Those beautiful shots of you and your wedding party cheesing for the camera are essential, but many brides find the natural, not-posed photos better capture the pure happiness of their wedding day. "The photos that I feel the most connected to are when the couple isn't even really looking at the camera," says Julia Franzosa, a wedding photographer in Chicago and San Francisco. "They're connected to each other, and you can actually feel that joy." In theory, that sounds all sorts of romantic — but what if you feel awkward and stiff when the spotlight is on you? We turned to Franzosa for tips on how brides (and grooms!) can loosen up in front of the camera.
1. Connect with your photographer.
Feeling comfortable with your photographer will come through in photos. Set up an initial consultation and meet for drinks or coffee so you can get to know one another, Franzosa suggests. "I spend more time with the bride than the groom does that day," she says. So it's important that you find a photographer that jives with your style and makes you feel at ease. Franzosa also recommends booking an engagement session, so you and your guy can get used to having your photo taken and won't stumble over any what-do-I-do-with-my-hands awkwardness on the big day.
Photo: Julia Franzosa
2. Hire a wedding planner.
It's tough to sit back and let the sparks fly when your mind is overwhelmed with all of the wedding details, like whether the cocktail napkins are set up at the bar or your parents are where they're supposed to be. The fix: Hire a wedding planner, Franzosa suggests. "If you have a planner, they're going to handle all the details," she says. "That can make a huge difference if you're trying to get natural and relaxed photos." You'll be free to enjoy the day and take it all in.
See More: 50 Must-Have Wedding Photos
3. Focus on the moment.
If you feel your face getting stuck in a forced smile (it's bound to happen by photo No. 400!), take a breather. Walk off with your groom and have that "Holy crap, we're getting married!" moment. Not only will stepping away reset your face, but your photographer will also be able to capture shots of the two of you interacting. "Being in the moment that day, when you're just focused on each other, is going to be authentic, when you're not worried about what photos I'm taking and just allow it to happen naturally," Franzosa says.
Photo: Julia Franzosa
4. Book your photographer for an extra hour.
When you're signing contracts and plotting out the day-of timeline, err on the side of having too much time for photography if budget allows. That way, you won't be pressed to squeeze every shot on your shot list into a tight timeframe. "If you add one extra hour, in the grand scheme of your entire wedding budget, that's nothing, and you won't feel that pressure or stress that everything has to be done right now," Franzosa says. "All you should have to worry about is yourself and having a great time on your wedding day."