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Confessions of an LA Wedding Photographer: Dos, Dont's, Notes

All photos by <a href="http://victorialaraphotography.com">Victoria Lara</a>.
All photos by Victoria Lara.

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Victoria Lara is one of LA's rising shutterbugs. When she's not busy shooting hit-makers like Britney Spears and the Black Eyed Peas, the Cal State Fullerton alum can be found snapping local lovebirds on their special days. Given that Lara has a no-BS policy (aka our kind of girl), we grilled the sought-after—and engaged!—photog on everything and anything we need to know about engagement and wedding snaps, from when to take them to where to take them to what to wear to what to never, ever do.

Engagement Photos

Where do you love shooting couples in LA?
"Definitely Downtown! In addition to the skyline and street art, you have Union Station, Pershing Square and the Walt Disney Concert Hall."

What shoot theme is so hot right now? What's played out?
"Given that we're in California, the beach is by far the most popular choice. Vintage-inspired snaps at the train station are also very popular, complete with mustache props, suitcases and picnic scenes. There's also the 'rustic urban cowboy' look with cowboy boots and flannel. As for what theme is winding down, Great Gatsby-inspired shoots were all the rage last year. Also, the hippy-chic style with flower crowns and soft lighting. However, if done right, these themes will never go out of style."

What's the wildest theme you've ever come across?
"I don't get too many wild themes because most of the time they don't work out. But if you have an amazing storyline that you are trying to get across, give me details, details, details—that's what it all comes down to. The more props you have and the more elaborate outfits you bring, the better! If you're going to go wild, go all out. I have a storage of props ready to be used; I love the crazy editorial-style shoots and always try to push the line a bit with my couples."

How far in advance should engagement photos be taken?
"It depends on what type of bride you are. These are the four types I've come across:

1) The Cookie-Cutter Bride: She's right on schedule with every detail, from booking her engagement sesh the week after getting engaged to sending out Save-the-Dates promptly because she's already secured her wedding venue—sometimes even better she gets the bling on her finger!

2) The Modern Bride: She's been engaged for about six months and has finally chosen a venue and now wants to book an engagement session to get the ball rolling.

3) The DIY Bride: She probably already had photos done by a family friend but now just weeks before the wedding wants a professional to capture moments that would be presentable to showcase in a guestbook.

4) The Non-Traditional Bride: She skips the engagement photos and opts for a 'Day After' or 'Trash the Dress' shoot. This is a fun way to get dressed up again without worrying about getting your look dirty. You can roll in the dirt, splash in the ocean, jump around...whatever!"

What should the couple wear during their shoot?
"There are four looks I suggest for my one-hour sessions:

1) Date Night: Wear something you feel sexy in, something you feel confident in, something that you can barely keep your hands off each other in.

2) Family Brunch: Something family-friendly that's sure to get mom's approval while still showing your personality.

3) Team Spirit: If you and your beau share a similar interest, such as the school you went to or a favorite sports team, wear it proud! It shows a fun side to the relationship.

4) Casual: You know, that comfy sweater that you love to cuddle in or your favorite pair of jeans that shows off your best assets. Just bring it to a real level—this always brings out the smiles."

Wedding Photos

On the big day, when is the best time to shoot?
"Definitely dusk, right before the sun sets—the golden hour. If this isn't possible, find a shaded area nearby. You want to avoid eye-squinting and excessive sweating. I recommend doing a 'first look' with your fiancé prior to the ceremony—it's a great way to get the photo formalities out of the way. Make sure your immediate family is nearby so family and bridal party can all be captured, this will leave time for the couple to enjoy their cocktail hour. Keep in mind what time the sun will be setting that day."

How can the wedding party make your job easier?
"Just relax and smile. Be confident in yourself and you will have good posture and genuine laughs in each shot. Seriously, relax; everything will work out."

What are some fun prop ideas to jazz up wedding party/family shots?
"I've seen parasols, empty picture frames, signage, pets, classic cars (my personal favorite), mustaches on a stick, balloons on balloons—you name it. You could even have the photographer Photoshop in fun elements that aren't even there!"

Reception photos: when do you put the camera down?
"As a female photographer, I think we tend to look for things we know no one wants to be captured doing, like eating. I stop when dinner is served but jump back in for speeches and toasts. Tipsy shots are my favorite! I love being able to get the crazy and fun side of couples, hoping they look back and just laugh. If drugs show up, I usually turn the camera away but only for a bit because it's about to get real good for photos."

Have you experienced any rowdy receptions?
"There was once a bride who got caught with her whole bridal party snorting white lines; the party was promptly shut down. Another bride was popping the good stuff before the ceremony even started! I had no choice but to keep shooting through the day. As for the drunk bride that tries to kiss her twin sister instead of the groom after the cake-cutting, I politely resist the trigger button. There are shots I know will get a laugh later and some that will be immediately deleted. I shoot wisely."

How can people book a shoot with you?
"Visit my website and email me at studio@victorialaraphotography.com. My rates for a one-hour session start at $300."
· Victoria Lara Photography [Official Site]
· All Weddings Week 2014 Coverage [Racked]
· 10 Picturesque Places to Take Engagement Photos in LA [Racked]
· Mapped: LA's 21 Most Visually Stunning Wedding Venues [Racked]