A disappointed bride’s 5 tips to get better wedding photos

Guest post by watchthesunrise
5 tips to get better wedding photos
Thanks to Brooke for uploading this photo to our Flickr pool.

We know a lot of photographer types, and one offered to do our wedding photos as a gift. We recently got all the photos back and, unfortunately, I'm a little disappointed.

Being philosophical, I guess the photos don't change the happy memories of what was really the most amazing day of my life… but for the benefit of those of you who are still planning your weddings, here are some tips/things I'd do differently, knowing what I know now:

1. Discuss in detail exactly the kind of photos you want.

For me this would have been some atmospheric shots, and all the important moments — first dance, me walking in with my dad, my husband looking nervous before-hand. And I would have discussed exactly how long photography would go on.

2. Have a list of people you DEFINITELY wanted photos of.

3. Have a person assigned to locate and gather people for photos.

We ended up chasing people around and we'd find one person and then they'd wander off whilst we were finding others… and in the end we just gave up! This shouldn't be a job for the couple or the photographer.

4. Know that photo sessions can take a long time.

We only scheduled an hour for the “official group” photos which wasn't enough when you're chasing around to find people and they keep wandering off… and you're trying to mingle and have a drink, etc. But incorporating tip #3 would have been quite helpful time-wise.


Favours or “gifts” from friends are great, but if you pay a photographer, then you know you're going to get a certain level of service. If I was to do it again I would have rebudgeted and found some money to pay for photographs.

This post begs the question: Married peeps, what photography tips do you wish YOU'D known before your wedding?

Comments on A disappointed bride’s 5 tips to get better wedding photos

  1. Oh yes! This!
    I hired a photographer and still didn’t get some of the stuff I wanted. I said I didn’t want the empty dress pictures and I didn’t want a stranger in the room when I was getting dressed.

    What this turned into was I didn’t get any pictures of myself before the first look pictures. Nothing of me with the girls or with my dad or mom before the ceremony.

    I didn’t know I was saying that I didn’t want to be photographed at all before the first look. Surprise huh?

    • I’m pretty good about getting ‘all the shots’. kiss, dad, isle, bouquet, garter, cake etc. but if you really want something specific, certain person, certain pose, certain location on the grounds…. tell your photographer!
      also, choose wisely! i drove 2 hours outside of town on a saturday, after a friday phone call, explaining that the friend who was supposed to take pictures got too stoned to leave the house. pay a professional so you dont hate your friends in the future

      • This is all true but certain things should go without saying. For instance there were no pictures of my decor or my bouquet and that was a very big part of my wedding. I even put in the form, detail decor shots! Also to brides to be before you go out to start photos take some test shots to be sure you look the way you want, everyone is rushing you to be on time but it is YOUR DAY guests can wait a little for you to be at your best.

        • I spent a LONG time making my bouquet out of wire and beads and didn’t get a picture of it.

          Actually, that’s not true. He sent me all the RAW unedited pictures as well, one of which included my bouquet. It’s a shame those images were about 300 pixles wide and completely useless….

    • I this ‘THIS’d you, cause I do, but I want to add: I totally would have interpreted your statement as equalling no photos before first look, too.

      I’m not a photographer, so it’s a non-issue, but it just goes to show how very, very important detail and clarity are with your intentions. I think a lot of people are worried about coming off as too controlling, and as a result don’t get what they want. Sure, be nice, but also be explicit.

      I happen to be a graphic designer (not wedding related) and one of my biggest challenges is always the initial step where I have to really iron out the brief and fully understand what the client’s looking for. This is only made more difficult when the client is vague … even if their intention is to avoid being bossy.

      tl:dr … Be really clear about what you want and no worries about being bossy, because everyone has very different definitions of what things mean. People can mess up, even with the best of intentions, if they misunderstand you.

    • I would definitely suggest being extra clear if you have something specific in mind! I am always glad when a couple calls/Skypes me to go over things–it’s better to talk too much than not enough (also: is there ever too much talking?!). 🙂

      Something that works for me is asking my couples specifically when they would like me to start photographing–not necessarily what time, but what part of the wedding.

    • Clear communication is key!! Being a wedding photographer, I can tell you there’s no such thing as ‘over-communicating’ when it comes to your photographer. Be as clear as you can. On the flip side, if you DON’T have specific things in mind and you like your photographers portfolio, it’s totally okay to just let them do their thing.

      And I probably would have interpreted that request the same way as your photog did, but I also would’ve asked follow up questions to clarify what you meant!

    • Something to keep in mind on your wedding day: If your photographer’s not around for something you want photos of, it’s OK to go get them, or send someone. Even if you said “I don’t want photos of X,” if you’re in the moment and decide you do actually want photos of X, GET THE PHOTOGRAPHER. I always come to a wedding prepared for last-minute changes to the shot list, so don’t be afraid to ask!

