in the mix: wedding preparation photos

Ed and I have been married for nearly 16 years, and wedding photography was completely different back in those dark ages days. I have no professional photos of me getting into my dress on my wedding day. Not one. My mom took one with her point and shoot, and she has it in her album back in our Mississippi hometown.

I wish I had some photos from that special moment when I went from young girl to bride. I know from experience how important these photos are. It’s also the part of the day that the bride and groom are separated, and they always enjoy going back and getting to see what the other was doing for that part of the day. For those reasons,¬†Ed and I make sure to get preparation photos at every wedding that we shoot.

Unfortunately, this is not always an easy job. Brides are thinking about how beautiful they will look when their hair and makeup is done, and they step into that dress. They’re not considering whether or not the room has good lighting, or if there are personal items strewn all over in the background. It’s our job to think of these things, and I make sure that all my brides consider it far in advance.

A few weeks before Hayley’s and Patrick’s wedding, we got together (via email) to discuss their photography timeline. We knew she would not be getting ready at her wedding venue (the Brooks Museum), because we did not have access to it until just a couple hours before the wedding. The initial plan was to get ready in two separate hotel rooms, one for the girls, and one for the guys.

Hotels are usually a good option, as both bride and groom can be in the same building, and the rooms usually have big windows and good lighting. Usually. However, the bathrooms can be small, and there’s not a lot of space to work with. But I would take a hotel room over a tiny, windowless, church basement any day!

When her hotel of choice booked up before she could reserve the rooms, Hayley went in search of a new location. She ultimately decided on the¬†Mollie Fontaine Lounge in midtown Memphis, because that was one of her and Patrick’s favorite places to go, and they allowed her to rent out the entire house for the morning and afternoon. I just wish I’d thought of it! A lounge on your wedding day? Yes, please! Because we put so much thought into the location and the timeline, the preparation photos immediately became some of my favorites ever!

Not only did they have the entire house (and plenty of space) for everyone to use, but the venue had so many unique architectural and artistic details!

The girls took the entire top floor, while the guys had the bottom. They had plenty of space, and we had plenty of options for dress/shoes/details photos, and plenty of good, natural light.

The room the girls chose for hair and makeup had floor to ceiling windows (behind me in the photo below), which let in plenty of light for photos. It also had the coolest light fixtures!

(ISO 1000, 28mm 1.8 lens, f/2.0, 1/125 sec.)

We set up the makeup station near the windows, which let the lovely light fall on Hayley’s face.

(ISO 640, 50mm 1.2 lens, f/2.0, 1/200 sec.)

I love love LOVE this shot of Hayley’s bridesmaids watching her get into her dress! If there’s time, I like to have the bridesmaids get dressed before the bride, so that they can look pretty in the photos too!

(ISO 640, 50mm 1.2 lens, f/2.0, 1/125 sec.)

I took a few minutes to clear clutter that might appear in the photos. Then I positioned Hayley toward the windows so that she would be beautifully lit.

While the wedding day is always focused on the bride, we don’t leave out the guys! I grabbed this shot of them mixing a cocktail before getting dressed. Another benefit of renting a lounge for your wedding day – the liquor’s already there!

Meanwhile, Ed is getting shots of the groom getting dressed. The guys got dressed in the main living room downstairs, which had plenty of windows. He uses the same trick of facing the groom toward the windows so that the good light falls on his face.

(ISO 1600, 50mm 1.4 lens, f/2.8, 1/250 sec.)

Now, I’m not suggesting that every bride and groom run out and rent a lounge for your wedding day. It may not be for everyone. But as photographers, it is our job to make sure the bride and groom are informed so that they can make the best decision for them. This part of the day shouldn’t be neglected! The photos will mean so much to the bride and groom. Trust me, I know.

Here’s to planning in advance. And careful consideration for the most important day of your life. And photographing every minute of it. Cheers!

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