Get the best out of your wedding ceremony photos
Hi! Here is the next instalment in my wedding top tips series on how to get the best out of your wedding photos – how to get the best out of your wedding ceremony photos. My last post covered how to get the best out of your getting ready photos on your wedding morning. Today I want to continue by giving some great top tips about getting the best out of your wedding photos during the ceremony. This is actually quite a tricky one to discuss as the specifics of the ceremony is generally led by the place you are getting married at and the person who is actually marrying you. There are many things that are set from a photography point of view you just have to work with, such as where you can stand in a church or the lighting in a room. There are still some things that can be done from the time you start planning your day that will help you get the most out of your photography.
For ease, I’m going to separate this post into church wedding, civil ceremonies and outdoor ceremonies. This should cover most of the possibilities!
Wedding Ceremony Photos in a Church Wedding
When it comes to marrying in a church you will generally be choosing the place based on your religious beliefs, the church you go to, the place your family go to worship or somewhere close to where your reception venue is. Wherever you choose if you would like photography during the service the most important thing to do is to ask the vicar/priest/rabbi/imam or whoever is in charge of the day-to-day running of the church or temple what their stance is on photography. The earlier in the planning process you can do this, the better!
You would think that there would be a general consensus on photography during weddings, but there really isn’t. Every single place is different. Some are open and welcoming and are happy for photography to take place during the ceremony and service. Some refuse to let a photographer move from the very end of the aisle. Some don’t allow photography at all. Do you want your wedding photos to capture you walking down the aisle towards the love of your life, or the moments you exchange rings? Would you like to have a record of the little glances to each other during the readings or that first kiss after you have said ‘I do’? If you want your wedding photos to capture all these moments you need to discuss it from the start.
Happily many churches are now moving with the times and accept that couples would like to have these special moments photographed. For many, the only restrictions are to not use flash and to be mindful of the importance of the ceremony (which any decent professional photographer should do!) BUT…it is always good to check!
If you are choosing the church based on where it is in relation to the reception venue then there is also more flexibility in finding a place that offers a little more in aesthetics. Many churches are stunning and beautiful but by design, they can often be a little dark, so if you come across a church that has larger windows and lots of natural light streaming through, this is always going to make your photographer happy. As I mentioned in my ‘getting ready on your wedding morning’ post always aim for as much natural light as possible. That said, if you fall in love with a church then choose it for that reason.
One more final tip for church weddings. When you are looking around, check out the outside space. If you think you would like any photos outside the church make sure there is plenty of space, a nice-looking area for photos and somewhere that is shaded or not in direct sunlight. There is nothing harder than trying to squeeze family photos into a tiny space outside a church when you have the car park in the background and harsh direct sunlight. Those are never going to be the best photos! If there isn’t a good space I generally recommend that family photos are done at the reception venue.
Wedding Ceremony Photos at a Civil Ceremony
In the UK, if you aren’t marrying in a church you will most likely be getting married at a registry office or venue that is licensed for weddings. Here you will start having a little more choice and options for the kind of place you can get married. Be warned… I’m going to talk about natural light again!
When you are looking around the venues and thinking about where will be saying ‘I do’, try to bear in mind the light in the room. I know its tricky as the human eye is a clever little thing and can make quite dark rooms look not so bad. However, four questions you can easily ask yourself:
1. where do you stand to say your vows?
Is it near a window, do you have natural light on you as you stand in that spot?
2. how dark is the rest of the room?
If there is only one small window the rest of the room can be quite dark and will, therefore, have to be lit with overhead lights. These are the lights that make people look orange! This is not necessarily a problem for a professional photographer as they can adjust this and work with it. But, if you like the idea of photos that show you saying your vows and also being able to see your guests behind you, then a darker room will make it harder.
3. how is the room set out?
Is there space to move around the place you will stand? I like to be as unobtrusive as possible and tend to keep still during the ceremony, but it is good to have a little space to move so I can get myself into the optimum position to capture the vows, ring exchange and kiss as well as any readings by guests.
4. what does the room/space look like?
