We know that planning a DC area wedding can be overwhelming, exciting, and full of questions that you need your wedding professionals to help guide you through. Whether you are at the beginning stages, picking those first HUGE vendors that set the tone for your big day, or wrapping up final details before the home stretch we’re here to help. We are beginning series’ over the next few weeks of advice and tips from some of our favorite United with Love family members! Today we have rounded up amazing DC wedding photographers to share insight on planning, styles of photography, and what to expect over the course of the wedding day!
Does your Photographer have a preference on having a First Look versus the couple seeing each other at the altar?
Apparently so! Out of the answers we received on our recent survey, 71% of photographers said that they prefer the ease and time considerations a First Look gives to the wedding day. 29% of photographers said that they did not have a preference to either, while no one said they prefer a more traditional First Look at the altar. Ultimately all photographers are going to do what makes you, the couple, happiest! But if you are planning on wanting an abundance of portraits, bridal party photos, and family formals I would consider a First Look to ensure you are not trying to cram everything into a cocktail hour! Also, if you are getting married during winter months with an early sunset consider how much daylight will be left for portraits if you put off seeing each other earlier in the day!
What advice can you give to help couples to make a First Look go easily and be less stressful?
“Having a private first look is a great way to ease some of those wedding day jitters and for a couple to connect and spend a few moments together without the pressure of an audience. A wedding day is long, full of stress and will go by in a blur, so taking a few moments alone allows a couple to be in the moment and enjoy being together before the rest of the day begins. It’s important to keep it simple when choosing a good spot for the first look. Somewhere with good light and a simple background that is convenient within the timeline is the best. Save the fabulous location for portraits with the bridal party and more creative portraits of the two of you. ” Love Life Images
“Basically, trust your photographer! I always prefer to shoot a first look in private without the bridal party within sight. The moment is much more intimate without obvious onlookers. If there is a way that the bridal party, parents, etc. can watch from a distance or through a window, that’s great and I am all for it. Another first look to remember is the brides father seeing her in her dress the first time. When possible I wish all brides would allow time for this. We see some really amazing things happen at father/daughter first looks. ” Mike B Photography
“Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be. We always want to make it more of an experience for you than a photo-op but if we can make it both, win-win. In all of our years, we have had ZERO couples wish they hadn’t done a first look. We have had a lot who wished they had done one. The first look does not make seeing your fiancé walking down the aisle less special. You get 2 special moments instead of 1.” Connor Studios
What is your best tip or trick to staying within a wedding photography budget?
“I think working with your timeline and using the time as wisely as possible is the best way to stay within a photography budget. If you can’t afford to have your photographer stay until the very end, maybe do a cool “night time” shot instead. Or skip all the getting ready photos and just do a few at the beginning. You don’t need to document every hair and makeup moment and can use that time elsewhere!” Hannah Hudson Photography
“Ask yourself what how much coverage do you want from your photographer? Are engagement photos important to you? Do you need your photographer to stay until the very end? Normally I recommend that clients put more time on the front end rather the end of the day because guest start looking a little haggard after dancing for long periods of time. Photos can also get repetitive after the first 45 minutes of free dancing.” Lisa Blume Photography
“If high quality photography is essential to you, it’s best to begin your photography search immediately. This way, you can give yourselves a little more wiggle room when it comes to your photography budget. If you haven’t decided on the venue yet, maybe you can let go of some smaller areas of your wedding details, to make room for the photography team you would most like to work with, even if they are above your initial photography budget.” Birds of a Feather Photography
“One of the areas that couples can save a little on their photography budget is to avoid over-coverage. I feel that a 2nd photographer is most important from the last hour of bride and groom prep through the first hour off the reception. This is the crunch time where you have prep, possibly a first look, the ceremony, portraits, table details, cocktail hour, etc… It’s tough to cover alone at larger weddings. Once you are an hour into the reception, things begin to flow at a slower pace and a 2nd photographer is rarely needed. They become more like paparazzi and can be a distraction. I recommend to my clients that they plan on having a 2nd photographer for 3-4 hours in most cases.” Mike B Photography
What advice or tips do you have for planning a balanced photography timeline?
