Wauwatosa firehouse wedding

Wauwatosa firehouse wedding

Winter weddings equal Moody Photos

The more wedding seasons I go through the more I experience the difference between a winter wedding and summer wedding, particularly in the photographs.

As a Milwaukee wedding photographer, we have both the cold and the snow. But, the most important equation in any photo is the lighting. And, in the winter we have a lot less of it. 

For example, if it’s cold outside maybe the bride and groom and wedding party don’t want to spend that much time outside in daylight. That means they’ll need their photographs taken in hotel lobbies or dimly lit churches or reception halls. 

Churches can be hit or miss with lighting. Sometimes the windows are plentiful and large, but the lighting may not reach the actual spaces that would make for good photo backdrops such as alters or hallways. 

Receptions can be even darker. Many times, reception areas that make for incredibly unique and breathtaking venues will not have many windows. They’re designed to be lit by centerpieces and romantic lighting at night and not to be lit by big windows that pour in daylight.

Also, being in northern United States we lose a lot of daylight in the winter. On the average wedding I may be scheduled to work 1:30 pm to 9:30 pm. In the middle of summer in June, that may mean I almost photograph the entire time during daylight hours. 

In a winter or late fall wedding, the sun may go down at 5 pm or earlier. That means that more than half of the wedding, I will be photographing at night whether inside or outside.

This is worthwhile to consider if the look and style of photos is very important to you. If you’re planning a winter wedding you should know that your photos won’t have that bright and airy look that are natural to outdoor summer weddings. Maybe this still works out for portions of the day if you take portraits outside and you get a nice sunny winter day, but that’s not a given in the midwest and especially not in Milwaukee. 

On the other hand, if you’re OK with photos full of contrast and darker edges and corners than you’ll be very happy with your winter photos.


Look for spacious places for portraits

Nicole and Connor’s wedding wasn’t exactly a winter wedding, but it was late fall set on the third week of November. 

As far as pictures, we had a great situation for the getting ready photos. Both Nicole and Connor got ready at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center in downtown Milwaukee. It had an enormous lobby that had really interesting light fixtures, vintage wallpaper and expansive staircases.

Space itself is always a plus for portraits, especially family portraits. If you are a couple and you’re thinking about where to get your family photos taken try to look for a place where the photographer can back up away from you. There is a minimum lens length that will not distort a person’s features and make all the different body parts equal proportion to what they should be in real life.

If I can be distanced away from the group I can use my telephoto lens to take two different photos for everyone: a full length photos and then waist-up photos. For a group of six, I’d need to be at least 20 feet away from the group to achieve this.

With a long hallway in the hotel I was able to do that for photos of Nicole and her mother and Nicole and her bridesmaids. While also having everybody stand far enough away from background elements so that the background was all blurred out behind them. In this case the background was 30-40 feet behind them.

On the other hand, when I wanted to use the features of the hotel I was able to have them stand at the top of a staircase and then take some photos that showed the staircase and light fixtures on the ceiling and walls all around them.

Connor had a large group of guys so immediately I was drawn to some chairs by a pillar in the main lobby. With more than six guys in his wedding party I was able to have a couple people sit down and then others lean against the pillar or lean on the edge of a chair. Having something to sit on or lean against gives people more comfort in their posture and an air of casualness in portraits that I like.

With the decor of the lobby all the photos had more of a contrasty feel with bright highlights and dark shadows. I used an off camera flash to give everyone more photogenic lighting on their faces, but still the warm orange glow of the indoor lights and the orange toned decorations gave everything a warm look with lots of oranges and reds and yellows.


Portraits at the Story Hill Firehouse

The rest of the day was spent at the Story Hill Firehouse in Wauwatosa, a nearby suburb of Milwaukee. 

Upon first glance it seemed to be a little bit of a challenge to photograph large groups there, because there was only two big on the main floor and that was also where either the guests would mingle or ceremony chairs and reception tables would be in our way. 

They also didn’t have a very large outdoors area, where you might think about photos taken on a lawn with landscaping as a back drop.

However, since Story Hill was a transformed old firehouse the front of the building itself was the perfect background. As is the case for firehouses they have a large door that lets out multiple fire engines at a time. So, I used that door as my background for the family portraits. 

Family portraits are referred to as traditional portraits in the sense that everyone standing in front of me is looking and smiling at me and the camera rather than interacting with each other and creating a more candid or lifestyle-looking picture. 

And, with bringing in different groups I really want to keep everything the same, so if you do create a book of the pictures the layout will flow really nicely down the line. It’s also nice to keep things simple so that generations from now family members can appreciate the photos without being distracted by changing styles.

Also, with the door being uniform dark red wood the background was naturally not distracting from the people. If a lot of different things are going on in the background, then you’re forced to have them stand further away from the distractions so that you can blur it out. Standing less than five feet in front of the door, the background wasn’t blurred at all, but it wasn’t distracting and it was actually flattering to the entire picture.

I hope you enjoy these photos from this winter wedding and if anyone wants even more tips and a first-hand experience of using the Story Hill Firehouse as their wedding venue please reach out to me at matt@bigskyphoto.com/contact-me.

Cake: Rolling Pin Bakery Facebook

Dress: Bliss Bridal; Facebook; Instagram

Makeup: Mobile Makeup Pros

Hair: Katie Mann; Facebook; Instagram

Flowers: Jess Fleur Fun; Facebook; Instagram

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