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How to take really, really ridiculously good-looking wedding photos

An incredible snap of your big day is like a recipe: you need the right ingredients to get that perfect final result.  
But much like eggs, sugar and butter (you know, the stuff that makes a cake taste so damn good) there is one ingredient great photos can't do without: confidence. Being comfortable in front of the camera means you'll be on a one-way street to killer wedding photos; your laid-back, this-doesn't-faze-me attitude will show in the final images and you'll come across as natural, happy and drop-dead gorgeous. For some though, stepping up for a portrait session is a daunting thought - whether it's because you don't know what to do with your hands or just don't like having your picture taken - and your worries can translate to awkward poses or looking stiff. Don't fret though, those nerves can be squashed - you just need to know how. 

It's all in the preparation

Unless your day job involves photo shoots, photographers and busting pose after pose, heading into a day of non-stop photographs is probably unchartered territory. But when it comes to mastering the art of looking good in photos, practice really does make perfect. That’s why opting to have a pre-wedding session with your photographer can work wonders for your nerves, confidence and general posing know-how. “If you’re ultra camera shy then an engagement shoot is a perfect opportunity to practice. You’ll leave feeling totally inspired for the big day,” says Tara Pearce from Erin and Tara, a Melbourne-based photography duo.

Engagement shoots can be done on location or in a studio, and can run for an hour or longer, depending on how much camera time you want to get. Chances are you'll feel a bit like a fish out of water for the first few shots, but your photographer will be on hand to help you loosen up and find your groove. This will be your opportunity to spend extra time with your photographer, and you'll learn how they work and (this is a big one) to trust them. That means that when they turn up on the big day it'll be like seeing an old friend, rather than a relative stranger. You’ll get to have a go at some of the poses you might be asked to do on the big day and pinpoint which combinations you do and don't like. 

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Pro tips for posing

You don’t have to be a contestant on Australia’s Next Top Model or a red-carpet regular to know what it takes to snap a great photo. Sure, there are a couple of hacks that will help you look your best in any shot, but your wedding photos are a totally different ball game to the mirror selfies you’d take on a Saturday night out. That means there are a few things you need to keep in mind. The most important? Don’t overthink it. Ask any photographer and they’ll likely tell you that the main trick to taking amazing wedding photos comes down to one thing: being natural. “Don’t over-act the pose,” advises Morris McLennan from Morris Images in Sydney. “Be yourself and not Kim Kardashian!” That means if you wouldn’t normally pull a duck-face or Zoolander-inspired Blue Steel pout for photos, you probably shouldn’t for your wedding snaps either.

According to Morris, couples who aren’t relaxed and being themselves often look awkward in their photographs, especially when it’s time to throw their arms around each other. “Couples can hold each other like they’re brother and sister, rather than a loving couple,” Morris explains. “Be yourselves and don’t be afraid to embrace like no-one’s watching!” Other tricks include touching your tongue to the roof of your mouth when you smile (trust us, it helps avoid a double chin), crossing your ankles (especially good if you’re wearing a short dress – it makes your hips look narrower and legs look longer) and nailing the art of the natural smile. If you don’t like to show your teeth when you smile, make like Tyra Banks and learn to smize (that’s smiling with your eyes).

Pieces of a puzzle

Does being comfortable make for incredible photos? Yes, but it’s not the only thing to consider - there are other factors that will influence the final product. Lighting is a big one, says Sarah Garton from Mint Photography in Sydney. “The direction of the light as it hits the subject is an important factor,” Sarah says. “Obviously this depends on the location, temperature and time of day, but a soft even light is always flattering.” Overcast days can offer good lighting opportunities because the glare from the sun won’t be as intense (read: no squinting or reflection from a bright white dress!).

Your posture will play a part too. “We ask couples to keep their shoulders relaxed and back,” explains Sarah. “This is also important when the groom is considerably taller than the bride.” To make sure your posture is in tip-top shape for the big day, training your body to stand tall and straight is a must. If you sit down for long periods of time, set yourself timers or leave notes reminding yourself to correct your posture. Exercises like yoga and Pilates are great for posture too – you can even rope in your ‘maids for a class.

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It's not all on you

Don’t forget, on the day you’ll have someone on hand whose job it is to make sure you look amazing - your photographer. When it comes to nailing a shot or picking the perfect shoot location, your photographer really does know best. They’ll be able to give you tips on how to position your body, and how to make the most out of every shot. “Posing too hard can really suck the energy from a portrait session… a little direction from your photographer will capture the honest moments,” says Tara. “A real fleeting moment of intimacy captured between a bride and groom beats 100 photos of forced kisses and cheesy smiles.” One of Tara’s go-to tricks for snapping candid shots is asking couples to walk to the location of their portrait shoot. “It gives them some time to catch up and helps ease any nerves, while we capture candid moments of newly married joy.”

And if that wasn’t enough, photographers know what time of day will make for the most flattering shots (we told you they know their stuff) and may even encourage you to schedule your shoot around when the light is at its best. “You can’t miss golden hour, or ‘Magic Hour',” Tara says. “It’s the time shortly before sunset where the light turns soft and dreamy. If we had to put a dollar value to this hour, it would easily be a million bucks.” Providing direction shouldn’t be something you should shy away from, either. If there are any shots you definitely do or don’t want, never be afraid to ask. 

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