Don’t want to hate your wedding photos? Here are the 11 things you need to do NOW

Guest post by Mike Allebach

You loved Mike Allebach's 12 things wedding photographers want to tell you, but can't, now Mike's back to help you avoid hating your wedding pics.


Photo by Allebach Photography
Photo by Allebach Photography

It should be one of the best days of your life — not a source of disappointment, regret, and buyer's remorse. So when I saw this comment from an Offbeat Bride on 12 things wedding photographers want to tell you, but can't, I couldn't help but shudder:

What to do if I really dislike my wedding photos? I've stepped away from them for a few months and come back and I still hate them. I've shown them to family and friends and they all think they aren't very good either… I hired a professional photographer and second shooter.

Without seeing the photos or meeting the bride, I can't solve her problem — but I can offer advice to help brides-to-be avoid wedding photo regret. Here are 11 ways to make sure you won't rue the day you hired your photographer…

1. Like your photographer

Not only do you have to like the photos your photographer takes, but you have to like your photographer's personality as well. When you meet with a photographer, make sure you're meeting with the person who will shoot your wedding. Start your search with photographers who are offbeat and awesome — find 'em here.

Beware of wedding photography mills (they exist!) where you talk to a sales person, view their best sample images, and then get stuck with a minimum-wage photographer with minimal experience to match.

To avoid getting burned:

  • Ask to see a full wedding.
  • Along with the photographer's personality, does their photographic style match your wedding?
  • If you're still having trouble deciding, book an engagement session first — this lets you take your photographer for a “test drive” before the big day.

2. Choose a professional WEDDING photographer

Experience is the best teacher, so hire someone who specializes in weddings and has shot a lot of them. Good wedding photographers use their Spidey senses to sense moments before they happen. Just because your cousin is an amazing food photographer, it doesn't mean he can document your wedding. (The reverse is true too — I'm not the guy you want to hire for food photography.)

3. Tread cautiously when hiring friends or family

Allow your friends and family to be guests at your wedding. Photographer friends may offer to take photos out of kindness, but I suggest turning them down. Here's a secret: They probably won't mind being turned down. Wedding photographers never get to be guests. It's refreshing to attend a wedding where we can leave the camera at home, hit the bar, and maybe do the Wobble. Besides, it's best not to mix business and pleasure, right?

4. Delete your wedding Pinterest boards

Mark Twain said, “Comparison is the death of joy.” I'm sure he would have a thing or two to say about Pinterest. If you're expecting your photographer to emulate all your favorite photos on Pinterest, you're setting yourself up to be disappointed — because those weddings aren't your wedding, so your photos won't (and shouldn't!) look the same.

So a week before your wedding, purge your wedding Pinterest boards.

Sacrilege, I know — but delete your pins and let go. The planning process is over. It's time for your wedding. Your commitment to each other. Your love for each other.

5. Avoid the time warp

Wedding day transportation always takes twice as long as you think it will — plan for it. If you forget to account for freeway traffic en route to your reception venue, you might cut your photo-taking time in half. Find out how much time your photographer will need, and work on a realistic time schedule. Photographers are magicians, but we can't actually bend time. Build a solid wedding day timeline with the help of a planner or coordinator, if you can. Nothing will eff up your wedding day photos more than rushing everything into an unrealistic timeline.


6. No laser lights ever

Do you look good with green spots on your face? No? Then kindly ask your DJ to kill the laser light show. Laser lights are pretty much the worst thing ever invented — they make your guests look like they have a mutant green skin disease. Oh, and those expensive lasers used in Electronic Dance Music can fry professional cameras on contact. Hulk smash laser lights!

7. Put down the vodka cranberry

Wait until after your ceremony and photos to go all Andrew W.K. I'm not saying you have to skip the mimosas, but keep hydrated and take it slow. Hate your drunk face? I can't fix that with photoshop. Plus vodka cranberry is hard to get out of a wedding dress.

8. Unplug during your wedding ceremony

This topic has been heavily debated on Offbeat Bride already. But I'm weighing in. The new trend of guests using iPads as video cameras is getting out of hand. I've seen guests holding iPads in front of grandma so she has to duck to see the wedding. Unless you want all of your ceremony photos peppered with people's iPads (which will look as silly as a Zack Morris cell phone in 20 years), ask them to put them away until after the first kiss.

