My totally unsolicited advice on planning your wedding

You want beautiful imagery on your wedding day and as photographers, we want to help you make the right choices that create an environment much better suited for optimizing that quality you deserve. Its our job to take the guesswork out of this for you by knowing how light interacts with the environment and trying to control it. We see the world in a much different way than most because we have trained our eyes and brains to notice the subtle differences of light and shadow and how this will digitally develop in post.

You can take it or leave it, but I offer up some advice here on planning your event from a photographers point of view, whether you’re working with a venue or planning it in your backyard, there are some crucial details you want to make sure you understand and consider before diving into your event.

  • The lighting in your venue & reception

    Most venues and event planners plan the lighting for your wedding to look beautiful to the casual eye. They create a fun, decorative, party atmosphere that in theory looks great in person, but often does not translate very well for photography, particularly skin tones. Here are my quick tips on choosing lighting for your ceremony or reception that maximizes reaslitic skin tones and good lighting conducive for great imagery.

    1. 1. Magenta up-lighting (or other gelled color lights) are HORRIBLE for skin tones when color correcting in post. Some venues and event planners think its classy and fun, but are not aware of just how bad this affects photography. To reproduce natural and realistic skin tones, the most ideal light is daylight balanced white light. Its not too cool (cloudy overcast) and not too warm (sunset), but fairly neutral. White light creates natural skin tones because it is absent of a color cast (in fact it is even quantities of Red, Green, and Blue). When you mix a gelled light, such as magenta, into a venue, then editors have to over-compensate that color cast by introducing more cyan to the image. Even by bouncing a daylight balanced flash into the ceiling for fill light and cutting out some of that ambient magenta lighting, it produces inconsistent results and skin tones that are left yellowish and pink. I strongly recommend against using magenta lighting heavily in your venue. A little bit is fine, as long as the spill is controlled and its not bouncing everywhere and creating a strong magenta color cast on everything in the room. Some venues point their magenta uplighting up towards a white ceiling, and if those lights are strong enough then they are basically creating a huge ceiling sized magneta fill light that casts that color on literally everything. Trust me, you do not want to have this during your event. Coordinate with the revue or planner and see about other options for lighting.
    2. 2. Spotlights are non-diffused high intensity light sources that are narrow and directed at one or two people usually from above. Think stage lighting. Venues usually place these directly on the married couple to pop them out a bit more at their table. The problem with spotlights are two fold. First, they produce very harsh lighting that does not look great on facial features and skin attributes. They cast very high contrast hard shadows on facial features which is great if you want to look like a Lord of the Rings creature, but not so great if you want to look beautiful. The best kind of lighting is diffused and soft, like a paper lantern. This reduces harsh shadows and plays very well with facial features. Secondly, spotlights are usually much much brighter than the other ambient lighting in the venue. If a photographer exposes properly for the spotlight, then the rest of the ambient light becomes too underexposed leaving everything very dark. Photographers can bounce a speed light and fill in some of that missing light, but it still doesn’t look as natural as if matching all ambient lighting to the same level of intensity in a room. Its best to consult with your event planner and venue to ensure that spotlights aren’t used at all.
    3. 3. Fluorescent lighting often poses other problems as well. Theres many types of fluorescent lighting, everything from banks of tubes in a ceiling panel, to regular looking bulbs to party lights. The issue that commonly happens is that depending on the quality of the lights, the may produce a flickering incosisent wavelength that camera sensors pickup. These are normally invisible to the naked eye, but photographers can immediately recognize it in their photos because of the random alternating patterns of exposure drops and color casts represented at horizontal bars on the image. The easiest fix for this in-camera is to drop the shutter speed down to 1/125th or 1/60th of a second, which matches the oscillating waveforms of the light spectrum being emitted by the fluorescent light. The only problem with this is that now we’re using a much slower shutter speed – not ideal for people moving fast, such as people dancing during a reception. This can result in less than sharp photos. Ideally, the venue should be using high quality fluorescent or LEDs that are branded as “flicker-free”. Be sure to check with your venue or planner to mitigate this type of low quality lighting.
    4. 4. Tungsten lighting is a much warmer type of light source, usually incandescent bulbs, that create a warm friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Color correcting tungsten lighting is much easier than magenta up-lighting, but it can still have its challenges for balancing skin tones. Its best not to light your venue and reception with 100% tungsten lighting. Mix 50/50 daylight and tungsten light sources to help foster an ambient light mix that is conducive to natural skin tones.

