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Must-Have Photo Moments from Houston’s Best Photographers

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so these precious wedding photo moments must be worth a million! The day of your wedding can be so hectic and crunched for time that you might look back later and find that you didn’t take all the pictures you had planned, or that your photographer missed a shot they didn’t know was special to you. We talked to the best in the business and these Houston wedding photographers filled us in on all the must-have photo moments to capture on your big day! Read on to avoid getting caught up in wedding chaos and get the most bang for your buck out of your wedding photography with these tips and tricks.

Perfect Proposal

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Proposal Ideas from Weddings by Westy

Tell us a little about this couple and how you got involved with the proposal.

Jill and Matthew have been together for many years and are such a joyful couple to be around. Matthew reached out about a month out from his planned proposal to have this sweet moment captured with several of their close friends and family members present to celebrate. It was special to be a part of because I actually cheered with Jill way back in middle school!

How do you strategize to perfectly capture a proposal?

When photographing a proposal, I plan beforehand by scouting out the area and discussing details so I am aware of all that will be taking place and can capture every detail of it. Moments like this often happen so fast that it can almost become a blur. I want to ensure that my photos accurately retell this special day including every tear, laugh and kiss in between! I make sure that I am positioned where I can capture the event as it happens without becoming a distraction; that way, those involved are fully present and able to take it all in!

Do you have a favorite moment during a proposal?

Oh goodness! It is hard to choose one specific moment because there are so many different reactions. I love seeing the initial surprised/excited look on the bride’s face as she realizes what is happening — her best friend is down on one knee requesting that she spend the rest of her life on an adventure with him! Another favorite moment of mine to capture is the celebration from family and friends right after she says, “YES,” if they are present. There is so much pure joy captured in proposals!

What advice do you have for the person proposing? 

I do give a few ‘tips and tricks’ to be mindful of as far as outfits and locations go, however, at the end of the day, this is about THEM. In most cases, the groom has thought through a proposal that embodies their relationship or relates to them. It’s not about capturing the perfect pose for more likes on Instagram or to match my feed, but allowing the couple to be themselves and tell their own love story, and that’s what I want to capture!


Ideal Engagement

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Engagement Photo Tips from Taryn Lynn Photography

Where are your favorite places to shoot engagement sessions?

Since I am new to the Houston area, I had to leave all of my beloved locations back in the natural state (Arkansas), but you can take these location ideas with you anywhere! If you want those nature/adventurous vibes, then you can go to a state park (the more west you go the more BEAUTIFUL it gets in Texas! Not a hiker/traveller but want some greenery? Then try a local city park like Sam Houston park. Another great option is your wedding venue. This is a great option if you’re taking engagements in the winter! They also usually have some beautiful pieces of land attached as well. If you want your photos to have city vibes, then try downtown Houston and go to a rooftop for a view! Another great option for winter is a studio or your favorite coffee shop. 

What should couples wear for engagement photos?

I always preach on NEUTRALS! While keeping up with the latest trends can be fun, I suggest you keep it simple for your engagement photos and choose pieces that will stand the test of time. You also want to make sure you don’t clash with your significant other. So if he or she is wearing a print — wear a solid! And vice versa. Not a fan of prints? That’s fine, try layers! A denim jacket or cardigan can add some much-needed texture to the images. My last tip is to diversify your outfits by bringing one casual and one on the dressy side. This way while you’re in your jeans or shorts we can get those fun photos with you on his back, shoulders, sitting down — however you want. Then, for the dressy outfit, we get those more delicate and posed photos that make you look like a GODDESS. I got you, boo.

How do you get the groom (or bride) comfortable in front of the camera?

Many of my “warm up” poses/prompts are made to get my clients more comfortable and playful. These prompts get even the most stiff grooms ready to laugh and have some fun! I also tell my clients if they drink to bring along their fave beer or bottle of champagne. Not only does it make for great pictures, but it also helps them to loosen up in front of the camera!

What can a couple do to make the shoot uniquely them?

I love it when couples show up and be unconditionally themselves. Bring things that are special to you! Your pups, favorite books, favorite food or your motorcycle are just some examples. Or maybe you pick a location that is significant and special to you! But no matter what, show up and be yourselves. You can’t get any more unique than the way the two of you love each other and interact with each other. That’s my main focus for your shoot.


