Wedding photographer Michèle M. Waite offers advice to would-be newlyweds.

Michèle M. Waite has been documenting weddings in the Northwest for over 18 years. In 2014, she was named one of the top 69 wedding photographers in the world by Martha Stewart Weddings, and one of four top picks for Washington by Brides Magazine. She lives in Bellingham with her husband and two daughters, and works shooting both local and international wedding commissions.

Question: What should a couple consider when choosing a photographer?

Answer: There are many things to consider when hiring a photographer – stylistic preferences, whether your personalities mesh and whether the photographer is using high-end professional gear. But one of the most important things to ask is how many actual weddings the photographer has shot; are they experienced?

Weddings pose a unique set of lighting situations and subject unknowns. It’s important that couples select an experienced wedding photographer who is well-versed in the ins and outs of wedding-day happenings and is comfortable with the stress and variables that weddings can present, someone who is able to make quick decisions to capture the important moments of the day as well as navigate the variety of personalities involved.

Make sure the images you see in your photographer’s portfolio not only generate an emotional response, but also be certain that your photographer’s personality is a fit for you and your day. A wedding photographer’s job is keep things flowing smoothly, to make you feel at ease and to create stunning images that capture your day. It takes a good deal of experience to do that well.

Q: How far in advance should a couple book a wedding photographer?

A: Many experienced and in-demand wedding photographers book at least a year in advance. If your favorite photographer is already booked on your date, stay calm and ask them for referrals of others who might have a similar style.

Q: How should a couple decide whether to hire a professional photographer or have photos taken by friends or family?

A: Putting the pressure on a family member to capture once-in-a-lifetime-

moments usually results in a strained relationship and loss of important images. If at all possible, please hire a professional.

Q: What are current trends in wedding photography?

A: Over the past 20 years, wedding photography has moved away from formal portraiture to more authentic capture of the day’s events. That type of documentary wedding photography is still in demand today as couples want images that bring about an emotional response. Combined with such storytelling imagery, couples also want longer pre-ceremony portrait sessions of themselves in a variety of settings, and want to capture wedding details, such as flowers and décor. Classic, clean looks shot in film or processed with a simple, vintage feel are also in demand.

Q: Describe your wedding photography style in fewer than six adjectives.

A: Classic, genuine, whimsical, emotional, elegant.

Q: What are some of unique requests you have received for wedding photos?

A: Recently I have had several brides request a “first-look” before the ceremony, not only with their groom but also with their father. It has also been a trend to involve pets in photos and the ceremony. Your dog as the ring bearer? Why not?

Q: What are your favorite wedding locations in Washington?

A: Just to name a few: I love The Corson Building in Seattle’s industrial Georgetown for a surprisingly European feel and gorgeous food, Woodstock Farm in Bellingham for its untouched Northwest waterfront vibe, and Bella Luna Farms in North Creek for its rustic farm elegance

Q: What is it like for you, living in the Northwest and shooting weddings here?

A: Living in and starting my business in the Northwest has probably been one of my biggest sources of inspiration. The atmospheric limitations, the moodiness, and the diversity of locations the Northwest provides have shaped my authentic real-moment style and made me very much at ease in the midst of the unexpected moments that happen at every wedding.

I am constantly forced to problem-solve to find and create good light in the midst of dark, rainy, uncertain skies, and in venues varying from elegant urban ballrooms to rugged, wide-open fields. These challenges have kept me on my toes and pushed me creatively. It turns out I am at my best when I have limitations. I am not sure what I would do if I had warm days and perfect light all of the time.

Q: What might couples consider to make their wedding photos especially memorable?

A: One of the first things I tell couples in our session is to trust me. Trust that even if I am suggesting they do something that seems silly in front of the camera, I am doing it for a good reason. Once we have established that trust, I ask them to just have fun, relax, and be who they are together – ignoring the camera as much as possible. There is no reason the portrait part of the wedding day can’t be just as fun as everything else. And having fun on your wedding day will equal better and more memorable photos.

Q: What are good ways to present and preserve wedding photos?

A: Having your photographer create a photo album on good quality, archival photo paper is one of the best ways to preserve your images. Neatly bound into a quality book, the images should tell the story of your day, and be a fun way to share memories with friends and family for a lifetime.