Call someone a “wedding photographer,” and you’ll discover that’s a disparaging insult in some circles. You don’t have to be a fine art photographer to understand why wedding photographers have such a bad rep — just take a look at some of the photos. Overwrought staging. Dramatic photo filters. Or, the classic pose where everyone is trying to look very serious, but in fact looks very uncomfortable.

Ick!

Call me old-fashioned, but all you really need is a justice of the peace who knows how to work a smartphone.

If, however, you’re the more exuberant type who wants to memorialize your special day in copious photos — but still stay on a budget — have no fear. You can start planning the moment you send out your wedding invitations.

Here are design tips to ensure that even the least-experienced photographer will get your wedding photos staged properly.

Scout the Location First



Go with your photograph to the location(s) you would like to shoot. This is important because you can better communicate how you’d like the finished photos to appear. Do you want serious shots? Fun shots? A combination as the wedding unfolds?

What to Do Instead: Point out any places you’d like to highlight in the photos, and, just as critically, any you’d like to avoid. This is the time to make a list of specific wedding poses you would like, such as the bride and groom at the entrance of the church.

Avoid Gimmicky Poses

Some of the unfortunate classics include: “groom looking reflectively into the horizon”; “bride nervously doing her makeup”; or “bride and groom hunt for the garter belt.” Ugh. The “groom force-feeding bride more cake than she can swallow, hilarious!” shot — seriously? Add photos of a flower girl or ring bearer doing something “cute” that are clearly staged (here, kids, make a messy scene!) — double ugh.

Basically, almost any pose that looks posed should be avoided. The point of wedding photography is to capture the actual wedding, not to stage a ceremony that didn’t actually happen. “Almost” is the qualifier. You probably do want photos with your parents, siblings, or other specific groups of people.

What to Do Instead: Make a list of people you’d like to photograph together. Have the list ready for the photograph so she or he can be sure to schedule a formal, posed shot. It will also help the photographer to be on the lookout for as-they-happen photo opportunities.

Avoid Noticeable Photo Editing

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Woe be the wedding photographer who makes his or her edits too visible. It just cheapens the entire thing. There is no need for special effects in wedding photography, and too many “effects” will ruin it. Why use the “old lady wrinkle blur” setting on people in their early 20s, for example?

On the flip side, gentle photo editing is welcome.

I once had a job “tweaking” photos of television stars for a major studio. This mostly meant erasing wrinkles and shaving off a few pounds. I had to be careful with the edits to avoid a “Photoshop Fail,” such as erasing someone’s hand or leg.

One minor edit no one noticed but everyone loved is to stretch the photo ever so slightly so everyone looks taller and thinner. The key is subtlety because distortion is a dead giveaway.

What to Do Instead: Ask your photographer not to do any editing, or keep the editing to a minimum. Negotiate to get the high-resolution shots beforehand, and you can make minimal changes to the photos yourself if you are familiar with image-editing software.

You don’t need sparkles. You need subtlety.

In short, there are three things you can do to ensure better wedding photography. First, scout the location and determine what mood you’d like to set. Second, avoid gimmicky poses that don’t feel genuine because they won’t look genuine, either. Third, whenever possible, err on the side of subtlety instead of sparkles.

Lastly, closely inspect the portfolio of any photographer you consider. Do you like what you see? It is probably worthwhile to spend a little extra on photography if it is important to you because, with luck, this will be the only time you will walk down the aisle.

Author Bio – Katie McCaskey is an author, consultant and freelance writer on photography tips and trends for Vistaprint.