiants are speaking up about it even before I mention it.

10.  Add Accent Lighting Effectively To Create Ambiance

If you have a formal wedding in a traditional venue, I strongly recommend using a professional event lighting company to pin-spot the centerpiece flowers. Pins-spotting is to centerpieces what mascara is for the eyes. It creates the pop, it creates the drama. Without pin-spotting the room looks and photographs "flat" and your flowers are not as noticeable. If you have a limited budget for event lighting, then skip wrapping the room in up-lights, and spend money on pin-spotting first, then if, there is more money in the budget, choose to uplight just the focal points in the room. 

In a barn or rustic venues tend to be dark with poor overhead lighting. String lights installed overhead photograph very nicely in these spaces.  Terrain at Styers barn is a great example of effective use of overhead string lighting.

Incorporate candles generously into your guest table decor. Lots of candles can make a room instantly more dreamy not only in real life but in a photo. It also helps to light guests’ faces while they are at the table. The best way to use  candles is to incorporate at least two different heights. For example, a formula I use on round tables is six votives and three taller candles.


I hope you find these tips helpful. Stay tuned for more helpful tips on wedding photography coming shortly!