Massart Photography reflects on 14 years of photographing weddings
This post is for you if:
-You’re getting married
-You photograph weddings
-You want to photograph weddings
-You want a glimpse into this crazy exhilarating career
-You want to pass the time looking at pretty people
I was recently contacted to photograph a Newport Wedding at a venue and I needed to find some portfolio images so I started digging. In true Audrey fashion, I let this get out of hand and decided heck, why not make a compilation of MY ENTIRE wedding career 😆 So here you have it: some favorite moments, some tricks for photographers, inspiration for couples tying the knot, and a walk down memory lane! Keep in mind that anything stated in this post is strictly my opinion and in no way shape or form am I stating that my way is the way.
I wouldn’t say this was my first wedding but it was definitely in my early years and this image is still a favorite so I thought it would be a good starting point. Blithewold Mansion often comes to mind as one of my favorite venues to photograph because of its beauty and abundance of backdrops. I love the wild feel of the gardens and the bamboo section is a must! If you get to photograph a Rhode Island wedding here, consider yourself lucky and be ready to explore! More to follow
Portrait session photo location? The only drawback to this incredible spot is that it’s gotten very popular so working around other photographers can be a challenge but it’s well worth it! Buttonwoods Farm in Connecticut is where you will find this sunflower field. They have homemade ice cream AND 100% of the proceeds go straight to the make-a-wish foundation. That’s a win-win for me!
While you can’t exactly plan for snow on your wedding day, it’s certainly magical when it happens! The whole state was shut down, their rented car had to leave early, and their photo venue closed but we still laugh about it and got some magical images! This beautiful couple now has FOUR little ones and I love spending time with them. I have met some of my very best friends through this business and I couldn’t be more grateful
Throughout this post, I’m going to mention some of my favorite things. Number 1: an emotional groom. This wedding was one for the books! I even had the incredible honor of photographing their twin girls a few years later.
Venue Spotlight: Fort Adams, RI is such a unique venue. The casings are my favorite part. If you’re looking for a venue with water views and an edge, this is the place for you! I have photographed weddings and engagement sessions here but wouldn’t it be fun for a family session too?
Venue Spotlight: OceanCliff Resort in Newport, RI is probably the venue I have photographed the most. You really can’t go wrong here. Between the stunning archway, the ocean, the bridge, and heck, everything is gorgeous!
(I actually made a post just for it, you can see it here)
Scheduled for portraits mid-day? You can learn to love all light if you don’t already. A helpful trick for managing that bright light is to use natural reflectors. A light-colored building can work as a giant reflector but so can sand, snow, etc.
This couple is featured here in artificial light, mid-day light, sunset light, and open shade. I don’t believe in bad light 🤷♀️
I love this archway at Ocean Cliff Resort because it photographs beautifully in any light. It can be used with light coming through just as well as for shade. It’s wide enough for large groups and can also provide a plain black backdrop, as you can see below!
Here are some more images of an Ocean Cliff Resort Wedding
Let’s backtrack though. This blog post was quite time-consuming, but also therapeutic, I loved relieving all these years with these beautiful couples. That said, it’s not necessarily in chronological order. Okay, not at all. Anywho, I won’t tell anyone how to run their business but I’ll tell you what has worked for me. I stopped doing hourly packages a long time ago. I wanted all my couples to have the same story captured, whether it was condensed, or not. Because of this, my arrival time simply depends on client A’s departure time for the ceremony or first look. I always give myself two hours but I’m also methodical and on a mission. If you are newer, you may want to give yourself more time. I’ll go over my goals during this two-hour window.
Makeup: my opinion is that no bride wants to see herself with a completely bare face when she’s going to be glammed up the rest of the day. Because of this, I do not need to be there for the entirety of the makeup application. In fact, a couple of images of mascara and/or lipstick can easily be staged and make a big difference in the timeline. While the bride is in the makeup chair, I spend the time photographing some of her details and some candid images. Of course, she has done her homework and has her details gathered up for me 🙂
The Details: I do believe details are important: whether it’s a family heirloom or a color palette that’s been considered for months, I like to turn it into a little art project. One thing I learned was to group the details together as opposed to photographing EVERYTHING separately. I found that it made more sense visually and it also freed up my time to go capture candid emotion.
