Southern Weddings

Y’all know we love us some photography around these parts. We’re passionate about sharing beautiful images because we know that these photographs are the witness to the beginning of your life together, and that they will become some of the most treasured possessions you’ll ever own, something to be shared with your children and your grandchildren and their children. Y’all, that is something special!

You put so much time and thought into choosing the perfect photographer; it only makes sense that you’d want to have the best working relationship with him or her possible. Today, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite tips and suggestions to help you do just that.

1. Consider an engagement session. A pre-wedding session will help you feel more comfortable in front of the camera (I know this was definitely true for my husband!). And, it will prepare your photographer for your wedding day by allowing her to see how you two interact, and get a feel for your best features.

2. Plan your morning carefully. I am a huge proponent of this tip. Choose a room with abundant natural light to get ready in. If possible, choose a room with neutral colors, and try to keep things neat and tidy throughout the morning. This will help your photos stay cohesive and clean-looking. If details are important to you, have everything you’d like photographed laid out and waiting for your photographer — a full invitation set, special jewelry, a vintage handkerchief, etc.

Jen Huang

3. Share your morning. This is a tip from BRV member Caroline Joy: “Specifically invite your closest loved ones to be with you when you’re getting ready for your wedding. And encourage them to get totally ready beforehand, because most people like photos of themselves more when they look their best. It could be your mom, dad, a special relative, or simply your closest friends, but I love the idea of intentionally making them feel special by sharing those moments with them.” This is a wonderful way to create an opportunity for those spontaneous, sweet, intimate moments to happen — the ones we want captured on our wedding day, but can’t really plan for.

4. Create a generous timeline. I spoke about this a bit here, but if photographs are important to you, build in as much time as possible for them. Generally speaking, the more time your photographer has with you, the better the photos she/he will be able to produce. If you’re not sure how much time you’ll need for portraits, check with your photographer.

Jemma Keech

5. Consider doing a first look. I completely respect those who want to see their significant other for the first time at the end of the aisle, but if you and your fiance are ambivalent, I’d definitely consider doing a first look. That way, you can take care of the majority, if not all, of the formal family groupings pre-ceremony, leaving extra time for bride and groom portraits or to attend cocktail hour post-ceremony.

6. Do not create a ridiculous shot list. Please, for the love of sweet tea, do not create a shot list with specific poses or moments. (You know the ones I’m talking about: they include things like “Dad whispering last minute advice to groom” and “bride’s parents whispering to each other during dinner.”) Remember why you hired your photographer, trust him, and give him room to let his creativity shine. Asking him to recreate something he or someone else has already done before will not give him the time or space to create something amazing for your special day. Instead, try showing your photographer some of your favorites from his portfolio, which will help him understand the work you’re attracted to.

Kate Murphy via Ann Street Studio

7. DO create a formal shot list. On the other hand, it’s important to think carefully about the formal groupings that you’d like captured either pre- or post-ceremony. Try to keep the list to ten or fewer combinations (i.e. bride and groom with bride’s parents, bride and groom with all siblings) to avoid impatience and stress. When you give the list to your photographer, be sure to include names — this will help her direct the portrait session smoothly and kindly!

8. Communicate with the VIPs. Once you’ve got that great shot list, be sure to share it with all the people involved. Email them a copy in advance, print out more copies for the day of – whatever it takes! Make sure they know where to be, when to be there, and what they should be wearing so you’re not scrambling after everyone on the big day.

The Nichols via Snippet & Ink

9. Plan for capturing the details. In addition to gorgeous portraits, many of y’all want your photographers to capture the details you’ve worked so hard on. This requires communication, too! If possible, work with your planner/venue/special helpers to set up the reception space as early as possible, so that your photographer can snap the details either pre-ceremony or during cocktail hour, before guests have entered the space and ideally while there’s still natural light outside.

10. Ask questions. Our last tip for working with your photographer? Ask them! “Is there anything I can do to help you do your job better?” Photographers, like all wedding vendors, try their hardest to be flexible, and they’ll do the best they can under whatever circumstances they find themselves in. But, if you do what you can to provide the optimal environment, they’ll probably produce their optimal results. And THAT is what we call a win-win :)

Sweet Little Photographs

What do you think, ladies? Anything you’d add to our list? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Caroline Joy is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

emily Written with love by Emily
48 Comments
  1. avatar Pam Parker reply

    Wonderful list! After planning weddings for over 17 years I can say the best images seem to happen when the couple and the photographer have a great and realistic relationship. Should be a must read for every bride and groom!