  2. we know had in our contract that the client needs to have a person assigned to gather folks. We don’t know who people are and don’t want to spend what little photo time we get chasing people around!! and in regards to the comment above- I’m not sure how as i photographer i would have taken your comment regarding not wanting a stranger int eh room, etc. but i totally would have asked!! we always do a final meeting with the couple to go over all the final details and formal photo list.

  3. Great advice! We hired pro photographers who were great, but had friends do the video … the result was our video friends in the background of all our first look pictures. D’oh! I was so disappointed when we got them back but luckily a friend was able to photoshop them out. (Advice within advice – find a friend who is really great at photoshop!) I wish I had asked our photographers to coordinate with the videographers.

    • Just now reading these comments. All pretty good advice. My plus is that when you hire a mix of pros and amateurs (friends with cameras), expect the lowest common denominator as a result. A pro videographer/photographer team, even if they’ve never worked together before, will know how to stay out of each other’s frames. They know how to communicate with each other and respect each other’s work space and required timing to get their own shots. Relying on well-meaning friends to save money, might end up costing you more money in the end to repair the damage, if that’s even possible. And usually, it’s not.

      • Not when you have amateurs in the mix. Even attempting to coordinate with someone who isn’t a wedding pro in a situation like that means you’re speaking different languages. And on the day of the wedding, there just isn’t time to educate someone on the reality of weddings. The pros will do what they can but they can’t do their jobs and manage your friend with a video camera too.

    • any decent photographer should know how to “do the dance” with a videographer….but the same should be able to be said about the videographer….. videographers often get in the way or fight for space with the photographer and it is a two way street. both should be courteous……professionals can handle this. friends might not be as adept

  4. Everyone’s experience is different, especially re point #5.

    Didn’t hire a photographer and had friends take photos and we have GREAT photos. Two variables here: 1) how good are the possible pros you will hire? 2) how good are your friends as photogs? In our case, our friends — mostly people in the visual arts — are better than any photog we could have hired for less than $5K.

    • I completely agree. We did NOT hire a professional and are so happy with our photos. We did, however, pick a friend whose portrait photography we were pretty familiar with and liked, and who knows both of us well. We had a list of must-take photos and shared Pinterest inspiration and other details with her beforehand. Another friend was in charge of making sure everyone was available for photos when they were supposed to be. There were a few hitches, but they were things we could not have planned for and we adapted. (The shots we missed were due to a missing wedding shuttle plus a record heat wave that drove everyone into the shade ASAP.) I think we got better photos than we would have from a pro because our friend knows us so well and was totally on the same page as us about what types of photos to take.

  5. Never “hire” friends/family! And I don’t just say this as a pro who wants your business. I’ve been hired by friends and shot family for free. The friends hired me because they felt obligated – our styles didn’t gel. She was a formal girl, and I’m an artsy girl. She only used about two portraits in her entire album. And I’ve shot family as a gift. They loved it but now ALL family expects it as a gift.
    See lots of portfolios. Ask to see a few FULL weddings. Stuff on our blogs are just highlights and our faves from events. You want to know how we cover an entire wedding ask to see a bunch. You should see consistancy with the shots from each event.
    As a photographer, those details are important in telling the story of your day. The dress you spent all that $ on that is now in a closet, the flowers that died, your hair getting done which you spent a ton on. Those quiet candid moments are the best! Because it’s not just about capturing the details it’s getting the environment and atmosphere of everything also going on. Typically when brides say they don’t want the “getting ready shots” the day would start at the ceremony. Your photog should have gone over that with you.
    Splurge on photos! It’s really the only thing that’s left after the wedding besides the memories. Once again, not because I’m a pro but because I went budget on my own wedding years ago and they’re all blurry (and that photographer had the same gear I shoot with today and get crystal clear photos)

    • We used a photographer that is my husband’s cousin’s wife, who offered to do our photography as a gift. The pictures turned out great, so I guess this is a case by case basis. She was very professional (even asking if I wanted her to wear all black or black-and-white to blend in…No! You’re a guest too!) and got all of the “usual” shots, plus lots I wouldn’t have thought of. The only thing we missed that I didn’t think to request was a picture of our whoopie pie favors and more shots of the bouncy house (to me fair, it was raining to the bouncy house didn’t get used much).

  6. I would add “Have someone else know how you want to look in your pictures and have them keep and eye on you and your accessories.”

    We LOVED our photographer (Hi, Megan!), and the photos she took were great. However, I do not have a single shot in which my headpiece is on straight because no one knew that it was supposed to be centered. Then when I took off my veil for the reception, I had a HUGE tangled mess in the back of my hair. Everyone was having a great time, and I’m generally a bit of a rambunctious thing, so nobody noticed. However, as a result, I have a lot of great photos in which all I can focus on is my hair and only one or two photos of me from the whole day that I really like.

    • Aw HI! That’s totally good advice. Because, yeah, your photographer’s not gonna be all “Um, is [blank] SUPPOSED to look like that?” I totally had no idea your headpiece was supposed to be centered because I thought it looked fabulous. But even if I didn’t — you betcha I wouldn’t have risked making you (or any bride) feel self conscious. Excellent tip D!

