Bride and groom sitting on a chair on family farm looking at the hills

10 Tips To Get Epic Bridal Wedding Photography

Bridal wedding photography of claire and blake as they walked towards sunset at Caccia Birch House

While weddings are full of beautiful moments and storylines with endless opportunities for photos, the bridal wedding photography of the brides and grooms tends to be the most important image of wedding days. Print enlargements tend to be from the bride and groom sessions, as well as thank you cards. Thus, a lot of importance is placed on the bridal photo session.

Typically 1.5 to 2 hours are set aside for the shoot. It is important to allow enough time to comfortably get to different locations, get in and out of cars, and enjoy the picnic baskets, as well as awesome companies of the bridesmaids and groomsmen.

Most brides and grooms are not professional models, and thus, this creates a lot of anxieties before the day. Kiwi blokes tend to hate being in front of the cameras, and often dislike this part of the wedding day the most. Most brides are not too worried about being models for a day, but the boys really do hate it, especially the farm blokes. They tend to be laid back, and just want to drink beer and hang with their mates. It just happens that being a wedding, they just have to do what they are told.

We do get asked a lot about how the bridal session will work, and how we, as wedding photographers, deal with uncomfortable and unphotogenic people.

Below are 10 tips on how to get the most out of your bridal wedding photography, from a photographer's perspective with over 10 years of experience as an award-winning wedding photographer.

Palmerston North wedding photographer with Matt and Freay at Makoura Lodge

1 -  Happy couples make the best bridal wedding photography

Happy people make the best models, nice and simple. The happier you are, the more natural and authentic the wedding photos will be. Fake laughs are very easy to spot in the photos. This also affects your mood, and thus, your overall enjoyment of your day. Don't try to be the perfect model, but instead just focus on being the happiest version of yourself.

There are not many chances in one's life to have such an amazing reunion of friends and families. Cherish such an occasion, and once again, just simply enjoy the people and the moments that are all around you.

I often tell my couples that I will always be there to make small changes when required to improve the images. However, I can't control how they look at each other, or the smiles on their faces, or how they hug each other, etc. All these movements and expressions need to come from them. Thus, as a wedding photographer, I try to make them laugh and smile, and this is when all the organic happiness and love will shine and give us the best and natural looking wedding images.

2 - Choose a wedding photographer whom you can have fun with

You will be with your photographer for a significant portion of your day. Many New Zealand wedding photographers offer 8 to 9 hours of coverage, which is a very big chunk of your wedding. Some even provide full-day coverage, starting from the early hours of the day when the boys will be out on the golf course, to the last dance in the evening when all the crazy antics take place. The last thing you want on your wedding day is a grumpy photographer who either just does not want to be there, or someone who focuses so much on the actual photography that they forget it is a day of fun and celebration.

We have seen this before, or have heard through the grape vines of grumpy wedding photographers who have ruined the wedding festivity for everyone. As you can imagine, once the couples are unhappy, this mood is then put onto the bridal party and the immediate family, which can then affect the mood of the wedding guests.

It is important to understand that by nature, photos are a way of helping to bring back memories. Our philosophy on wedding photography has always been this. We could give you the worst, unflattering, terrible wedding images in the world, but you would still love them simply because we all had the most fun and epic time. What would you rather have, professional photos but not very fun memories of the photography process, or the most epic and amazing photos simply because all you can do is smile and laugh as you look back at the smile and laughter and happy tears that you had on your wedding day?

We love cracking jokes with our clients. We want to feel like we are part of the day, part of the celebration. We want to celebrate with the wedding couples and their families and friends, not just there to press buttons on the cameras. Some jokes are clean, some are not. We just simply go with the flow, knowing that we are there for a good time with our clients.

3 - Trust the photographer and the style

You would have done lots of research into wedding photography, colour, style, cost, optional add-ons etc. At the end of the day, photography is very subjective, for both the photographer and the viewers, i.e. you. Thus it is important to understand that while a photographer, a good photographer, can change their style, even modify the way they edit the images, you have chosen a photographer for a particular style of capture and a style of editing. Trust them, trust their photographic vision, and trust in their ability to document and narrate your love story.

When choosing a photographer, it is important to go through their wedding galleries, especially those that show typical full coverage of wedding days, from the beginning to the end. Once you have chosen your photographer, remember that you have made your decision based on what you have seen, based on their work, and the feel of their wedding images and the editing. This is especially for the bridal wedding photography as there is alot of emotion that can be seen and felt in these images. It is this connection that attracts you to their images and style in the first place.

Go and trust your gut instinct, which then, in turn, allows you to place that trust in your wedding photographer, and then just simply enjoy your day.

4 - Enjoy every weather

You can control most things on your wedding day, except the weather. Just remember this, every weather brings something different to a wedding and contributes to the overall mood of the day. Whether it's good or not really depends on the people and not the weather. I have been to weddings where it rained and stormed and hailed, and yet we got some of the most epic and moody beach landscape wedding photos ever. Rain also brings out umbrellas which make great photo props. Your dress will get dirty, and it will get wet. Once you learn to accept that, then you will be much more carefree and enjoy photography more.

Rains also tend to bring all the guests together, as they can't go outdoor. Just imagine 100 people inside a tiny hall, or restaurants, the liveliness, the chaos, the noise, and the echoing of laughter. It's a pretty amazing and fun wedding atmosphere in my book.

One of my happiest wedding memory was of a wedding in Mahia Beach. The wedding ceremony was supposed to take place on a lookout with a beautiful view of the ocean. The weather had a different idea. A massive storm moved in and all the guests had to cramp inside this tiny local pub. best wedding atmosphere ever, especially when a joke was told. The bridal wedding photography was cold and windy, but everyone was laughing. We had the beaches all to ourselves, and the mood could not have been more epic.

