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Be: Ready! Planning ideas before and during the wedding. Please don't feel obligated that you have to do or use any of these. Remember to make it your day.

If you have a wedding/couple website or page online for family and friends of your own... Please share with me. Especially if we are communicating over email or long distances. 

Phones, keys, and wallets Ohh my!  Some people think these things don't show but in some dress pants, you can almost see everything in their pockets. On the other hand, if you're going to hide these things creatively make sure they are actually hidden. 

Transition lenses and glasses: If your seeing eyeglasses turn dark in the sun then you will look like you have sunglasses on in the photos and your eyes will not show up in the photos. There is nothing I can do about it on my end, not even afterward in Photoshop. We will usually point it out and if you want to take them off for a few, let me know. Problem is, most say they don't look or feel themselves without glasses on, which I understand. The best plan to have in place is to bring or wear an extra pair of regular non-transition glasses that you would like to wear in photos and replace them during photo formals, planned events, or the entire event/session.

Hot or cold weather, the show must go on! Prepare in advance for both. What you or I may think is cold or hot may also be different than your Aunt Betty from the southern tip of Florida. 

Ladies: LESS shimmer is better! There is a new make-up and spray culprit: SHINE, GLIMMERS, AND GLITTERS! Remember this, if you wear shine and glitter beyond just your lips and eyelids, even as a foundation, you will in fact shine and glitter too much for cameras! Many times with all those fun body glitters, shiny makeup, and glitter hair sprays, we think we are doing something good or fun. When the truth is, they only dramatically reflect the lights that are highlighting your face. And in a really bad way. All you get in the end is large awkward shine spots. I recommend cutting down those glitters and makeup enhancements that make you shine. Lipsticks and eye shadows are fine, but everywhere else is another story. One source says this: "Makeup: 1. Keep it classic. The look that is fabulous now will look dated in a couple of years and you will wish that you had not been so trendy. Use a matte makeup (even if shine and glitter are in) and keep the shine down. In photos, the shine will make you look sweaty and dirty." Another source I read on Yahoo! said that glitter can actually make you look older because it sticks to any creases, even if you don't have wrinkles yet we all have smile creases.

Want that kiss - HOLD that kiss! Want that great ceremony kiss photo? Then don't be shy and hold that kiss a little longer. Not only will you get louder & longer applause, but your photographer has more of a chance to capture that kiss at that moment. Plus I don't think a kiss can ever be too long. Give it at least 5 seconds or kiss, stop, and kiss one more time.

Hanging the dress photo - Get permission, get a plan, and put up hooks! 
Time and time again this becomes a struggle between crashing and creative. I've been warned not to hang heavy dresses on curtain rods, sprinkler pipes, chandeliers, and other commonly thought places. There are some obvious problems with this and common sense wins again. Sure, like many photographers, I can try and sneak to quickly get the shot but that also comes with photo proof. While you may never see these venues and people again, I may. It really comes down to do I really want that one photo or do I want to continue to have a good relationship with the venue I'm working with and plan to work with again. So help me out here and ask your venue to put up hooks for dresses in wanted spots that would look great in photos. Especially if they put up photo examples on their social media of other photographers doing it, point it out, and ask. We don't want to be bursting pipes, breaking curtain rods, and shattering chandeliers on your wedding day!

While upfront during Ceremony, closer together is better:
While standing up at the ceremony, whether a party of two or a party of twenty, the closer you stand together, the better it looks in photos. Keep a small distance from the bride/groom but as a group, closer looks better in photos. This also goes out to the couple, get close, this helps tremendously in photos. Otherwise, there is all this blank space that looks awkward. You're getting married, so get close and delete that empty space!

What's the rush? Anyone over the age of 7 should not run down the aisle unless you're really late or there is an extreme time limit where your ceremony is. Take your time walking down the aisle. I see so many bridesmaids practically running and the song barely started. Action shots are great at the reception but weren't made for the ceremony walk. Frankly, it can look a bit silly too. Remember, show off those dresses, they cost a lot, and this is your time to shine. You also help build the intense wait for the bridal entrance! Most importantly, it allows your photographer and/or guests to get their cameras ready for the next person coming down. 

Taking dance lessons for your first dance? You'll want to know this: Practice in similar clothes you will be wearing on your wedding day. I hear the same thing over and over, "I didn't realize how much harder it was to do the steps with a big ball gown!" or the groom trying to work around the bottom of the dress is very challenging even if it's bustled up. Or a groom's jacket is a tighter fit than he realized for pivots and turns.

