Looking back at the hundreds of weddings and elopements I have shot is a tad overwhelming. The beginning was weird. I really didn’t know what my intentions were. Or how communication, trust, and excitement are entirely part of the process to achieve the best result for my couples. After all this time, I am able to give you my best wedding photography tips!
Just as it is essential to know my gear, it is crucial to anticipate some necessary details. The best wedding photos are not posed. They are not planned. But they are possible when my couples feel they can do whatever they want (swearing, cursing, crying, hugging, yelling, running, singing, laying down, etc.) without judgment. Being able to do this allows for great moments, but not always great images.
Similarly, perfect conditions (light, background, epicness of the location, your dress, or flowers) won’t make a great image if there are no emotions.
So how exactly do we create the best wedding photos and what are my wedding photography tips?
Be vulnerable and embrace the unexpected.
Nhat and Trung did their engagement photos with me this year in San Francisco. Here is what she wrote:
“This fast-paced society tells us to keep moving, and sometimes we forget to stop and appreciate the little moments. Sebastien gave us the opportunity to slow down to enjoy each other not only during the session but even during the preparations and definitely for always after. […] He helped us remember the best parts of our love, and we left feeling inspired to love harder. He didn’t just give us photos, but memories where we can pinpoint exactly why we laughed so hard or carried so much love in our eyes. Simply put, he brought out the best of us to create pure magic.”
I don’t copy this here to praise my business or to say I am the best. I am not. But I love what I do so much, especially when I can inspire my couples to be themselves. To be unique. We sometimes tend to forget that WE CAN.
As a result, emotions are high. Moments are natural.
I take care of the rest.
Light makes or breaks photos.
The rest, as I call it, is just details. We have to start with the most obvious variable of all: lighting.
Since day 1, I hear the following on a wedding day or during an elopement if the weather is a clear blue sky: “YAAY, this is such perfect weather!!! And it must be great for photos! Right, Seb?”. I am an honest guy. I see one truth and one significant difficulty. Yes, a blue sky (if not crazy hot) is excellent weather for celebrating your big day. Yet, the lighting will be mediocre and sometimes CRAP for photos, and there is nothing we can do about it. Or almost nothing ;)
How do you make the most of the lighting conditions that are outside your control? Here are some tips for creating magic with tricky lighting:
- Make sure the sun is behind you (facing your guests) during your ceremony.
- I usually put the sun behind you as it is more flattering for your skin. The sun (or the main source of light) placement and intensity are a constant question when I click the shutter.
- If possible, and if you like the idea, have your ceremony entirely in the shade!
- Did you see if the location (or the venue) you chose has trees, hills, mountains, buildings, or any elements that cast shade and shadows? In addition to adding exciting details to the background, they also become creative tools for the photographer during the day (first look, couple portrait, family photos, etc.)
- Are you planning key moments inside? Hell yeah, I am all about it! Moody and intimate. But do you have a window light to highlight the actions that will take place there? Remember, great moments with bad lighting will never be as good as great moments with excellent lighting.
- When the weather gets harsh here in California, one of my preferred tools is to aim for the blue hour. [Read this article] If you don’t know what I am talking about. Most of my favorite moments or best wedding photos and elopement photos have taken place during this little window of time.
I left Paris and the grey weather that comes with it. It was boring. Now that I live in the sunniest place I’ve ever lived, I am always hoping for clouds to get the most flexibility for my couples. The grass is always greener, right?
You now understand why the Bay Area, the North Coast, Redwoods Forests, Yosemite, and the 395 are among my favorite places in California! They’ve got great light opportunities.
Visual pollution is not always what you think.
I don’t love the words “visual pollution”. They are pretty negative. What about saying something like “easy fixes for a way better photo”?
Wondering what I am talking about? You know all those bags scattered around the room when you are getting ready? Actually, why are you getting ready in such a small space anyway, especially when we can have so much space elsewhere? And your Uncle Bob who’s holding a freaking Ipad above his head during the ceremony to record the entire thing? The trash and empty cups on the side of the dance floor? The list goes on.
You get the picture. I am not favorable of overly manicured moments. As I shared before, the best moments are genuine, and you can’t control everything. There is too much happening. But that’s also why you hire professionals and why you have your best friends helping you. We are all here to tweak little things like this and make your photos reach the next level.
The question was how to achieve the best wedding photos.
It is a tad tricky, but a few small details will make a big difference. So when you start planning your day, make sure to ask yourself what you can do to keep everything as simple as possible. Don’t sweat the small stuff and when you can’t (or don’t want to) control things, delegate to someone who can help – including myself!
Here are some examples of my best wedding photos. Either I anticipated the details I talked about above the day of, or we planned for it. In any case, it is a team effort.