Beautiful Bridals

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Bridal Photography Tips from Stephania Campos Photography

What should a bride bring to her bridal portrait session?

She should bring the veil, bouquet, heels and earrings she will be wearing on the wedding day. And comfortable shoes!

How can a bride get in the right headspace for her bridal session?

I would recommend she makes sure she loves her makeup and how the dress fits.

How far out from the wedding date should a bride schedule her bridal session?

About 2-3 months before the wedding.

Why should a bride opt for a bridal session (apart from the wedding day)?

On a wedding day, the timeline is pretty busy, so bridal portraits allow you to slow down and get extra creative.

How long do you allot for bridal portraits during a wedding day vs a separate session?

On a wedding, it can vary depending on the timeline. For a separate session, she should allot about 2 hours.


Getting Ready

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How to Maximize Getting Ready with Rachel Driskell Photography

Why is it important to have a photographer on-site while you’re getting ready?

There is a multitude of reasons to have your photographer on site while you are getting ready, but for me, I arrive at that time frame to do a few things. I gather all of your important details for the day and am able to capture the little things that mean so much to really begin to tell the story of your day. And while I am doing that, I get to listen to the chatter of you with your bridesmaids as your excitement bubbles up! It allows me to be out of mind, but slip in here and there to capture some true moments between you and your bridesmaids or mom, grandma, etc.! Then, the moment to get in your dress arrives, and this is usually when it gets real for your mom, grandma, aunt, best friend… whoever is your person that day. To allow them into a space of getting you ready to transform into a bride – it can be emotional and oh so sweet! To capture the moments you are zipped/buttoned in…the moment you put your jewelry on, or the moment your bridesmaids make sure every little thing is PERFECT on you – those are moments I LIVE for! They are sweet and precious and definitely something worth documenting!

Who all should be present while getting ready (for photo purposes)?

There are two parts of the getting ready portraits that I recommend different people be there for.  The first is when you’re getting zipped/buttoned into your dress and putting on your jewelry. For this part, it works well if you have just one or even two people helping. One person to do the dress and maybe one other to help with your jewelry. This can be a private moment between you and your mom,   grandma, sister or whoever is the most important woman in your life, or you can invite your bridesmaids to be there but be in the background watching along! I recommend anyone who is a part of this moment be fully dressed. The second part is fluffing the bride and getting that great photo op of your bridesmaids loving and doting on you after you are dressed. These are sweet moments, and I definitely recommend taking the time to include your bridal party in these!

What details should a bride have ready for her photographer to shoot? 

Details are one of my very favorite things to photograph. It gets me warmed up for the day! About a week before the wedding, I send a reminder to all of my brides about what details to have ready for me. I recommend putting all of the small things in a bag/box so that I can easily grab them and get started when I first arrive! Here are the key elements I recommend having ready for your photographer when she/he arrives: Dress, veil/hair pieces, rings (ALL THREE), shoes, bouquet and bout, jewelry, perfume, invitation suite (two copies with at least one addressed envelope, done in calligraphy is a bonus!), something borrowed and something blue. I recommend gathering all of these things a few days prior to the wedding at least! The last thing you want to do is to have to be searching for everything the morning you are getting ready! One of the most important pieces are the rings! Moms, officiants and even some planners will tell you to hand over your wedding bands to the best man/maid of honor before the day begins, but having them all with you so that I can easily grab them and not have to hunt them down when I first arrive is what I recommend! I love incorporating your new favorite pieces of jewelry into your detail images! I always try to reach out to the floral designer prior to the day-of to request bringing a few extra loose pieces for me to use in detail shots, but it’s always helpful if the bride also mentions this! They are always more than happy to do so! Just a few small blooms/greenery to incorporate really helps tell the story of your wedding day!

Any tips for capturing those candid “getting ready” moments?