9. Feed your photographer

Your caterer has a sinister plan called “hide the photographer.” After the photographer's blood sugar hits rock bottom, they lead them into a dark hallway 100 yards from reception. At that exact moment, the DJ will announce that it's time for parent dances. I'm not sure where this awful tradition started, but there's an easy solution: Ask your caterer to feed the photographer at the same time as the bride and groom, so they're back in action at the same time you are. If possible, give them a table in the main reception room. That way if an epic moment happens, they're there to capture it.

[Click here for more thoughts on the importance of feeding your photographer! -Editors]

10. Turn crappy into happy with uplighting

I've seen a DJ turn a bare room with four walls into a Vegas Nightclub with uplighting. Most professional DJs offer uplighting packages. Want to do it yourself? Check out this offbeat vendor.

11. Find the photos you DO like and get them on your wall and in an album

After spending money on wedding photos, please please please do not leave them in the digital nebulas and interwebs. When historians (or cough family members) dig through your attic, old broken hard drives with wedding photos will be useless.

Even if you're disappointed with your wedding photos, find the few you do like, and print them up. If it's literally only a couple photos, cherish them, print them, and hang them on the wall.

If you can find a few more, make an album. The process of choosing photos to print might help you re-live all the excitement of your wedding. You may never go through the 1,000 digital images that you hate on your hard drive, but you'll look at the certain photos that you do like in your album, or that one photo on your wall for years to come.

photography: Allebach Photography

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Comments on Don’t want to hate your wedding photos? Here are the 11 things you need to do NOW

  1. I cannot say how important it is to seat and feed your photographer during dinner. The speeches, funny moments, and the silly things people do to make you kiss during the meal all can be captured!


    1) Don’t place them TOO far from the podium/head table. While you don’t want them sitting with your parents, you also don’t want them at table 42 with the third cousins twice removed in the back of the venue. You don’t want to have your photographer sprinting across a 300 person room trying to catch a kiss or the look of love.

    2) Feed them. I don’t care if you paid a million dollars for your photographers, they’re people, they need food, and if you don’t want to miss out on the fun by having them passout cold junk mid-dances, include them in the meal too!

    • I found it so weird when my photographer made a point of saying that if we required her for three hours or more, we needed to feed her. I was flabber gasted. I never for a moment thought she wouldnt be included in the dinner for our reception. It was just a given to me and I cant beleive that its a point that needs to be made 😛 She’s taking photos (read lasting memories) of our wedding day. Makes sense to keep her happy (read fed!)

    • This is so true, nothing dents your artistic flow like having your blood sugar scraping rock bottom. The shedule does not allow us to go out and grab something quickly and ensure only goes so far. I always require a meal as part of the contract, just ensure that the caterer gets the memo and we are seated right there as well. I have come across venue operators wanting to stuff me into a back room or feed me after everyone else if at all. Please ensure that it is communicated clearly to the management and serving staff that the photographer & videographer must be fed at the same time as the head table and be in the same seating area as the guests so they can follow the events taking place.

    • I’ve only shot somewhere between 450-500 or so weddings, so take this with a grain of salt, and lots of pepper.
      Of those weddings, only 10% have told me that they would feed me. Sure, on the wedding day some more will say, “Go ahead and eat”. And, others, after the food is gone will say, “You got something to eat, right?” Um, “no”.
      I appreciate being fed, but don’t expect it. I consider myself no better than the limo driver. Bringing a nutrition bar is my plan for hunger. I am a vendor, not a guest. Adrenaline is my food at weddings. When it’s all over, it’s time for chow.
      Do I occasionally eat when not invited to eat? Sometimes. After the guests have eaten, and normally just finger food. I don’t want to be at a table, all set to feast, and not be able to cut and shoot at a moments notice.

  2. Note: You WILL have people who will hate the photos.

    I absolutely loved mine. I did everything said here plus some. I had an excellent photographer who did wedding, commercial, and cosplay photos at events. I loved how lighthearted he was and loved the same video games and stuff as us..FOUND HIM ON CRAIGSLIST!!!lol Like literally a month before the wedding..hahaha.

