A Bride’s Guide to Gorgeous Wedding Photos

Hey brides!

I’m Johnny Martyr and I’ve been photographing weddings since 2001 when I interned with one of the highest rated wedding photographers in Baltimore.  Almost two decades later, I am still passionate about weddings and now I have the added pleasure of photographing them with my wife, Stephanie Lee.  Our work has been published in Modern Wedding, Frederick Magazine, What’s Up Weddings and more.  Stephanie and I want to share our best advice for brides to get gorgeous wedding photos!

© 2015 Johnny Martyr | www.JohnnyMartyr.com
Photo by Johnny Martyr in Baker Park, Frederick, Maryland

Hire Photographers Who You’d Want to Be Guests at Your Wedding

Unlike any other vendor that you’re going to hire, you’ll be with your photographers from your first sip of coffee to your last sip of champagne.  Your photogs won’t just be interacting with you, but your closest friends and family throughout the day.  This doesn’t mean hire your friend or favorite uncle who just got their first DSLR.  But it also doesn’t mean that you should hire a pro you’ve never met or spent some time with before the big day.  Hire someone who has excellent credentials AND who you can see yourself and your guests as getting along with.  Stephanie and I offer complimentary engagement photos to couples who hire us for a full day.  This gives couples a chance to see how we work and to get comfortable so nothing feels awkward the day of.  Having a friendly relationship with your photographer is the key getting amazing, personal, expressive photographs.

Photo by Stephanie Lee at Breaux Vineyards in Purcellville, Virginia

Get Dressed Somewhere Beautiful

Many brides get dressed and ready at someone’s private residence.  A familiar living room may be comfortable and practical but consider that this will be the backdrop for your pre-bridal photos.  If you’re going to use someone’s home, choose a room with plenty of open space and bright, natural light.  If you’re getting ready at your hotel, choose the bridal suite or a room where curtains can be opened towards sunlight.  Encourage hair and make-up stylists to work among the party, not an isolated area.  This can make for beautiful interactions between your guests and is just more fun.  Speaking of stylists, getting ready at a nice salon can ensure amazing pre-bridal images; they usually have great light and are an attractive space.  Play music!  Provide drinks and snacks.  Treat your pre-bridal location with the same planning and sense of care that you did your ceremony and reception locations!

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Photo by Johnny Martyr at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Baltimore, Maryland

Ask Your Officiant About Their Photography Rules

Before your wedding, talk to your officiant about the type of photography you want for your ceremony and what he/she permits.  Many orthodox religions do not allow photographers to be on, or anywhere near the alter.  Some do not allow photographers to cross the isle.  Quality images can still be taken but a special approach is required.  Stephanie and I move as infrequently and quietly as possible while observing all requests.  We introduce ourselves and discuss this with officiants prior to the ceremony but it’s best for everyone to be on the same page beforehand.

Photo by Johnny Martyr

Love and Light

Lighting at outdoor ceremonies can be absolutely breathtaking, however, timing is critical.  Schedule your ceremony to begin one to two hours prior to sunset.  One hour if you don’t have any/many post-ceremony photos planned, two hours if you have a million.  Photographers refer to the hour before sunset as “Golden Hour” or “Magic Hour” because shadows are very soft and long while color is very warm.  Summer temperatures will also begin to drop.  These ingredients are very flattering for portraits.  Orient your ceremony such that the sun (which sets in the west) will be either more or less behind or more or less in front of the ceremony.  If your ceremony is fully side-lit, you or your beloved will cast an ugly shadow over the other’s face.  Also, remember that once the sun has set, your outdoor photos are finished.

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Photo by Johnny Martyr

Don’t Forget to Cheat

No, I’m not talking about infidelity!  Don’t forget to “cheat,” or angle your bodies towards your guests during the ceremony.  Depending on your tradition, there may be many times during your ceremony that your back will be facing your guests.  And that’s fine, but remember to work in plenty of times to face everyone or at least “cheat” your bodies towards them.  Same advice for the bridal party!  Not only does this make your guests feel more included, it makes for much stronger photographs.

© 2015 Johnny Martyr | www.JohnnyMartyr.com
Photo by Johnny Martyr in Baker Park, Frederick, Maryland

Ask Your Officiant to Step Aside

There is nothing creepier than a photo of a third person leering over a bride’s shoulder while she kisses her groom!  You’ve talked to your officiant about what the photographers can do for them, now see what the officiant can do for you and your photographers.  Kindly request that your officiant step to one side or the other during your first kiss.  This makes for a cleaner, less creepy, first kiss photo.  Stephanie and I ask this of officiants but requests are better honored when they come from the bride!

Photo by Stephanie Lee at the 1840’s Ballroom in Baltimore, Maryland


Let’s face it, wedding planning can be stressful and the Big Day can fly by before you know it.  So don’t forget to enjoy your own wedding!  Don’t sweat the small stuff, embrace anomalies and rock the crazy!  Have fun!  This is YOUR wedding!  And hey, the more you smile, the more great photos of you Stephanie and I will take!

I hope you’ve enjoyed our photos and advice.  Weddings are complicated events and there’s plenty more things we could add to the list but these are a few that we see time and again.  Please don’t hesitate to drop a question in the comments section or email us directly at MartyrLeePhotography@Gmail.com.  If you’d like to see more of our work, it can be found at MartyrAndLeePhotography.com.  And yes, we shoot color also, but I just liked b&w for this article!

Congratulations, and thanks for reading!

Photo by Johnny Martyr at Big Cork Vineyards in Rohrersville, Maryland

*Cover Photo by Stephanie Lee at Breaux Vineyards, Purcellville, Virginia

**All photos © 2015-2019 Martyr And Lee Photography

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