Here’s the most important thing to remember about film photography: it’s all about natural light!

When planning for your wedding day, there are 5 simple things you can prioritize that will enhance your wedding photos by leaps and bounds. With a little extra thought and effort, these small decisions will make a huge impact on the final images your film photographer delivers to you!

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1. Prepare your most meaningful details in advance.

Let you photographer know where your dress and shoes can be found so they can get detail shots of those special pieces. Remove your dress from the garment bag, along with all tissue and cardboard! Put it on a lovely hanger if you have one. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this myself on a wedding day, and while I don’t mind at all, that time could be spent shooting!) Gather all of your details together in a small bag or box to present to your photographer when they arrive. They will want to take pictures of these details before you put them on, if possible.

In your small bag or box, you should include:
– Paper goods – program, escort card, menu, full invitation suite with extra envelops and any other details like a spool of string or ribbon used to tie your suite together
– Jewelry – earrings, necklace, etc.
– Garter set
– Rings (his and her wedding bands, as well as your engagement ring)
– Any other sentimental details that you might want to include

Be sure to give your photographer ample time on your timeline (I would recommend at least 30 minutes) to spend time styling and photographing your meaningful details in a beautiful, naturally bright location.

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2. Plan to get ready in a bright room, or even consider putting your dress on on a private patio if available:

Look for as much natural light as possible, as this will allow your photographer to shoot in film while you are getting ready. Are there large windows where natural light can pour in, or is it a small room filled with fluorescent lights? If there is not a good, natural light option for your getting ready room, there are many alternative ways to stage moments happening that don’t take place in those dark spaces. For example, if you are getting ready in a dark underground room of a church, put your dress on and then ask your photographer if you can go outside to take a couple more pictures of you zipping up your dress and putting your accessories on. Trust your photographer, and be open and willing to their suggestions, even when they sound a little crazy!

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3. Choose a bright ceremony if possible:

This can be one of the most difficult times in the day to shoot in film, because the photographer simply can’t control the light or the position in which the couple is getting married!. We have to work harder and smarter to make it work the best way we can. Shooting film in a dark church is difficult because without ample light, we’re not able to shoot a properly exposed image. We’re left to shoot in digital or in black and white grainy film at a higher ISO, which can be beautiful if you appreciate the grainy look of film images. While deciding on your ceremony location, it’s helpful to think through these thoughts:

For Church Ceremonies:
– How is the lighting? Is it dark? Are there any windows that would provide natural light?
– What does the light look like at the specific time of your ceremony?

We recommend churches or chapels that have as much window light as possible!

For Outdoor Ceremonies:
– How is the lighting? Is in under shady trees? Or in the direct sunlight?
– What does the light look like at the specific time of your ceremony?
– Is there surrounding space where your photographer can freely move around to get different shots?

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4. Have all portraits taken outside (not at the church altar):

Plan to have all of your family pictures taken outdoors! If you are getting married in a church, it’s easy to automatically assume that you have to have your family pictures taken inside by the altar. Most brides think that they have to do portraits at the altar, because that’s what the church lady says. Remember – this is your wedding day! While these pictures can be beautiful and traditional, outdoor family portraits have the same style and lighting as the rest of your formal portraits, and are simply more beautiful. The key is making sure all of the formal portraits flow together beautifully and cohesively… in natural light!

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For bride and groom portraits:
The best time of the day for portraits is 1.5 – 2 hours before sunset. If possible, plan your ceremony time around this parameter, so you can have your portraits done directly when your ceremony ends! Trust your photographer and be willing to go along with their direction.

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5. Plan for an outdoor Cocktail Hour and reception space with plenty of light:

Communicate with your photographer about any special details that you will have during your cocktail hour – guest book, escort cards, wedding favors, specialty cocktails or food. These details will most likely be photographed during your cocktail hour or before. We like to photograph these details in context! For example, it makes more sense for a guest to be holding a cocktail, or a server holding a lovely tray of hors d’oeuvres. Having a cocktail hour in a bright room or outdoors makes for lovely film photographs of these unique details.

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What is the lighting situation in your reception space like? Will it take place outdoors, in a dark ballroom, or under a dreamy tent? The best scenario for photographing the reception details of your wedding in film is in a space with as much natural light as possible. (Can you sense a theme here?!) Ideally, that means having your reception tables setup inside a lovely tent or even outside under some trees! It’s also helpful to hold your cocktail hour in a different location. This will give your photographer the opportunity to have the space to themselves and capture all of the detail pictures without the difficulty of dodging guests and servers! It is helpful to coordinate this time with the wedding planner or coordinator, to make sure everything is completely ready and set (with candles lit), so your photographer can capture it efficiently in the small window of time given on a wedding day. We love to photograph wide shots of the full space, close up individual shots of any special details, your floral arrangements, furniture, table setting, and cake.

All in all, even if you can prioritize 1 or 2 of these things, your photography will be brighter and more beautiful for it. (And it will make our jobs much easier!) Just always remember that it’s all about light, so the more light, the better!

Have you thought about this before? Was there anything important to you in the planning process of your wedding day?

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