1. Let your photographer know about any quirks of the venue.
“This ceremony is in the Ulster Hall, in Belfast, which is a pitch-black space with crazy lighting, photographer Tim Tooth from This Modern Love told BuzzFeed. “I had to respond really quickly, adjusting the way I normally shoot.
“I was really happy with the way things turned out. But the next time I shot here, we thoroughly discussed the lighting situation! It’s always a good idea for the couple to think through the lighting situation of the ceremony, as photographers can often only work with what they’re given – darkness and squinting included!”
2. It’s important to click with your photographer.
“Photographs are always better when the client’s personality and the photographer’s personality click,” Tooth said. “If I’m an unlikely match with a couple, then it’s harder work to get a rapport going. If we’re a good match, the day flows a lot better, it’s easier on both sides.”
3. Make sure the day tells *your* story.
“In this shot, the groom is holding an owl,” Tooth said. “He’s a zookeeper. It was a really wet day, and their reception was in a pub in the country, and we just went to the storeroom to take this. It’s a glowy kind of light. And the owl just looked at him. He loved it. I think it’s his Facebook profile picture now!”
4. Give the photographer a “backstage pass” to your day.
“The groom in this photo is Irish, and his bride is Vietnamese-Australian, and his brother is a Buddhist monk,” Tooth said. “The Buddhist performed a blessing before the groom left to get married. It was a very peaceful moment.
“I try to make people comfortable with my presence and then float around. You don’t want to change the flow of what happens in that room. But sometimes you form a real bond with the people in a really concentrated way. And then you leave that night and you never see them again. It’s like you’re allowed backstage.”
5. Don’t try to force a pose that doesn’t feel natural.
“Some couples are really up for portraits, and other couples are shy or hesitant,” Tooth said. “So I try to just go for a walk, really, if they’re feeling uncomfortable. I always try to research somewhere – find a nice space with nice light.”
For this shot, he asked the couple “to just go by the window. And as I asked them to stand together, he gave her his hand. Some people aren’t into wedding portraits per se, but if you give your photographer some time, just to go for a walk and hang out, you can get some great really natural shots.”
6. Try for an “unplugged wedding” if you can.
Tooth: “If there are a lot of iPads, or iPhones, then it can be difficult to get a clean aisle shot like this.”
7. Make sure to check photography permissions in the ceremony venue.
“There’s nothing worse than getting to a ceremony venue to be told that the photographer has to stand at the back, or, worse still, can’t come in at all,” Tooth said.
“It’s always a good idea for couples to check that photography is allowed in ceremony venues and try to negotiate for as much access as possible.” This beautiful shot is a close-up from a Hindu ceremony.
8. Know that if you look like yourself, you’ll look your best.
“A portrait is like a dialogue, the person has to give you something,” Tooth said of this photo. “And she looks like herself. They were a really creative couple, and comfortable with the camera. There was just something about the look that she shot me.”
9. If you’re keen to experiment, go for it.
“This shot looks like a model, but it’s just a real bride who loved photography and was really up for experimenting,” Tooth said. “This is the kind of image someone might pin and then send me a Pinterest board asking that they have a similar kind of image. But it’s very difficult to re-create something like this. It’s much better if people just let their own day unfold naturally and have their own unique images.”
10. You can make the proposal part of the wedding day too.
“The groom proposed on this spot,” Tooth said of this shot. The couple then came back to the location for their wedding photographs.
11. If you want documentary shots, be patient.
“Great moments don’t happen every second so you need to be patient,” Tooth said. “It’s important to give your photographer space and time to do this rather than focusing solely on family photos. That is, if you’re expecting documentary images from them – of course, some people obviously want formals instead.”
12. Be adventurous with your locations.
“Often the most interesting shots are a bit outside the rose garden. You have to be prepared to hop over a fence or walk over the grass,” Tooth said. This shot was taken in an old swimming pool that the bride used to swim in.
