Katie & Zach are married, and I’m thrilled to be able to share photos from their absolutely beautiful September wedding day! For this blog post I’m going to do something a little different. Instead of just sharing some favorite photos, I’m going to also include some behind the scenes insight into how I work and just what exactly it is that we wedding photographers do!
Many thanks to Christina Knaus of Traveling Heart Productions for helping me photograph this wedding. We’ve teamed up as videographers many times before, but this was the first time we worked together as photographers. Some of the images below are Christina’s. Wait. They’re all photos by Christina. But some are by me Christina and some by other Christina. I’ll refer to her from here on out as Christina K.
Katie and Zach both got ready at a hotel, with Zach and his eight groomsmen in a regular hotel room, and Katie and her eight bridesmaids in a large conference room on the first floor.
When I first arrive, I like to start out with the dress and any other details to be photographed. Katie’s Hayley Paige dress was upstairs in her mother’s room. In looking around the conference room, I didn’t see anywhere that I could hang the dress, so instead of having the dress brought down, I went upstairs with Katie’s mother to find a place in the hotel room. Options here were limited too, but I always bring tape so that I can tape the hanger in place if necessary.
Katie and her bridesmaids had their hair and makeup done by the fabulous team at Simply Stunning, and were able to spread out in the large conference room.
As a photographer, what I most want to see in a getting ready environment is a lot of natural light. I suspect that what hair and makeup artists most want to see are plentiful outlets and spacious tables to put all their tools and supplies on. This room did have quite a few tables, but very few outlets! So the Simply Stunning team didn’t have a lot of options as far as where they could set up. From a photography standpoint, I didn’t love the photos of Katie getting her makeup done… it’s a high table, she just looks like a head, there’s a thermostat right behind her and there’s no natural light.
My solution: I asked Lea and Erica if we could do a few final touch ups with the overhead lights turned off and Katie turned toward the window. Ahhhhh!
Katie and her bridesmaids were all in matching oversized monogrammed black T shirts, and of course we wanted a photo of that! Knowing we had a lot of clutter in the conference room, and not the best lighting, I suggested we step outside for better light and a cleaner look.
(Side note. This photo worked out really well – all the bridesmaids were present and ready to go. However, the “bride and bridesmaids in matching outfits photo” can be very difficult to pull off, because there’s almost always someone who’s still getting their makeup done. Someone feeding a baby. Someone who ran to their room to get their shoes. Someone who had to go help their boyfriend who got locked out of their room. Someone who can’t find their lipstick…. you get the idea. If you really want this to happen, consider putting it in your timeline, or be willing to accept that one person might not be in it, or that it just might not happen.)
Meanwhile, Christina K. was upstairs with Zach and the groomsmen as they got ready. Christina K. directed them to get ready where there was the best light in the room – the rest is all them having a good time!
Katie and Zach wanted to do a First Look, so that they could maximize their social time and mingle during their cocktail hour. As their ceremony and reception were at The Chadwick in Wexford, we chose to go to North Park for the first look. Luckily, North Park is my home turf – I live just outside the park boundary and regularly run and hike there – so I had the perfect spot in mind. But just to be sure it would work, I checked it out a week before the wedding at the same time of day that we would be there. Light is so important – and it varies based on the time of day and time of year. I did make a mental note though… and then, because I was afraid I’d forget the mental note, I put a reminder on my calendar for the morning of the wedding to bring a step stool. More on that in a second…
I like the First Look to occur as naturally as possible, with a minimum of staging. I’ll really leave it up to the couple as far as just how they want it to play out. In this case, we took Zach a little bit down the trail. Katie approached and he turned around to see his lovely bride.
After a few quick portraits of Katie and Zach, we photographed the full bridal party. When the sun came out it was pretty toasty outside! We did a few variations of the full bridal party…
… and then we split up. To make the best use of time, Christina K. did the individual photos of bride with each bridesmaid while I photographed all the men together… then we switched. One of my favorite photos of the groom and groomsmen is the walking shot. I have always thought of this as the “Reservoir Dogs” photo, because of the sequence in the opening credits where all the criminals are walking toward the camera. But I’ve found that as the years go on that movie is becoming more and more obscure – most guys haven’t seen it! Regardless… these guys had a bit more of a West Side Story vibe :)
Once these group photos were complete, the bridal party could go wait in the shade or their air conditioned cars while we captured some more portraits of Katie and Zach in this perfect location. Which reminds me, the step stool! I was so glad I had it for this next photo, as well as several others. I’m vertically challenged, and having the step stool allowed me to get high enough to have that field of yellow flowers behind Katie and Zach’s heads, instead of going right through them. Look how happy they are!!!
This one may be my favorite…
Love this classic portrait of Zach by Christina K.!
No, this one is my favorite. Maybe.
Katie & Zach’s ceremony took place at The Chadwick’s covered patio. Yes, they just saw each other, but I think Zach still looks pretty pleased to see his bride coming down the aisle!
During the ceremony, I try to discreetly move around, capturing the whole scene as well as the key ceremony moments.
After the ceremony, there’s a lot going on. At my own wedding, my favorite photos happened right after my husband and I walked out of our ceremony and embraced for a quick moment before anyone else caught up to us. I try to watch for anything like that, or other post-ceremony hugs.
Then it’s family photo time! No, no one really enjoys the process of getting these, but they’re important!
While I went through the family photos, Christina K. went to cocktail hour to capture a mix of candids and smiling-for-the-camera photos. I think it’s nice for couples to see the people who came to celebrate with them!
After wrapping up family photos, I had just enough time to photograph the reception room and some of the details before guests entered.
On to the reception! Katie & Zach were all smiles for their first dance. During a first dance, I look for ways to frame the couple to add visual interest. I used the twinkle lights around the cake for the first photo, and in the second, I framed them with one of the gold Chiavari chairs.
Reception speeches are one of my favorite parts of the day – and these were great speeches!
This moment… well, if you were there, you know what it’s about… I’ll leave it at that.
Katie & Zach didn’t want to make a big fuss about their cake cutting, but they were ok with me photographing it :)
Party time! DJ Steve of Party Time Productions kept the dance floor full all night, so there were lots of great party photos! I believe that it’s my job not just to photograph the pretty details and portraits, but to capture the whole event. That includes dancing – it includes guests having a good time – even those not on the dance floor! I don’t usually share a ton of reception photos here on the blog, but I’m going to include some of them here. Because I think every photo matters!
What photographers, DJs AND guests love most: seeing the bride and groom on the dance floor having a good time! It’s a photo like this that makes a good ending photo in an album. One that says Happily Ever After! Congratulations, Katie & Zach!