Remember that your photographer is there to document the day as it unfolds! When capturing the final touches of hair and makeup, I like to be a fly on the wall and capture things as they are happening, so my biggest advice during that time of the day would be to just IGNORE your photographer unless they are directly speaking to you. And remember to smile when you can. But don’t worry! During the time when you are getting in your dress and your bridesmaids are doting over you, I like to do what I call “posed candids.”  This method is where I direct you into generally how I want the image to come out, and then I cue you by telling you to “giggle at each other!” I even go so far as to tell you one of my laughing secrets…to always laugh FORWARD for the most flattering, giggly pictures. You know what I’m talking about! We tend to laugh backward and scrunch our chins down automatically when we are really laughing, but for pictures’ sake (and so you will love the final outcome), I recommend laughing forward to avoid this! I always demonstrate what I mean, and it gets the girls giggling right away when they see my super unflattering scrunchy chin laugh!

What are your favorite moments during that time before the ceremony?

Some of my favorite moments during the getting ready time are the sweet moments between the bride and the special women in her life…whether that be her mother, grandmother, sister or aunt. The sweet moment of those women looking at this precious girl they’ve known their whole life as she transforms into a blushing bride before their eyes. Getting someone dressed doesn’t seem like a big deal, but you can almost see the thoughts going across their minds as they button her into a beautiful gown. “She’s all grown up… It feels like just yesterday that she was playing dress-up and begging to wear my makeup.” Those moments are quite precious, and I feel honored to be able to witness them and capture them for you to have for all of time.


First Look

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Tips on How to Nail the First Look Photos from Angela Sostarich Photography

Should a bride and groom have a first look before the ceremony?

In my opinion, yes! Usually couples are just as enraptured with one another in the ceremony as they were during their first look. My husband and I had a first look and our hearts still skipped a beat when the doors were opened. It creates a very tender moment between a bride and groom, away from the wedding party and guests. My husband and I held hands as we walked around the church and savored the time together.

What are the benefits of having a first look?

Second, you get two experiences (one private and one during the ceremony). 

Any suggestions on easing those first look jitters?

Many of my couples have told me how doing a first look helped them work out their jitters. Afterward, they felt a greater sense of calm.

Tips on making the first look extra special?

Having a first look and pictures beforehand gives more time for the couple to enjoy their reception and all their loved ones. Though it may not be quite as conventional, the first look will always get my vote.


Wedding Party

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Tips on Photos with your Wedding Party from Mustard Seed Photography

Shooting with your besties can be so much fun! How do you get the crew to settle down and focus for portraits?

There’s no doubt that taking pictures with your best friends is a blast, and it’s so important to capture that feeling. We approach photographing a wedding party with a lot of energy and movement, so we work with the wedding party’s natural excitement. Most wedding parties are interested in having the best pictures for the bride and groom, so they’re more than happy to pose quickly and shower their friends with love in front of the camera.

What’s your photo checklist for the bridal party?

We really love to authentically capture the way the bridal party interacts with the bride. Some bridal parties are all about the ‘party’ and some are about the sweet, quiet bond of friendship. We try to make sure we capture exactly what that group is like and how they connect to the bride herself.

How can you make the portrait process go quickly and efficiently?

There’s nothing like a great plan to help with efficiency!  We have a detailed timeline that has been approved by the bride and groom to know exactly what they want captured and how we can fit that into a busy wedding day. We keep our timeline with us all day, and it really keeps us focused throughout the wedding day but is especially helpful for the wedding party portraits.  

Why is it so important to get shots with the girls and guys in your wedding?

We think it’s vital to capture the people who are standing alongside a bride and groom! These are the most important people in their lives— lifelong friendships and they should be honored as such on a wedding day!

How long do you usually allot for bridal party photos if you have a party less than 5 versus 10+?

It’s truly different at every wedding.  We work hand-in-hand with our brides and grooms to understand their expectations for the day and create a great timeline that reflects their individual priorities. We start with around 20 minutes with the wedding party for their photos with the bride and groom, but that could always be more or less depending on the flow of the day, the bride and groom’s wishes, or the size of the wedding party.


The Ceremony

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Wedding Ceremony Photo Tips from Ali Takes Photographs

There are so many sweet moments during a ceremony – how do you capture them all?

Ceremonies are filled with sweet moments. Thankfully, I’ve been photographing weddings for so long that it’s second nature for me to know where to be and when to expect key moments. That being said, there are always surprises! I constantly scan the wedding party, parents and guests for split-second memories that would have otherwise been missed. Ceremony moments are also a great example of why it is so important to include a second photographer in your package. Having a second set of eyes on events means a fuller, truer story and perspective!

