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Wedding Photography 101 (Good Photos Come from Good Planning)

Planning your wedding photography is a major component of your big day. Contrary to what many people may think, it’s not just a show up and shoot type of deal.

Good photos come from good planning, I always say.

As such, I’ve written a (growing) list of Frequently Asked Questions on what all is involved. Check it out!


Seattle documentary wedding photography: Kristina and John


What is Documentary Wedding Photography?

This approach to photography focuses on making unscripted photos. It’s also called wedding photojournalism, which attempts to preserve the authenticity of a moment by techniques employed by real photojournalists on the field. This “fly on the wall” approach yields photos that can be poignant and surprising, and always meaningful.


How does this differ from regular wedding photography?

Wedding Photography requires professional photographers to know most, if not all, types of photography. From portraiture to landscapes to product to moments, we have to know – and be good at – it all.

We have to know how to make beautiful portraits of the bride and groom, their families, of all the wedding details and decor, the venue and settings, and what’s left are the crucial moments.

From Getting Ready to the walk down the aisle to the cutting of the cake, and every moment in between, documentary photographers are trained in anticipation and readiness to capture these moments in an artistic manner.

It’s not enough just to freeze a moment. Values like composition and timing are key to a good photograph of a moment.



Planning your Seattle wedding photography needs


How many hours do I need?

There’s a tenet of photojournalism documentary wedding photographers like: Come early and stay late. This is what we usually recommend for our clients.

This is where the gist of planning your wedding photography lies. Good wedding photography cannot be rushed. Documentary wedding photography, especially, requires a relaxed atmosphere so things can unfold organically without the pressure of time.

However, not all weddings need all-day coverage. Most weddings in the PNW require around eight hours of coverage. With this starting point in mind, you can start tweaking coverage, which depends on a few things:

  • How big is your wedding? The more people, the longer it will take because transitions take longer since hours are always consecutive (you cannot split them up).
  • How many venues will there be? Again this has to do with logistics and transitions.
  • How many events are happening? Is there just a ceremony and reception, or will there be a tea ceremony, or a tisch? This is usually a question for multicultural weddings.
  • Will you need photos of a send-off at the end of your reception?
  • How big are your groups? This includes your wedding party and families.


Here’s a rough breakdown of coverage for planning your wedding photography in the PNW:

1 hr Getting Ready
1 hr First Look and B&G Portraits
30 mins Group Formals
30 mins Ceremony
1 hr Cocktails
3 hrs Reception
1 hr Transition Time between events


What should my wedding photography budget be?

I’ve written a page of info on this under my Investments tab. Have a look. All part of planning your wedding photography!


Do we need a second photographer?


Do I need a second photographer?

Like coverage, this depends on logistics:

How many guests are there? The larger the number, the likelihood you’ll need a second is higher.

Are you both getting ready together or in separate locations?

Do the venues have restrictions on movement? Some churches have rules against too much walking around because it disrupts the service, so having two photographers at two vantage points without too much moving solves that problem.

Are there a lot of tight transitions? Having two photographers allows one to, say, stay until the end of mass while the other takes off to document the details of your reception before guests arrive.

Lastly, a consult is the best way to hammer these details out to see if you really need a second photographer. Schedule one today with me!

Seattle wedding albums and books


What deliverables should I expect?

Most Seattle wedding photographers these days offer

  • X hours of coverage
  • the high res JPG files (edited and ready to print, with licenses for personal use)
  • and some form of tangible product like a wedding album or prints.

Since your wedding photographs are about the only thing you have after all is said and done, and they are heirlooms for the future, you will want to make sure you have something tangible to keep because who knows how long digital formats stick around? It’s best to keep both types around in a safe somewhere.


Seattle wedding photographers JENN TAI


Do I need to know anything about the camera gear a wedding photographer uses?

Most professional wedding photographers bring upwards of $15,000 worth of gear to a wedding. This includes cameras, lenses, lights and everything we need to make sure everything is backed up for any eventuality. Professional photographers always have their gear insured, and we also carry liability insurance just in case.

If you are an enthusiast, we will happily nerd out on gear with you but if you don’t really know or care, this isn’t critical information.

For my studio, I use Sony and Nikon professional grade cameras, lenses and lights.


Is insurance is a thing?

Absolutely. Always ask if your photographer is properly insured for gear and liability. Some venues require it. Things happen, humans are fallible.

Good photos come from good planning, I always say.


Planning your wedding photography: Do we own the digitals?


About those high-res digital images: Do we own them?

This is an area which is often confusing. The short answer is no. What you own is a license.

The simplest way to think about your digital files is to consider the music you purchase, say, from Beyonce.

Every song costs around 1.99 cents from iTunes. You may play it for personal use, share it with friends when they come around for a party or dinner. However, there are restrictions from sharing it on social media or simply sending it over the Internet to someone else. This is because while you own the license to enjoy her music, Beyonce still owns the full rights to her work.

While we are not that strict with the files, since we are not Beyonce, we do still own the rights to your images, which is established copyright legislation. What is included in all the collections we offer is a license for personal use for every single image. This would include sharing them on social media with credit (a little less strict than Beyonce) but not profiting off them (for e.g. selling your photos to a stock image company).


Are shot lists a thing?


Should we share a shot list with our photographer?

While we recommend sharing a shot list for group formals to make sure the people you love are covered, your trust in our vision is key for the rest of your day.

We want your images to be uniquely yours, so inspiration boards or images are just that. We want to be inspired, instead of working off of someone else’s images.

However, we always appreciate a heads up on, say, a certain favorite aunt of whom you want a portrait, or a photo of an heirloom you want to include in your album. We take special care with these requests, making sure your needs are always met. Leave the rest to us!

Do you have a concern on planning your wedding photography that’s not answered here? Contact us!

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