Couples often ask, as they frantically scurry through their wedding planning marathon, feeling (and sometimes looking) like they're going to pass out any minute from high elevation fatigue, how can they get the most out of their photographer on their wedding day? Albeit difficult to define what "getting the most" means, I usually come to the conclusion after a few probing questions to the bedgraggled couple, that they really want is both quantity and quality. Both of these can easily be achieved through some careful planning with their photographer. Here are some guidelines to follow when planning your day.
Location, Location, Location
First; location, location, location. Just like in real estate, location is paramount when creating wall-worthy, facebook-like-magnet, friend-envious, and mother-in-law-approved portraits. It should reflect the kind of setting you want for your pictures, whether it be urban, country, naturesque, or some other combination. Remember, you are looking for a location that compliments your personality and doesn't take away from it. In every photograph, there is always a subject. On your wedding day, that subject should be YOU so don't choose to go get a picture in front of the biggest ball of yarn in the world since the ball of yarn will probably be what most people see first in the picture. If you are the creator of the biggest ball of yarn, I retract that last statement. Actually not really... I digress.
Your photographer can certainly help you brainstorm some locations, but don't rely on them exclusively. These are your photographs so make sure you have the final say as to where you are photographed. To make it easier on your photographer (and increase the quality of your photographs), try to pick a location that isn't chock full of people unless you want them in your shot as well (photo bombers aren't always creepy, just most of the time). You don't have to choose some desolate abandoned drug house; your photographer can certainly crop a few people out of the picture easily enough, but troves of tourists can end up taking more time at each location waiting for despondent spectators to move along. If possible, the location should also include a good foreground and background to nestle you betwixt. This isn't something you should get all worked up about (remember you're nearly dilapidated already), but keep in mind that your photographer will be looking for, and should be able to find nearly anywhere, with a little creativity.
Time Spent At Each Location
How much time do you spend at each location? Good question my young tenderfoot! Plan on at least 45 minutes at each location. There should be enough time to set up shots of just the bride, the bride and groom, and the whole wedding party. For the sake of the easily distracted wedding party, try to plan locations that have something for them to do while you’re off making them envious of your amazing shots. Maybe one nature location and then another with a bar, then one urban setting, then another with a bar, country, bar, naturesque, bar...you get the picture. Take into account levels of inebriation and adjust accordingly.
Transportation From Location To Location
How do you get from one location to the other? Consider renting a mini-bus or limousine depending on the size of your bridal party. The cost can easily be outweighed by more efficient travel times between locations, more control over the party, and circumventing the possibility of lost party members due to erroneous GPS directions. Remember, this is your day so eliminating anything that distracts from you is the key.
Consider the Weather
Please also consider the weather, climate, season, and time of day during your planning. Include backup locations so you can go inside if it’s too cold or too hot. Also consider the fact that it may be too sunny. Direct sunlight causes hard shadows that can distract from your photos. Make sure there is a building or trees close by to take refuge if necessary. Also, while browsing your favorite shots on Pinterest, please realize that many of them (especially those with the sun directly behind the couple) were actually taken at sunrise or sunset. Although photographers hold powers unable to be wielded by common mortals and can even turn pizza into super models (Google that one), they cannot move the position of the sun. I know that sounds obvious, but just take into account what time the sunset is on your wedding date and plan accordingly if you want one of those shots.
The Rewards of Planning
So what does all this planning give you? I've seen the number of photos able to be taken DOUBLE on a wedding day by having good planning and location selection. The quality and composition also yield much better results as there are only so many angles you can take of a couple in front of the biggest ball of yarn in the world.
I hope this helps alleviate some of the stress unavoidably related to wedding planning and yields you many great memories from your big day.
And remember, Say Cheese!