Vanessa and Matthew were married in Oshkosh at the end of January in a quaint church with huge wide-open windows that let in beautiful light. Their reception at The Waters overlooked Lake Winnebago.
As a wedding photographer in Milwaukee, I’m no stranger to wedding venues overlooking a lake, but as my assistant mentioned to me when we arrived, “It’s so strange seeing the other side of the lake.”
He was referring to Lake Michigan, which is too big to see across and has been the backdrop of mine for countless portraits, including Vanessa and Matthew’s engagement photos.
As for their big day, I think this was the first wedding I’ve photographed in Oshkosh. Getting out of the city of Milwaukee and traveling around the state is one of my favorite things to do. I grew up in a small town in Montana, so traveling through the country and visiting smaller cities reminds me a little bit of home.
Whether you live in the city or country, you may want somewhere really scenic for your portrait session during your wedding day and engagement portraits. So, knowing some beautiful outdoor places and how to get there is super helpful as a wedding photographer. I have several favorite locations. Some of them are from other weddings I’ve photographed in Madison, Stevens Point, Green Bay, Lake Geneva and really … all over Wisconsin.
Timing of the Wedding Day Portrait Sessions
For Vanessa and Matthew, we took advantage of The Waters facility to take some wedding party portraits with the lake in the background. I also took a few wide-angle photos of the couple silhouetted atop the main back entrance with steps and white columns.
We also did quite a few different setups of the wedding party. Like many of my other weddings, we did the full group with bridesmaids and groomsmen all in one picture. Of this, we did a standard photo of everyone lined up and then a couple of other photos where the guys and gals were all mixed up. After this, we did the groomsmen by themselves with the groom and then the bridesmaids by themselves with the bride. We then did a photo of each groomsmen with the groom and each bridesmaid with the bride.
All told, we had two hours to take portraits before Vanessa and Matthew wanted to be back inside and at the reception. Since it was winter and super cold outside, we planned to take photos first of the couple inside for a half-hour, then the wedding party inside for a half-hour and then move outside, first with the wedding party, and then at last with the couple.
By the time we got to just the outside photos of Vanessa and Matthew, we were all getting ridiculously cold, so we cut that section short by 15 minutes. The nice thing about this setup was that I had already gotten a lot of portraits of the two of them, so I didn’t think they’d miss much. We took 5-10 minutes of photos and still had time to take portraits with the lake in the background for another 10 minutes – just in time before it got uncomfortable cold.
Many couples have questions on how long to schedule an entire portrait session, such as this one for Vanessa and Matthew and their wedding party.
Before deciding on a length of time, I try to find a balance between your comfort and enjoyment of getting photos taken and having enough time to get great looking photos.
For example, if we have an all-day photoshoot (including set up time, and hair and makeup on standby), we’re going to make a PERFECT photo. But you’re not paid models, and it’d be more fun for you if the pictures were relaxed and comfortable. You want the experience to feel less like posing and more like having fun with your partner and wedding party.
In my experience, family portraits will take about 30 minutes depending on how many groupings there are and how seamlessly the larger groups pose for a photo. As for large wedding parties and the couples, I like to have between one and two hours. If your schedule only allows an hour or so, I’ll prepare to work a little bit faster. I plan for a half-hour for the wedding party and a half hour for the couple.
Those Getting Ready Photos
I get a lot of questions from brides about capturing photos of them getting ready for the ceremony. I’ll quickly walk you through what happened with Vanessa, one of my most recent clients.
She and her bridesmaids were getting ready at an Airbnb in Oshkosh. When I arrived, Vanessa was getting her makeup and hair done. Normally, I like to take the “makeup” shot after the stylist is finished. That way, the bride looks flawless and her hair and makeup is “walk down the aisle” ready.
I immediately started taking photos of the dresses and bridesmaids getting ready. I also scouted out the rest of the house, so I could pick out some spots to take other photos.
Truth be told, I did deviate from my normal process and took a photo of Vanessa in the makeup process. The lighting was just perfect. Then, I took photos of her and her bridesmaids all together with their robes. I also took photos of Vanessa with her dress put on, but not completely zipped all the way. Usually, a family member or maid of honor finishes zipping up the dress, so this can be a meaningful moment for the bride.
It’s always fun to work up a wedding photography plan with each couple and make the photos as spectacular as possible and to get all the people and moments that are most important to them.
This is the first preview of the photos from their wedding. I’ll share more gems soon.
In the meantime, find more photos of my work at bigskyphoto.com/weddings.