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I know that this is a topic often searched for by brides.  In fact, it is a topic that I wish I had time to discuss with all of our brides.  Truthfully, there is so much planning that goes into a wedding, brides often have an “If I build it, it will come,” approach to their weddings when thinking about obtaining good pictures.  The fact is, there are some small technical things that, unless brought up to a bride, will often go unnoticed.  We decided to create this post as a way to educate some of our brides on how to prepare their weddings for the best pictures possible.

Just how important are pictures?  Well that is something that you as a bride needs to ask yourself.  I just recently had a bride say to me upon seeing her slideshow of her wedding pictures for the first time “I LOVE THEM, it’s like reliving the day all over again!”  As I explained to her, that is our ultimate goal as wedding photographers.  We want to tell a story that will bring you back to every minute of the happiest day of your life.  The feeling of emotion you should get when seeing those images should be overwhelming, and bring tears to your eyes.

Now it’s no secret that Michael and I are perfectionists.  We want every technical detail of your photographs to be so perfect, that it invokes a memory that brings you right back to that moment when you see the picture.  Conveying emotion into a picture is no easy task.  Almost everything in that moment has to be perfect.  So let’s talk about some of the things that will help bring it all together.

1. Take lighting into consideration when working on your timeline.

, How to Get Pretty Wedding Pictures | Valencia Wedding Photographers

The Newhall Mansion in Piru is one of our favorite venues because it features Victorian-Era Architecture, beautiful interior design, gorgeous light. The Newhall Mansion in Piru provides us with such beautiful unique architecture and romantic vintage details that accentuate our beautiful brides and their gorgeous dresses.

Your timeline is the number one factor in determining the quality of your pictures.  Photography is all about light.  We need to make sure that we are shooting at the right times of day.  Ideally, the best possible lighting for photography occurs during what photographers call “The Golden Hour,”  The Golden Hour is the hour just before the sun sets, and just after it rises.  We typically would love to have our most important photographs taken during that time of day.  Now it is also important to consider the time of your ceremony.  It is easier to photograph bride and groom portraits at night, then it is to photograph a ceremony at night.  Nighttime ceremonies will always require external lighting.  Due to the fact that a ceremony can be somewhat unpredictable (meaning it’s impossible to set up external lighting for all possibilites), we would much rather photograph this during the daytime using natural light.   One thing I do want to stress is that if we are photographing your wedding, try and leave 20 minutes at night time where we can “borrow” you from the reception to take a few dramatic night photos.  We really don’t want to start shooting until you start putting on your makeup, so have us arrive around the same time you are scheduled to begin your makeup application (and keep in mind that process usually runs longer than expected, so plan accordingly).

We will most likely use external lighting for your reception, so this can be the last in your lighting considerations.  Just make sure that you leave adequate time in your timeline for us to set those lights up.  Also, during special events in your ceremony (namely bouquet toss, garter toss, toasts, and cake cutting), we may need to move lights around (remember off-camera lighting takes a bit longer to set up, but the results are amazingly more well-worth it).  Your DJ/MC will be managing your timeline for your reception (It is SUPER-important that he is on the same page as your photographer, and that he gives him adequate time to set up for events.  I have seen both bad DJ’s and good DJ’s still fail to give adequate notice before transitioning into an event.  Another good tip is to make sure that if your venue includes meals for your vendors (most all of them do), make sure they know to feed your vendors first.  This is important for photo/video, because vendors typically want to be finished eating before the events get started again.

Now, not all weddings are created equally, and you have to consider how your timeline will be laid out.  The one most differing factor in most weddings is whether or not there will be a first look, which brings us into number 2

2.  Seriously consider a first look.

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 Santa Clarita Wedding Photographers first look

Ok girls, I will be honest.  When Michael and I got married last year, I did NOT want to do a first look.  I wanted him to see me for the first time as I walked down the aisle, and I wanted my photographer to capture that.  He did, but we were in front of 150 people.  Michael’s reaction was limited to a happy expression due to the formalities of a wedding ceremony.  Now had we been in a private setting.  We would have gotten some of the amazing pictures you see here.  When a groom is not limited to standing in a spot.  The expression you will see on his face during a first look is so much more telling of what is going on in his head the moments he sees you for the first time.  We chose to do it traditionally, and I regret it (Michael suggested a first look, so this was one of the few times he has ever been right).

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 Valencia Wedding Photography First Look

One of the not so obvious advantages to a first look is how much it helps the timeline of the wedding.  In a traditional wedding where you see each other during the ceremony.  We may have 10 minutes for pictures of the bride and groom due to lighting and time restraints.  When we do a first look, we can typically photograph the bride and groom, along with the bridal party, and still have time left over.  Time is a precious commodity during a wedding day.  It’s imperative to make the best use of it!  The result of a first look 100% of the time is more pictures of the bride and groom together, and that is why I HIGHLY recommend one.

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3.  Getting Ready Shots; How to ensure they come out amazing.