    Overall, you want nice, evenly lit, bright daylight and tungsten light sources with minimal magenta up-lighting (or other color gelled lights) that are large and therefore soft. The bigger the apparent size of a light source relative to its subject translates into softer and more flattering light. This is why paper lanterns or similar types of lamps (often found at Ikea) or most suitable.

  • Outdoor ceremonies and time of day

    The biggest consideration I ask of you is to really think about the time of day your ceremony is taking place, especially if its outside. More specifically, think about where the sun will be in the sky in relation to your ceremony space. If your wedding is during the summer, then the sun will be making much wider, straight over your head arcs through the sky and be present longer in the day. If it’s winter, the opposite is true and the sun will be mostly low to the horizon with much fewer hours of daylight offered. Always carefully plan the timing on late October and early November outdoor weddings, because of Daylight Savings Time, we lose an hour of sunlight, so it will be pitch dark by 5pm. Here are a few things you should consider when planning your ceremony:

    1. Direction of sun in relation to your ceremony space is very important. People and objects look more dimensional when side lit at a 45 degree angle or 90 degree angle in relation to the camera. I’m primarily shooting in the direction that most of your guests are looking at you as they’re seated (with other side and behind angles as well), so if the sun is positioned in the sky so that light falls on you from the front or off to the side by 45 degrees in either direction, thats really nice and flattering for both color rendition and exposure. If the sun is behind you and backlighting the scene, its harder to get more accurate and natural skin tones on your faces because its mostly in shadow. I can expose for your faces, but them that overexposes the rest of the scene. There’s other techniques I use to help mitigate this both in camera and in post, but its always advisable to have the sun falling on your faces from the 45 degree sides if possible.
    2. The arc of the sun in relation to the time of day is also very important. Ceremony start times at high noon during the summer are generally considered the worst time of day from a photographic standpoint. The sun will be high overhead, casting very unflattering shadows on your face. Typically during summer time, waiting until 5pm, or 3-4 hours before sunset is highly recommended. If you can’t plan that and the ceremony needs to be earlier, then try and have the ceremony in complete shade as a better alternative (not dappled shade such as from a lone tree, which is worst case scenario as you will have tiny sun spots randomly hitting the scene everywhere – think all or nothing). Do NOT pick a spot that is in half shade and half sun – this is terrible for photography as it provides too much contrast to a scene. choose a spot that is full sun or fun shade ONLY. The closer your ceremony time is to sunset, the lower the arc of the sun, and the more flattering the light. BUT, also consider any obstacles in the direct path of the sun, such as high rise buildings, large hills and mountaintops, huge oak trees, etc. Another reminder is to consider Daylight Savings Time. Once I had a client whose ceremony time was 1 week after Daylight Savings Time ended and the clocks rolled back by an hour. This was Fall season and the ceremony was nestled in a valley in some foothills starting around 6pm. It was nearly pitch black by this time of day outside and the venue offered up no extra outdoor lighting. Luckily I had planned for this and had brought two ikea lamps and extension cords to help them out. It was barely enough light to capture an exposure. So always remember to check with your venue about properly lighting a ceremony if the start time falls after sunset. A very useful tool I use all the time is the Sun Seeker app that overlays the arced path of the sun with hour intervals over augmented reality using your iPhone camera. You can punch in a specific day and time of year too, so you can better understand what the sun is doing on your actual wedding day.
    3. Dappled Light from trees can cause a headache for consistent shots. Not a problem if you have a partly cloudy or overcast day (because the light is scattered, diffused, and more even), but if you plan an outdoor ceremony thats surrounded by trees and its a full sunny day, there will be scattered tiny pockets of light blanketing the scene. This kind of high contrast range proves difficult to shoot and edit because you can only properly expose for one extreme or the other (shadows vs highlights). Ideally, you want a scene that has an even consistent throw of either shade or sunlight, so be sure to talk to your planner or venue about either a full sun or full shade spot.


  • Unplugged ceremonies

    We live in a new era of iPhoneography where everyone who has a mobile device feels the unbearable need to take 1000 photos of daily activities and post them to social media. Now imagine that feeling at a wedding, where all 150-300 of your guests also feel that unbearable need to whip out their iPhone/iPad and snap 100 photos each during your ceremony. Now take that one step further and put yourself in my shoes as the photographer trying to navigate this sea of people holding up their bright mobile devices all looking to capture their one “unique” perspective. What do you think your photos will look like when I’m shooting a wide angle shot down the aisle? Do you want 100 tiny bright screens obscuring the view in that image?

    I thought not.

