The five secrets of memorable wedding photography

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So you’ve been googling ‘wedding photography’ and ooh-ing and aah-ing over some of the breathtaking images you’ve come across. But how did that magic happen? What was going on behind the camera and how can that all be recreated for your own wedding?

Mike Zhao, director at Lightheart Films and Photography in Sydney has been creating wonderful moments behind the camera for 15 years since he first became a photographer. Lightheart first launched eight years ago and now includes a team of talented photographers and videographers.

“We love shooting real life events and recording celebrations, festivals and weddings. We like to be involved in those special moments,” Michael says. “We love organising a couple and making sure things happen for them at the right time, so we can make their dreams come true on their wedding day.”

Here, Mike reveals the secrets to creating wonderful wedding photography you’ll cherish in years to come.


A well-thought detailed plan for the day

“We have to get a good structure in place, and a good consultant can help you manage your time at each point of the day, such as how to get from A to B to C, as well as create good back-up plans,” advises Mike.  

“You may want something romantic and spontaneous for your photos, but it all needs to be based on a good plan. Some people think ‘Don’t plan it, it’ll happen’ but I’m sorry, this isn’t a movie.”

“Trust the photographer and seek direction from him or her. There are often too many opinions from the bridesmaids, your sister or your mum who all mean the best, but don’t necessarily have the big picture of the day like we do,” says Mike.


Beautiful lighting

Your photographer will work out the best angles to shoot you both on the day of your wedding but generally, the best light usually hits in the early morning at sunrise or in the late afternoon, suggests Mike. Sunset is also lovely too.

In spring or autumn, the hours between three and six o’clock in the afternoon are perfect for great lighting. But in winter, because it gets dark earlier, if you want outdoor shots, the photography should be wrapped up by around 4pm, he says.

“It won’t get dark until 7.30 or 8pm in summer. If you can find a place that has a nice outdoor area and you can sneak away for a five or 10 minute photo shoot, then do it. But if you can’t, don’t worry, your photographer will still get it done.”

If you’ve got a summer wedding, it’s a good idea to have shots taken somewhere near shade, like trees, bushes or even buildings, advises Mike.

“This gives you more options and the photographer can decide either to go in or out of the shade to take different photos. When you work in the sun, it can be very strong and you’ll want to squint your eyes,” he says, adding it’s always a good idea to put on sunscreen if you’ll be out in the sun during your shoot too. A red, blotchy face isn’t the best look in photos.


Realistic expectations – you’re not in a Hollywood movie

It’s important to do your research and look for the kinds of images you’d like from your wedding photographer, so that he or she can let you know if they’re possible for your own wedding. However, you need to be realistic, too. It’s not likely that you’ll be able to get a beautiful mountainside shot if your wedding is taking place in the city, for example.

“As long as you pick a great photographer, you should put full trust in them. Sometimes, the bride expects something that isn’t realistic on the wedding day,” says Mike. “What she’s seen on TV or in a movie is very different to what happens in real life, so we have to educate her  about that.”

Have an open discussion with your photographer about your location, send through images of the venue and have a chat about the potential shots that could take place on the day.


A supermodel-worthy pose

If you’re camera-shy, an engagement photo session is an ideal opportunity to strike a few different poses and get to know your photographer.

“We usually take one or two hours and go to a beautiful location similar to the wedding venue, so couples can try to pose in their normal clothes and they’re more comfortable with the camera and photographer,” explains Mike.

“You could be short, tall, big or slim, it doesn’t matter. We’ll educate you on how to pose individually and together. The most important thing is to just be natural and don’t be stressed. Don’t look at the camera all the time and we’ll do the job. Enjoy your wedding day.”


A genuine connection with your loved one

It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of logistics on your wedding day, but the best photos are the ones that capture the romance between you and your loved one, says Mike.

Also, if you’re doing a first dance, just relax and enjoy the moment.

“Just talk to each other and relax. The groom doesn’t need to try dipping or spinning the bride, especially if he’s in pain – any pose that hurts you is not good,” says Mike. “Trust me. If it hurts, don’t do it. The camera will be able to see it on your face.”

Instead, focus on each other and remember what the day is all about.

“Look at each other. Don’t look at other people. Sometimes couples worry about how they’re standing and think, ‘Do I look awkward?’, ‘Do I look OK?’ or ‘Is this pose stupid?’ Don’t worry about it, just look at your partner and enjoy each other.”

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