Real Experiences Over Staged Photos: Planning to Create Candid Photos

Real Experiences Over Staged Photos: Planning to Create Candid Moments


It’s time for the next edition of my series Real Experiences Over Staged Photos! If you missed the first blog, it’s my advice on What to do after your ceremony. After walking back up the aisle, if you immediately jump right into family photos, you’re missing out on a big opportunity and one of my favorite moments of the day. 👀

What do I mean by planning candid moments?

Candid, documentary style wedding photography has become WAY more popular over the past few years. My Instagram feed used to show lots of posed photos of couples stiffly smiling at the camera. Now, I see more movement, genuine emotions, and behind-the-scenes style storytelling.

As a former photojournalist, I love this! I’m all about photographing what actually happens on a wedding day, while also creating real experiences for my couples.

Some people may see photography trending this direction, and think…

“Yay! Since want a casual, laid back wedding, we don’t need a timeline! We don’t need a coordinator, and we can hire anyone as my photographer! We only need like 2 hours of photography, because we don’t want to spend all day in front of a camera.”

I’m here to tell you….no. I see how you got there, but let me explain why that would be the most chaotic wedding of all time. 😂 If anything, taking awesome, truly candid photos actually takes MORE planning and time. Here’s why…

More time = more possibility for candid moments to happen naturally

Look through the galleries on a photographer’s website and take note of which photos speak to you. My guess is that you’ll love the candid, emotion filled, intimate, and playful photos. The best photos are taken during REAL moments of the day. You deserve more than a few quick pics, and to do this, you’ll need TIME.

For most couples, I create a 8-10 hour timeline that maximizes their photography time without making the whole day feel like one long photo shoot.

If you hire a photographer for only 2 hours, most of that time will be taken by your ceremony, family photos, and a tiny part of your reception. That doesn’t leave room for candid photos while you get ready, couples photos, creative photos with your wedding party, or little spontaneous moments in between.

Having dedicated “photo time” on your timeline isn’t a bad thing either. Don’t get freaked out by seeing something like this:

  • 5:40-6:00 Family Photos
  • 6:00-6:15 Wedding Party Photos
  • 6:15-6:45 Bride & Groom Photos

It’s all about how your photographer chooses to use that time. 30 minutes will go by slowly if you’re asked to look at the camera and smile over and over again. 30 minutes will go by quickly if you’re laughing, talking, dancing, and walking all over your venue.

Karina seeing her bouquet for the first time. These moments are only possible if hair & makeup ends on time/early and you have some downtime.

Experience with weddings is key

To create candid photos, you’ll need to choose an experienced wedding photographer. They’ll need to know their camera really well to capture things in the moment without slowing you down.

And the key word there is “wedding”. If you work with a family photographer, they simply won’t know all of the tiny ways to make your wedding flow smoothly behind-the-scenes. They won’t predict future problems or answer your questions before you have them.

It takes time and experience to learn these things. Of course, everyone starts somewhere, but if it’s within your budget to work with a skilled wedding photographer with years of experience, do it.

Let’s see some examples

This is the best part! I’ll show you some photos, and then tell you all of the planning and coordination that made them possible.

These photos show Susan putting on her dress, jewelry, and shoes.

Things we did to make these “candid” photos happen naturally:

  • Asked the bridesmaids and most family to go downstairs so there was more space in the room. This also made the bride’s experience more private.
  • Moved bags and picked up trash on one side of the room.
  • Asked Susan and her mom to stand in the specific spot, and told them which direction to face.
  • Made sure the 4 photographers and videographers in the room weren’t reflected in the mirror.
  • Gave some simple instructions and then let things happen naturally.
  • Allowed enough time on their timeline for Susan to get dressed and enjoy the moment without feeling rushed.
  • Talked about this moment on a pre-wedding phone call a week earlier. I asked Susan how she imagined this moment, and we customized the experience.

This is Zoe’s first look with her dad.

Things we did to make these “candid” photos happen naturally:

  • We planned this moment months earlier. We didn’t need to plan every single aspect of it, but we set time aside on their timeline.
  • We organized the bridesmaids bouquets on the table in the background.
  • Again, lots of trash and personal items from the bridesmaids were moved out of the room.
  • 4 photographers and videographers were positioned strategically to shoot in 2 directions while avoiding each other.

These are the moments right after Samantha & Francisco’s ceremony.

Things we did to make these “candid” photos happen naturally:

  • While creating their timeline, I allowed buffer time after their ceremony for S&F to be alone and enjoy the moment before starting family photos.
  • Francisco told me ahead of time that he wanted to take pictures of Samantha on a disposable camera at some point. I suggested that this would be a good time.
  • Family was not totally filled in on this plan and wanted to follow S&F around the corner, but I asked them to hold back so they could have a few minutes alone.
  • That high-five was totally candid, and I was ready to capture it! It’s one of my favorite photos from the day.

These photos were taken during Jessica & Christian’s dedicated “bride & groom photo time”, but they don’t feel forced.

Things we did to make these “candid” photos happen naturally:

  • We planned to take these photos during golden hour. This meant that the whole area had nice lighting, allowing them to move freely without worrying. (If we took photos in this field in the middle of the day, they would need to face a specific direction to avoid harsh, unflattering light.)
  • I had never been to this venue before, but that’s ok! I scouted locations throughout the day.
  • We kept them moving, instead of asking for specific poses. We gave them prompts, but let them put their own spin on it.
  • We took engagement photos months earlier. I’m sure this made J&C feel way more comfortable and less self-conscious.

Plan ahead and trust your photographer

I don’t want to ruin the magic of candid, documentary style photos. There’s still so much magic!✨ Hopefully you’ve found it interesting to peak behind the curtain.

Plan ahead by creating a great timeline, and discuss your priorities with your photographer and coordinator. Just don’t take it too far and start creating a shot list of the candid photos you want. That actually will ruin the magic.

Every photographer has a different style, but here’s a key aspect of mine: It’s a blend of modern and documentary + classic. I want you to love your photos in 30 years. And what’s more classic than candid and genuine? WOW, there’s a lot of adjectives in this blog. 😂✌️

Real Experiences Over Staged Photos: Planning to Create Candid Moments

Real Experiences Over Staged Photos: Planning to Create Candid Moments

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