    • This was my husband for me! Makes sense as the person who is supposed to be gazing intently at me all day. He kept leaning over and flipping the pendant on my necklace back over when he saw a camera pointed at us. For which I was always appreciative 🙂 You can tell it was him because in the candid pictures where he’s distracted, its often backwards 😛

    • I had a similar thing…My sister tied my sash for me, and apparently asked, “Do you want the ends even, or can they be off?” I said I didn’t care, so she tied the sash with one end long and one shorter. I saw the pictures later, totally forgot that I said I didn’t care, and then joked, “Hey, how come nobody told me all day that my sash was crooked?” Everyone told me later that they noticed, but they thought it was cute and supposed to be that way.

      I splurged on a fancy photographer. Spent money on a quirky, but beautiful venue and also bought a very expensive and lovely dress. I did this because I really wanted one set of amazing photos. I usually make weird faces and am the blur running out of photos.
      No one knew how my hair/hair brooch were supposed to look. The photographer kept sweeping my bangs to the opposite side of my head and they did this weird straight down thing that looks stupid. The brooch kept sliding down my hair and they kept just pushing it up and tangling it.
      I have zero wedding pictures where my stupid hair and brooch don’t look stupid.
      So much for spending about $4k to have one set of nice pictures in my whole freaking life.

    • Oh, definitely this! I just came back from a wedding where I was a bridesmaid. We knew the bride wanted tons of pictures of the building at the venue rather than only greenery as the backdrop. The maid of honor had to bug the photographer to change locations, because the bride had already done so and felt too shy to speak up about it again. Most of us also didn’t realize that photos with family had to happen, so we ended up late for the reception while we got those taken care of. So definitely not only talk to the photographer, but to your wedding party, about the shots that you want, because the more people you have on your side, the smoother the day will go.

  7. We haven’t gotten our photos back yet, though the previews are great, but we weren’t very happy with the actual experience with our photographer. We met very early in the planning process and I don’t think I was very clear on what we wanted, but she didn’t adhere to many of our guidelines. We said we wanted mostly fun pictures and lots with the bridal party, but she was more interested in getting the shots SHE wanted–a lot of serious, gazing off into the distance poses that didn’t capture our personalities, and refused to do more than a few pictures (max eight) with our party. I think the lesson here is to find someone who you really click with and preferably someone who has done some offbeat weddings; our photographer clearly had a very traditional mold of what wedding photos “should” be.

    We also wish we had recruited someone to round everyone up. Our photographer really rushed us to get to the “just the couple” pictures and we ended up only getting one picture with each set of parents instead of the extensive list of formals we had sent her because everyone was just too hard to round up.

    In the end, we got what I’m sure will be gorgeous photos at a pretty good price, but not what we had asked for or that represented us and our personalities. It’s worth shopping around until you find someone with whom you have a connection!

  8. While there are some missed-photos you can never recapture, a supplemental photo shoot can help! Overall I was thrilled with our wedding photos but there were three things missed (and they were all things that I had discussed with the photographer beforehand); 1) I asked for photos of all the tables and she missed two. This is totally on her. 2) I wanted a photo with my extended family and it never happened. This one is actually on me as when she suggested we do it I put it off & we never found time to get back to it. 3) I asked for photos of my train extended down the stairs. We tried but they just came out lousy – the light in the space was all wrong and it was too cramped for the train to spread out as much as it needed to. 1 and 2 were missed forever but we scheduled a supplemental shoot to take care of 3 and she gave me a discount on it because she recognized that 1 was totally her fault. This was the result: http://www.flickr.com/photos/plymouths/sets/72157630472791098/

  9. For our wedding we had a lot of different groups of family and friends from different times in our life, so planned a lot of group shots. We made a list ahead of time for our photographer but also made copies for guests which were put up around the venue (see here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vondage/5040510190/in/photostream). This (along with Fran’s brother double checking everyone was there) really helped us with a) getting the shots we wanted and b) letting our guests know when we needed them and when they could relax/rest/get a drink etc!

    Sitting down beforehand to go through it also helped US think about who we wanted photos of, etc. We made a pretty detailed list of the details we had put effort into that we wanted captured too. A photographer coming in may not realise that you’ve handcarved those pumpkins, or that the sweets you’ve scattered tone in with the colour scheme, or that your tiara represents hours of twisting wire in front of the TV, but will probably be more than happy to take a photo if they know!

    That said, we found a photographer that we seemed to click with, so even though we jokingly apologised for our mega-planning we felt comfortable doing it. That said, hopefully any professional you’re working with SHOULD have that level of comfort. Even more so if it’s a friend doing it as a gift/gesture!

  10. I am so thrilled to see this posted here, although I am so sad for the OP. Being disappointed in your wedding photos just sucks. I highly recommend you do a “newlywed session” with a pro.

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