Tips: How to get the wedding photos of your dreams

Do you think you look awkward in photos? Have you been burned by professional photography in the past? Nervous about the money you'll be dropping on a photographer for a day that can't repeat itself?

Fear not. There's a way to get the wedding photos you've always dreamed of.

wedding portraits alexa michael



First, picture that bare wall above your couch. The space above your fireplace. The hallway of your home. Now picture the one photo you want taking up that space. Is it a romantic dip in the sunset? Is it your first dance? Or maybe it’s the silly faces you made at each other during the cake cutting.

Whichever one it is, figure out what your dream photo display would look like. Create a Pinterest mood board with photos you like. Think about the colors, the expressions and the composition that stand out to you. Once you’ve found a pattern in what you like, it’s time for the next step.


Get the right photographer

Well, duh. But this sounds easier than it is. You want someone who can mimic that mood board. Their website, Instagram or own Pinterest gives you all the same feels you get when you look at your collection of images. They don’t have to be identical, but the emotion you get when you see them should be pretty darn close. 

After you’ve narrowed it down to a few, meet in person. Or at least a Skype call if you or the photographer are out of town. You want to see them and feel them. You didn’t say yes to your fiancé after an e-mail exchange. Don’t say yes to a photographer without that face-to-face interaction either. The chemistry is super important. My brides love me because we will chat and laugh about girl things. Didn’t get to the gym this week? I hear you. Just bought a home? Oh my gosh, that’s so exciting. Tell me ALL about it. My favorite coffee shop just closed. Girl, I got you. There’s a place I know in town.


Plan your day around the photography schedule

This sounds super selfish from my end, but let me explain.

Your photographer is the one vendor who is going to be there with you for most, if not all of the day. And you hired them to document it — give them the time to do so. Talk to them first to find out what time is best for their arrival so that they can get pictures of your dress and all the details. Figure out what time to put your dress on so that you can get to the first look on time. Do a first look. Do bridal party pictures right after the first look. And lastly, don’t try to rush family photos at the top of your cocktail hour if you want to mingle with guests during it. 


Have a disconnected ceremony

It’s totally cool that your guests want to document the day for you. Those hashtags on Instagram won’t feed themselves. But there is one time you should ask your guests to refrain from whipping out their cell phones and iPads, and that’s the ceremony.

I used to find it kind of funny and amusing when a sea of electronics went up in unison as soon as the procession started. I even incorporated them into my shots.

danielle walking down aisle cell phones


But is it really the cell phones you want to remember from your walk down the aisle or is it those last few moments of being Mommy and Daddy’s Little Girl? Does hubby want to see your face making your way towards him or Aunt Mildred’s grainy version of it?

By all means, gesture hi to your guests when you’re on your way to the altar. Put on a big smile as if their cameras were out. And let me capture it, because I promise, I’ll get that smile from a mile away. And it’ll look 10 times better than Aunt Mildred’s.


Remember the touchups

Designate a bridesmaid to carry a small bag with any makeup you might want to freshen up with. If it’s going to be a hot day, bring some blotting paper to keep dry without ruining your makeup. Pack a curling iron to tighten any curls that went loose.

priscilla kim wedding hair


Relax and don’t overthink it

We get to a great spot and I position my clients. Then I walk away, look back at them and the first thing I say when I see them is…

B R E A T H E.

I get it — you’re about to have this big ass lens stuck into your face and you don’t know what to do. And if you feel like you look weird trying to figure it out, you probably do. There is a solution.

Just B R E A T H E.

I’ll tell you how to stand and where to put your hands. If something doesn’t look right, I’ll fix it. If hubby’s jacket is riding up, I’ll tell him to unbutton. If there’s a strand of hair in your face, I’ll take it out. Let me worry about the minutiae and you just worry about being yourselves.

brie tom personality wedding
Bernadette Marciniak
Backyard wedding: Marike + Jake 10.28.17
backyard wedding marike jake.jpg

This happy couple. I love 'em. Absolutely, head over heels, adore these guys. I love their dry, fun sense of humor. I love the way Jake jokes. I love the way Marike laughs. And I loved their good ol' Southern North Carolina backyard wedding.

I've known Marike and her family for a few years now. She and I actually roomed together back in 2011. She was one of my favorite roommates even though she never ate the delicious food I cooked. 

