How to Get the Perfect Outdoor Wedding Photos
You might think there is nothing you can do to influence your likelihood of getting those perfect outdoor wedding photos, apart from choosing a great photographer. But there are other ways you can make sure the snaps of your special day are exactly as you want them to be. In this blog, outdoor photography specialist Nadina Bee offers her top tips on getting your outdoor wedding pics just right.
Admittedly, choosing a great photographer is important, but it might disappoint you to know that even a specialist outdoor photographer cannot make the sun shine in the direction we would like it to or make an eyesore in the background magically disappear. So these few easy steps can help you get those great wedding photos you have always dreamed of.
How do you avoid squinting in wedding photos?
The first item in your toolbox for great wedding photos is knowing the cardinal directions of your venue. You don’t have to be a meteorologist, astronomer or any other kind of science buff – just remember, the sun rises in the east, reaches the south at midday (1 o’clock during summertime) and sets in the west. The direction the sun shines should not disqualify a venue, but it should totally inform your schedule.
There is only one thing you absolutely do not want: the sun right in your face. This is more important for the documentary photography than for group and couple shots, where we go and find a location that works. So, when the venue manager announces that your ceremony space is south facing, what they mean is: don’t have a midday ceremony or you will be squinting like your mum has suddenly opened your curtains after a night out. Moving your ceremony by a couple of hours or moving the seating 45 degrees to one side can hugely improve the natural look of your photos.
Speak to the venue if you have any concerns about the light during any part of your day. They know their venue and will be able to resolve any concerns you may have. What you absolutely should not do is obsess about it. Especially on your wedding day! We will not be able to remove the squinting from your eyes, but for any other lighting issue, we have a toolbox of options to mitigate lighting problems. Trust your photographer.
What time of day is best to take couple photos and group photos?
A great time for photos (from a photographic point of view) is the so-called golden hour, which means within an hour of sunset. The light is very soft and warm at this time, which makes for stunning romantic photos. I can highly recommend this time of day for your couple shots.
If you are leaning towards the golden hour for your photos, consider whether you want to stay sober(ish) until then! Because even being slightly tipsy will show in your photos, so you may not want that to be captured in your wedding photos. That’s not to say you should deny yourself a glass of champagne until golden hour – just be mindful of where you are with your drinks.
You might want to do the group shots earlier in the day anyway, before everyone gets so into partying that it takes a great effort to prise them off the dancefloor! But of course, light is not the only factor to consider with your couple photos. For me, it was also make-up and whether my dress will still be crispy clean. During the search for my own wedding photographer, many insisted on taking the couple photos after the meal and that I should “just touch up my lipstick”. To me that is about as sensible advice as suggesting I pull my own teeth. Not having anyone skilled with make-up amongst team bride, I opted for a photographer who got me. And she took amazing photos in the middle of the afternoon, before the meal.
I mentioned that you might want to consider whether your dress might get spoiled by the golden hour. For an outdoor wedding, ground conditions are something you simply have to keep in mind. A beautiful white dress on a muddy day will make you look like Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice turning up at the Bingley’s when her sister was taken ill.* Certainly a striking look, but if you’d rather not sport it in your couple photos, allow time in your schedule to take them earlier in the day should the need arise. Depending on your budget, having a spare dress to change into might be a solution. Of course you may just love the realness and drama of a muddy hem and roll with it! It’s entirely up to you.
*for those less obsessed with period drama than I am, it was said about Elizabeth: “I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud.”
Background: what will be the backdrop to your photos?
While we are all pretty good at concentrating on the focal point (the couple) when we are in front of them, in photos our eyes tend to get drawn to what’s not right. Have you ever been to a pantomime or musical and someone in the ensemble is dancing out of time? Your eyes are naturally drawn to them because they are the odd one out. It’s the same with photos. So when you decide where your photographer should be during the ceremony or speeches, or where group shots will be taken, have a look at what will be behind you and your guests. Anything that you see will also be seen in the photos.
Check for all the ugly things lurking in the background that you would rather ignore, like toilets, generators, ruined buildings, cables, etc. and ask your venue and photographer for ideas on how to avoid them.
How can you get great wedding photos if the weather is bad?
Of course no one can guarantee good weather – even if it’s forecast to be beautiful. So a bad-weather plan is essential.
You have probably thought of the obvious weather protection for your guests during the ceremony – possibly erecting a marquee or tipi. But have you thought about your photos?
While a light drizzle can make your photographs more atmospheric through cleverly placed lights and pretty umbrellas, not all guests and suppliers will be happy in the rain. Communicate with your suppliers about what they need from you in the event of rain or wind. For example, the musicians won’t want to risk their instruments getting wet, the caterer may need cover or their barbecue won’t light, and while I don’t mind rain myself, I need to be able to avoid getting water spots on the lens. If you arrange everything for bad weather in advance then your day can go smoothly whatever happens.
Getting back to your photos, discuss your ideas and concerns for bad weather with your photographer. They will be able to advise what will work, but it will also give them a feel for the type of photos you are looking for and they will have a few ideas of their own which might inspire you.
Some of your guests might not feel brave enough to face the rain or the weather might simply be too bad to take outside group shots. Think of alternative photo locations for group shots just in case. It might be possible to take the group photos inside the marquee. And depending on how wonderfully decorated your marquee or tent is, this can become a really cool shot.
The secret of planning a great outdoor wedding regardless of the weather is preparation. Consider the potential problems that may arise and speak to your photographer about the concerns you have. It is sensible to have a couple of plans and schedules lined up to use depending on the weather. Always remember to include the ground conditions in your planning. Rain at a festival wedding in a field comes with mud, just like Glastonbury.
While it sounds like a lot of work, let me assure you, it is not. And besides, it is well worth the effort! Bear the above points in mind, chose a photographer whose work you love and you will find it quite easy to get great photos of your outdoor wedding.