An open letter to engaged couples about how to get the most out of your wedding photos.

Dear bride & groom-to-be,

There are a lot of blogs and magazines out there. A lot of voices, a lot of great resources giving you advice and inspiration for just about every aspect of planning and preparing for your wedding. It's a lot to think about. There are a lot of decisions to be made. Who knew you'd someday be stressing over napkin colors? Who knew there'd be such a delicate dance of etiquette with friends and family members? 

If you've been reading all the blogs and all the photographers' websites, you've probably heard over and over again how your photos will be one of the only lasting momentos from your wedding day. Pinterest is just a smorgasbord of lavishly designed weddings in exotic locales. "No pressure, but your wedding must be PERFECT and elaborately decorated for the best photos." Right? 

Here's what photographers want to tell you.

This is how you actually get the most out of your wedding photography experience.

What you see is what you get.

The very first and most important way to get the most out of your wedding photography experience is to choose the right photographer. If you loved your recently married friend's wedding photos, find out who her photographer was. Ask your venue or other trusted vendor for the photographers they love the most. Then dig into their websites and narrow down the list by removing any photographers whose style you don't absolutely love. Browse blogs and instagram feeds and Facebook pages. If you truly love their work (posing, composition, emotion, editing style), this is the first step to ensuring you love your wedding photos. You cannot hire someone expecting them to mimic another style or a different photographer's work, so only stick to photographers whose work you actually prefer.

Communicate & come up with a plan.

A good photographer will have this as part of their process already, but make sure you sit down with your photographer before the wedding to really hash out all the details. Getting what you want out of your wedding photos requires some pre-planning and communication. Your photographer should be able to make recommendations for what will work better with your timeline and how to make the best use of light, and will get all of your family and wedding party information ahead of time.

Make your wedding & timeline photo-friendly.

While your wedding should never turn into a full fledged photo shoot, there are ways to make your wedding more photo-friendly, whether it's doing a "First Look" with your fiancé to have your formal photos all done before the ceremony or making sure your ceremony ends with enough time for portraits at golden hour. This also means scheduling all of the day's events with a lot of extra "padding." If you think it's going to take 45 minutes, assume it will probably take an hour and 15. Don't forget travel time between venues and remember you're spending the day wrangling a big group of people. Everything will take longer than you think, so plan for it rather than potentially giving up precious photo time because something was running late.

Spend time with the people you want photos with.

Many photographers take a documentary approach for most of a wedding day and will spend a lot of time photographing you interacting with your guests. If you spend a lot of time on the dance floor with a coworker's +1 instead of your siblings or grandparents or best friends, you're going to end up with more photos with your coworker's +1 than you ever wanted. While photographers can generally pickup on the VIPs of a wedding, we're not going to know if there's a special cousin or aunt or high school friend who's really important to you. We need that to be communicated to us ahead of time. Photographers love when a couple really spends some time mingling/dancing with the ones closest to them at the reception, because we know these are going to be the photos you cherish later. And while we're on this topic - please, please don't be shy! Grab your photographer every time you want a photo with someone! There is nothing else we're taking photos of that's more important than the shot of you with the people you love. This is a big one guys, trust me!

Don't forget each other!

It can be hard when you're throwing a party with 100+ of your nearest and dearest in attendance, but we urge you to spend more than just your First Dance together during the reception. If photos together during the reception are important to you, try to stick together or share a few dances before the night is over.

It's 90% about the people & emotions, 10% about the details.

This is going to run counter to everything Pinterest and every wedding blog out there is currently telling you. Your wedding is not about your centerpieces. Your wedding is not about a cake or a bouquet. These are all important things and they should all be photographed, and photographed beautifully, but I am willing to put money on the fact that those will be the photos you care least about when all is said and done. There, I said it. I know this because I have received more than one message months or years after a wedding from a couple so grateful for photos with a loved one who has since passed. I know this because I see it in what my clients have actually printed or chosen for their wedding albums. So, yes, give your photographer time and space to photograph all of the lovely details you've put together, but also allow your photographer into those tender moments and be open and vulnerable to having your emotions documented.

Be present.

Throw your head back and laugh. Let the tears flow. Twirl that dress. Hug everyone. Kiss each other. Hold hands. Dance like you never want the night to end. These are the things great wedding photographs are made of.