“Formal family portraits can be stressful on the day of your wedding for no reason other than the simple fact that everyone wants to enjoy the party and be with their friends and family, making it difficult to have their undivided attention. To manage this time wisely, make a very specific list of groups with everyone’s first and last name. The photographer can be more efficient when they have the names rather than just, “couple with parents.” Also, plan to lump all the family photos together during one time chunk of the day. Spreading them out can make it more difficult to gather people and get their cooperation. Remind guests that are needed for photos where they need to be and at what time. This can be done at the rehearsal dinner.” Love Life Images
“For couple’s portraits, our secret weapon is to split the photos up into 3 small sections throughout the day. Once following the first look, once again just after the ceremony, and a 3rd round of portraits at sunset. Each time we’ll only take 7 to 10 minutes of portraits, but it gives our couples a break and time to enjoy the day as it’s happening. This also adds variety to locations, lighting, and backgrounds. “ Birds of a Feather Photography
“Your portrait list does not need to be every single combination of 6 variables. Think of what you want hanging on your walls and that’s what you want. ‘Shot Lists’ are a no-no. I don’t need to be told that you want your first dance photographed or how to specifically photograph it. What I would like to know is if you are planning a special lift or dip in your 1st dance or if you are doing something different and special, or a surprise so I am prepared to document it. “ Connor Studios
DC Landmarks and Monuments: friends, foes, and tips to go with shooting there!
“We love to take advantage of the iconic scenery that DC has to offer and we know how to expertly navigate getting those photos. Most monuments do require a permit, and it’s easy enough to get one that it doesn’t make sense to risk it without one. Even though it might be crowded with tourists, they like to see wedding parties and there tends to be lots of cheering and congrats which can really boost the spirits of a wedding party. Traveling and parking at the monuments can be tricky, so the key here is hiring transportation and traveling together with your photographer and bridal party. If you are planning a wedding during the cherry blossoms, be prepared for big crowds and leave plenty of extra time for getting around, but it can really be worth it. “ Love Life Images
“If you want to take your 26 person bridal party to the Jefferson Memorial… we can do that! But we have to warn you that it’s going to take a long time, you must do a first look, and your bridal party needs to be patient with the process. The monuments are gorgeous and always worth the effort… but it does take quite a lot of effort. Don’t forget the permits! YES, you really do need them especially on your wedding day. Most professional photographers understand the legal consequences of shooting without a permit, and will not move forward without one in place. As long as you have a permit, and have a clear expectation of the time it will take to get these monument photos… it can happen very smoothly!” Birds of a Feather Photography
“Do not work with a photographer who agrees to photograph you at the monuments without a permit. If they are willing to let you get hassled on your wedding day, what other short-cuts are they taking? We don’t want to be fined or detained or have images taken from us on your wedding day. The permits are a hassle and aren’t the cheapest thing so if you don’t want to deal with it, talk with your photographer and find locations that don’t need them. “ Connor Studios
“If you are in wedding attire, you are sticking out. Period. You’re much more likely to be noticed by Park Rangers. For that reason, I always have couples get a permit to shoot at these locations. One negative about shooting at DC landmarks or monuments is that most of the time weddings are on Saturdays which are the busiest tourist day for these locations. Doing a day after shoot is a lot easier if your couple is dying to get these shots and allows for a more relaxed and easy environment.” Hannah Hudson Photography
What Photography details do most couples forget about? What items should I remember to make your job easier?
“Please remember to have a pretty hanger on hand for your wedding dress- the one it comes on is probably not very photogenic. We like to be introduced to everyone in the room when we first show up and start shooting. That way we know who all the important people are in the room! Please bring comfortable shoes to walk in for photos. Some of the best locations require a bit of walking. If there is rain in the forecast for your wedding, buy clear umbrellas in case we can pop outside for a few shots. The clear will let in light where the solid colors will make your faces darker.” Love Life Images
“A huge time saver is to have the couple have their invitations, rings, jewelry, flowers, shoes, dress, etc… ready and available when I arrive for prep photos. I also suggest that the groomsmen be dressed when I arrive and that the groom is wearing his shirt and pants. This way I am not spending valuable time waiting for the guys to stop watching the football game and get ready. If the groom is dressed as requested it’s quick and easy to shoot him putting on his tie, cuff links, jacket, shoes, etc. If the couple are going to exchange gifts, wait until I am there to photograph it. Another thing is to remember to include space for your photographer in your shuttle, car, or limo, if you will be traveling to different locations for photos before or after the ceremony. This is especially true in DC where it can be easy to get separated by traffic or parking issues. Stick together!” Mike B Photography
“As photographers we love to use available, natural light in the getting ready space. Our biggest hurdle is always a dark, small, and cluttered getting ready room for the Bride. Choose your getting ready space with photography in mind! There are many gorgeous hotels in the city with beautiful, light filled hotel rooms and suites. The best trick is to have hair and makeup done in any available room, NOT the prettiest. The hair and makeup clutter the beautiful space. Instead, save one room, possibly that evening’s bridal suite or a parent’s room as the space where the bridal details can be photographed, and where the Bride can get dressed without the clutter.” Birds of a Feather Photography
“For detail photos and styling accessories I recommend having pretty ring boxes ready and maybe even some loose fabric to style with.” Lisa Blume Photography
“Know how to tie those bowties! I can’t tell you how many times, especially grooms and groomsmen, have bowties that they don’t know how to tie. So they are getting ready and realize at the last minute that no one knows how to tie them and everyone runs late. Also, have someone who knows how to pin bouts. Lastly, have a point person who knows all the family member and who can wrangle family members for quick family photos!” Hannah Hudson Photography
Give us your best or worst wedding photography story!