Photo tip: Some florists will leave a few extra florals or greenery; this makes the perfect addition but using boutonnieres also works, as they are smaller in size
Photo tip: To find a background, look around the room for textures. I have been known to photograph details next to toilets if that’s what it takes! Another idea is to lay a bridesmaid’s dress down. This will tie in the wedding colors and work beautifully in an album layout!
Incorporating your subject with your details adds a personal element to your image
Brides: don’t pre-hang the dress and ALL your bridesmaids’ dresses for your photographer. We always appreciate it BUT the light is more important than the location, let them figure it out
When you are finished with details, it’s always nice to get a photo of the girls bonding. Keep in mind that this isn’t always possible because of hair and makeup. Bridesmaids: take this with all the love and kindness that it is meant with: if the bride wants a robe image, don’t make everyone wait while you apply lipstick. This isn’t about that and making the group wait creates delays, which in turn, cut into the bride’s portraits. You look beautiful anyway!
Champagne popping ALWAYS results in some genuine laughs. So does my stupid pretend laugh. Laugh at yourselves, laugh at me, I don’t care, just enjoy the moment 🙂
Now it’s time for one of my favorite parts of the day: The bride getting in her gown. I have found this time to include some of the most tender moments between my brides and their mothers/grandmothers/besties etc. I always ask for some privacy during this time so the bride can take a break from the chaos and really take in the moment. This is also a great time to read a card from the groom if there is one.
Photo tip: I love using a simple window for this part of the day and love it when I find sheers as they do a beautiful job of diffusing the light.
I don’t really care that every single one of my wedding blog posts includes the bride putting her earrings in. I don’t have anything against consistency! I find it to be such a classic portrait that it’s become a staple.
The next thing I do is capture intimate portraits of the bride and her closests. If dad is around, this is the perfect time to have him join. It doesn’t take long to turn this into a first look with him but it WILL provide the family with a beautiful moment captured. This is the time to delegate. Bridesmaids love to help, put one in charge of getting him and making sure he doesn’t enter until you are ready, then have him jump into a few portraits.
Of course, we photograph these groupings during formals later as well but I find that there’s something special about capturing this moment in a more private setting.
Lastly, portraits of the bride!!!! Why does no one seem to think this is important during the wedding day? I have yet to figure that out 😆 I can’t tell you how many times I have had to beg for five minutes with the bride. The good news is that it can be very quick if needed.
Photo tip: My go-to is a simple window. In order to create that dark and dramatic background, simply close ALL of the shades to all of the other windows. This will create a single light source for a timeless portrait.
Photo tip: If the gown allows, spreading it around the bride is always fun! Be ready to help her get back up!
Many people have heard of first looks as they have grown in popularity but just in case you haven’t: A first look is when the couple sees each other before the wedding ceremony. This has two wonderful advantages: you and your future spouse can take it all in, share a private moment, and take your time. Second, this allows you to get portraits done early and frees you up to enjoy more time with your guests after the ceremony!
Photo tip: Focus on the GROOM!!!!! I promise you this is the one time of the day that is less about the bride! She is dying to see his reaction. Grooms: the more tears, the better.
This concludes my getting ready process. Now let's get back to wedding venues:
I have done a few private residence weddings over the years and I just love the personal feel. This one was a “summer party” and the wedding was a surprise for the guests! How cool is that?
Photo tip: I mentioned mid-day light above. There’s actually a positive to mid-day light, it’s so high that it’s not in your lens!
This was mid-day and bright and I loved it! Side note, these two have become some of my closest friends <3
Photo tip: If you find yourself with too much sunlight in your lens, use a tree, building, or anything to diffuse some of it down. You will be left with a beautiful glow and won’t have to deal with washed-out images from the sun fully hitting your lens.
