While beautiful wedding portraits are must-have keepsakes from the big day, the little things are what truly stand out: stolen glances, belly laughs, and all of the other candid moments that would go unnoticed if not for an experienced wedding photographer. Yet, achieving natural wedding photographs requires more than a pro armed with a high-end camera and professional equipment — a couple must also know what they’re doing.
So if you want easy-breezy wedding pictures without the stuffiness, it’s a matter of finding the right photographer and knowing how to be great subjects for the camera. Use these tips to ensure you get timeless wedding photos to share for generations to come!
Pick the right wedding photographer
Every photographer has a distinct style of capturing and editing pictures, so be sure to review wedding galleries before making any final decisions. Don’t assume a professional will change their approach to suit your preferences; instead, book only when you’re sure a photographer’s portfolio aligns with your taste.
“When booking your photographer, take notice of their portfolio and the number of candids vs. posed photos,” encourages Alicia Mae of ILE Events. “Certain photographers specialize in being invisible and allowing you to be yourself while capturing you in the best way.”
Nikki Golden of Nikki Golden Photography agrees, noting that personality is just as important as style and talent. “Ensuring that you choose a photographer who matches your personality is one of the most important things couples should consider when making vendor choices,” she confirms. “Your photos will be much more natural if you’re comfortable with your photographer, and they know how to make you have a good time!”
So while a stunning wedding gallery may sell you on booking, don’t skip the chance to interview a photographer and get a feel for their personality!
Do a trial run
There’s no such thing as too much preparation! Spending some time in front of the camera can help you warm up to the idea, so you have a chance to get the nerves out prior to the wedding.
“Consider hiring your wedding photographer for an engagement or a portrait session before your wedding day,” encourages The Garter Girl’s Julianne Smith. “This will give you a chance to build your relationship and for you to practice relaxing in front of the camera.”
Of course, you must also feel comfortable in your attire to feel poised in front of the lens. Too-tight shoes or an ill-fitted shirt can make anyone camera-shy!
Julia Wade of Julia Wade Photography suggests to “remove your partner from the house for the day and try on your full wedding outfit (dress, suit, etc.) from head to toe. Make sure the full look is exactly what you want, so you feel confident on the wedding day.”
Practice makes perfect, so do what you can to show up primed and confident when the big day arrives!
Avoid dramatic features
Most photographers will caution you against unflattering details that will stand out in photos. (A good reason not to get a spray tan for the first time before the wedding!) Natural wedding photos are those in which you and your partner look as you would any other day if not more dressed up and glamorous.
That’s why Jacqueline Vizcaino of Tinted Events reminds couples, “you want to look like yourself on your wedding day, so avoid wearing too much makeup.” Likewise, she warns against wearing black clothing, which “can absorb light and make you appear washed out in photos.”
For natural photos, think light and airy rather than dark and dramatic! If you want to capture deeper, moodier tones, save it for your engagement shoot and stick to soft colors and textures on your wedding day.
Position your flowers properly
When you’re feeling nervous, it’s natural to grip onto anything you’re holding — and in photos, this can show in an unnatural hold on one’s flowers. So Blooms by the Box’s Joan Wyndrum O’Hear cautions brides to “be careful not to hold their flower bouquet high as it will cover their dress.”
“Instead, hold your wrist near your hip bone, tilting your bouquet away from you by an inch or two,” Wyndrum O’Hear adds. “Relax your shoulders, and slightly bend your elbows. This tip also applies to bridesmaids!”
Don’t be afraid to practice this natural stance before the big day! Knowing how to position your arms (and bouquet) is key to poses that look effortless and graceful.
Keep your shot list short
While portraits are essential to get pictures of family and wedding party members, an extended formal session eats into your photographer’s time and prevents them from capturing what truly matters: you and your partner, wholly in your element.
“Posed portraits are typically necessary to ensure you have a nice photo of a particular group of people,” explains Jamie Chang of Mango Muse Events. “But don’t create a massive shot list. The more posed photos you require the photographer to take, the less natural your photos will look.”
Make more time for toasting with friends, laughing on the dance floor, hugging guests, and all the other moments that make a wedding day unforgettable — beyond the stand-and-smile portraits.
Chang adds, “If it’s possible to have some of the group photos taken at the welcome dinner, the day after brunch, or just spontaneously during the reception, you can achieve much more natural portraits.”
You can get the formal portraits your grandparents want to hang on the wall, but let your photographer spend most of the day capturing the small-but-significant moments that tell the real story of the day.
Focus on the moment
Without a doubt, the best way to achieve natural wedding photos is to simply embrace the experience and “forget about the camera!” as Manda Weaver of Manda Weaver Photography puts it.
“I know easier said than done, but remember it’s your wedding day, not a photo shoot,” Weaver notes. “Be present, and experience every moment of your day as it unfolds. And trust the amazing photographer you’ve hired to capture it for you.”
Indeed, “the goal is for you to be in the moment at all times with a photographer there to capture it,” Chang agrees. “So unless the photographer is giving you direction, just be yourself and do, act, and say whatever you normally would. That will result in more natural photos.”
When the day ends and you embark on your married journey together, your wedding photos will serve as a reminder of the special day that started it all. So lean into the beauty of your wedding day and let the camera highlight every detail of it!
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.