Tips and Tricks for Mountain Wedding Photography
The mountains are a different place. They can be cold, windy, and difficult to get to. There's a propensity for snow in July, especially in western mountain ranges. Nothing is easy in the mountains. It's a rugged place.
Image from Minaret Photography
Recently I teamed up with Mammoth Lakes and Lake Tahoe Wedding Photographer Brandon Russel of Minaret Studio, and Carrie G. from Hair By Carrie to update my portfolio pictures. (I've been married for two years and am finally tired of looking at my bridal portrait.) Here are some of my tips, tricks and reflections for getting great photographs in the mountains.
Make a Plan: Brandon and I worked together to plan a great shoot. Brandon spent a week scouting locations and evaluating the light at different times, while I planned my outfits, thought of props I wanted to bring, and considered the story I wanted to tell through my pictures. I also contacted professional stylist Carrie G. to do my hair and makeup.
Go with the Elements As is typical in the mountains, the wind was whipping across the valley by 5 p.m. I started to stress out a bit because I'd just had my hair done and it was constantly blowing in my face. Brandon assured me to just stay relaxed and go with it. He was right. Stress shows easily in pictures, so try to stay loose. An easy way to refocus and unwind is to just breathe. It helps relax the face and calm the mind.
Bring a friend It's easier to be natural when you have a friend to react to. You get great candid shots that way. With bridal portraits, this is easy; you're typically either reacting to your fiance or to your bridal party. But if you're doing a bridal session alone, ask a friend to come along. (I brought Carrie.) You can talk to her, tell jokes, laugh, and otherwise stay relaxed while the photographer snaps away.
Keep your weight on the back foot but avoid the cheesy beauty pageant look. There's a fine line between adopting a flattering stance and adopting the cliched beauty pageant stance with feet at 11 and 6. To soften the look, just focus on keeping your weight on your back foot.
Keep from squinting When we started shooting I was staring into the sun for the first 20 minutes. To keep from squinting I kept my eyes closed until Brandon was ready to shoot. At the count of three I would open my eyes and he would shoot. Often the timing was perfect.
Ask for digital retouching At one point Carrie discovered that some of my lipstick had migrated to my teeth. Classic, right? No problem – I just asked Brandon to retouch it in Photoshop. Have a zit, sun damage, scars, or a mark you'd rather not see in your wedding portraits for the rest of your life? Just ask if they can be Photoshopped out. Also make sure to ask if there's an additional fee for this service. Some photographers will do touch-ups gratis while others charge extra.
Don't smile for every shot We are completely trained to smile in front of the camera. From the time we are little we are instructed to “say cheese,” and “smile” when a camera is pointed in our direction. But some of the best shots come during those authentic moments when your smile is gentle, or you're laughing with gusto, or even when you're serious and contemplative. This is where it's nice to have a friend to interact with. It allows you to remain relaxed and natural, which make the best pictures.
Minaret Photography is a distinguished member of the Mountainside Guide, an exclusive vendor directory featuring the best and most reliable mountain wedding vendors in North America. Mountainside Guide members are screened and vetted for quality of work, reliability, and professionalism, both among their peers and on review web sites.
See Minaret Photography's portfolio HERE.