THE KISS – do you give your couples any instruction on nailing that moment?

I have three pieces of great advice for nailing first kiss images! First, make sure you hold your first kiss for at least three to five seconds to ensure your photographer has enough time to snap several crisp, clean images. Second, if your first kiss is happening anytime other than the end of the ceremony, make sure your photographer knows exactly when it will occur so they are ready at the perfect angle. Third, if you would prefer your officiant to not appear directly behind you in the photo, ask that they step to the side before they give the “You may now kiss your bride!” prompt. You don’t want them awkwardly leaping out of the way at the last second! All of this being said, your first kiss is an incredibly personal and romantic moment. Don’t overthink it for photos. Do what feels right!

What advice do you have on lighting when it comes to getting the best photos?

Even lighting is key when it comes to beautiful photos! For an outdoor wedding, this means open shade with no spots of light falling on either of your faces. Try to position your ceremony set up so the sun is setting either behind the altar or slightly off to the left or right. For an indoor ceremony, this means checking how much natural light is available and making sure there aren’t any bright sunbeams coming in from the windows. If you are able, visit your venue at the same time of day as your ceremony. Stand in place with your fiancé and see how the light is hitting your faces. Feel free to take photos or videos on your phone to send to your photographer!

How can a couple ease their jitters before the ceremony starts? 

Taking time for yourself before your ceremony is so important. I always make sure to be done with photos at least 30 to 45 minutes before the ceremony. Take this time away from the camera to take some deep breaths, reread your vows or have a mimosa with your wedding party! Make this your “me time” and don’t put anything else on the schedule. Soak it all up!

How did you achieve capturing this photo moment?

Take your time and take things slow! Couples sometimes have a tendency to rush down the aisle, rush through their vows or rush with the rings. I completely understand this tendency. Participating in a wedding ceremony requires a lot of vulnerability! Allow yourselves and your guests to enjoy every moment. Don’t be afraid to really be present in what you’re committing to and expressing your love for one another. When you slow things down, not only will your photographer have more time to capture photos, but your photos will be so much more real and meaningful. When you look at your images years from now, they will remind you of what you were feeling in that exact moment. Make sure your feelings are of love for your partner and not a memory of wanting to rush through it!


First Dance

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First Dance Photo Tips from Meeker Pictures

When should the first dance take place during the reception?

I think it’s best when the first dance happens right after the couple is announced in the reception. 

Does the couple need to take dancing lessons?

No. But if they are not comfortable dancing in front of everyone, they should absolutely let the DJ know to fade out sooner than later.

Do you give the couple any direction for photos before the first dance?

When we can, we direct the wedding party to stand on the outskirts of the dance floor. It makes for great pictures when you can get the first dance and wedding party expressions at the same time.

What are your favorite reception moments to capture?

Our favorite receptions moments are the father/daughter or mother/son dances. They are always so special and emotional.


Candid Moments

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Candid Photo Moment Prompts from Wild Garden Photography

How do you get those memorable candid shots? 

Most of the time, the candid shots that I capture happen in between instructing my couples. The few moments in between poses give couples a second to really relax and have fun with each other. Those flirty moments and sweet kisses that couples sneak in between curated shots are always full of laughter, emotion and love.

How do you make a groom (or bride) comfortable in front of the camera?

Helping a bride and groom feel comfortable in front of the camera is the most important part of wedding photography. Having your pictures taken should be fun and enjoyable, and you should both feel confident and relaxed. The best way I can help a bride and groom feel comfortable is to build a strong relationship and for us to really get to know each other. That starts with the first meet and greet; add in an engagement session to ease your mind, some great communication and coffee dates to catch up before the wedding, and before you know it, we’re friends. On your wedding day, you can take comfort in knowing you have a friend behind the camera.

What times in the day are you watching for those oh-so-sweet photo moments?

I look for moments that really showcase the love couples have for one another. Certain times that hold a special place during the day are a first look or touch, a gift exchange or vow reading, and of course, the ceremony. These are all moments during a wedding day that allow the couple to enjoy each other and the love they share.

Suggestions for couples who are uncomfortable kissing or having PDA in front of others?