Nikki and Gaz Palmerston North barn wedding 0763

5 - Things will go wrong

Things will always go wrong on wedding days, from cake melting in the heat, to grooms forgetting their socks. It is important to step back and remind yourself of the main purpose of the day, and how much you love that very person standing opposite you, and just simply enjoy the moments. It is simply not worth it to be worked up by the little, or even the big things. As long as you get to marry your best friends, and celebrate that moment with the most important people in your life, everything else just simply doesn't matter. Besides, those "imperfect" and "oh no" moments can be pretty hilarious memories and stories about your day.

6 - Don't go to too many locations

It can be so tempting to go to the many locations that you have scouted or have seen on the internet and websites or sceneries that seem to fit your wedding vision. It is important to remember that the more locations you go to, the more time it takes, and this can add a lot more stress to the time management of the day. This is likely to be the last thing one would want on the wedding day, constantly looking at the watch and rushing people here and there. This stress will take away the fun, and this will show in the way you feel, and will definitely show in the photos. From our experience, 3 locations would be the maximum number, as long as the travel distance between them is manageable.

7 - Make time for sunset and golden hour

You may have heard about the golden hour, that magical time of the day when the sunlight is beautiful and soft, and the golden colour adds romance to the images. The darker lighting also allows the couple to feel a bit more intimate. For winter weddings, the golden hour tends to occur just before the reception, and thus would fit into the wedding itinerary quite nicely. In the summer, sunset tends to take place during the reception speeches, and possibly later in the evening just before the first dance. Thus, if you want golden hour photography in the summer, it is important to plan for this, and have great communication with the wedding photographer.

The time window for golden hour wedding photography is very limited, often only 15-20 minutes max. A common mistake that we have seen is that the couple heads out too late when the sun has already set. So good communication and the strong commitment and desire for golden hour photography are the two key ingredients.

8 - Second photographer can give you lots of cool candid moments

I tend to work alone without a second helper. However, sometimes, clients do ask and pay for an extra photographer who can capture wedding images from different angles, as well as bring additional personalities to the day.

From our experience as wedding photographers, our clients really enjoy those candid, unposed wedding images where the interactions, reactions, and facial expressions look and seem organic and natural. This is where a good second photographer can really shine. They tend to lurk in the background, exploring creative angles, and just observe the many stories that are being unfolded across wedding days. This is especially true during the bridal photography session. The main photographer concentrates on the direct interactions with the brides and grooms, setting up the scenes. The second photographer has the luxury to take steps back, observe, walk around the scene, and just simply be creative without being intrusive.

If wedding photography is important, a second photographer is well worth the investment.

9 - Emotion is key

For many brides and grooms, they make the mistake of believing that good bridal wedding photography comes from good posing. This is true about 10 years ago when glamourous and artistic posing differentiated the good and the bad photographers.

Much has changed over the years, and now, organic, real, editorial and photojournalistic are in. Thus, be yourselves and enjoy the day. Trust in your wedding photographer that he/she will tell you if something does not look right. Remember, happy people, make the best wedding images. Concentrate on the enjoyment of the day, the people who will be there, and of course, all the cuddles and kisses with your special someone.

10 - Nice to have a few moments with just you two

Weddings are very hectic, and long by nature. You are constantly surrounded by people, families and friends, as well as vendors and helpers. During the bridal photo, the bridesmaids and groomsmen are often involved. As fun as they are to have around, it is worthwhile to consider sparing 10-15 minutes for just the two of you, with or without the photographer. This is the time to destress, relax, enjoy the precious moments and remind yourself of the importance of the day with your truly special someone.

Nikki and Gaz Palmerston North barn wedding 1861

A few bonus tips and advice for wedding photography

With plenty of years of wedding photography experience, here are a few more tips for your day.

11 - Don't go on train tracks, it's illegal

You would have seen plenty of epic and cool wedding images on train tracks around the world. In New Zealand, it is illegal to walk on train tracks, let alone take wedding images. This is mainly due to safety reasons, especially with wedding dresses which can easily get caught. New Zealand rail does work hard to very hard to find train track images that have been posted online to get them removed and educate both photographers and brides and grooms on the danger of these wedding photos.

12 - Drone images can be pretty epic, but check with the photographer and the regulations

Drones are more accessible than ever, and their camera technology has improved leaps and bounds. Drone wedding images provide such a unique and different perspective that any images would be spectacular, no matter what. There is plenty of inspirational drone wedding photography online, and you can definitely be tempted to get some for your wedding days. However, there are very strict laws in New Zealand in regards to flying drones, purely for safety reasons. It is important to discuss with your photographer the suitability of drone images, and any restrictions that will be in place. Don't push the legal boundary just for the sake of a few wedding images. But, if it does work, you will have some pretty dramatic bridal wedding photography to show off on Facebook and Instagram.

13 - Don't be critical with photos

Weddings are a very dynamic environment, constantly changing with lots of moving parts. Wedding photographers can only have so much control. They are there to capture the events, in the photojournalistic mode most of the time. Thus, it's important to not expect perfect posed and carefully crafted wedding images. There will always be elements that will distract, people popping up in the background, the street lamp at an odd angle. Enjoy the emotion in the images, the people, and the story, and ignore all the tiny details that will quickly make you dislike and even hate the beautiful memories.

14 - Spontaneous photo ideas can often give you the best images

Good wedding photographers are very creative and like to challenge themselves with new ideas, new images, and new visions. While it is good to plan where to go, and what kind of shots are important to you, it is equally important to give the photographers the creative freedom to think on the spot and create something different and unique for you. These last-minute and spontaneous wedding photo ideas are often the most cherished of the day.