  2. avatar Lisa reply

    Saving and passing this post along immediately! So much great advice.

  3. avatar Melissa Tuck reply

    SO much good advice! Thank you for posting!!!

  4. avatar Jennifer Nichols reply

    As a wedding photographer, I’m so thankful for this post! Great advice! (And what a nice surprise to see one of our photos included!)

  5. avatar Lauren reply

    I love this list. I really like the “don’t create a ridiculous shot list” I never thought about it that way. The photographer is the expert, not me – it’s like telling someone how to do their job.

  6. avatar Katie O’Keefe reply

    Love this – I wish I had considered a “first look” shot. While the moment we met eyes down the aisle will always be a special moment I treasure, we only have a handful of images that are just us. Perhaps, I can convince him to get back into a tux and do a anniversary shoot. :-)

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  8. avatar Becky reply

    Great suggestions and beautiful images!

  9. avatar Beth DeCaluwe reply

    Absolutely love this! It connects with real, natural brides in a way that most lists dont. I love that it’s practical but not stiff and “must do” – it meshes so well with the lifestyle photographer!!

  10. avatar Joelle reply

    Fantastic tips! As a planner, I’m in charge of creating the wedding day timeline, but the time needed for getting ready photos and portraits varies so much depending on the photographer and the priorities of the bride and groom. It’s essential that you have a conversation with your photographer to figure out exactly how much time you should allocate to everything. And if you want to feel really comfortable with your photog, an engagement session is essential!

  11. avatar Emma S. reply

    Great advice. Thanks!

  12. avatar Rebecca Long reply

    What perfect pieces of advice! I really credit a wonderful wedding day to so many of those thoughts – especially having an engagement session, a fabulous timeline, and a first look! My most favorite might be: do not create a ridiculous shot list. I really think it creates unrealistic expectations for the bride. It’s HER wedding and I want to capture that – not someone else’s pinterest version. Thank you for your great notes! I loved sharing this with my fan page : )

  13. avatar Julia Manchik reply

    Finally, a wedding magazine offering good photography advice instead of a crazy shot list! Will be sharing this with our couples. Thanks.

  14. avatar Lucy Taylor reply

    YES! This is such a helpful, timely post. Thank you ladies for sharing!!

  15. avatar Caitlin Alexander reply

    As a wedding photographer, I appreciate this more than y’all will ever know! THANK YOU for communication with such grace and sweet charm what I want all of my clients to know. You guys are just wonderful!

  16. avatar St Augustine wedding photographer reply

    Great tips, especially number 4! I’m going to share this link with my brides.

  17. avatar Kathryn reply

    In my bridesmaid experiences, I think it would be great to have a short formal shot list and let everyone know. Sometimes that takes way too long. Setting out the details for photos is also a good idea, as I’ve heard friends say they regret not getting photos of those details. I’m really enjoying the shots you chose for this post; that last picture is beautiful!

  18. avatar gabby reply

    I am a photographer and I LOVE this article. Couldn’t agree more!

  19. avatar Michelle S Hanks reply

    Great suggestions and perfect advice for tides and their moms.

  20. avatar Ken Tan reply

    Great tips for future brides! Appreciate this post, especially from a photographer :)

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  22. avatar Denver Wedding Videographer reply

    Planning generous time is a great tip for great photography and videography both.

  23. avatar Jamie Day Fleck reply

    I am a photographer and this is great advice! If the brides followed these, they would have great photos and generally less stress on the day of!

  24. avatar Katie Lamb reply

    coming from a photographer, this is PERFECT! Well done Southern Weddings! :)

  25. avatar Stephanie reply

    BRAVO Southern Weddings. Bravo. Love. Love. LOVE all these tips. It’s all true and amazing.

  26. avatar Sweet Little Photographs reply

    Thanks so much for including one of our images in this post!!

