A photographer’s wedding day play-by-play. Plus, why getting along with your wedding photographer is SO important.
Charlotte Sowman photographs beautiful moments. She captures everything. From grandma’s tears at the ceremony to sweet whispers with your love. Charlotte’s style communicates the emotion of your wedding day in soft, mood-filled photographs that reflect you both as a couple. Her trick? Getting to know you. From the initial client-photographer meeting, through your engagement shoot, to the big day. The more involved Charlotte is, the better she believes she can capture your love story in a way that feels natural to you. Charlotte was an absolute pleasure to chat with about her work, and we started at the very beginning to help you plan your big day!
Capturing your wedding morning memories
Charlotte’s full day shoots usually kick off around 10:30am at the tail end of hair and makeup, then finish on the dance floor around 10pm. She starts by shooting the wedding party getting ready and interacting. “This is a good time to meet everyone and to get to know the bridesmaids and the family.” Between these interactions she pops back and forth to do detail shots like rings, shoes, the dress, flowers, and invites. “I usually ask that they’re put aside for me, or taken care of by a bridesmaid who can point them out when I arrive. I’ll move the items to different settings. If the couple have shared with me what the theme or vibe of their day is I’ll try to choose somewhere that will tie in and reflect that so that the gallery has a cohesive feel.” Brides are forgiven for fretting about where to stage the ‘dress photo’ because these detail shots dominate what we see in wedding inspiration blogs, but Charlotte points out that “in hindsight those are minor parts of what it’s all about”. While capturing them is important “I’d probably be a bit gutted if a photographer missed a really special moment between me and someone special because they were spending all their time doing the detail shots”. We couldn’t agree more.
Shooting those ceremony giggles
At the ceremony Charlotte’s approach is to move around and shoot constantly. “I won’t wait for something to happen, rather I try to anticipate when and where special moments might occur.” This lets her capture fleeting loving looks, erupting laughter, and other blink and you’ll miss it moments. “Some of my favourite ceremony images aren’t super cliché. I like those in-between moments where people are looking at each other really nicely, or someone in the crowd is having a moment.” After the ceremony “I love it when the couple do a fun, celebratory walk out, confetti is always a winner for me”. Then at family photo time “It’s really good when a MC can be organising by having a list and microphone. Choose someone who knows people on both sides and can call people over when they’re needed”. Planning tip: Charlotte advises that you chat with your photographer about your ceremony set up to avoid a faux pas like one of you being in full sun, and the other in full shade. Photographers are always considering lighting details like this.
Following the family photos “I like to shoot at least an hour of portraits so there’s enough time to get shots of the bridal party and plenty of the couple, but it really depends on the couple and how they want to schedule their day. More and more I’m having couples take their photos before the ceremony, with a first look, so they don’t have to leave their guests after the ceremony”. Charlotte says it’s nearing a “50/50” split between a first look with pre-ceremony photos, and the traditional approach of seeing each other for the first time at the ceremony. She’s found that couples who opt for the first look love spending that time between their ceremony and reception sipping bubbles and celebrating with their guests.
Private moments amid the chaos
A half hour before sunset Charlotte likes to sneak her couples out of their reception for a quick few photos. “It’s really cool to allow time in that half hour before sunset … because that’s when the sun is nice and low and it’s beautiful and golden." She says this creates a soft, flattering light. “It’s also a really nice time at the end of the day to go away, just the two of them, and they can have a moment to reflect on the day and spend some time together. And yes, I’ll be there, but I try to be a little removed from it to let them have some time. You can get some beautiful images.”
A unique wedding story
Charlotte loves capturing adventurous couples with unique wedding ideas. She photographed a couple's destination wedding in Hanmer Springs, New Zealand. “They were super relaxed and so much fun. Honestly, nothing fazed them. They had the best time the whole day, which truly reflected in their photos.” The day was full of personal touches. “I urge my couples to let real emotions and stories unfold on their special day and not to sweat the small stuff.” A relative of the groom had planted the original redwoods of a local Hanmer forest. They had their ceremony at the edge of that forest, wandered through the forest for their photos, and finished by throwing an epic tepee reception party. As for personalised décor, their annual snowboarding trip to Japan inspired the bride to hand-make a thousand paper cranes and hang them from their tepee.
Your wedding style inspiration
You know those pretty inspiration weddings you’ve been lusting over on Instagram, the ones without guests? Charlotte dished on what goes into a 'styled' wedding photoshoot. Her first collaborative shoot “was a pivotal point for me because until then I’d gone under the radar … I hadn’t done any marketing or promotion”. The shoot was for Wild Hearts Wedding Fair and was featured in White Magazine. She pulled together vendors including Forage & Spruce and Flowerhead, and created mood boards to set a vision. They scouted locations, set up the shoot, and Charlotte had a single night to edit before the publishing deadline. She says, “the best thing I’ve done since having my own business has been the networking and collaboration”. “I have a lot of vendors on my list of recommendations now because I know them as people and I know that they do a wonderful job.”
Choosing your wedding photographer
When choosing a wedding photographer Charlotte’s advice is to delve deeper than just Instagram. “I think Instagram is amazing. For me it is like my portfolio and gives a real sense of my style.” But she also suggests visiting their website to read their blog. “My blog is where I post an in-depth wedding gallery; a story from start to finish.” When you visit Charlotte’s blog you can see how she approaches shooting weddings, and the connections she forms with her couples. When it comes to deciding on your photographer Charlotte advises finding a photographer with a style that you love, then also meeting or Skyping with them to see if they're the right fit for you. "Your photographer will be with you for most of the day so it’s important to get along as people." "Planning a wedding can be overwhelming and photographers are among the first on the list to book in, so after an initial meeting I’ll send a list of recommendations, vendors, and blogs I love to look at for inspiration.” If the couple are doing an engagement shoot "we arrange an epic adventure for that, which is honestly so great. My couples get a feel for how I like to shoot and get comfortable in front of the camera”. A couple of weeks before the big day Charlotte takes local couples on a location scout and discusses the wedding timeline further. “I also have them fill in an online questionnaire ... that gives me their run sheet of the day so I can figure out where and when I’m needed.”
So where does someone with such a cultivated photography style go for inspiration? Charlotte has a large collection of wedding magazines! She also loves wedding blogs like Hello May, White Mag, and Junebug Weddings. Charlotte "follows lots of other wedding photographers. In New Zealand I love Danelle Bohane. I went to one of her workshops when I first started my business. She’s got a really good balance. Her work is aesthetically beautiful and artistic to look at but is also authentic, genuine, and reflects her couples really well. Other favourite photographers are India Earl, Ty French, and Phil Chester".
My goal is to create beautiful images that not only look great but really mean something to you, and will bring back wonderful memories of an amazing time in your life. I aim to capture the true essence of you as a couple in the most authentic and natural way possible, and that for me starts with getting to know you. My approach to photographing a wedding is caring, personal, relaxed, and hopefully a lot of fun! I would describe my style as wildly romantic, artistic, and natural. If this sounds like you, I'd love to hear from you!
Header Photography: Charlotte Sowman Photography
Credits (in order of mention)