Here at Richmond Weddings we are firm believers in the importance of professional wedding photography. Sarah Mitchell gives us some great advice to keep in mind while you are shopping for your photographer. While it may seem like such a big expense to squeeze into your budget, a great photographer is worth every penny!

By Sarah Mitchell with Sarah & Dave Photography

Hiring your photographer is one of the most important decisions you’ll make while planning your wedding — and rightly so! They’ll be with you all day, and your photographs are one of the few things you’ll walk away with and still be able to treasure 50+ years from now. It’s a big investment! Here are 10 helpful hints to make sure you’re able to make the most out of that investment!

sknow photos by sarah mitchell1.  Schedule an engagement session with your photographer.
Lots of family and friends and new photographers may offer engagement portraits for free or at a reduced rate, and free is hard to pass up. You are, however, doing yourself a disservice by not working with your wedding photographer prior to your wedding day. They will be with you for your entire wedding day, so you need to make sure you feel comfortable around each other. You’ll also get better, more natural and genuine wedding photos if you’ve given yourselves the chance to practice in front of your photographer’s camera before your big day. The engagement session also allows you to get used to how your photographer works. A skilled professional photographer will teach you how to pose naturally and see how you interact as a couple so they can produce wedding portraits that genuinely reflect the two of you.

  1. Schedule your photography coverage to start at least 2-3 hours before your ceremony. (Maybe even 4 hours if you’re opting for a first look.)
    If you’re short on time or budget when planning your timeline for the day, it’s better to make sure your photographer is there to capture you getting ready and your details than it is to have them there for your full reception. Schedule your reception events to take place toward the beginning so all that’s left for the end of the night is dancing the night away! This will give you, your family and friends the chance to let loose without having to pause to cut the cake. Schedule your photographer to stay for a little bit of the dancing to capture the fun, then you can enjoy the rest of the night without worrying about how your dance moves will look in photos!
  2. Choose a getting ready location that’s bright with plenty of window light.

You’ll want to be sure there’s space to hide all the STUFF that accumulates as you and your friends are getting ready. Major bonus points if the room has tasteful decor and neutral wall colors. Choose a venue that has a light and bright bridal suite, or better yet, splurge on a spacious, beautiful, hotel room. Your images will turn out so much better, and you’ll start your wedding day off feeling fancy and pampered! (Don’t be afraid to ask your photographer for recommendations!)

  1. Start to gather all of the following details the week before your wedding so you don’t forget anything!
  • engagement ring and both sets of wedding bands
  • any jewelry you’ll be wearing
  • your something old, new, borrowed, and blue
  • your invitation suite, envelopes, and save-the-date
  • the perfume you’ll wear
  • veil or hairpiece
  • flowers
  • dress
  • shoes
  • anything else you can think of that will tell the story of your wedding day

Then, on your wedding day, set aside all of your details together so they are ready for when your photographer arrives. This will save a good 10 minutes or more at the beginning of your day! If you have leftover decor (ribbon, fabric swatches, envelopes, etc.) that match your wedding colors or theme, include those too. It will help make your detail photos flow well with the rest of your wedding day images.

  1. Plan for a first look before your ceremony so your photographer can capture candids of your guests mingling and your reception details during cocktail hour.

This will also allow you the chance to enjoy a portion of your cocktail hour and give your photographer two separate chunks of time and two separate locations to photograph your couples portraits, which in turn means more photos for you! It’s a win-win-win!

  1. Plan your ceremony to be during the last two to three hours before sunset.

If your ceremony is taking place outdoors and you have a choice in the setup, make sure the two of you are facing a direction where the sun evenly lights you and your sweetheart, or better yet, choose a nice spot of shade for the two of you to stand in. It will result in better photos, and you won’t be sweating while saying your vows!

  1. “Unplug” your wedding.

It not only ensures that no one will jump in front of your photographer during your first kiss (forcing photographer to spend time figuring out how to dodge these cameras), it also gently makes your guests really be present for this major moment as you commit yourselves to one another. Your officiant or wedding planner can relay this to everyone before the ceremony begins.

  1. Plan a grand exit after your ceremony instead of the end of your reception.

This allows your photographer to get those fun grand exit photos while your hair and makeup still look fresh and all of your guests are still present and not yet intoxicated.

  1. Let your photographers eat while you and your guests are enjoying the meal.

Your photographers and other vendors are working hard! A 30 minute break to let them refresh and refocus will always result in better and more creative pictures for the rest of your night. Plus, your guests do not want a camera in their face when they’re just sitting down to eat!

  1. Hire the best wedding planner you can afford within your budget.

The biggest hindrance to getting the most out of your time with your photographer is when things start running behind. A planner will do their absolute best to keep things running on time. Make sure you and your planner schedule some cushion to your timeline. If nothing else, it’ll make your day less stressful for everyone!

Sarah Mitchell is the owner of Sarah & Dave Photography, and she is a wedding and engagement photographer based in Richmond, VA. To learn more about Sarah, please visit