This private spot at Ochre Court in Newport, RI is the perfect place for a few romantic, backlit portraits. You can rent out Ochre Court for your portraits!
Venue Spotlight: Ochre Court at Salve Regina in Newport, RI offers a plethora of backdrops for all your wedding needs!
Venue Spotlight: I’m a HUGE book lover so getting to capture a wedding at The Providence Library is an absolute treat!
Reception at The Providence Library
Outside of the library is just as pretty too!
Venue Spotlight: If a country club is up your alley, Quidnessett Country Club offers beautiful grounds and a gorgeous lobby for some dramatic portraits
Photo tip: Rules are meant to be broken. Seek even light; it’s more flattering. Unless you’re ready to be daring, then direct light can be your friend. All you have to do for this is expose for the highlights and bam, drama!
Speaking of drama, nighttime portraits are so fun, don’t let them intimidate you!
All of the above night portraits were a one-light setup. It’s placed right behind the couple!
While this one wasn’t captured outside because of frigid temperatures, it’s the same concept. The Atlantic Resort has gorgeous twinkle lights, which gave me the perfect excuse to keep my booty toasty inside!
Photo tip: Use your settings to overpower ambient light for more drama!
If I remember correctly, this was taken in a parking lot with cars all around. Things don’t need to be complicated!
Photo tip: One of my favorite tricks is placing my subjects directly in front of the sun. Do this and rapidly shoot moving ever so slightly in order to change the amount of sun hitting your lens. Many will get trashed but I almost guarantee you will have a few magical images. This is similar to what was discussed above, in reference to night portraits but with the sun instead of a flash!
Ocean Cliff Resort sunsets never disappoint.
However, if you don’t have sun and your couple is dying for a romantic sunset feel, an orange gel on an off-camera flash is all you need!
Another wedding favorite: TWINKLE LIGHTS! They always create a magical backdrop!
Photo tip: To add dimension, use a reflective surface right below your lens! Here, I used my cell phone to reflect the lights back onto the image.
I have photographed wedding portraits around the outside of the state house many times when working at providence venues but getting to actually go inside was extra special! How chic are these white bridesmaids’ dresses?
Of course, if you are getting married at Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina now renamed Newport Harbor Island Resort, you just have to incorporate the lighthouse; a staple!
Or you can get engaged there too!
Market lights are right up my alley and add such a special touch to portraits are Regatta Place, Newport. I was told they were left over from a wedding and I don’t know if that’s accurate but I’m not mad about it!
As you will see, these next two Ocean Cliff Resort couples had their ceremonies at sunset. This made for beautiful ceremony light but would have been a challenge if we hadn’t gotten formals done before the ceremony. A first look really helped their wedding day timelines! Instead of cramming formals after the ceremony, we were able to get additional, dreamy portraits of the two of them and then let them go enjoy their guests!
OceanCliff Resort sunset ceremony
Ocean Cliff Resort offers packages for small, intimate weddings, which are some of my favorites. As you can see, even a sunless day photographs beautifully here!
When searching for a location for your bridal portraits, don’t underestimate the beauty of trees! They’re all around and they’re free!
Rhode Island offers so much variety when it comes to wedding portrait backdrops. Downtown Providence is just one of them!
This is a senior portrait session and not a wedding but I wanted to make sure and mention Roger Williams Park here because I think that we sometimes take it for granted. There’s more variety than you will ever need here! If you’re bringing a wedding party, make sure and get a permit ahead of time.
Did you ever consider a STAGE for your engagement session or wedding!? See their stunning wedding HERE
Venue Spotlight: A venue that’s less known of but a favorite of mine would be Lavender Waves Farm, in Wakefield, RI. I have photographed several portrait family sessions there but here’s a glimpse at a wedding!
I didn’t include many partying images in this post because I had to draw the line somewhere but capturing the energy at the reception is definitely another favorite part of the wedding day. The jaw-dropping ballroom at The Graduate Hotel, Providence deserves a mention too. More on that below!