    He did the dreamy lightened photos like something you would see from a country music video from the 90’s it was so awesome I loved it. My Mother-in-law however did not. She liked the 80’s everyone-stand-together-like-a-school-photo kind of wedding. She didn’t like him catching all the little details, the innovative family pictures taken from a side angle than from the front, the blurry-ness on the edge of the pictures. I loved every one of them its super hard to figure out what I like. I took a leap for 500$ for a photographer juust building his portfolio. Now he’s shooting doritos commercials and taking professional cosplay pictures at Dragon-con every year. And hes on my facebook and talks to me and matt from time to time. He now charges 2500 for wedding photography and actually has had some good reviews regarding our photos he took from plus size brides who like being off-beat. ^_^
    And he captured one of the many favorite moments in my wedding. my cute barefoot sandals and NOT the reactions I got from wearing

  3. I had a friend who used what I like to refer to as a “weekend warrior” for her photos, meaning he had a real job 5 days of the week and did photos as a “side gig”… she cried when she saw her photos, not because she was in love with them, but because she hated 95% of them.
    When I planned my wedding, the photographer was the first thing I picked and paid for… I didn’t even have a venue yet, but I felt the pictures are all that remains of the day that flies by like a whirlwind, so I wanted to make sure I had concrete evidence that it all happened. I made sure I met with more than one photographer, and saw full portfolios, before I made my decision.
    I should also note that not everyone will love your photos, even if you do… I picked a photographer who was more “in the moment” and did candid shots, but my mother prefers robot shots where everyone stands together in a line, so she was not all that pleased, but it’s not 1985, and that’s not what I paid for.

    • I think it’s a bit unfair to assume that someone who works a 9-5 job is just a “weekend warrior,” and that your images will suffer because of that. There’s a down time to photographing weddings, and in that downtime is when a lot of people work side jobs so that they can upgrade their equipment, or pay down other debt. Every wedding photographer I know, including myself, isn’t booked with weddings 365 days a year so it’s crucial to have a fall back “regular” job to keep all your business expenses paid. Right? Or does having a “regular” job mean I’m not really a wedding professional? Confused! :-/

        • Whilst I agree that there is not necessarily anything wrong with a photographer just because they have a day job – Christina, your reasoning is way off, if a professional wedding photographer shot between 30-40 (and most shoot many more) weddings in a year, then there would be no time to have another job, if they’re providing a good level of service. If you can’t pay all your business expenses with your business, then it’s not a business yet (and that’s ok, it’s just that I think we shouldn’t be so quick to assume ‘professional’ status).

          • 30 – 40 weddings per year? Seriously? That averages out to be no less than 3 weddings a month non-stop. Not even Jasmine Star does that, and she’s a world renowned wedding photographer. I’ve listened to her talk about not stretching yourself too thin and making sure to take a hiatus during the down time to get your vision in line, work on business practices, and study new techniques. This has been her advice for years! So either the world renowned wedding photographer is wrong, or the expectation of what a professional wedding photographer is varies a lot.

          • May want to check the logic on that one. There are 52 weeks in a year and not many people are getting married during what professionals call the “off season”. The numbers you are posting would take nothing short of super human effort to accomplish. (At least that’s case in the US)

          • Apologies that this is so offensive to you, I honestly didn’t mean it to be. I personally have around 9 per month in April-Sept, but I really have no issue with Part-time photographers, some of the best are ‘weekend-warriors’ (I term I hate also)

          • I shoot over 30 weddings a year and yes there is NO TIME for a full time or part time job other than editing, meeting clients, shooting engagements, bridals, and actually having a life. I know of another Austin, Texas photographer who shoots 35-40 weddings and super busy during wedding season. The whole Jamine Star thing made me laugh. She makes her money hosting workshops not shooting weddings and she got herself in trouble a few months ago in the photography community, so yes, even she isn’t perfect.

          • I have a full-time M-F job and am also a professional photographer. There is nothing about me ‘assuming’ to be a professional- I provide consistent, high-quality results, use all pro equipment, and have a legal business. I am a professional. But I am not able to rely on my income just from my photography to pay my bills or for all of my equipment. I chose to not be a ft pgotographer because I feel like it would be very stressful to solely be self-employed and I would lose some of the enjoyment that I put into my photography. Most of the weddings I shoot I am hired by another as a 2nd shooter. I occasionally book some of my own. I mostly shoot portrait sessions however. and yes I do this on weekends and evenings.

        • I use to do 40-50 weddings a year, and photography was the only income for my family of 6. As more part-timers enter the field, driving prices lower, I’ve seen my wedding photography peers turn to another genre of photography, or leave the field.
          Imagine only shooting 100-200 images, and not doing any retouching or editing to the images. That was the old days of film. No looking at the back of a camera, and it cost $1 every time we shot an image. Totally different business model. Different career. Now most wedding photographers are not providing the only income source for a family. I will still have more respect for a full-time shooter, who supports their entire family on just their photo income.
          If your pricing and packages wouldn’t allow you to provide for your family, (either now, or in the near future) plus give you time with your spouse/kids, you need to reconsider your business model. I’m not saying that is wrong, but saying that your goals aren’t high enough.

