How to Get the Prettiest Photos Possible

Let’s be honest, we all want every photo from our wedding day to be drop-dead gorgeous, but unfortunately life is not a photo essay in a wedding magazine. I’m a big fan of curating your story in the prettiest way possible, but I honestly cannot do that alone. As a documentary-style photographer, I don’t step in much: I get my photos from making the day flow instead of stopping the moments to perfect every shot. If you want your photos to go above and beyond in beauty and light, keep reading to see how you can help me out.


The sun matters—Not only is the sun keeping us all alive and the planet functioning, but it is key when it comes to good images. My job is all about light. As a natural light photographer, the position of the sun determines how I shoot, and my most beautiful photos are in the hours leading up to sunset or right at sunrise. If you are getting married late fall or early spring and want your ceremony before dinner. Remember that the sun sets early and that good photos will need to be taken earlier than usual. If you’re getting married in the summer months, remember that not only is it going to be blazing hot in the afternoon, but the light will be harshest then, making your face contrasted with shadows and highlights. Later ceremonies are most ideal during this time.

If your favorite couples photos are ones with a glowing sunset behind them, don’t plan to have your photos done at 3pm. Even if you have a first look in the afternoon before a ceremony, we can still step out for a few minutes when the sun is setting. It’s easy to google what time the sun sets on your wedding day, so take advantage of it. I’m happy to help you figure out your timeline and let you know what times can be ideal for photos for every part of the day!

Timeline—I’m going to tell you something that might stress you out, but here it goes: Everything on a wedding day runs behind. Always. When you make your timeline, add cushion. If hair and makeup say they’ll have everyone ready by 3, have them finishing on your timeline at 3:30. If you think we can knock out the list of family group shots you have in 30 minutes, add 10 more (there is always an uncle or cousin who disappears). If you end up not needing that cushion of time, you end up with some downtime to breathe and take in everything that’s happening. 

Note: While timing is everything to making sure the photos needed are taken, keep in mind that if things run behind, they run behind. It’s not a big deal. Really. Couples and vendors have figured it out every time, and running late has never ruined a wedding. If we’re 15 minutes late to the reception because of photos, or you’re 10 minutes late walking down the aisle, it’s no big deal. Everyone came here for you two and to celebrate with you. It’s your wedding, it can’t happen without you!

Think about your surroundings—Neutral rooms and open windows are lovely. A big part of this is where you’ve chosen as your venue. Some venues make this easy, others take some effort. I’ve photographed several church weddings where I’ve walked into mint green walls and fluorescent lighting where a bride gets ready. If that’s a Sunday school room that you hold dear to your heart, let’s do it there! If you want to get breathtaking shots without distractions in the background, it doesn’t hurt to ask if there are other rooms around to get ready in, or use a cute hotel room nearby. Even the most unflattering of rooms can be fixed by a big window. Window light makes the prettiest shots for indoor moments, so you’ll often find me asking you to move towards one. This light brings you into focus and the rest of the room becomes less lit. 


Decluttering makes a huge difference—This is most applicable to the beginning of the day. All the bridesmaids and groomsmen have their bags thrown everywhere. You have trays of fruits, veggies and bread, champagne bottles, and empty glasses are lying around…these things are part of the day, but can also be distracting in photos. It helps to find an unattractive corner of the room and declare it as “the corner for stuff,” or even find another room. If there is a ton going on and this is difficult, I’ll help declutter an area, likely near a window, before you put on your dress. 

Consider an unplugged ceremony—If you don’t like the idea of iPads and iPhones out, as well as some guests getting up and moving around during the ceremony, this is highly recommended. These fancy pieces of technology are going to pop up in your photos, and photographers can’t control when that will happen. A camera is accessible to everyone nowadays, and it’s natural for them to want to snap some photos of you. But watching you say your vows through their own eyes and not an electronic screen is even better, in my opinion. 


If you want great photos of your reception details, add 15-20 minutes for me to photograph them before guests go in - I love photographing reception details and I want to provide the best shots possible, especially if you worked your butt off decorating. Make some time for me to go in before guests start putting their drinks, purses, and jackets on the table. This could be during the cocktail hour, (having a first look gives more free time during this time), or have the all the decor finished before the ceremony starts. Having photos of a empty reception space are very useful if you're hoping to submit your wedding to an online blog.

Speaking of first looks, you should totes consider one for so many reasons - If you don't consider yourself traditional, the first look is a great thing to do. First looks are perfect for those who have a lot of anxiety about the ceremony. The ceremony can be emotional and stressful for those not big on a crowd watching, and not seeing your love until everyone is watching can add to it. I've heard from every single couple who has planned one that the first look eased nerves immediately and made them feel more ready for the wedding. This also eases stress with the timeline. We can take some or all of the couples portraits during this time, allowing us to take our time for other things during cocktail hour. Also, take advantage of the first look! Want to say some of your own vows that may be too personal in front of your guests? Say them to each other now. Exchange gifts. Cry together. Make it a special time. 


Moments of the night like toasts or or bridal party introductions are often not considered the most beautiful of photos—They often involve the DJ table and speakers in the background, or the blown out backdrop from a giant open door as they walk in. As you plan the reception, take a look around to see if there are more appealing options for them to take place.

If you want your reception/dance photos to be breathtaking and your venue is a little plain, consider hanging string lights to add pretty bokeh (those beautiful fuzzy balls of light in the background of photos) around the space, or add extra fixtures in the decoration. DJ often offer uplighting in their packages, which add lights to the space while dancing. Talk to them about what color lights they use. Often the lights they use are different bright colors, leaving splotches of color on you and the guests. You may love this party look, but if not, see if s/he has other options, or opt for a more naturally-lit reception.


But really...twinkle light the crap out of everything - Decorations and flowers can be pricey, but cheap strings of cafe bulbs or Christmas lights can change a bland space into something magical. You won't be disappointed in the photos you'll get.


Don’t give me a shot list—Before your wedding, you’ll receive a questionnaire from me. This questionnaire will tell me what people and what details are most important to you on your wedding day. What comes from this is usually the best way to go about the day. A shot list keeps me busy with checking off pictures inspired from someone else’s wedding that aren’t genuine, when I could be observing the real, beautiful moments of your wedding instead. Those are the photos that end up being treasured the most, so let the day flow and I promise the best shots will be taken!

I hope these help you out as you plan things! It’s an honor to photograph your wedding, and I want to make sure I take the best photos possible for you. Please let me know if there is any way I can help you!




Amy Ellis