Photo tip: To create a magical ring image, look for reflective surfaces and whip out that off-camera flash! Random twinkle lights are a bonus!
Venue Spotlight: Goddard Park was the perfect backdrop for this intimate and elegant wedding! We even had a special surprise guest!
Venue Spotlight: Five Bridge Inn has so much to offer but my favorite is probably the less-manicured area in the back, which includes this beautiful trellis!
Drooping, and flowering trees are my absolute favorite thing. I may love them more than twinkle lights. Keep an eye out for them, it doesn’t matter where they are, I believe this one was in a parking lot. By compressing your background by zooming all the way in, the focus will be on your subject and the flowers, not what’s behind the tree.
Blithewold Mansion, RI
Venue Spotlight: I mentioned Blithewold being one of my favorite Rhode Island Wedding venues above, can you see why?
That said, true, authentic moments still trump a beautiful backdrop. Photographers: do not view the moment right after the ceremony as a break. I promise this is the best time to capture gold; some of my favorite images in my entire career were captured during this time. The amount of adrenaline allows people to forget all about you and your camera.
Sometimes, you also don’t need to reinvent the wheel. A simple flowering tree made me so happy and nature is all around!
On the other hand, fireworks make a great backdrop! I have had the honor of photographing couples in front of them on several instances and it’s humbling each and every time.
This couple decided to share cards with each other before their first look, without seeing each other. This idea was so sweet <3
We have such incredible churches in Rhode Island, make sure and back all the way up for a full capture!
I often tell my children, “turn your attitude into gratitude”. They think I’m a dork but I live by this motto. I hear so many photographers complain about guests taking photos with their cell phones. It’s 2023, it just is what it is! Technology is part of our everyday lives so it doesn’t bother me, as long as guests are respectful and aren’t blocking my lens. In this instance, a guest’s flash beautifully lit my couple, which allowed me to decrease the exposure all around and create this dramatic portrait. So thanks, guest! Attitude —> Gratitude See?!
Petals and bubbles always add such a beautiful touch of dimension! These were petal canons and I highly recommend!
If you don’t have a canon handy, there’s always someone willing to throw petals at the couple!
Of course, if you want to take your photographer to that magical place in Florida, that’s always fun! 🐭🙃
Back to evening portraits, if you’re getting married in downtown Providence, consider stepping out with your photographer for a few minutes at night.
The best part of not having a crazy tight timeline is that you can spend a few minutes on opportunities that pop up out of nowhere!
Venue spotlight: Aldrich Mansion in Warwick, RI is absolutely gorgeous all around. There is so much beauty to list here but I have a special appreciation for the wild vines growing on the guest outbuilding!
Random career highlight: There was that time my son tried to run away with the bride! You had to be there 😜
Venue Spotlight: Linden Place
Linden Place in the springtime had me swooning. That magnolia tree was a dream come true! Any season is gorgeous here really. The mansion and the grounds provide you with everything you need in one location!
I’m in love with the rooms at Linden Place. One is bright and airy, while the other is dark and moody. Both are equally beautiful, in my opinion, and I love to provide my clients with both options!
The carriage house is perfect for your reception
By far my favorite part of the venue is the staircase
Photo tip: If you must photograph a wedding NINE months pregnant, make sure you have a solid backup plan in place. Better safe than sorry!!!
Venue Spotlight: Harbor Lights, Warwick.
Heather and Jen’s quote was “today is someday” and how perfect is that? I can’t help but get extra emotional when I witness same-sex couples finally being able to get married. On another note, Harbor Lights in Warwick, RI is your place if you’re looking for a beautiful but laid-back, nautical venue!
Venue Spotlight: Another laid-back, stunning, rustic, and full of photo ops is Blissful Meadows! This place truly offers everything!
Venue Spotlight: The Providence G. I love the variety this wedding allowed. Downtown scenes, a weeping willow, a beautiful church, and an elegant ballroom!
