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Whether your wedding photography style is bright and smiling or romantic and moody, self-taught photographer, Jason Smelser is trained to capture your emotions and unique story in an unposed fashion. With this in mind, we’ve asked him to give us a behind-the-scenes look into  Jason Smelser Photography and share tips on how you can get the most romantic — and ultimately the best — wedding day photos! Keep scrolling for his tips on what you need to know for the day-of photography timeline!

How to Prepare for Your Wedding Day Photos

Photo // Jason Smelser Photography

Tell us about your photography style.

My style is a mix of romantic and whimsical moments, combined with moody and artistic elements.

I strive to create images that look believable and unposed, despite the fact that most couples will need some direction. I gravitate toward images that are painterly and dreamy, and I achieve this with lens selection and technique. I try to find out more about a couple’s unique love story and allow that to shine through in my work. 

Some couples are all smiles and fun where others are moody and romantic. Whether the couple is skipping through the grass or locked in an intimate embrace, I want that emotions and energy to be captured.

What type of training did you go through to become a photographer?

I’m a self-taught photographer and often jokingly tell others I got my degree at Barnes & Noble. The books that really contributed the most to my education as a photographer were those by author Scott Kelby on digital photography, Lightroom and Photoshop.

I journaled my first one hundred weddings and found that writing down a narrative of the day helped me isolate the techniques that worked best and areas where I needed improvement. I also practiced many hours with off camera flash to be prepared for challenging and dark lighting scenarios found at weddings. 

What does the ideal wedding schedule look like to make the most out of wedding photos?

A typical wedding for me includes eight hours of coverage with two photographers.  On average, photography starts two hours prior to the ceremony, and I recommend having makeup and hair finished at this time as well.

When possible, I try to photograph the details of the bride and groom first and move on to candid shots of the bridal party before having them get dressed. There is always motivation to have a bridal party ready and formals done soon so that there will be less to do after the ceremony. 

Formals that don’t get done can significantly decrease the amount of quality time and sunlight with a bride and groom later. With that being said, I encourage every couple to plan their wedding around the sun so there is at least one hour of natural light left after the ceremony for formal photos. If this isn’t possible and all a bride and groom’s photos are to be done in the dark, I highly suggest doing a first look sometime before the ceremony. 

Any tips for staying on track during the wedding day?

This should go without saying, but having a wedding day planner/coordinator is the extremely helpful in maintaining your wedding day schedule. 

To reiterate topics above, I recommend having hair and makeup start early enough so they are done two hours prior to ceremony.

Keeping the bride and groom rooms clean as you go can help with getting better photos and keep your photographer from having to stop to prep for photos. 

In order to make post ceremony formals more efficient, couples can remind their families to stay behind for photos immediately following the recessional and even have a person assigned to help with wrangling up family members.

What should a couple have prepared for the photographer before the wedding day?

For brides who want photos of their details, it’s important to have all those things together for your photographer. That means thinking ahead about what jewelry, garter, perfume, invitations, shoes and other items you want photographed. It helps if the bride keeps her rings and the groom keeps his so those can be included in details. Don’t forget to bring a specialty or non plastic hanger for your wedding dress as well. 

Any tips on preparing a shot list?

Most experienced wedding photographers will already know what traditional elements to capture but a bride should share a list of their must have photos. 

If there is a first look/first touch planned, the photographer should know ahead of time so that an appropriate location can be selected.

When the bride and groom have Pinterest ideas, sharing these can give your photographer some insight to the type of photos they are interested in.

If a couple wants formals that go beyond the standard immediate family groupings, it’s helpful to list the desired photos with each person named. I send my brides a questionnaire a few weeks out to gather a variety of information, such as traditional and special elements to be included, must-have photos, a rough timeline, number in the bridal party, special family dynamics and desired family formals.


A special thank you to Jason Smelser of Jason Smelser Photography for sharing a behind-the-scenes look at his process and sharing his expert advice for getting great wedding photos! You can get more information on working with Jason by visiting his Brides of Houston vendor profile.

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