“We had to drag some chairs over and hop over the fence,” he continued. “All in her dress! Her eyes lit up when I mentioned the pool, and she said, ‘I was going to ask you!’”
13. Be creative with your props.
“The groom at this wedding was a pilot, so instead of confetti they had paper planes,” Tooth said. “The wedding was on a beach in Donegal. It’s always a gamble with the weather, but fortune favours the brave and I have hardly ever had an outdoor wedding ceremony get rained off. Maybe once.
“A lot of people do the official paperwork a day or two beforehand, which gives them total freedom to get hitched wherever they want.”
14. Sometimes spaces can surprise you.
“I got slightly funny looks when I asked the couple to go inside this old woodshed, but it just had a lovely atmosphere,” Tooth said. “They’re a beautiful couple as well, which helps!”
15. Low-key can be great too.
“It’s always music to my ears when I hear a couple is getting ready together, or hanging out together the morning of the wedding, as it makes for a super-relaxed day,” Tooth said. “I had a fry with them, took some photos and then I jumped into a cab with her on the way to the ceremony.”
16. If you like someone’s work, you can ask them to travel.
“This was shot on top of a hill in Tuscany,” Tooth said. “I shoot all over Ireland and the UK, but I go to mainland Europe maybe two or three times a year. It’s increasingly common to ask your photographer to come with you.
“It doesn’t cost as much as you might think, on top of normal rates, to get a homegrown photographer to come with you for a wedding abroad. If you find a photographer whose work you love don’t be afraid to ask them to travel.
“You often save so much on food etc by marrying abroad that there might be more left in the budget for photography anyway.”
17. But a local photographer can help you with more than photos.
“This is the wedding of an American couple eloping on an Irish mountain,” Tooth said. “They had never been to Ireland before, but got in touch with us and we came up
with this idea together. We just picked a time and a day, and I asked around and got hold of a minister who’s a friend of a friend. It was just the four of us.
“You can only get married legally on certain listed locations, so they’d done a registry office thing back home. So if people are planning to get married far from home, it’s often a plan to get a photographer involved with the process, as they’ll have good local knowledge and contacts.”
18. Black-and-white photography is as useful as it is pretty.
“This is the mother of the bride watching the father of the bride dancing with the bride,” Tooth said. “I think nearly every photographer will do a few shots in black and white. I think some images just work better in black-and-white. And then sometimes it helps resolve bad colour problems.
“At night, often in a room you have red lights, purple lights, orange lights etc all going off at once, and mixed on skin it doesn’t look great. If you’ve a nice composition, then black-and-white can resolve that.”
19. Grooms, it’s your day too.
“A lot of grooms, you hear the thing of ‘it’s all about her’, but it’s their story too, it’s their day,” Tooth said. “I shot a bunch of weddings recently where the groom’s close friends have been really involved and integral to the running of the day.
“I shot a wedding in Yorkshire a couple of weeks ago, and the groomsmen did everything – all the food, the transport, etc. They had no catering staff, it was just the guys. And I’ve had a few very nervous grooms, where the mates just rally and carry him through.”
20. Split your portrait time up between day and evening.
“You can split up your portrait time, maybe grab five or 10 minutes after the speeches – go for a walk,” Tooth said. “And sometimes even just the two of you walking across the field in beautiful light, those shots will be the best of the day.”
For this image, Tooth spent time setting up with tripods and lights, and then “spent five minutes trying to get it. It was in pitch black, basically, as the exposure was a few seconds long, but in the end it reminded me of that Wes Anderson film, Moonrise Kingdom.”
21. And don’t forget to have fun.
“This was pretty late-night, more of an afterparty,” Tooth said. “After the dancing was done, we went back to one of the houses. I don’t think anyone even knew I was taking the photo.
“Couples can spend so much time worrying about the details. But photography-wise, if people are having a blast and properly let their hair down, it makes for great images. A wedding is a celebration, with all the people you love, and your best mates, and your family.”