Above all else, you should both feel comfortable and confident on your wedding day. Your wedding should represent you and your spouse, and if kissing and PDA in front of others makes for an uncomfortable setting, there are plenty of other ways to capture the love you share. A great way to navigate these waters before your big day is to do an engagement session with your photographer. An engagement session is a more relaxed setting and is a great way for your photographer to learn about you and how you interact with each other. This will also give you an opportunity to work together to come up with a plan for your big day.

What’s your favorite candid moment to catch on camera?

I absolutely love a first look or first touch between the bride and groom. Seeing your soon-to-be husband or wife for the first time or holding each other’s hands around a corner is such a special moment. When you’re able to experience those emotions in a more intimate setting, it gives you both an opportunity to slow down and take a moment to really connect with each other, privately.


Reception Fun

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Reception Photo Tips from Caroline Fontenot

Why is it important for a photographer to stay until the end of the reception?

My philosophy is to never leave a wedding until the couple does. A full story can’t be told without the end! I’m a huge fan of the dance floor and love the chaos. This is where you really see couples, families and friends really let loose. So many clients tell me that their favorite photos are from their reception, and I think in a lot of cases, it’s where they felt the most themselves – just partying with their people. Plus, who knew grandmas still had those moves?! What a shame it’d be to miss that.

What are you looking for when shooting those candid reception moments?

Relationships and uninhibited joy. People are just so dang happy when they’re dancing! It’s fun to piece together relationships on dance floors (aunts and uncles, the mother-of-the-bride with her father, bridesmaids with their boyfriends, the groom’s college buddies reuniting). It’s easy to spot when you’re paying attention and so important to document.

How are you able to capture such beautiful photos during dark receptions with strange lighting?

I keep it very simple with just one on-camera flash, for every reception, regardless of the lighting situation. In my opinion, it’s the most unobtrusive and authentic as to what it actually felt like to be on the dance floor.

How can a couple make the most of their photos during the reception?

I always tell clients to look at when they plan to exit their reception and dial back from there in terms of hours needed. I’ve never had a client say they wish they’d had more “getting ready” photos, so that’s the space on the wedding day that I recommend shortening to allow for full reception coverage. I’m also a big fan of toasts during dinner to maximize time. Dancing seems to get cut short if toasts are drawn out say, after first dances and before the meal. Plus, with everyone already seated, it just feels the most natural.

Are there any props you encourage couples to have on the dance floor?

I’m all for whatever the client wants and is authentic to them. Don’t force something just because you saw it on Pinterest. I don’t think they’re necessary, but they for sure can add an element of creativity and fun. I like when they’re passed out at least halfway through the party so they aren’t in every photo. If I had to pick a favorite, I’d go with basic glow sticks.


Grand Exit

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Grand Exit Photo Tips from Patti Darby Photography

Best props for the getaway shots?

I LOVE flower petals! They are so classic. Sparkler machines are super fun too! Don’t be afraid to do something different.

Should the couple change before their getaway?

That’s totally a personal preference. I personally loved leaving in my wedding dress, but it was a challenge to figure out how to get it back to my parents before we left on our honeymoon. If you don’t want to have to meet up with anyone after your getaway and before your honeymoon, I would definitely recommend changing! A comfy white sundress or elegant pantsuit would be so pretty!

How do you nail the exit photos when the lighting is usually gone by then?

I use a combination of ambient light (usually not the best though) and on- and off-camera flashes. I usually place one behind the couple and one facing the couple. This helps keep your images from looking flat.

Any tips on making the getaway as memorable as the other major moments in a wedding?

Soak up the moment and STRUT. YOUR. STUFF! Have fun making your grand exit with your new spouse. This is the ending to your perfect day. Stop and share a kiss, do a twirl, or even do an epic dip! Have fun with it and make it your own.

How did you achieve capturing this photo moment?

I always coach my couples beforehand to walk slowly so they enjoy the moment and to stop about halfway down the aisle to do their ‘pose’ (kissing, twirling or dipping!). After that I move out of the way so they can be on their way!

Get even more photo moment tips here, and be sure to check out our complete list of favorite Houston wedding photographers here. Happy planning!

Other Local Vendors: Caroline Fontenot, Meeker Pictures, Angela Sostarich Photography, Ali Takes Photographs, Patti Darby Photography, Wild Garden Photography, Westy Peck Photography, Taryn Lynn Photography