It's a sentiment brides hear repeated over and over: Long after that last bite of wedding cake has been swallowed, all that will remain are the photos. (Well, that, and the memories.) While it's absolutely true, hearing that said countless times again can pile on the pressure to not only make the day completely perfect, but to ensure it looks amazing on film as well. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to assure you'll still be smiling when those proofs roll in. Seasoned wedding photographer Kari Dawson shares what to focus on.
Do your research.
When scouting for a top-notch wedding photographer, Dawson suggests reading reviews online and phoning a (recently wed) friend to ask for any referrals. Another option: Google the venue you've booked to see if you can find images from other weddings that have taken place there. Picking a photographer that is familiar with your site—and has captured it beautifully—is a good starting point.
Find a style you like.
Two key aspects to pay attention to when researching photographers, says the pro, is how they handle light (some pics will be light and airy; others more moody) and if they tend to have the couples in more traditional poses or seem to capture candid moments. When scrolling through galleries, says the Michigan-based photographer, "You should ask yourself if you can imagine being in those pictures."
Make sure your personalities mesh.
The most important question to ask a potential wedding snapper, says Dawson, is how they go about achieving their images. The best photographers will talk about the strategies they use to make more timid couples feel comfortable in front of the camera, but also say they know when to step back and just let the action unfold.
Acknowledge your flaws—and your faves.
If you constantly fret about how your arm looks in photos, bring that up to potential photographers in your initial talks, Dawson suggests. "You want to see what their response is," she explains. "If they don't take it seriously, that might be a good indication they're not right for you." She also suggests mentioning the things you love about yourself—say, your thick hair, piercing blue eyes, or long legs—so they know to highlight that feature.
Ask about retouching.
Most photographers are willing to erase the nervous sweat beads on your groom's forehead or fix things you perceive as flaws, but it's smart to address that in the initial interview says Dawson. "You want to make sure you're on the same page about how much your images will be altered."
Put a pin in it.
Chances are you've already started putting together a Pinterest board (or three — no shame!), But Dawson suggests making one just of pictures that you like to share with your photographer. Generally, we're drawn to the emotions that a particular pic can convey, she explains, so your pro will get a sense of if you prefer images that are more romantic or kind of playful and fun. And should you come across a few poses you'd love to try yourself, bring it up, says Dawson. Just try to limit it to three or less—otherwise you could spend the entire session chasing Pinterest perfection.
Do a dry run.
For Dawson, nothing is more crucial than scheduling an engagement session. "It's a trial run that gives you first-hand knowledge of what to expect on your wedding day," she explains. Plus, it gives you time get comfortable with your photographer and adjust to their style. Once you get the images, do a post-game analysis. Says Dawson, "It's completely okay to say, 'These things aren't really us and we don't want to do that on our wedding day.'" And if the pics don't live up to expectations at all, you can address your concerns or even start searching for a plan B.
Make a list and check it more than twice.
Ahead of the big day, you'll want to send your professional a list of the various groups of people you want to pose with (everyone from family to high school pals to sorority sisters) along with the areas of your venue you'd like to shoot in. If you wait until the day of, explains Dawson, "it can feel chaotic and you lose precious time you need to take more photos."
Perfect your pose.
For the most flattering photos, suggests Dawson, shift your weight away from the camera, push your chin slightly forward and make sure your arms are never completely flat against your side. Practicing that stance, along with a few facial expressions, in the mirror makes for perfect photos.
Highlight your best side.
Everyone's got one, says Dawson, noting it's more than fine for your photographer know you'd like to only be captured from, say, the left side. ("Even bridesmaids ask me that!") One way to signal your preference is by parting your hair that way or wearing it to one side.
Leave it to the pros.
After you've sent your list of must-take photos and one to three shots from Pinterest that are giving your #weddinggoals, do your best not to over-manage the situation. "Most photographers have elements and moments they're specifically looking to capture," explains Dawson. And a two-page document of every photo they absolutely have to take could mean they're missing the more natural, unplanned moments that make for photo gold.
Be a natural.
When it comes to the wedding day, do what you can to relax and act normal. During your photo session, "Don't feel like you're a mannequin who can't move," says Dawson. "You can fix your hair, talk, be affectionate. You don't just have to wait for the next command." Most likely, your candid movements will become the photos you treasure most.