This was only the beginning of our road together 🥰 ⬇️
Let’s get back on track! Venue Spotlight! I only got to photograph one wedding here and that makes me so sad because Glenn Manor in Portsmouth, Rhode Island was an absolute treat!
I’m heartbroken that the Dorrance is no longer open but I still had to feature it. The way the Sunlight would leak through the windows allowed for so much drama.
Light is so much fun once you realize that the possibilities are endless. Same dress, same venue, different lighting usage.
Photo Tip: I wanted to feature this portrait of the bride with her grandmother because it’s a reminder for photographers to keep taking photos “in between” the shots. I had taken the standard portrait of them looking at the camera but I’m willing to bet that they treasure this one more. It happened organically, as grandma was about to walk away.
Photo Tip: If you are in a church with stained windows and there is any sun, do yourself a favor and sneak the couple back in after the ceremony. You will need to be ninja-like so that the guests don’t steal your couple but it’s so worth it!
If you are feeling downtown and want a venue that’s edgy but timeless and classic at the same time, The Graduate Hotel in Providence is your place to be! The team is so wonderful to work with and that ballroom and lobby are incomparable.
Several of my Graduate Hotel couples chose the John Brown House for their outdoor portrait location. If you have time for travel, this location is stunning!
Another downtown Providence photo idea! The Gondolas!
A few thoughts on engagement sessions. The advantage of these portraits versus your wedding day portraits is that you can control the time and location. Personally, I love flowers and will always seek those out as my first choice but just like wedding venues, engagement session locations are limitless in our little state!
Pictured here are Beavertail, Fort Adams, Charlestown Breechway, Kinney Azaleas, my backyard, and a patch of weeds on the side of the road!
A Manhattan engagement session!
If you can have access to a plane at your next engagement session, that’s always fun too 😆😍
A vineyard engagement session? Yes, please!
An engagement session is also the perfect opportunity to include your pooch!
Then again, so is your wedding day. RIP little buddy 🙁 I’m so thankful I got to capture your mama’s love for you!
Venue Spotlight: Even if the hydrangeas aren’t in season, Castle Hill will not disappoint. Between the ocean views, the gardens, the lighthouse, and more, it’s a personal favorite.
I have loved doing a first look with my brides. It doesn’t take long to set up. Just have everyone gather up as your bride is ready to walk out of her getting-ready room and be prepared to capture tears
Venue Spotlight: Newport Beach House was redone recently and I’m enamored with the clean whites and the sun-drenched ballroom. Having the beach on the premise is 👌
Again, this was almost mid-day light. I love it! I almost never shoot with the sun at my subjects but once in a while, when I’m feeling froggy, I make it work!
Planning Tip: Something to think about when creating your wedding day timeline is the time the sun will set. A sunset ceremony is STUNNING but keep in mind that this means you won’t have sunlight for your formals (unless you plan on a first look.) Artificial light can be beautiful but adds to setting up and you just want to make sure your photographer is prepared for this. (Harbor Lights, RI)
Definitely up there on my list of favorite things would be the starry twinkle lights at The Atlantic Resort, Newport RI. Whoever installed these, thank you, you have added such a beautiful and magical element to reception images!
Another favorite: dancing in the clouds
When it comes to bridal parties, I like to get a dramatic and edgy portrait but I don’t like to spend too much time on anything. Time is precious. Be assertive, remind people that the better they cooperate, the quicker they can move on to partying and they WILL work with you. The image above was captured as a composite. This means it was lit in chunks, 5 or 6 for this particular one, and photoshopped together. It’s very time-consuming on the back end but so worth it!
Planning tip: antique cars are never a bad idea!
Personally, I loved the idea of the step and repeat. Table shots are outdated, awkward, and hard to capture without being in the way of the waitstaff. This allowed for more guest images!
At the end of the day, the most beautiful backdrops, the fireworks, I won’t turn them down but…
THIS is why I do what I do <3