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Making Your Wedding Day Photos Memorable

Story by Aniela Wills

  • Chugach Peaks Photography Chugach Peaks Photography
  • Shalem Photography Shalem Photography
  • Anthony Lee Photography Anthony Lee Photography
  • Don Pitcher Photography Don Pitcher Photography

Once upon a time, there was one kind of wedding. While there were a few variations, weddings were less about personal expression and more about tradition. The wedding album? It was filled with all those requisite posed wedding shots. Soon thereafter, the book was dutifully tucked away on a shelf or in a closet for posterity.

Kiss that stale story goodbye.

If you’re looking for something fresh, you’ll click with some of Alaska’s top wedding photographers. They know a wedding album should be a window into a very special day, filled with images that are unique and one-of-a-kind (just like the wedding couple!) – not chock-full of canned or cookie-cutter shots.

In your quest to find a photographer who can creatively capture your wedding day, look for one whose work really speaks to you. Here are thoughts from some of the pros.

Having fun and taking risks

For Homer-based wedding photographer Don Pitcher, the wedding day and the photos should be all about fun. “If you’re not having fun on your wedding day, there’s something wrong there. It really comes through in the photos,” says Pitcher. He remembers one of the most fun weddings he’s ever photographed. The wedding took place on Grass Island in Tutka Bay. The couple was perched on top of the island with the guests down below in boats. “In order to get up there, they had to put ropes down for the bride and groom to get up,” recalls Pitcher.

It’s those kinds of risks that make for great photographs, says Molly DeKruif of Blink Photographic in Wasilla. For example, why let a downpour dampen your day? “It’s a chance for these brides to rise above the weather,” says DeKruif with a laugh. She recalls one very rainy wedding day a couple of years ago. She saw a boat and asked the bride if she’d be willing to go out on the water in it. The couple paddled out, opened a black umbrella and kissed. DeKruif says the shot worked “only because they weren’t fazed by the rain. It’s about risk and what they’re willing to do. There was nothing happening inside as beautiful as what was happening outside.”

Location, location, location

Location is key, but don’t expect these photographers to give away their favorites. Chugach Peaks photographer Joe Connolly finds the great outdoors great inspiration for his wedding day photos. He literally drove the extra mile for a couple when he shot their engagement photos a year after their wedding in Girdwood. They won the Denali Road Lottery and asked Connolly to go with them to get some amazing shots. After an all night drive and an overnight in his car, the couple woke Connolly at six in the morning. They drove to Wonder Lake and started shooting. He says they had shots with sheep and could have had shots with bears and wolves too, but decided against that. “We also got some really nice shots with Denali in the background. I’m pretty sure I was one of the first to have a bride in Wonder Lake – at least someone dressed like a bride; she’d been married for a year.”

If a drive to Denali isn’t in your plans for your wedding day, the pictures can be just as special if you get creative. The secret to a great photo could be right before your eyes. Connolly photographed a couple with their VW van. Another time, he says he “hijacked a tricycle from a little girl. The groom was sitting on it and the bride was looking down at him with an outraged and disgusted look. I think that’s a pretty classic example of thinking outside the box.”

Finding inspiration – in camo and cake toppers

Props help couples access their playful side, says Pitcher. At a wedding last summer, the bride had parasols for herself and the rest of the wedding party. He’ll be photographing a wedding later this summer where the groomsmen are wearing camo and XtraTufs. Pitcher sees it as “a reflection of who they are – and I love it because it’s who they are.” He also uses props as inspiration. One couple decided to replicate their cake topper with the groom holding the bride with her legs up in the air. “So I have a wonderful photo of the two of them doing the cake topper pose. It was her idea but I did a lot of work with the photo,” recalls Pitcher.

Many photographers are also making their mark during the post-production process. Pitcher says he invests a lot of time learning the latest techniques and tricks as well as the latest software to “transform the images that maybe might not be an exciting image into something really unique and distinctive.”

Fun images take time. “I think the photographer has the most freedom to do their own thing when they have the couple alone away from the crowd,” says DeKruif. Her contract states: “They have to be with me for one hour alone.” You should also plan to work with your photographer in advance. DeKruif asks: “What do you want your wedding day to look like?” It’s that kind of collaboration that lets her “capture them as a couple.”

Suit your style

As you take time to get to know your photographer before the wedding day, look through their photos, not just their price list. Connolly jokes: “There’s no $100 creative surcharge. What you’re paying for should be creative. If it’s not creative, you shouldn’t pay for it.” Pitcher says people often lose focus by worrying about price when they should be concerned about the elementary questions: “Do you like their work? Is it memorable, different, fun and a reflection of your wedding and your taste? I think that’s what really matters,” says Pitcher. Getting good photos is critically important, he adds. “When the cake is gone and the guests are gone, the wedding photos are the one thing you have to remember that day.”

Know that photographers have different styles. One photographer may focus more on formal, traditional portraits. Another might take a photojournalistic approach, one that captures emotions and unexpected moments. Many will give you a special mix. Just be sure you know what matters most to you.

And keep your family in mind too, advises Connolly. Because while you may want the fun photos, “very few moms, dads and grandmothers are going to want all outside of the box photos…. So we try to blend a little of both and make sure everyone is happy.”

After all, happiness is what the day and the memories are all about.