Elegant Wedding: Photography: From Behind the Lens

WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU PUT THREE WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS and a videographer team together in a room? Really good advice. Advice I wish I had had before my wedding.

WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU PUT THREE WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS and a videographer team together in a room? Really good advice. Advice I wish I had had before my wedding.

Every day I look at my favorite wedding portrait of my husband and me with bittersweet fondness. There we are, at the base of a very dramatic staircase, clearly on our way to happily-ever-after (or maybe it was the effects of the seventh champagne toast) — with a potted palm behind us, its fringes shooting out the top of my head, making me look like a dancer at the Tropicana.

“That was your photographer’s fault,” says Haddonfield-based veteran wedding photographer Cliff Mautner when I told him about our misfortune. “Any experienced photographer would have caught that.”

What else would an experienced photographer have seen? I wondered.

Mautner, along with fellow shutter-
bugs Laura Novak of Wilmington, Sarah DiCicco of Wayne and videography team Sheryl and Dave Williams of DVideography in Philadelphia, weighed in on the “dos” and “don’ts” for your wedding-day photos.

DON’T BASE YOUR DECISION ON PRICE ALONE. “It shouldn’t be about how to save money,” says Mautner. “It should be about getting the best photos of your wedding day.”

Ask to see a candidate’s photos in different seasons, various settings — and not just portraits, but “decisive moments” throughout the day. “Anyone can buy a digital camera and ‘poof!’ — they’re a professional photographer,” says Mautner.

An amateur videographer will be flustered under pressure, and it will show on the video, says Dave. Being a wedding photographer or videog-
rapher involves creativity and anticipating what will happen next. Part of their job is to capture the moments that make up the day. A professional will be able to catch intimate moments like the come-hither look he gives you when he thinks no one else is looking.

And very important, meet the candidates before hiring them. “You want to look for a photographer who you get along with, because not only are you spending money on your photographer, but you’re spending the most important day of your life with them,” says DiCicco. “Make sure that you like not only their photos, but them.”

DO BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR EXPECTATIONS. “Figure out the style you want for your wedding,” says Novak. “Do you want sharp color images or moody black and white? Let that guide you toward an appropriate photographer.” Talk to the groom, your mother and whoever else can help you set the tone for your wedding, and then discuss what you want from your photographer and what they can expect from you. If candids are the order of the day, tell your photographer that you will not sit for formal portraits. Having the photographer force you both to sit through hours of posed shots will only make you miserable, and your misery will show in the images. “Tell the photographer when you’ve had enough,” says DiCicco. “If I say to a bride and groom, ‘It’s a beautiful night tonight, let’s go out and take some more shots,’ I won’t be upset if they say ‘uncle.’ They are in control.”

DO SET A TIMELINE, DOUBLE IT AND STICK TO IT. “Having a schedule is important to keep things moving during the day,” says Novak. “I’ve found that if the bride’s stylist says allow two hours for hair and makeup, allow four. Everything seems to take twice as long as expected.” By padding your wedding-day schedule, you can allow for mess-ups like a bride-of-Frankenstein hairdo requiring immediate remediation, or time for a pre-wedding nosh and nap.

DO BE CONSCIOUS OF THE LIGHTING. “Couples don’t know to ask to have the lights turned up at the reception,” says Dave. “Good lighting tends to be undervalued, but makes a big difference as to how the images appear.” So talk to your venue before the Big Day: “Venues tend to darken the room to create ambiance, but all they actually create is darkness,” says Mautner. If possible, aim for a soft glow — not too bright and not too dark.

DO MAKE SURE VENDORS TALK TO EACH OTHER. “I once had to stop the best man’s speech from happening because the photographer was not in the room,” says Dave. “We have to look out for each other to make sure we all get our jobs done.” It is not the bride’s job to introduce everyone, but making a list of other vendors will smooth the way to a seemingly effortless event.

DO CREATE AN OFFENSIVE LINE. “Pick someone like a maid-of-honor or a bridesmaid who can run interference for you so you don’t have to deal with everything that comes to the door,” says Novak. “I once had a bride who was very stressed out on her wedding day. When she finally saw the photos, she realized that she didn’t smile as much as she thought. If she had had someone to shield her from all of the pesky little things that happened, she would have had a better time and looked happier in her photos,” she says. “Frame of mind outweighs all other details.”

DO KEEP YOUR COOL. Ripped veil, smudged makeup, an unfortunate run-in with a glass of red wine … it can all happen. How you react to it makes a difference in your appearance.

Dave remembers following a bride and groom to a photo location after their ceremony when traffic suddenly stopped. “It took us about three minutes to realize that the bride and groom had gotten into an accident. Luckily, no one was hurt. We asked our assistants to help the chauffeur while we took the couple in our car to the reception. They kept their cool and we weren’t even late for the cocktail hour.”

DO BE AN ACCIDENTAL TOURIST. “Elements such as weather are beyond our control,” says Mautner. “But you can use mishaps to your advantage.” Once, when stuck with the bride and groom in a traffic jam outside The Continental Mid-town, Mautner used the opportunity to capture memorable moments. “We got out, went up to the bar and I bought them a couple of martinis,” he says. “I allowed them to naturally interact and I got some of my favorite images from that day.”

DON’T MAKE A LIST OF PHOTOS, BUT DO MAKE A LIST OF IMPORTANT PEOPLE AND THINGS. I arrived at my wedding with a list of all the photos I wanted: Bride with mother, bride with father, bride with sister, bride with brother … don’t do this. “Make a list of all of the important people,” says Novak. “If we don’t know that your maternal grandmother is the most important person in the world to you, we may only get one or two photos of her and you’ll be disappointed. Make sure we know who’s who.”

By the same token, let the photographer know if there is a special item included in your wedding. “Is that hankie tucked into your bouquet your great-great-grandmother’s or did you pick it up at a local store? We need to know,” says Novak. They’ll know when to start clicking.

DO GO WITH THE FLOW. Having your heart set on a certain pose in a specific location might lead to disappointment —
taking it as it comes might lead to super photos. “One 90-degree Saturday, we were taking video of a wedding reception at a golf course where there was another wedding ceremony taking place,” says Dave. “It was impossible to get to the area we wanted to go to for photos, so I asked two golfers if we could borrow their carts. The bride got in one and the groom got into the other. They had a blast, and those are the best shots of the day. We couldn’t have planned that.”

DO LET THE PHOTOGRAPHERS DO THEIR JOB. “We love what we do,” says DiCicco. “We love the challenge of getting the perfect shot. Let us use our knowledge and creativity to do that.”

Wilted flowers, the caterer serving filet to your vegan cousin, the groom’s mother showing up in a white ballgown suspiciously similar to yours — let it all go and enjoy your day. If you don’t, it will show — and you’ll have the pictures to prove it.