      • “There’s a down time to photographing weddings, and in that downtime is when a lot of people work side jobs so that they can upgrade their equipment”
        What? talk about typical weekend warrior minds set a PROFESSIONAL approach to wedding photography is charging enough that the money from the weddings covers the upgrade of equipment and turns a profit!

        • I completely agree with your statement. I am a professional photographer but I am not a professional wedding photographer yet. Most of work is in studio. Wedding photography is a beast of a different color. Not to mention wedding photography isn’t limited to the day of the wedding. There is an entire uploading and editing process that needs to be done.

      • Just to put this comment in perspective:

        Frankly, I was on a rant about calling yourself a professional but then I saw the no drama policy and decided to temper my remarks. My doctor, lawyer, car mechanic, and plumber are professionals. They have no “fall back” job to pay those bills. Rather they risk everything, their mortgage, insurance, groceries, equipment, overhead – EVERYTHING – on their skill and expertise. When you are ready to do the same, then you can call yourself a professional.

        Every professional photographer, and, gee, that includes me, who has done this for 30 years, done this solely for a living ( this is what I do. Period.) doesn’t shoot weddings 365 days a year either. We shoot babies, families, seniors, commercial…and we go out a scour the earth for assignments to feed our families.

        And you don’t think that makes our work better? If we screw up – we go hungry. If you do – you blame bridezilla, end up on TV in Judge Judy’s court as the deadbeat wedding photographer, and go back to your safe day job.

        I mean, really…would you want to be about to go under for surgery and overhear your surgeon say, “I hope this doesn’t take too long; I’m pulling the midnight shift at Wal Mart tonight. Again.”

        I hope this clarifies your confusion.

        • I have to STRONGLY disagree that EVERY professional can survive on one job. I doubt that anyone would dispute that a public school teacher is a professional – and yet in many states teachers dont make enough to live off of without another job. I have taught in multiple states and multiple districts and in each at least 1/3 to 1/2 the teachers needed a second job to survive – the rest had a working spouse or were living with their parents or a large number of roommates to save on living expenses. I personally worked for a nonprofit and was a camp administrator the whole time I was teaching (now I just work for a non-profit and it pays better than some of the public schools I taught for). My colleagues would wait tables, play piano on weekends in bars, bartend, work retail, offer private tutoring, teach ski lessons or swim lessons, paint houses, do landscaping, sell on Ebay and Esty, do tailoring and alterations, etc – all to supplement our teaching salaries to make ends meet. (And this includes veteran teachers with 30+ years experience right up until retirement). I dont see why a photographer should be held to a higher standard of professionalism than a teacher – just because they have a second job does not mean that they arent as good at photography as someone who only does that. As long as the pictures are good and the photographer acts professionally and doesnt blow you off for the other job then they are a professional. I’ve had AMAZING photos taken and been super happy with pros who have a second part time job and been completely blown off and given horrible service from pros who only do photography. In fact the WORST service I ever got was from a pro who only did photography – I was getting headshots (I used to be a dancer so they needed to be accurate) and after he took them – rushing me through the session at that – he heavily photoshopped them so they didnt even look like me (changed hair color, skin tone, eye shade – all darkened because as he said tanned is a better look). When I brought them back to him and asked to have them redone because they would not work for what I needed them for, he refused said he had other clients that were his priority at the moment and that I looked better in the pictures so I should be happy with them. He also refused to refund my money or give me the uneditted shots (which are what I actually needed). I then went to a different photographer who I found because he worked part time with a friend and he met with me the next evening (after my friend talked to him for me at work) and had the finished shots back in 2 days ready to go – both the completely uneditted no make up shots I needed and the with make up slightly edited cover head shot. His shots were beautiful and he spent enough time with me to get the full requirements for the project and gave me enough time (without rushing me) to put on my make up halfway through. I consider the second photographer the more professional of the 2 (second job and all).

  4. Our photographer ate when we ate, because, and I quote “No one really wants pictures of themselves eating.” We purposefully gave everyone a full 45 minutes to eat without anything else going on, just so that we could all relax and the photographers didn’t miss anything and could eat like civilized people.