We typically arrive as you are getting ready to photograph the process.  This is part of the story, and we want to make sure we tell it.  The room you choose to get ready in is crucial to how these shots come out!  I recommend a suite, because I promise you even the biggest rooms will be too small.  Also, make sure that there is nobody in the room with you that doesn’t absolutely need to be there.  Bridesmaids, Mom, and vendors.  THATS IT!  I promise anyone more will do something to stress you out, it always happens (The exception is if dad wants to come give you a gift or see you in your dress, but tell him he can’t stay).

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When choosing your room, ask if you can have one that has very good window light, and possibly one on a higher floor.  Window lighting is absolutely beautiful and can be used for a lot of different purposes.  We may also be turning off the room’s lighting as we are taking shots, because generally it isn’t good to mix hotel lighting (typically yellow) with window light (white light), so make sure those windows are good!

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Number 1, make sure your room is clean and free of clutter.  This really can be so difficult because there will be so much going on.  It really does slow us down however, if we have to clean up our background before taking a picture.

4.  It’s all in the details.

Planning your wedding is tedious, and usually the little things go unnoticed.  Making sure you plan the small things is CRUCIAL  Things that normally go unnoticed, can take your wedding pictures from normal, to fabulous.  One thing we highly recommend is a hanger for your dress, and your bridesmaids dresses.  Nothing is more distracting in a picture than a beautifully hung dress in front of a window, with a plastic hanger.  Our favorite hangers are the ones you can order from Etsy, that either say “Bride,” or “Mrs. (Smith).”  They are affordable as well!  You can also order robes for the bridesmaids and bride for the getting ready shots, this adds a unique look to those getting ready photos.

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For unlimited ideas, go to Pinterest, and in the upper left search box, just type: Wedding Details,  You will be amazed at how inspired Pinterest can make you!

For your reception area, consider adding floral arrangements to the tables, even the candy bar and guest sign in area.  I am a big fan of home-made stuff.  I am not a fan of making home-made stuff, so that is why we always recommend Etsy to our brides, believe me, visit that site, and you will be spending a lot of time picking out little things to make your wedding pictures awesome!

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Now for your bride and groom formals, this is where you can go all out.  I recommend the whole nine yards, but since props can be expensive, I understand you may have to pick and choose what best fits you.  I recommend taking a look at Found Vintage Rentals.  She will take good care of you, and spend 15-30 minutes helping you pick out the best items for your shoot.  They are located here in Southern California, specifically Fullerton, and are very flexible on their pickup and delivery options.  They can style your entire wedding, or just a part of it.  It is your choice. 

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I do recommend spending the time to go down to their warehouse, and looking at all of the things that they have that you didn’t necessarily know about.  They have shabby chic lighting fixtures, mason jars, vintage books, chalkboards, sofas, alters, chairs, you name it.  Combining the shabby chic style with a good floral designer will yield amazing results.

5.  Location

Your location of choice will determine the look and feel of your wedding.  Do you want a church?  Do you want a beach?  The venue should match the theme.  For instance, if we are talking about the above mentioned shabby chic, vintage theme, then I would recommend an outdoor garden venue.  It will take some searching, and if you need help, just ask us for recommendations.  In your location, you should seriously consider lighting.  Now I don’t expect brides to know about the technical lighting aspects.  We did write an article a bit back to help you understand lighting a little bit more. Keep in mind that your location carries the theme of your wedding, so above all else, this is the most important, the things below are just considerations.

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A couple of things to remember:

 Number 1, EVEN shade is always a good thing.  We once had a wedding that was under an awning at high noon.  This created some shadows that were difficult to deal with.  We can work about it, but to make the wedding day as smooth as possible, this is something to consider.

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For night time ceremonies, Orange light is OK.  Fluorescent light is OK,  a combination of the two, NOT OK!  It is impossible to correct for mixed lighting tones.  We would have to use flash to overpower it, and for a ceremony, that can be impossible to do without using on-camera flash, which we highly prefer not to do.  This only applies to ceremonies and outdoor receptions.  (Photographers, if you have a question about dealing with this, let us know, we have a workable solution)

Background: I love hills, trees, twinkle lights, anything that creates a pleaseing “Bokeh (word for out of focus blurry background area in professional photographs),” is fine by us.  This is crucial for fast, good pictures.

6.  Reception

I can speak from experience that choosing where your reception is can help in creating gorgeous wedding photos.  There are three things that I have noticed that can automatically make for good reception photos.  Uplighting, Twinkle Lights, and a tool (Drapes that hang from ceiling).  Dressing up your venue can really make it look magical.  Also, consider the location of the dance floor.  Most places have it in the center of the hall, which is ideal.  We always try to use off-camera lighting to light your dance shots, and having the floor in the center of the venue helps a lot to avoid funky shadows.

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Also, if you have a daytime ceremony, consider an outdoor reception.  This allows for beautiful photographs, which can be captured in a unique way.

I hope this helps you in planning your day.  Again, we are always available for help in planning your wedding.  If you have any questions, please use the contact form below to get in touch with us!