She and Jake met when Marike and her family relocated to North Carolina. They bonded over Brightleaf hot dogs during a company barbecue and their conversations have been flowing ever since. Marike says that from day one, Jacob has always been the person she could talk to most easily and vice versa. She fell in love with him because he wasn’t afraid to be honest and vulnerable. He fell in love with the way she would listen. 

While Marike still thinks Brightleaf hot dogs are gross, Jake still brings them home for her and their two daughters. They both dream of continuing to to be great parents to Magical Madeleine and Sweet Cece (and future sister #3!) while building each other up and being there through the struggles and wins. They also fancy nights out at the movies and indulging their shop-a-holic tendencies, together.

To this day, they can't go a day without taking to each other and having butterflies. And that, my friends, is what true love is all about.

Marike's dress designer - Vera Wang WHITE. Purchased from Sandy’s Consignment Boutique | Bridesmaid’s dresses: Francesca’s + LC (Lauren Conrad) | Shoes: Vans | Jewelry: Pearls borrowed from Mom. Dad bought them for her when they got married in October of 1982. | Jacob's attire: Jos. A. Bank | Wedding bands: Diamonds Direct. Marike’s band + engagement ring: C.Gonshor | Flowers: Trader Joe’s, Fall theme with sunflowers, roses, daisies, cosmos, hydrangeas, chrysanthemums, and asters. | Hair: Morgan West at Pure Salon in Garner N.C. | Makeup: Ashlynn, owner of Primpin’ Ain’t Easy, Raleigh NC | Caterer: Fo Sho Bar B Que & Catering, Raleigh, N.C. | Cakes/dessert: Homemade | Cake topper: alphabetcanvas on Etsy | Officiant - Ms. Verna Daye, Ordained Minister at St. James Church of Christ in Fremont N.C. | Altar: Amazon, decorated by Lisa Cronk Design | Socks: Banana Republic | Shawl: MODAcrochet on Etsy

Bernadette Marciniak
First look photos: Should you do them?
first look colleen mike

I get it. When brides used to ask me if we should do a first look, I'd try to figure out any way to avoid it. I totally loved the traditional vision of big church doors opening and the groom seeing his bride for the first time at the end of the aisle. But aside from the fact that most of my shoots aren't actually church weddings, there's a few reasons a first look is a good idea. (Disclaimer: I'm not knocking the traditional way. I still love shooting those pictures, too.)


Less stress

Some couples get wedding day jitters with all the buzzing going on around. It's okay. It's a lot of people and a lot of things to keep track of, even if you're getting help. Seeing your significant other could take away some of that stress -- wouldn't it be nice to see the one person who makes everything okay before the day gets even more crazy?



Everything is fresh

Even if you hired one of the best hair and makeup artists in LA, all the scurrying and moving around will make it wear off a little. Doing a first look earlier in the day guarantees that everything (i.e. your dress, curls and airbrushed cheeks) is clean and still in tact for the pictures.




If your ceremony and reception are at the same place, chances are the former will go right into the latter. This leaves little to no time for portraits and formals, especially if there's going to be a lot of them. Even if there is a break between the two, you could risk missing your cocktail hour and not spending as much time as you'd like with your guests. 

Depending on where you want to do your formals, daylight could play a big part in this decision, too. Waiting until after the ceremony could mean pictures are taken after it gets dark. While photographers can always make it work, consider if that's what you want.

Check out that gorgeous golden hour!

Check out that gorgeous golden hour!


Not only for couples

Keep in mind that first looks aren't only limited to the couple. I've done many first looks with dads, moms, and friends seeing their friends for the first time after all the preparations. Some are staged and some aren't. All of them are great.

dad first look danielle
dad first look danielle2


One intimate moment

The day will go into hyperdrive and you'll be surrounded by friends and family the whole time. A first look could be the only true moment you have together, just the two of you, before the end of the night. And it is your day, after all.

danielle jeremy portrait

That being said, don't feel pressure to create some emotional moment if that's just not your jam. You don't have to cry, or exclaim, or do anything if you don't want. Just smile (or don't), be yourself, and let everything happen naturally.

At the end of the day, it's not about the pictures; it's about how you feel. And when you feel good, the pictures will be good, too.

first look smile