Behind the Lens: Charlottesville Wedding Photographers Share Pro Tips

Capture the perfect wedding day photos using expert insider how-to.

Part of Charlottesville’s wide wedding destination appeal lies in its natural stunning photo backdrops. Couples select from varied postcard landscapes — vineyards, rivers and valleys, violet hours and lush foothill mountains, stately mansions and modern metropolitan architecture — all painting unforgettable Charlottesville wedding photography scenes.

Once the day has come and gone, Charlottesville wedding photographers know it’s your wedding photos that remain. It’s these albums and framed moments that your children and grandchildren will cherish. These seasoned Charlottesville wedding professionals are dedicated to capturing the in-between moments and shared joy, the entire family gathered, your closest friends in one spot and your first kiss, dance and dinner party as a married couple.

Here, Charlottesville’s best wedding photographers share tips on capturing images you’ll fall in love with over and over again.

How Much to Budget for a Charlottesville Wedding Photographer?
Wedding photography typically accounts for 10% of Charlottesville couple’s budgets. The average Charlottesville wedding photography package starts at $4,500 and can reach up to $9,000 and beyond.

Is This Your Charlottesville Photographer?

A great rule of thumb is to research photographers and narrow it down to your top two or three. Visit their social media sites and scour their website portfolios. And then conduct interviews to see who is the best fit for your wedding. Your first interaction or meeting with a wedding photographer should feel good. You should feel heard and understood and have a sense of wellbeing around them.

Ask the Right Questions
Here’s what to ask your potential Charlottesville wedding photographer before you sign a contract.

  • How long have you been a professional photographer?
  • Are you available on our desired wedding date?
  • Is this your full-time job?
  • How many weddings do you shoot each year?
  • How would you describe your photography style?
  • What is your photo editing style?
  • Will you have an assistant photographer coming with you?
  • What do your wedding packages include?
  • Is an engagement shoot and wedding album included?
  • Are there travel fees?
  • When will we receive our wedding photos?Are usage rights included or do we need to purchase rights to prints?
“I think the most important questions a couple can ask a photographer are not about timeline, logistics and style, but more about their values and approach. Getting a sense of a photographer's personality and values — and making sure there's chemistry — will have a profound impact on the images.”

–Kate Thompson
Kate Thompson Photography

Tips From the Pros

We interviewed Charlottesville’s best wedding photographers about their top tricks and tips for capturing gorgeous photos.

Think outside the timeline shot list.

The most organic, cherished photos from the day are oftentimes unplanned and off the cuff. It’s important to let your photographer know which shots are on your must-have list, which family and wedding party portraits you want to check off and how you’d like the first look to unfold. But, experts say, don’t get too caught up in the timeline and the posed or planned photography.

“People think of weddings as happy and joyful, but there are lots of other emotions that go along with the day. And we want to capture those as well. Sometimes we go with a modern, clean shot. Sometimes you want all the chaos of the getting ready room, the smiles, the tears, the wine glasses, the makeup everywhere. Photographers need to go beyond just making it look pretty. We want personalities to shine through.”

–Amy Smith
The Smiths Photography

How do I make family and wedding party formals painless?

A skilled wedding photographer will ask ahead of time about any unique family dynamics (divorce situations or recent relative passings) to avoid any awkwardness during family portrait time. Quick and efficient is the name of the photo game here.

We get so nervous in front of the camera. Do you have tips for relaxing?

“Get comfortable during the engagement shoot and really get comfortable looking into each other’s eyes and fake laugh and feel silly," says Robert Radifera of Robert Radifera Photography. “Practice this before your wedding day and your photos will be great."

“We really do want our couples to feel like we are old friends of theirs by the time we show up on wedding days, which is why we offer a free engagement session, why we want to have a long video chat with them, and why we prioritize building a relationship with them. They hug us when we get there. We feel like friends, not strangers shooting their wedding. They’re not nervous in front of us when we’re posing a kissing shot.”

–Sarah Sheldon
Hunter and Sarah Photography

Any pro tricks for catching the best candid shots?

"Movement! Always be moving," offers Sarah Cramer Shields of Cramer Photo.

Kate Thompson adds, "The key to good candid wedding photos is a comfortable relationship with your photographer. Feeling relaxed with the person holding the camera makes for the most natural-feeling photos.”

How do you wrangle dogs and kids for adorable wedding photos?

Move quickly, and bring treats!

“Figure out the pet’s trigger word and bring treats. Also, have someone to help assist you with the animals so the bride and groom don't get covered in hair, potential mud, etc.”

–Sarah Cramer Shields
Cramer Photo
“Get the shot quickly! Once dogs or kids see the camera come out, they often react and retreat. So make sure the frame is set up in your mind before hitting the shutter.”

–Tom Daly
Tom Daly Photography

Posed vs. natural: How do I find the right mix and avoid awkward shots?

Sarah Cramer Shields avoids posing couples if possible. “I rarely pose images unless it's family portrait time," she says. "If you get stuck, give the couple something to do like walk through a vineyard or go sit somewhere or twirl. I distract them from having their photo taken. Also, I TALK to them.”

Robert Radifera speaks to finding those wonderfully wild, natural moments, and recreating them if necessary!

“Because I learned to shoot before digital, I know you have to sort of get the moment, see it coming before you shoot the shot. You follow the people that you know are going to do the crazy things. You never really miss a moment because you can always ask them to do that dance floor flip again.”

–Robert Radifera
Robert Radifera Photography

What makes for a timeless frame-worthy wedding photo?

Spontaneity appears to be key here, according to the pros. “Most of my favorite unforgettable wedding photos come from meeting the world halfway. If a sunset is peaking and you're due to come in from cocktail hour, go for the sunset! Say yes!" says Tom Daly of Tom Daly Photography. "Being ready for serendipity to take over the timeline is more important than staying on time. (Sorry wedding planners.)”

“In my opinion, the best photos are never the planned ones. My favorites are spontaneous, unplanned, heartfelt moments."

–Kate Thompson
Kate Thompson Photography
Photo by Gideon Photography
Pro Tip
"Is your family chronically late? Tell them family photos start 15 minutes earlier than they do."
Hunter Sheldon of Hunter and Sarah Photography

Film vs. Digital

Maybe you love the everlasting fine art aesthetic of film. Or that long-exposure blurred digital effect applied to a sweet sparkler send-off shot. Ask your wedding photographer about hybrid options. Some Charlottesville photographers specialize in shooting film and digital on wedding days to capture the best of both worlds.

Also, consider requesting a mix of black and white alongside your color photography. A soft embrace, stolen kiss, or vineyard stroll can turn out incredibly flattering and timeless when captured in black and white.

Pro Tip
Don’t forget to ask your Charlottesville wedding photographer to submit your beautiful images to Novela and we’ll showcase your wedding on our site!

Why Work with Novela

We’ve vetted and interviewed Charlottesville’s best wedding photographers and vow to connect you with the industry’s creme de la creme. When you partner with Novela, you can secure your dream venue, book your vendors, and finance your wedding at zero interest–all in one stop. We’re the first transactional wedding planning one-and-done company.

So, are you ready to start planning your dream wedding?

Our concierge team is here to help you every step of the way.