The Secret to Getting Great Wedding Photos

10 Foolproof Steps to Looking Your Best in Every Shot

Some people go to the ends of the earth to find true love. Others find it right under their noses. That was the case for Austinites Chelsea Stanley and Will Swain, who were best friends for seven years before things turned romantic. "We met through our high school sweethearts," says Will, 28. "Those relationships broke up, but Chelsea and I stayed close.". The spark between the two was obvious—to everyone but Chelsea and Will. "Finally my friend Alexis said, 'You do realize you like Will, right?'". recalls Chelsea, 25. A few months later, she was still working up the nerve to tell him when Will confessed his own feelings for her. "Things clicked after that," she says. Fast-forward two years to Chelsea's 24th birthday, when Will surprised her with a rooftop breakfast and a proposal. "Talk about giving a girl a reason to get up in the morning," she says.

Claire Eliza Photography

This content originally appeared as "How to Look Amazing in Your Photos" in Brides magazine.

01 of 10

Pick a Photo Philosophy

Claire Eliza Photography

The first step to looking gorgeous in your photos? Selecting the right photographer. One question to ask yourself before you start looking:

What would your ideal wedding photo look like? There are three main types of wedding photography styles: photojournalistic (mostly candid, on-the-fly shots; photographer acts as an observer), traditional (mostly posed and semistaged pictures; photographer acts as director), and artistic (unconventional photos at creative angles; photographer acts as an artist). Once you decide on a vision, search for a photographer with the same style.

02 of 10

Find the Perfect Photographer

Chellise Michael Photography

The next decision point is budget. Couples spend an average of $2,186 on their wedding photos. If your dream pro is out of your price range, ask her to refer you to someone who's not. Another important consideration is the photographer's range—a great photographer is a portraitist, food stylist, and journalist. When interviewing candidates, have them show you entire wedding albums, not just outtakes.

Finally, make sure you and your photographer click! "You'll see me more than your groom," photographer Braedon Flynn says, so chemistry is important. If you can't meet in person, Skype.

03 of 10

Work on Body Language

Heather Waraksa Photography

"The best photos look natural, so don't overthink," says Elizabeth Messina, a Los Angeles-based photographer. Here, some tips on how to appear relaxed and beautiful during posed shots:

Practice good posture: arching your back, even when sitting down, will make you look more confident. Next, choose a designated spot for pictures. "I ask brides to walk to a certain spot, then turn toward me," says Melanie Nashan, a Montana-based photographer. "It helps them stop thinking about being photographed and relax."

And the most important hint? Smile! Nothing will make you look more beautiful than a genuine smile, but that's easier said than done if you're nervous about being photographed. If you have trouble smiling naturally, giggle, says Messina. "A fake laugh almost always brings out a real smile."

04 of 10

Strike the Right Pose

Kara Pearson Photography

Good body language means making your body parts speak the right way. Some part-by-part tips:

Chin: To avoid a double chin, hold your head up high and try this trick: "Touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth," says Messina. "I don't know why, but it works!"

Stomach: Turn your torso toward the photographer at a 45-degree angle—it's an instant waist-shrinker.

Arms: Going sleeveless? Keep your arms bent and pulled slightly away from your body; holding them flat against your sides adds heft.

Legs: Renaissance painters often posed subjects contrapposto (with most of their weight on one leg). "It gives you a more relaxed, curvaceous look," says Los Angeles-based photographer Jasmine Star.

Hands: Remember that 30 Rock episode when Jack had to clutch a mug when he was on TV because he didn't know what to do with his hands? Same concept: hold onto a bouquet, veil, your dress, a hip—or your husband's hand.

05 of 10

Pack a Touch-Up Kit

Thayer Allyson Gowdy

Tears, hugs, the hora—all that fun means your hair and makeup aren't going to stay put all night. Kimara Ahnert of New York's Kimara Ahnert Makeup Studio advises on what to put in your touch-up kit. (P.S. Ask your maid of honor to carry it and have your photographer tell you when you need a touch-up!)

Lipstick: with all that kissing, you're going to need to reapply frequently

Blotting Paper: a wedding requires serious shine control—especially once the dancing starts

Eye Shadow: reapply a few strokes post-ceremony to make your eyes pop

Q-tips: they're the perfect way to smooth out eye creases

Waterproof Mascara and Eyeliner: just in case they don't stay put through the tears

Blush: you'll need to adjust it as the lighting changes—a lighter touch for the day, a heavier one at night

A Toothbrush and Hairspray: spritz the toothbrush, then use it to target and tame flyaways

Hairpins: must-haves if your updo comes loose

06 of 10

Know Your Social Media Do's and Don'ts

Oh, Darling! Photography

Chances are someone will have tweeted a ceremony pic before your first kiss. But what if you don't want those red-eyed-bride shots out there? Some dos and don'ts:

Do: Ask amateur snappers to forgo the flash­; put a note in your program asking folks not to upload pics until you've posted professional ones. Create an account on a site like Flickr so guests have a (private) place to share shots. Reset your Facebook privacy settings so you must approve tagged photos before they're posted.

Don't: Tell anyone that your reason for a social-media freeze is because you "don't want ugly photos on the Web"—cite concern for guests' privacy or job security instead. Confiscate cell phones at the door. Report Facebook pictures you want to be taken down as "unauthorized." Forget to be polite if you ask guests to remove photos from sites like Twitter and Pinterest.

07 of 10

Plan for Stress-Free Photos

Caroline Tran

If you feel stressed, you'll look stressed. To avoid harried-looking photos, schedule photos before the vows when you look your best. Remember that looking radiant takes stamina, so work with your photographer to create a short shot list (no more than 40 minutes' worth). And for a couples' photo to cherish, pose with your new husband in private. "You won't feel as self-conscious," says Messina.

08 of 10

Anticipate Bridal Party Picture Problems

Style Art Life

Warn the photographer about family tension, so he doesn't, say, ask your mom and stepmom to pose together. Appoint someone (not yourself!) to help him with names. For the group shot, "Have everyone throw their arms around each other and squeeze," says Messina. "They'll stop looking tense and start laughing."

09 of 10

Strategically Use Shade for Outdoor Photos

Brooke Images

Stand with the sun behind you. "It creates a lovely, luminous effect," says Messina. Additionally, take pictures in open shade—full sun can create squinty eyes, while dappled shade makes skin look splotchy. Also, note that the best time of day to take outdoor photos is right after sunset. "It's when light is the prettiest," says D.C.-based photographer Kate Headley.

10 of 10

Maximize Natural Light for Indoor Photos

Sharayamauck Photography

Natural light is always best, so stick close to windows during the day. For a warm, colored glow, uplight the walls with pink or blue, but keep overhead lights white. Pro lighting not in your budget? Think candles, candles, candles.

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