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The snow falls, the wind whips about, and your fingers can’t work the shutter button any longer. If you are like us and live in a climate where the temperatures dip below freezing from November until March, stay tuned. Today we are talking all about tips for shooting a winter wedding.
Wedding Season typically lasts from April-November in the Midwest because not many brides and grooms choose to have their wedding celebration with Jack Frost – but sometimes couples will choose to host their soiree in the winter months. Whether it be just because they love the holidays or the snow or score some deep venue discounts, every year we will typically book a couple of winter weddings.
The most important piece of advice we can give with photographing winter weddings is communication with your couple. The couple may have a fairytale idea of beautiful photos in the falling snow, but as experienced photographers, we’ve found that little dresses in a foot of snow can sour moods very quickly. Although couples think it will be warm enough, the one thing we know is mother nature is unpredictable and wind chills are a very real and mean. So our biggest tip here is being sure to communicate with them on what to expect for a winter wedding.
We send our couples a winter wedding prep guide. This guide includes tips on how to prepare, what to pack, how to manage time, importance of a first look during days where the sun sets early, ideal ceremony start times etc…
We once photographed a wedding where the groom was 20 minutes late for the ceremony because the traffic from the hotel to the church was a nightmare with the icy wintery mix falling. When we help our couples build their winter wedding day timeline, we always build in extra time for things such as travel. Everything can take a little longer when the weather turns bad. We also use the timeline meeting to discuss what time the sun sets. Sometimes couples are shocked about how early in the day it starts to get dark. In some instances we’ve had wedding ceremonies begin after the sun has already set. Suggesting a first look or having photos done before hand will help alleviate the stress of not having enough light during portraits. Again, this is something we suggest early in the process when we send our winter wedding guide. Some couples however prefer to stick to tradition and chose not to have a first look. Going back to the first item on the list – communication is key. Letting the couple know they may not receive the light and airy glowing photos seen all over your blog and portfolio may not be what they receive. Of course, reassure them they will have nice photos but the lighting will be much different using flash than it would with natural light. Sometimes bringing up this point is reason enough to change their minds and chose a first look.
If you know Marc and I, we love living in Chicago but we really hate the cold. When we pack for wedding days we are sure to dress in layers, fleece lined tights and extra sweaters or wraps. We can always remove layers after all the portraits are done and we are at the reception. Packing hats, gloves, scarfs and hand warmers also help keep us functioning when the temperature plummets. I will often pack two pairs of shoes – one will be warm boots for photos and other being black flats for the ceremony and reception. Having cold wet feet is sure to dampen your creative energy.
So you’ve prepped and prepared and the day has come for the wedding. It’s cold and the bridesmaids are already complaining how they can’t feel their feet. Knowing your 5 key poses and working quickly is key to minimizing outdoor exposure and keep things running on time. Try to be enthusiastic about photos and keep any negative thoughts away from invading the day. You may be cold, but staying professional are very important in ensuring everyone is having a good time. It’s also important to read people. Are they getting cold? It’s okay to take a break from photos and let groups warm up in the limo, bus, or venue. This is another piece of the day for which we build in extra time. Often we will take out one group at a time, bridesmaids first, let the groomsmen stay warm, then let the bridesmaids warm up as we shoot the groomsmen. Then everyone warms up before we do the full bridal party. Allowing 10 minutes between each grouping to recompose and warm up is a great way to keep everyone in a happy mood.
Hiring an assistant for winter weddings can be a great help to you and the couple. Assistants can help hold coats, bags, extra shoes, etc. They can also be the runner to help bring in and out the next group for photos. Assisting by getting warm beverages is always a super nice way to warm up the couple.
Your couple may have chosen to get married in December because they LOVE the holidays. Although bright red and green may not match the aesthetic of your brand, offering to take photos with a Christmas Tree or holiday lights can very well be special to them. Honoring these requests is always a great way to enhance your client experience. The other thing you have no choice but to embrace is the weather. Photos in the falling snow can make for some pretty amazing shots. Being prepared in what you are wearing, your posing flow and, care for your equipment can help immensely in just getting lost in the creation of something beautiful
We already mentioned how early the sun sets on winter days, so imagine big heavy clouds making that light fade even faster than expected. Being comfortable with your lighting and off camera flash can often help give you a good back up if photos need to be moved inside. And tying this back to setting client expectations, they should have seen your night work and know what to expect for indoor photos. Although we LOVE using natural light, we have run across situations where the bride is just cold and refuses to go outside. Knowing and feeling comfortable in our ability to use off-camera flash allowed us not to stress and still capture some beautiful portraits.
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