Guest Guru- Emily T. Smith, Owner of Smith Gallery Photography

Adding Natural “Green” to Your Wedding Photograpy


Since age seven I had imagined every last detail of my wedding, so it’s truly a privilege to get to be an intimate part of thirty or so weddings every year. As a photographer, it’s my job to capture the spirit of the couple along with their wedding and outdoor photography is a perfect way add some natural beauty to your day. An outdoor setting can enhance your wedding album with lush colors, beautiful backdrops and allow you to have wedding portraits that are truly a work of art.

Choosing a Photographer

If your wedding portraits are important to you, you’ll need to find a good wedding photographer. Whether it be Uncle Bob or a seasoned pro, you’ll want a photographer who has experience taking outdoor pictures.

When working with a professional, ask to see copies of his or her work and meet with them to discuss your wedding day. I suggest building a relationship with your photographer early so everyone feels comfortable on the wedding day. You’ll want the photographer to know you well enough to capture the one of a kind personality of the day. Dialog about the locations you’d like to have your portraits taken at, your expectations for who will be in the photos and what kind of feel you’d like the portraits to have is very important. For instance, do you want all formal pictures or do you want more relaxed images? Bring examples to your first consultation from magazines or online print outs for directions and inspiration.

Do the same if you choose Uncle Bob, but ask some additional key questions. Does Uncle Bob know his camera settings so he can adjust for quickly changing lighting conditions? Does he have the experience to anticipate all of the important moments of your wedding like a father’s lone tear right after he gives away his daughter? Does he have backup gear? There is a big difference between an experienced wedding photographer and a casual amateur who just bought the latest camera. If you feel confident that Uncle Bob can give you all that you want from your photography, that’s great! However, if it’s important for you to have the highest quality images from your wedding, don’t take chances. We read horror stories all the time from brides who are disappointed with their wedding pictures because they relied on a friend or relative. You don’t have a second chance with your wedding.


Selecting the perfect location

“Location, location, location,” is definitely critical in wedding photography. Your wedding day portrait locations should be thought out in advance. When picking a spot we recommend the following:

Sentimental locations- If there is a certain place that is really special to you as a couple include it in your day. Perhaps the place where you and your fiancé first met, the location of your first date, a place you two visit together often that is special to you, etc. can add a very personal touch to your wedding album. These places already have a special connection to your relationship and will only be made more special by remembering them on your wedding day and in your portraits.

Local natural and historical locations- Historical landmarks, botanical gardens, parks, a pond behind your parents home, the ocean front, an art museum, and hot spots downtown can make any portrait more beautiful. Keep in mind that unique places are all around you. The church or reception hall may have a tree-line or a wooded area nearby you can use. Many parks have pretty gazebos, bridges, fences, and other props that can really add to your portraits. Some of our client’s favorite photos are at the local railroad track, in the historic district against uniquely colored brick walls, or even on an alley stairwell. When you think outside of the norm, you’ll get truly one of a kind images.

If you feel ‘stuck,’ ask your photographer for help. More than likely they will know of some great places or be willing to research and come up with some options for you.

Organize a schedule

You will need to take into account the time needed to drive to your chosen location for portraits. Work with your photographer on your wedding day schedule before deciding on a place so that you know exactly how much time you have available. Once you know your time constraints, find out how long it takes to get from your ceremony to the outdoor location, and then back to your reception. Be sure to add a little extra time to the trip to allow for any minor things like unforeseen traffic or event at the location.

This may help you eliminate places that are just too far, or you may find yourself rescheduling your day so you can hit the place you wanted the most.

Who do you bring with you?

This is purely up to you! You could have your entire bridal party go to each location with you or you and your spouse could make it a private escape.

Having your entire bridal party on location can be lots of fun, but can be tricky as well. The photographer is managing a large number of people and is also trying to find spots to naturally pose the group. It can be done, and the end result can be wonderful, but be sure to work with your photographer ahead of time to talk about how big the group is and whether or not it will work for the outdoor locations you’ve chosen.

Set aside some time for “private escape” portraits to capture more inimate photos of just the bride and groom. Your photographer can be more creative and set up a wider variety of romantic shots of the two of you when you allow time for these shots.

Have a backup plan

What will you do if it rains, snows, gets dark, etc? We suggest you also find an indoor location just as backup. Check around the location you’re getting married at or even the reception hall as there might be some ‘hidden’ areas which could be used for photos if you can’t get outside. Hotel lobbies, libraries, and churches often make great indoor portrait backdrops too.

Please plan for the weather! No bride wants rain on her wedding day but if you’re getting married in the spring, toss some vintage or matching umbrellas in the trunk of the car you’ll be traveling in to the reception. These can add some fun to your wedding photos even if it’s not ideal. In winter, have coats a jacket or blanket to keep warm with for in-between shots. Be adventurous too. Some of the best wedding pictures I’ve ever taken were with couples who were willing to photography in the rain under an umbrella. Rain and grey clouds can actually add some amazing flare and lighting to photos! If you can be open to unconventional portraits they are sure to be unique and I guarantee you’ll never forget taking them!

Wrapping it all up

Start planning early to make the most of your outdoor wedding portraits. Choosing the right photographer, picking locations that fit in the timeline of your day, choosing who will be in the portraits, and preparing a backup plan will surely make for a stress free outdoor portrait experience. A little thoughtful and collaborative organization for your wedding day photography will help yield stunning wedding pictures to be cherished for years to come.

About Emily
Emily is the Owner and Lead Photographer of Smith Gallery Photography. She resides Lambertville, MI with her husband Andrew and daughter Ailey.

Check out to see Emily’s artistic and stunning outdoor and indoor wedding, engagement, family, and other photography. You can also contact her at

Note: All photos included in this article are property of Smith Gallery Photograhpy. Photos were taken by Emily T. Smith.