Being asked/told, "Watch out for my necklace, bra straps, and other objects while I wear them. I want you to bring certain concerns to my attention so they can be avoided but please don't think that is a cure-all for the problem. You will still need to help by also paying attention to the small details. In today's ever-changing fashion world one person's dislike can be another's want. So I will need you to tell me if something you chose to wear is not functioning as you intended.

"You can just Photoshop that, right?" Please respect this term and do not toss it around without meaning. Given an endless amount of time and resources, almost anything can eventually be Photoshopped. I, for one, do not want to spend my entire life photoshopping everything out. Just because I could or may, doesn't mean I should spend countless hours on something we could fix in person. If I personally offer it up during the photo-taking time, it's usually something I feel is visually easier to fix after or no other option in person (given the extent of my own talent and skills in Photoshop). Otherwise, don't assume anything. Some things can be done quickly while others can be extremely time-consuming and not included in the cost of your package. Every click of the computer mouse takes a second and it all adds up. So try not to have Photoshop be your first solution. If you have any questions about what may or may not be included, please ask.

2 loved ones giving away bride: Make sure there is enough room down the aisle inside a church or building to walk side-by-side. If not, I recommend spacing out or handing off the bride halfway.

What are you walking on down the aisle and intros? Is the surface you're walking on going to make you look down the entire time for fear of falling? Remember, I'm trying to take a photo of your head up, looking up or at each other and hopefully smiling, and if you have steps and rocks to step around or your dress is getting caught on cement, you will be looking down the entire time and that will be your end result in photos.

Easiest, fastest, best way to fluff the dress: Grab the entire train and do a big fluff like a bed sheet and let it fall naturally. It goes down perfectly almost every time. (With the exception of a solid heavily beaded dress, then it doesn't work, I have no easy tips for those)! If you don't get it right the first time it is better to have photos with a not-so-fluffed dress than photos of someone continually trying to get it perfect.

Got a really long veil? Let that baby fly! I see the most beautiful veils and sometimes they are held down or onto so much during formal romantics that I wonder what is the point? Pin that baby in solid and let it fly. It makes the best photos and it's just plain cool. I can see sometimes holding it during a very strong wind but if I'm getting the wind fluffing it up, it's an amazing shot. So let go, literally! The only time I would recommend taming it is if it was continually blocking your face during Ceremony.

Aisle runners are not always flattering: If you want your march down the aisle to really look like a march, then go for the regular cheap runner. Otherwise, do some research. Runners can stick, slip, bunch up, look and feel terrible. I've also seen brides trip on the rocks or drag the rocks in their dresses, which were supposed to be holding them down from blowing away. I suggest doing some test walks in the same type of shoes in the same setting, especially if it's going to be on grass. This website gives some great information when it comes to runners: www.originalrunners.com

Bride's Hair: Consider no tendrils on sides of the face: Yeah, you know tendrils, the curls going down each side of the face from the temple area. I've done weddings where it blocked the bride's face for all the photos from the side. Which ended up being a lot. If you think about all the times your profile will be, such as ceremony and formal dances, all missed emotion from those angles. I do what I can but please consider pulling back or all the way down. If not, just know that may happen. 

Someone in or involved in the wedding should know how to do these things when needed: 

-How to put on a boutonnière.
-How to put on a tie and/or bow tie.
-How to fold a handkerchief.
-How to lace up a wedding dress.
-How to bustle the wedding dress. 

When I say know how I mean physically able to do so. Some of these things my assistant and I can do but then who will be taking the photos or be in the photos? I suggest the people you want in the photos be the ones doing it.

As strange as this sounds: be happy and show your love! In the hustle and literal bustle of the wedding, stress can build. Excitement and stress at weddings can be good, even, but still, show in photos as stress on your face. Take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the moment. Be the couple that you fell in love with and let that show in your photos. If all else fails smile and/or kiss, that always works.

Should I always look at the camera During formals, requested group photos, and some throughout the day you should look at the camera but not the entire wedding. Sometimes, pretend the photographer and videographer are not there. I don't mean awkwardly avoiding looking at the camera just giving you permission to be yourself outside of the staged photos you want.

Who do I look at if there are two photographers or family/friends taking photos? For group or formal photos always look at Holly (or the main photographer) for the first couple of photos unless asked otherwise. I'd like to have everyone looking at me at the same time. I don't mind after I am done if family and friends also take photos, just don't want a time-consuming competition using up your wedding time.

When children and pets are in formal photos, try to look at me more than them... then I have a better chance of getting you all looking at me at the same time. This is especially true for the ones that are tired and don't want to be in any more photos. I will try to get their attention or have a family member or friend jump behind me to get their attention so always look at me and be ready and smiling. This way we are more likely to get that shot.