    • Exactly what I say. Dinner is typically a lull in available productivity because your subjects are otherwise occupied. I usually take the 30 mins for dinner time to get some food shots, grab a quick bite, and get outside venue shots depending on light.

  5. No laser lights ever… unless that’s what you’re going for! My fiance and I are having a concert/nightclub/EDM themed wedding and we freaking LOVE lasers. I can’t wait to see what my sparkly dress looks like covered in lasers!!

    • I was thinking the same thing. My old boss had her wedding at this funky concert venue and everyone looked amazing covered in lasers!

      • I’ve spent hours removing green laser specks from a bride dancing with her father during a parent dance. Just tell them to turn them off during those important times! They can be fun when everyone is freestyle dancing though!

        • Any good photographer with a professional off camera flash set up will not have problems with lasers

          • Wrong! Overpowering the laser light requires a lot of light. That much light on the subject means that the background goes very dark. The way I’ve found to be a happy medium is to photograph against the laser lights. In other words, make sure that the lasers on on the backs of your subject. They will be much less noticeable. Of course this limits the photographer to 1/2 the floor space, and presumes that the lasers on only coming from one direction.

    • I actually saw that laser photo and thought, wow, that’s cool and unique and I know at least five brides who would LOVE that… took notes. Maybe the lasers at a wedding should stay pink/red to avoid green face? LOL. I actually think it would make for some brilliant photos, but for SURE make sure your photographer in that case is VERY aware and experienced… in fact, shooting AT a nightclub/EDM festival/alternate universe a few times previously would be a great part of that resume. Most of the WPs I know wouldn’t have the first clue WHAT to do in that scene and rightfully so when 98% of brides are going for soft and pretty.

      Check out local festival websites in the area and take note of photographers from that genre. We do Shambhala up here and I know that there are a kazillion amazing photographers that work in that lighting setup, but honestly, I had a friend who had hers done (outside, normal wedding in the woods feel, no lasers) by a friend and amazing club photographer and he didn’t have the first clue how to photograph a wedding, so make sure they do their research and know what “other” photos need to happen as well as the light show. Or two photographers or whichever… just make sure you have your bases covered is what I am saying 🙂

      Also, make sure you send them in so we can see what a laser club EDM wedding looks like!!!

  6. THIS! to all of these things. Doubly so for pinterest and timelines.

    I would like to offer a different perspective than Sandra Lee’s comment above. I know when I and my colleagues eat, we want to be away from the action for a few minutes. We’ve been ‘on’ all day around the couple and families, and it’s nice to take 10 minutes to breath. That said, I’m on Long Island, where the reception timeline seems to e fairly universal and nothing happens during dinner. We also tend to go to the same catering halls and reception venues and get to know the the maitre d and staff- so communication about the timing of events is wide open.

    Moral of the story- definitely feed your photographer. A hangry photographer is not good for your pictures.

    • I am engaged and happen to be on long island. Is there a place for me to get your information please? Its so nice to have found your comment!

  7. Wow. As a wedding photographer, this is one of the best articles on how to make sure you like your wedding photos I’ve ever read.

    Especially the part about Pinterest. Seriously. Stop asking your photographer to copy other people’s work. It won’t work. You won’t like it. It’ll take up all of the time they could be spending creating unique photos that capture your day. And it’ll seriously suck the creative joy out of a very long and exhausting day for your photographer — who is first and foremost an artist who wants you to book them because of THEIR style, not to emulate the style of the photographers you didn’t book.

    Thank you for a fabulous article!

  8. As a photographer I had one wedding where I did not get to eat, it was horrible. I started the day at 8am, and didn’t eat a think till after the wedding. I had no steam left to run around and keep my eye on the bride and groom. It was a bad wedding for me 🙁 So pleaaase feed the photographer! We are human, and we are on the job. But everybody needs a chance to eat!

    • You are definitely spot on, I worked as a commercial diver for 3 years and believe me, wedding photography is just as physically demanding. Even though clients may make arrangements for photographer’s meals, some venue operators may try to cut corners by skipping out on these arrangements. Carrying couple of bottles of ensure , while no replacement for a hot meal can definitely be a lifesaver.

      • Great article and comments. We do wedding photobooth rentals and not wedding photography. While our day is probably way shorter than your day getting something in our stomach is very important. When you include traveling time and arrival 1-2 hours before the event plus a 4 hour wedding event it all adds up. We try to eat before the event to make sure that we don’t run out on empty during the event.

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