“Thinking about all the stories we could tell was fun. Crazy things we’ve come across include hurricanes, epic snowstorms, irate priests, cicada infestations, too much alcohol, broken down transportation, overzealous church volunteers, passed out groomsmen, drunk wedding toasts, broken ankles, lots of family arguing and even hospitalization. Knowing how to handle these situations calmly and professionally navigating them to get photos we need takes practice. We once had a very tall cake that was about to fall over, so we convinced the caterer to move the cake cutting from the end of the night to right after the first dance. But not all of it is disastrous. There are some really wonderful and beautiful surprises that we never could have anticipated happen at weddings. There was a wedding at Congressional Country Club that the parents of the couple surprised them with fireworks over the golf course, which made really fabulous photos! Our job is much more than just taking pictures.” Love Life Images
“Well I wouldn’t call it my best story, most definitely it would be the worst. I photographed a destination wedding two years ago in Annapolis. The bride’s father had passed away two years prior to the wedding I believe. The brides mother walked her down the aisle to the altar in place of her father. The ceremony took place and it was gorgeous and very emotional with the brides father being mentioned several times during the ceremony. As soon as the ceremony ended we started portraits with the immediate family on the alter. The first photo was of the bride and her mother. I got the shot and offered a hand to the brides mother as she stepped down off the alter, she went limp and slowly fell to the floor. She suffered a massive heart attack and passed away within minutes. It was shocking and heartbreaking beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. Everyone was a wreck and as the mother was transported to the hospital with bride, groom, maid of honor and a couple of other close friends, I became the liaison between the family and the guests who were all from out of town, as well as the remaining vendors (catering, venue, DJ, etc..). The reception was held but it became more of a somber family meal and reunion. When the bride finally arrived from the hospital she helped to turn it into a celebration of her mothers life. I did not expect that I would be going home after the wedding that night and editing her mother’s wedding portrait for use as a photo on her prayer card and obituary. It was huge reminder to me about the power of photography and how important out job is. One of the best good stories occurred at a waterfront private estate wedding near Williamsburg, VA, the same year. The couple was surprised with a very large fireworks display during the reception. I had no idea it was happening and when I saw the size of the fireworks display, I had to capture it. I was able to scramble quickly (in about 30 seconds) set up a couple of lights, grab a different camera suits to capturing the moment, and squeezed behind the couple to capture them viewing their private fireworks display. The shot I captured is now one of my signature photos and one of my favorites to date. Another great moment occurred when a couple I was working with during an engagement session decided to jump into one of the reflecting pools near the Capital from opposite sides. They ran towards each other and met in the middle, he picked her up and they kissed in the middle of the reflection pool with the capital centered in the background. It was unexpected but it’s now on my business card. I have shot weddings in hurricanes with no electricity, only candlelight, and also in blizzards. The key is to be prepared for anything and be ready to react immediately. “ Mike B Photography
“Recently I had a bride who was getting married in Old Town Alexandria, so we headed to our favorite first look spot and got a few portraits around town. At some point the bride looked down at her feet and her Manolo Blahnik satin white heels were soaked in blood. Apparently they had been rubbing on her toe and help….. it wasn’t a pretty sight. I immediately found a local floral shop (the Enchanted Florist) and they were able to give us some hydrogen peroxide, paper towels, and band-aids which was so sweet of them! A couple of years ago I was photographing a rehearsal dinner on the top floor of the Hay Adams Hotel and while the sun was setting I noticed that the White House was lit up with wonderful rainbow colors! What a surprise!! Then we found out that the Supreme Court officially passed a law allowing same-sex couples nationwide to marry. The White House was illuminated in rainbow colors for the evening as a nod to the achievement of the gay rights movement! It was an incredible moment that I will never forget. Everyday I’m reminded how lucky I am to live in our nation’s capital.” Lisa Blume Photography
“One of the moments that has always stuck with me was a bride who was supposed to have a beautiful outdoor Fall wedding in the country. That day, it was down pouring and then hailing with lightning. There were also tornados in the area. You could have COMPLETELY forgiven her for having a small moment to freak out. Whenever anyone asked her that morning if she was ok, she just smiled and said she was getting married and her husband-to-be had just made it back from active duty in Iraq safe so what more could she ask for. I tell that story a lot to brides I meet. It’s about perspective and it can make or break your day. If your flowers aren’t the exact shade of lavender you wanted, you need to decide if you are going to let it ruin your day. (PS – I would suggest you don’t!) ” Connor Studios