Performing dips, spins, back flips, flash mobs, and other activities: Try to position yourself towards the camera when possible. It is also best if you can let your camera person know when you will be performing dips, spins, or back flips.

Like herding cats. Wedding Party and Family - please don't wander off. What is worse than herding cats or kittens? Sometimes trying to gather people for a large group photo at a wedding. It's true! What helps? Provide a list and/or tell those you want in the photos ahead of time to be there and be ready, with a set time. Also, find a friend or family member attending the wedding who knows everyone and is outspoken to help gather for both sides. Or a helpful wedding planner to help out. This goes for the wedding party and/or direct family members that are to be in the formal photos. To some degree, it is the responsibility of the photographer but they will not personally know everyone by name or appearance.

If you have something really unique or special, let me know:  this could include special necklaces, shoes, charms, or passed-on items such as veils. Anything I may not know about. This also goes for special events planned that are beyond your average wedding events, such as a special birthday cake for a guest or an anniversary gift to the grandparents, those sorts of things can help your photographer in so many ways.

Use the surroundings and/or weather as a choice, not a limit: So it's pouring rain, a blizzard hits, or it's too sunny! So why not use it as an advantage? Grab an umbrella, boots, or shades, honey, 'cause we are making it work! Puddles make great reflections, snowfall tells a story and the sun creates beautiful silhouettes! Don't be heartbroken, overcome it. Those open-minded thoughts are what make some of the best photos possible. You'll be glad you did.

Feel comfortable with your photographer:  Be ready to allow your photographer to do their job. If you have any doubts or questions, be sure to settle them before your day. Be careful taking advice from loved ones who think they may know better than the professional you hired by making changes last minute. Every event, crowd, and location is different and what may have worked in their experience, may not work as well for someone else. Most importantly, know that when this kind of thing happens, you won't get those photos you had planned in that shorter amount of time and may wish you had taken them later.  Our goal is the same as yours and we want you to enjoy yourself on your wedding day while getting great photos in the process. Ultimately, if you decide on a last-minute change, I will go with what you want but do realize that it may not be as smooth as you imagined. Go with experience over wants in those situations. I recommend an engagement session so you have a chance to see how great you look in photos and we can build trust between us. 

Cutting the cake: You'd think cutting the cake would be easy, it's cake, but it is always asked how to do it. If you want to keep the top of the cake, only cut the bottom so the caterers can wrap the top up for you later. If you don't want to keep the top then cut wherever you wish. It's just like at home, only this cake is for your wedding. All you do is take the knife, cut a nice-sized piece, and either serve with your hands or the plate/utensils supplied. Then, it's up to you on the smashing or not. Just remember, it always looks bad when staff or a coordinator is in photos doing it for you. I've even seen as bad as them cutting the entire thing with the bride and groom, it was not the intimate setting like it should be. Anyway, it's cake and it won't bite, you bite it! If you want to make sure everyone gets a view feed each other twice and double the chances. 

Cake background: Whether it is a fabric that contrasts the cake or some other source of art, decoration, solid color, or folds out of some sort, it really does make a difference.  Sometimes you don't have a choice in the cake placement because the venue has safety reasons but it doesn't hurt to see what your options are. Something to think about when planning for a venue.

Head table centerpieces and flowers: If you plan to have tall flowers, centerpieces or your bouquets lined up at the reception tables where you are sitting, particularly the bride and groom seating, make sure your guest and photographer/videographer can see you fully. If not, move them over to the side, especially if you are seated higher than the guests. Otherwise, you could have odd things coming out your nose and we miss the great expressions during your toast!

Colorful teeth and lips all night: Do you have super bright or dark colorful icing on your cake or groom's cake? If you do, make sure you cut the cake and eat the icing after all the main formal events. Otherwise, you may end up with blue lips and teeth for the rest of the evening photos. While you may not care about this for the free-style dancing photos or bouquet toss, you may care for the parent dances or important formalities.

Garter: I usually see the garter on the left leg of the bride but choose what feels most comfortable for you!

Lint rollers - a must-have on hand: This is especially for gentlemen who have a dark-colored suit or tux. You'd be surprised at what shows up on camera. Most important for formals and not a bad idea for him to check before the ceremony either (esp with all hugs he gets from ladies with all the glitter and make-up rubbing off on his shoulders!)

Corset/laced wedding dress: Give an additional 30 minutes for a Corset/laced wedding dress and additional 15 minutes per bridesmaid dress.