Your photos will show what you see, so if there are chipped walls, ceiling tiles and patterned carpet that is what you will see some of the photos. If you want photos that show a modern and elegant space or a quirky rustic barn for that laid back look then you need to choose a room or space that reflects what you want and the style you like. There is no point wanting pretty and rustic if you choose a modern-looking registry office, no matter how much you add decorations it will still look a modern space. I think you get what I mean.
As with churches, it’s worth bringing up the topic of photography when you have your first meeting with the registrar. Most are very laid back and, as long as it’s not disrupting the ceremony, are happy for photography throughout. I have still come across one or two who are a little more strict and have a problem with photos being taken during the ring and vow exchange. Definitely worth checking!
Wedding ceremony photos for an outdoor ceremony
Due to the laws in this country, we don’t get to have many outdoor ceremonies (although that does look like it will be changing soon!). This is something I love the idea of and can’t wait to get a wedding that takes place in a beautiful woodland or by the beach. One day! Anyway, an outdoor ceremony will generally be a blessing or a humanist ceremony. There is the option at a few venues where you can get married under an awning or gazebo, with your guests sat outside, so you essentially have an outdoor wedding. Preston Court is one stunning venue that offers this, check out Sarah & Steve’s Preston Court wedding. South Farm is a beautiful venue that allows for you and your guests to be in the garden for the ceremony, have a look at Yvonne & James’s South Farm Wedding. One of my fave venues of the moment, Larmer Tree Garden, is also set up for outdoor weddings, have a look at Sarah & Adam’s amazing Larmer Tree Wedding.
There are a few things to consider when planning an outdoor (or part outdoor) wedding ceremony. The first and most important for photography is the time of day you get married. In summer the sun is at it’s the highest from 12 pm-2 pm so between those times you are most likely to get harsh shadows on faces, people squinting and photos that show all that. I would always recommend pushing a summer wedding back to about 3 pm or later, as the light will start looking nicer from that time. For a winter wedding, you need to bring it forward to about 12-1 pm as the daylight is gone by 3.30 pm.
If you are at a venue where you can have a part outdoor ceremony why not ask the registrar if you can stand fully outside for most of the ceremony, so your guests can see and hear you clearly, and then step under the building for the legal part. Marlie and Philip did this for their wedding at Lyde Court and it was wonderful. They got to have the outside ceremony they wanted but still had everything done properly and legally.
Think about the location you would like to get married in. Somewhere that offer shade will always work well for photos. A large tree or a wooded area would be beautiful. If you are on the beach or somewhere more open set up the ceremony so you have the sun behind you, which will backlight you and make for much softer photos (I love backlighting, it’s understatedly romantic and pretty). Why not provide pretty parasols for your guests so if they do sit outside in the sun they won’t get too hot. This is what Som & Jonny for their stunning wedding in Tuscany.
To round up the key points
1. Make sure the most important people are at the front.
If you really want photos of your mum’s reaction while you say your vows, or you would love to have a photo of your gran during the ceremony then make sure they have a place to sit at the front. I always try to capture guests reactions during the ceremony and while you can get photos of people in the middle or towards the back, it’s always easier for the key people to be near to the action!
2. Work out your ceremony timings beforehand
I mentioned it above, but I’ll talk about ceremony timing again. For most photographers, the middle of the day is the toughest time to take photos, especially if it is a very sunny day at the height of summer. The higher the sun, the stronger and more unflattering the shadows on the face. If you are having a summer wedding, think about having your ceremony a little later and go for a 3-4 pm time. This way when you exit for confetti and reception time you aren’t doing it when the sun is at its brightest. The photos will be much nicer and you won’t have ‘panda eyes’! If you are having a winter wedding you have the opposite problem, the one where the sun is gone by 3.30 pm. If you would like any natural light photos at all during your winter wedding you need to ensure that you marry early enough to still have the light. For winter weddings I always recommend a 1 pm ceremony time. I will chat more about this in the next post in this series when I discuss reception photography top tips.
3. Always think about the amount of light in the room. The more natural light, the better.
I hope this has provided some helpful information and ideas for getting the most out of your wedding photography during the ceremony. If you like this please leave a comment and feel free to share with your engaged friends! More wedding photography top tips are available to read here.
Thanks for popping by,