    Do yourself a favor and request an Unplugged Ceremony. This is a thing now and people are well aware of it as its becoming more common during ceremonies. It can be announced by the officiant just prior to the ceremony and written down on the programs handed out. The general language should be overly polite but firm, reminding guests to be respectful of your wishes to keep all mobile devices on silent and in their pockets at all time until the ceremony is finished. Kind of like a movie theater experience. You want guests to be focused on the real event and not focused on trying to take a photo anyways. This is why you hired a professional to do that in the first place. You won’t hurt any feelings, trust me. Most people totally understand and get it. and the ones who don’t? Don’t worry, I’ll have a very kind word with them if they get in my way ;)

  • Posing for your portraits

    Portrait sessions are the most creative time we can spend together. Whether its an engagement, during your wedding day, or a lifestyle solo shoot, its when we get to play and have the most fun. If I’m shooting couples, my main goal is to showcase your unique emotion for each other. This can translate to a few different styles that are catered towards your personalities. Every couple is different so I will chat with you about what you’re most drawn to from the different styles showcased on my website. That might be the intimate candids, fine art look, or experimental. Each style however has a certain element of posing in them, of which I will help direct you through. My highest priority in all of these styles is to stay clear of a traditional cheesy vibe. I love natural connection, natural poses, and natural expressions. Unless we’re specifically shooting a style that is bit more fine art or experimental/abstract, most of my portraits are i the intimate candid range. This means when it comes to posing, its not so much as how you position your bodies together, but how you interact with each other. So here are my tips for posing to help you get the best out of your session together:

    1. 1. Don’t look directly into my lens unless otherwise directed to. IF I have you look into my lens, it will only be one of you and definitely not both (on rare occasions I might make an exception). Nothing screams cheesy portrait then having a couple locked in a prom pose and smiling right at the lens. We can and will do better than that.
    2. 2. Don’t look right at each other. This is another instinctual go to for many couples during a session. A prom pose while leaning back and looking at each other smiling. NEVER do this as a static pose as its another one way ticket to Cheese Fest. If it happens naturally during a fluid moment of embracing and laughter, then totally fine, because thats real moment that I can capture. But seeing it forced into action is like nails on a chalkboard.
    3. 3. Use your connection points. These are your hands, shoulders, knees, cheek, forehead, hips, etc. How do you naturally hang on each other when you can’t stop touching one another? How do you relax into each other when taking in beautiful scenery? How do you engage each other when telling a hilarious story? How do you huddle up for warmth outside when its cold? The human body is capable of so much expression and emotion especially when there are two bodies that compliment each other. You have homework now – I want you to take note of how you answer the above questions and practice them together prior to our session. Use a mirror. Vary your positions and placement of your connection points. Keep it fluid and playful. The more motion there is, the more varied the results and natural looking your portraits will be. It will be awkward and wonderful but this is a winning recipe for real and honest emotion. And don’t worry, I will still be there to guide and direct you.
    4. 4.  Kissing is the laziest expression of love for couples photography. Bold words but I stand my ground. Kissing is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. In fact, I don’t mind a shot or two of my couples kissing, as thats very natural. But, it can be a  downward spiral where couples go to their safe place during a session and just try and make out the whole time. This ties into #1 and #2 above. Think outside the box when it comes to showing emotion for one another. How you touch and interact with each other is far more powerful than a simple kiss. You know whats better than a kiss? Almost a kiss. Nuzzling. Creating that anticipation for the viewer. Leaving us wanting more and seeing a  connection so strong that you know its coming and you’re not in a rush to get there because of its inevitability. Thats how strong your love is.
    5. 5. Smiling is hard. Especially if its forced. Natural smiles are responses to positive energy that comes in many forms. How do we make that happen during our session? By trying not to smile. By embracing that awkwardness and bursting into silly laughter with each other. By whispering dirty secrets into each other’s ears that only you can hear. By being the goofball deep inside of you and letting it out. Or by simply embracing why you are choosing this partner in your life and really connecting with that emotion deep inside. Close your eyes, think about what drives you crazy in love with your partner, then channel that feeling. My job is to capture these tiny fractional moments in between all this and deliver a refreshing and honest expression between you two.
    6. 6. Guys naturally suck at posing. Its a harsh truth. Unless you’re a model, most guys I work with have a harder time figuring out how to pose themselves and show emotion. Usually they’re the ones trying to go for the prom poses or the kissing photos. All of us (yes including me) need extra practice, so see #3 above. There are usually two types of guys when it comes to the portrait session; the ones who are into it and the ones who aren’t. The ones who are into it naturally express themselves with their partner much easier than the ones who aren’t. I can spot the ones who aren’t a mile away. Disconnected. Rolling their eyes. Emotionally stagnant. Looking at their watch. Bored. Here’s my advice to you guys who aren’t into it: Get Over It. No, really. Take my advice to heart and open yourself up to something new. Be adventurous and show your partner that you’re worth it and 100% into connecting with them on every level. This is imagery that will last a lifetime and beyond. That will be handed down to younger generations and treasured. Its an hour of your life. I have faith in you. You can do this. But you’re going to have to be willing to broaden your horizons for that one hour. And it will be sooooo worth it in the end, I promise you.
  • DJ Lighting during your reception
  • Keeping prep rooms clutter free
  • Bridal Fashion for Women & Men

