Planning with a Purpose, Part I: Tips for Getting Knockout Wedding Photos

In my experience shooting weddings as both a primary and secondary shooter, I've learned a lot about the importance of planning. Proper planning for the wedding day creates organization, relieves nerves, and gives order to the day. Welcome to my newest blog series called "Planning with a Purpose," where I'll be offering tips and tricks on how to get amazing photos on your wedding day! I'll break it down into sections such as Details (this post)Getting Ready, The First Look, Portraits, Ceremony, and Reception. We'll talk about the BEST ways to help you prepare and plan for each part of the day, which will ultimately help to create beautiful photos as the end result. Let's dive in!

Part 1: Details
Part 2: Getting Ready and the Bridal Suite
Part 3: The First Look
Part 4: Wedding Party and Family Formals
Part 5: The Ceremony
Part 6: Reception


In my opinion, everyone involved plays a small part in planning for the wedding day. I definitely can't do it all by myself (and I'll never claim to), so education for my brides on the importance of time and preparation is essential, especially at the beginning of the day when time is articulated and every minute counts. It's important to know what to do as things happen (and not necessarily when to do it) to obtain the most value from of your wedding day. Planning can seem like a big investment now, but it is well worth your time and attention and you'll sincerely thank yourself afterwards for the time you put in. 

part I.




As we plan out the timeline for the day, I allot a specific amount of time for shooting the bridal suite and details. It's always different depending on the bride and how the day has been planned and will progress, and it's important for you to be prepared (especially if detail shots are important to you) to have ALL your items together and ready to be photographed when I arrive to your location. This small task saves me about 10-15 minutes of time that I would've used to scramble the items together myself, but instead will definitely use to capture the perfect dress or ring shot. I recommend keeping all items together in a small box or tote bag.

Here's a list of those details I'll ask for: Your wedding gown, shoes, earrings, necklace, belt, hairpiece, engagement ring, wedding bands, veil, garter, invitation suite (2 sets), and any additional family heirlooms that are special and you would like photographed.


As a bride myself, I planned my own wedding day around beautiful light, because photography is important to me. A good light source in your getting-ready space is absolutely essential to beautiful photos; there's just no way around it. I can't stress this enough: make sure there is, at least, one window in your getting ready space. Pull back the curtains as far as they'll go. The larger the window, the better; I can work with a window. What I can't work with is harsh, dark, indoor tungsten lighting. Nearly every photo in this blog post was taken in soft, window lighting. Let that be your inspiration!



I do my best to curate a beatiful background for getting ready photos. However, since every bride and venue is different, this doesn't always happen according to plan. I prefer a setting that is or near the outdoors since that's my style, but if you're getting ready in a hotel, going outside isn't always possible. In these cases, I recommend clearing a small area of your getting-ready room for detail pictures. At best, this is a well-lit corner of the room near a large, open window or reflective surface that bounces natural daylight back into my camera (such as a mirror or large white wall or door). You'll need to clean this area well of any clothing, makeup, food, plastic wrapping, dirt, and trash. If I'm not able to move your details to an outdoor space, this designated indoor space will be where I take your detail photos. Where there is no clutter, your photos will turn out beautifully!

Michelle Abernathy

Michelle Whitley Photography, 111 Teachers Way #1205, Gaithersburg, MD, 20877, United States