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Straight Talk From a Wedding Photographer

Aug 24, 2021 | Save the Date Announcements, Wedding Invitations

How to Get the Most Out of Your Wedding Photographer

Today, we sat down with David Arnold, a talented photographer from the Greater Philadelphia area who shoots engagement and wedding photography that captures the relationship between the couple, and the key moments and details of their special day.

David owns Masters of Light Studio, a multi-genre boutique studio located in Greater Philadelphia, that specializes in weddings, professional portfolios, and portraits.

David, the world is opening up again, and couples that delayed their weddings are now making their plans. What advice do you have to guide couples in choosing a good wedding photographer?

DA: Couples always ask about price and availability. Before you pick up the phone or send the photographer an email, spend some time looking at their photography style by viewing photos online. See if those images align with your vision of wedding photos.

Ask the photographer if those photos shown on the site are his or hers. Some photographers display other photographers’ work which is representative of their style when they are getting started. If the site doesn’t show their work, ask to see recent wedding photography they shot.

Next, be sure to ask what their service includes and their deliverables. How many hours and events are covered? What do you receive? Prints and/or a digital transfer. A photographer can tell you a base fee but unless it reflects what you want, it’s meaningless. Be sure you are getting pricing on a photography package you want to purchase.

Your best photographers have an artistic eye, a way with getting the best from people at an ever-changing event, and strong tech knowledge of the camera and computer.

How long is a typical wedding shoot?

DA: This can vary, so check in with the photographer whose photos and deliverables align with your needs. My basic offer is 8 hours which is usually enough time to cover the ceremony and reception.  I also include an Engagement session.

Are most couples getting engagement photography? And how do you get the best out of what can be a “surprise” situation?

DA: More and more couples are going for engagement photos. And I encourage it for two reasons. First, it lets the couple get wonderful photos of themselves in a relaxed setting where they can control their surroundings without feeling like they’re missing the wedding or time spent with their guests. They can choose a site that’s meaningful to them or a public garden, decide on a “photo walk,” or pick another interesting site that provides appealing settings. Some couples may change wardrobes during the shoot, so they have variety. One popular photo walk in Philadelphia, that provides many amazing photographable moments, is to stroll through Love Park, to the Amore sign on the Parkway, next over to the Art Museum, and along Broad Street.

An engagement session lets the couple and me meet and get comfortable with each other. We’ll establish a rapport and come together as a team. Even a 1-hour shoot will allow us to get better shots at the wedding, skipping that awkward 30-minute phase where the couple and photographer get into a groove. Instead, we’ll deliver strong photos from the start on the wedding day.

Engagement session let me look at the angles, understanding how the couple’s individual heights work together. Clients let me know if there are certain shots they are looking for, ideas they may have. Some couples look at Pinterest for poses. We need to be sure that their heights allow us to replicate these, and that there’s not a 1.5 foot difference! I can come up with alternatives and experiment to give them a similar look and feel. Engagement photos are great for using on wedding stationery and wedding websites too.

What wedding and photography trends are you seeing?

DA: – Micro-weddings! I’m seeing smaller weddings, probably the effect of COVID. Less than 50 guests actually allows for excellent photography because you aren’t shooting around lots of people and there are fewer logistics. At smaller weddings, couples are more relaxed, have more time, and enjoy the event and photography much more.
– First Look photo sessions. These are planned sessions with just the couple where the bride and groom are dressed in their wedding finery ahead of the wedding day. The bride reveals the dress to groom in a private moment. I’m able to capture beautiful, personal bride-groom photos in a selected setting with no distractions. They can concentrate on one another. It’s a special moment just for the two of them.
– Photos capturing the groom’s view of the bride walking down aisle.
– Fewer veils.
– Less formality. Right now, it’s less black tie/tuxedo. More suits and/or no tie.
– More digital, less print. Fewer people want prints or only want a select a few that I order from my printer. Or they can choose to order prints themselves. I recommend Shutterfly which has true-color matching.
– Day after the wedding shoots. Once the fanfare has quieted, we can capture shots of the couple starting off…a new beginning. Many couples love looking back at these as they progress through family additions, job changes, moves to new homes, and life’s surprises.

Is engagement photography a trend or the norm?

DA: It’s no longer a trend. And its popularity keeps increasing.  Engagement photos really highlight the couple at the jumping off point of their relationship, right before their formal commitment. They’re full of hopes, dreams, and plans. It’s a wonderful time to celebrate the two of them. These can be very intimate. I understand that and spend time getting them to relax. Typically, I shoot 2 hours and deliver 1500 digital images that are edited for color and light. Couples then select and order prints.

What if it’s a surprise engagement?

DA: There are two ways to shoot engagements. If it’s a surprise engagement, I will already be at the site and blend in, such as in a hotel lobby or in a park. I will create a ruse, perhaps act like I’m shooting for the hotel, or vistas in the park. I’m already in place when the surprise proposal occurs.

For a planned engagement shoot, I meet the couple at an arranged location. We focus on them as a couple, include photos of the ring, and I get them to use movement to bring out emotion. My secret is to get them to pose, then relax and interact. I might have them pretend to dance, then the groom reaches out and pulls her back in. It’s more fun and natural, the movement. And getting the groom to make the bride laugh is always a winner.

Planned engagements allow for wardrobe changes, multiple backgrounds, and more prepping to meet the couple’s expectations.


Don’t sweat the cost of re-touching. It’s not needed when shooting 30 feet away. Only for close-ups.

So, what’s a recent wedding mishap?

DA: I was shooting a wedding and had another photographer with me to help cover it. We were informed on the ceremony and knew when the vows and “kiss” were to occur. Unexpectedly, the officiant forgot a section of the ceremony and skipped directly to the “kiss.” I and the other photographer quickly ran to position in the front and the back to get the photo. And we got the shot—and we were both in each other’s photos! Fortunately, there were a few without us.

Here’s the lesson: Be sure your photographer knows the timeline of the ceremony and reception. And hope everyone sticks to it.

How do you squeeze in all the family photos at the wedding?

DA: Good planning! It’s all about prep. Ahead of the day, I get a list of all the family photos that need to be taken. Ideally, the couple should assign someone to bring family members over because the photographer does not know who they are. This will keep the photography moving faster and get the shots you want. If a relative has a plus one, have them come over and watch so the family member doesn’t feel rushed. Another option is to take family photos before the wedding when everyone is fresh.
Also, it’s best if the wedding party isn’t boozing it up before the ceremony or photos. Once you mix in alcohol, everything takes longer, throwing off not only your photos but your reception timetable too.

What about including kids?

DA: Always try to include them. Let them enjoy the day, then call them over before they are tired and shoot. You may not get a perfect portrait with them straight-backed, looking at the camera. But you’ll get photos that make you smile, remembering the day.

What do you think about videos?

DA: Love them! They are a great companion to still photography. Another affordable option for couples is pairing their photography to a 3-minute music selection they choose. You get movement, a visual story, and a favorite song at a reasonable cost.  A lot of our couples enjoy having these on their laptops.

Thank you, David. These are great tips and advice for engagement and wedding photography.

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