    -Tim & Merrill (Sweet Little Photographs)

  27. avatar abbey reply

    such a great list!!! as a photographer, its so refreshing…and I totally adored it! one thing I would add…make sure you feed us! we love to eat too…and work so hard during your wedding day…please feed us during dinner, have a place for us to sit, and it possible, have somewhere where we can get water throughout the day:). we love brides that think of us…and help us do our job better<3 part of that is staying fed and hydrated<3 xoxo

  28. avatar Jen reply

    Thank you so much for this! You just made a lot of wedding photographers really, REALLY happy today.

  29. avatar Voyteck reply

    great advice! a must read for every bride and groom!

  30. avatar 10 tips for working with your Wedding Photographer | Très Chic Southern Weddings reply

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  31. avatar Wyatt reply

    These are truly great pieces of advice. Being a wedding photographer myself I would love if I could have more time with the clients to get the creative juices flowing. Most of the time in my experiences it is the family photos that last to long and eat into the couple photos.

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  33. avatar Jen Smith reply

    Thank you for this! As a photographer, I often cringe at “helpful” posts and articles that brides cling to and recite back to me. This is actually helpful and echoes some of my advice. Skip the checklist that includes “dress hanging,” “me hugging BFF,” “dad looking lovingly at mom” and share the specific details you spent time creating. Light, moments, genuine love – that’s the stuff!

  34. avatar Rebekah Gregg reply

    Oh my gosh! These are the best tips EVER!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you from this photographer! Can’t wait to pin this and show it to clients!

  35. avatar Natalie Watson reply

    Thank you for this, it’s wonderful! I agree with every word and am posting on our FB page.

  36. avatar Kim reply

    Two additional things I like to tell my photography clients:
    1) Consider a bridal session. It serves as a great dress rehearsal and provides beautiful images which you will not have time for on the wedding day. These images are great gifts for the fiance and family and are also perfect accents to display at the wedding. Additionally, it provides a dry run for your hair, make up, nails, bouquet, dress, shoes… It is better to find out ahead of time that your bra strap shows or your shoes are not blister free.
    2) Do NOT spray tan. It never goes on smooth and you will always look orange.

  37. avatar Linda reply

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I am a wedding photography and all of the things you mentioned are important–especially allowing enough time for formal portraits, creating a list of formal family shots (and who is in them) and NOT telling me each minute detail of the day to capture. You hit this nail right on the head. Thanks.

  38. avatar Southern Weddings : Great Advice | Susan Hudson Photography :: Nashville Wedding Photographer reply

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  39. avatar Stephan Berglund reply

    Thank you for a very good list ! I work as a wedding photographer in Sweden and work on to put together a list like this. I agree with that the couple should do a formal shot list but in my experience it is better if they hand it to one of their “helpers” that takes care of things for them during the day. It is hard for the photographer to gather all the guests for each group shot so preferably that can be done by one (or two) that knows the couple. And meanwhile the photographer can get photos of the group when they have informal chats and laughs with each other, which might be even more precious photos than the formal ones…
    So again, thank you. I will show my clients this list and give you the credit for it.

  40. avatar mel reply

    Love these tips! Thanks for the advice, this will make things run more smoothly for me on my big day! :) Love you girls at Southern Weddings!!

  41. avatar Lucky Bride reply

    This is a great article! 100% agree that pre-wedding photoshoot is very important for both the couple and photographer to make sure that everybody is at the same page. Use this opportunity if you have it! Here is my post about my wedding photoshoot experience:
    http://www.sweetieandgeek.com/what-to-do-to-prepare-for-a-wedding-photoshoot/

  42. avatar Maya steward reply

    the weddings are beautiful and images are perfect.

  43. avatar liam smith reply

    this is a quality list, i’ll forward the link to clients! no.8 especially, the day flows so much better when everyone knows where to be.

  44. avatar Tzipporah reply

    Love Love LOVE this! As a wedding photographer, the most helpful thing that a bride and groom can do for their photos is to plan for great shots. That includes introducing vendors, making shot lists and even Pinterest (yes, Pinterest!). I wrote up a blog about the “homework” process of wedding photography that needs to take place before the wedding if you would like to take a look: http://tzipporahphotography.com/avoid-wedding-photography-disaster-part-2/

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  46. avatar Kelly Michelle reply

    great tips! thanks for sharing.

  47. avatar Gosia reply

    Great suggestions! Thanks for shearing!

  48. avatar Greg Coltman reply

    Proper photography advice for once. Thanks for sharing.

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