Sun & Shade:  When possible standard formals should be done in the shade. You also need to think about other events. One way to find out how the sun may sit is to go to your venue ahead of time (ideally around the same time of year) and see where the sun hits, what tree shade is available, and also check inside to see if it shines in the windows too bright.  You may end up changing seating for you and your guests for the ceremony and/or reception. Most venues do not offer shade and this can make for some tough decisions on our part. If the direct sun is all we have, we have to go with it, and be prepared to be in the sun.

Vintage buildings and churches are really, well, vintage: Some buildings are crooked! Some chapels, mantels, fireplaces, steps, and churches just aren't exactly as straight as they used to be. As your photographer, I make sure during photographing or processing that the majority of your photos will be straight (unless I purposely tilt for creativity). But some things are just the building/structure.

All heels on decks & grass: When wearing heels on decks or grass you may have to tiptoe to get around so you don't get stuck, dirty scraped-up heels, or all three. Some don't mind, and some do, so just a heads up. Depending on the dress your footwear can be hidden so boots or sneakers may be an option.

Candles may be considered cool but they are also hot: Three bad experiences. 1. Candles lining around a stone floor area for the ceremony, caught a bridesmaid's flowing dress on fire at the bottom on the walk down the ceremony. 2. Candles on very narrow window sills in a small chapel with narrow side aisles, caught a woman's hair on fire. 3. Candles at reception as table decor with too many other decor items, the table number made of thick paper caught on fire. The same type of thing happened before where the flowers kept catching on fire. Throughout the entire reception night, I watched the groom running over to different tables putting the flowers out all night. Not exactly what you pictured your night being like. Candles can be very beautiful in the right safe setting. I find that flameless candles are the way to go and they show more consistency in photos.

Planner and/or coordinator needed discussion: Some people want their planner in photos because it may be a friend or family member please let me know. If you don't want your planner in photos make sure you let them know.

Onlookers and bathing beauties: Keep in mind that if you have your wedding at a public place, park, golf course, or beach, you will have public people in some photo backgrounds.

Seeing spots? No, not from the camera flash - from the DJ lights! Sometimes the DJ lights cause odd color spots on the reception dance area photos. I don't mind it, sometimes it can actually add to creativity. But I've also seen them block out complete faces. The latest lights DJs are using are the tiny circle spotted lights (mostly green or red), this WILL be on your face/body and does show up often. I suggest turning them off for formalities.  The majority of these cannot be photoshopped out.

Check local events: If there is a parade on your wedding day, guests may be late. It's good to know if there is an event going on beyond yours, proms, festivals, etc. Not that it can change much, but it is good to know during planning and setting times. It can also create booking problems with some vendors, such as limo availability during senior prom season. In the Saratoga area, track season can also cause delays. Also, if you are planning way in advance, keep checking periodically throughout the year as things may be added or changed, along with rain dates. Don't let it stress you out because not everything can be perfectly planned out either, just be open to some adjustments.

You only wear it once: If I could convince every bride in the world to let go of the stress of her dress getting dirty on her wedding day, I think we all would be in a happier place. There are so many more positives than negatives in letting go. It makes better photos, there are no forehead worry wrinkles involved and I think your partner would even be impressed and relaxed more too. Next time you see a magazine photo of one that you really like, look at what they are doing. Are they sitting on mossy rocks, standing on a sandy beach, walking in a field of tall growth, standing on or by a wet stream, kicking leaves that have fallen, or leaning against a dirty wall or tree? Yeah probably. Would you do that? Consider it. Unless it's grease and major mud, it won't hurt you or the dress as you might think, if anything it adds character and creates unique memories. Besides, isn't that what you're paying the dry cleaning for? The only exception to this is if you are doing formals before the ceremony, then I could see making a fuss and avoiding some things. Otherwise, let go and get the results you want. You only wear it once so be open to getting those dreamy fun photos and bring a pair of boots just in case. In the meantime, guess I'll just have to save it for a "dirty my dress" photo session.

Chewing gum!  The sad truth is no one does a good job of hiding it in photos.

Do not put your flowers in the freezer: This may sound like a good idea but it actually can be disastrous.

Family drama!  We all have certain family or friends that should not for different reasons be seated next to certain people. Some have requested certain people not be in the same general location for even photos. Plan accordingly and no matter how awkward it may seem let your photographer know if you need to.  It is less awkward in advance believe me.        

Stop trying to preserve the wedding on the wedding day:  When your day comes you will feel the need to protect all those special items you gathered. This is understandable but please don't be so protective that they are not usable in photos. After all, you protected them for this day not any other.

More tips & tricks: email me with suggestions at holly@ootophoto.com

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