How to Work with Your Wedding Photographer to Get Amazing Shots

Wedding photography isn't easy. Anyone who says it is doesn't take the task seriously enough. A good wedding photographer has dozens of variables in his or her head that you most likely don't even see.
10/29/2012 05:17 pm ET Updated Dec 29, 2012

Wedding photography isn't easy. Anyone who says it is doesn't take the task seriously enough. A good wedding photographer has dozens of variables in his or her head that you most likely don't even see. They have to think about everything from exposure to lighting to proper poses and even making sure a strand or two of hair doesn't fall in front of the bride's face.

Properly vetting your wedding photographer is very important. When interviewing wedding photographers, look for someone with good interpersonal skills. Good communication is essential in photographing a wedding. Your photographer needs to be able to take input from your guests and family members while making sure you get the photos you want. A good wedding photographer is like a movie director: they must be able to gently push back against bad advice and stick to your gameplan.

Family members who weren't at the planning session will want different pictures, but a photographer needs to be able to take control: the wedding party can't be out on a Rolling Stone-style photo shoot for hours while the rest of the guests are waiting to eat. Shooting photos of the wedding party can be chaotic. Type A personalities and photography aficionados will often try to make sure their opinion is known -- this distracts the photographer and wastes time.

This is why building trust with the photographer is essential right from the start. Digital technology can make even mediocre photographers look like experts, but spending 10 hours with Photoshop is not the same as dealing with a "my way or the highway" grandmother. Everyone wants your wedding photos to be great, but be wary of having too many cooks in the kitchen.

Getting Great Poses

This is often overlooked when selecting a wedding photographer. While they may spend time brainstorming shots, backgrounds, and funny ideas, it's important to remember that a portrait is the portrayal of the human body, which itself can be moved like a canvas. Fashion magazines and clothing advertisements are a great resource to look at for poses that can be part of your wedding. Even the sharpest suit or most stunning dress will fail to sparkle if the bride and groom look rigid and nervous.

If you're not used to being the center of attention, get some practice -- especially for you introverts out there. Do karaoke, join toastmasters, or give a stump speech at your office to prepare for your wedding day! This could be the first time in your life where everyone has their eyes on you for a whole day. Couples often aren't coached well enough on how to be models. The key to a good model is being comfortable in front of the camera. There is no amount of makeup that can replace charisma: people can tell when someone looks uncomfortable in a photo. Your photographer needs to provide encouragement, direction, and, occasionally, laughter. Never underestimate the power of humor to put people at ease: a funny photographer is a real plus.

Workflow, Retouching, and Sorting

Ask your photographer if you can sit through their initial sorting session. Wedding photographers take more photos than they actually retouch and enhance. If your photographer is any good, they've been training their eye for years to identify good photos and to junk the rest. The goal here is to look for pictures that might not be high on your photographer's priority list. For instance, your photographer might not know that a picture of your aunt and uncle dancing is important to you, and might not include them in the final edits. This process is helpful for the photographer, too. Photographers choose pictures based on technically sound elements and on your parameters. Your opinion matters because you can expand their parameters and include the photos that matter to you.

Study, But Let Them Do Their Job

To help your photographer get the best out of your wedding, find photographs you like on wedding blogs and magazines and help build a look. Also, studying a wedding photographer's workflow (a checklist photographers use) will help you understand the process. This is about trust. To bring out the best photography, you must trust the photographer and the photographer must trust you.

Ansel Adams once said, "There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs." Working together, trusting each other, and being flexible will get you a good experience and therefore good photographs. Your wedding photographer is there to help you capture the most important moments of your special day.