The Wedding Photographer’s Wish List

Alaska photographers share their wedding photo secrets

by Jamey Bradbury

The secret to getting great wedding photos is to hire the right photographer to do the job. But there’s more than one secret to wedding photography. We dished with some of Alaska’s premiere photographers to get inside information on what they wish brides and grooms knew when it comes to getting the best shot on the big day.

Go with a pro

It’s not surprising that the number one piece of advice from professional photographers is to hire a professional, but there’s good reasoning behind it. “A professional has equipment that’s weather-sealed and strategies for working in all types of weather,” says Heather Dunn of Ambience Photography.

More importantly, you can trust an experienced photographer to create the high-quality photos you’re hoping for. And a professional keeps working after the day itself is over, adds Peter Luchsinger of Pal Photography. “People don’t realize the time I put into getting them the best photos, but I’m a full-service studio, and I work hard to give couples the best options.”

Have a plan…

So many wedding-day photo sessions go off the rails when there’s not enough time allotted for picture-taking. If you want to go off location for bride-and-groom photos or you’re hoping to gather relatives immediately after the ceremony for family pics, schedule that into the day. “I recommend even adding a little cushion to your timeline,” says photographer Jamie Taylor. “It not only helps me with the timing of portraits throughout the day, it takes some of the stress away from the bride and groom.”

Don’t just keep the photographer looped in; make her part of the planning process. Meet ahead of time with your photographer, not only to make sure she’s familiar with the schedule, but to get her advice on the best locations for a gorgeous backdrop.

...And share the plan

A schedule is no good if you don’t share it with the right people, says Joe Connolly of Chugach Peaks Photography. “A lot of times, couples want to do the family photos right after the ceremony, and that’s great – but they don’t tell all their relatives.” So Uncle Joe and Aunt Sue wander off, and Cousin Jane goes to look for them; meanwhile, Uncle Joe comes back, but now Cousin Jane is missing.

The delay can really put your photographer behind the eight ball. “We still have to do our job well, but we’re undercut as far as how much time we can do it in,” says Erica Rose, owner of Erica Rose Photography.

Engage with your photographer

You’ve chosen a photographer whose work and personality you like, but the best way to get comfortable in front of the camera is to practice. That’s why Connolly suggests scheduling an engagement photo session ahead of the wedding day.

“You become familiar with the process and you get comfortable looking at each other,” he says. “That’s a hard thing for a lot of couples – just staring at each other for 10, 15, 20 seconds without feeling awkward.”

A little weather never stopped a good photographer

Be realistic in your expectations when it comes to Alaskan weather. “If you choose a venue on a sunny day and you love it for its view, don’t forget that it may be raining and foggy, with absolutely no view, on your wedding day,” says Connolly.

But don’t despair, adds Dunn: “Weather can actually be a great thing; it makes photos seem a little more magical.” Just as a little water can enhance the sheen of a stone, a little mist or cloud cover can emphasize colors in photos. Be sure to consider the temperature when thinking about outdoor photos too. In the cooler months, a fur, wrap or adorable peacoat might be a nice addition.

And a professional will keep the bride looking great in any element, Dunn says. “Protecting the dress and the hair are my top priorities."

Footwear follies

Alaskan newlyweds love to be photographed in gorgeous Alaska landscapes, shares Connolly, but they aren’t always prepared for what that entails. “When a bride shows up wearing high heels and she wants to hike to a waterfall or onto the tundra, it can be difficult and even dangerous.”

So bring alternative footwear – hiking boots or flip-flops. And keep in mind that your dress may get dirty, so be prepared.

Get made-up

Whether you prefer a clean-faced look or love to cake on the lipstick and blush, get your makeup professionally done, suggests Luchsinger. It will ensure a fresh look that’s camera-ready.

Use your engagement session as an opportunity to do a makeup test, he adds. “Some brides love heavy eye makeup, for example, and it looks great in person but on film it’s too much. You can get that figured out ahead of time.”

Candid camera

Natural shots are all the rage, says Connolly, but getting a great candid photo takes more effort than couples expect. “It’s rare that people spontaneously do amazing things in amazing locations. You have to instigate the process a little.”

Be prepared for your photographer to give you some direction. “My goal is to get couples to interact naturally,” says Dunn, “so I might give them cues like, ‘Tell her what you’re most excited about for today.’ ”

There is one spontaneous moment, though, that all photographers love to capture: The first look. “Some couples still hold onto the tradition of not seeing each other before the ceremony, and that can often be the only chance for some alone time together,” Taylor says. “That first look is always very special.”

It’s a romantic moment – one of the last moments before “bride and groom” become “husband and wife.” And that’s a moment a great photographer can help you remember for years to come.