    If you’re a bride reading this, then you are probably very aware already of the different styles of wedding dresses. My favorite type of client are the ones who dare to be different and want to bring a sense of fashion to their wedding day. That means foregoing the traditional wedding gown in favor of something more unique. Unbridaled is one of my favorite sources for non-traditional wedding attire ideas, but you can find more inspiration at Refinery29, Junebug, StyleMePretty, and GreenWeddingshoes. Whatever style matches your day, the biggest point I want to make is to keep in mind how comfortable you want to be. Often I see brides who wear the large puffy traditional wedding gowns that weigh 20 pounds and can barely walk or breathe in. Keep in mind how hot the wedding day might be and how that affects your ability to take portraits. If you’re not comfortable and can’t walk around easily, then that will not translate very well for creative portraiture work. Some of the best imagery comes from clients who can freely move unburdened in their attire. If you are hot, sweaty, uncomfortable, and limited by how much you can walk, then you’re not going to be able to take very creative or intimate portraits. This also affects your entire day, from walking down the aisle to dancing at the reception. So think twice before ordering that huge puffy gown. Also think about accessories. Jewelry and flower crowns add amazing color and detail to your portraits and make you stand out in such a unique and beautiful way.

    Now lets talk about the attire for the groom. All to often I see brides show up wearing amazing wedding attire only to be complemented by a groom who has phoned it in and put no attention whatsoever into their suit. I have seen some guys dig an old suit that is bulky and oversized from their wardrobe and think its perfectly acceptable to wear on one of the biggest day of their lives. For all you Game of Thrones fans out there…”SHAME!” So here’s my advice to men reading this. BUY A SUIT AND HAVE IT FITTED, preferably european style fit. Look like you belong in a GQ model shoot. This is your wedding day. It’s the one day where it’s not only perfectly acceptable but practically required that you show some taste and a sense of style. DO NOT rent a suit from Men’s Warehouse for a few hundred dollars that’s not fitted – use that cash to invest in a stylish fitted suit that you can wear again sometime in the future like a BOSS. This is a no brainer guys. Explore the possibilities and create an ensemble with attention to detail to everything from socks, timepieces, belts, shoes, ties, bowties, pocket squares, suspenders, cufflinks…the whole enchilada. Show your fiancé why she is picking the best man in the world. She will truly appreciate it. To help you with this daunting task, you can find a few resources at BridalMusings, TheKnot, JHilburn, SuitSupply, and TheBespokeEdge.

  • Receiving Lines

    If you don’t know what these are… good. Receiving lines are a traditional way of thanking your guests immediately after your ceremony. Everyone gets in line and for 30 minutes shakes the hands and hugs everyone in the bridal party, like a wedding out of The Godfather. It’s a giant time suck. A better way to greet and thank everyone is during the reception after you have eaten dinner – make the rounds to all the dinner tables and spend some moments saying hello this way. Bonus hot tip: it makes for way better moments to photograph.

  • Hotel Rooms Vs. Airbnb

    When planning your wedding day, you will probably have to decide where each of you want to spend your early hours getting ready with your respective wedding party. The traditional choice has always been a nice hotel with each of you on different floors. While this may seem like the obvious choice, hotel rooms are the farthest thing from anything visually creative or interesting as a backdrop for your getting ready photos. Unless its a historic, boutique, or very artsy/modern decor style of hotel, most of the rooms will be drab in color and style (sorry Hilton). So if you have to get ready in a hotel, be sure to choose one that has rooms that are stylish and interesting. Think about the space in and around the hotel and if they would provide for good portraiture for your single photos. Look for color, texture, good lighting, and uniqueness. There are other options now other than hotels of course. I see a trend of couples starting to rent out lofts or quaint houses via Airbnb now. I think this provides a much more relaxing, interesting, and comfortable style for your moments leading up to your ceremony. There’s something about the atmosphere of a house that automatically makes you more relaxed and your photos more natural. Just be sure to book properties relatively close together or large enough that can accommodate your needs.