So my friends and I went on a road trip to the South Island (and still are. Hello from NZ!) for my friend's pre-wedding photo shoot.
Call it bridesmaid's duties.
With its stunning vistas, breathtaking natural landscapes and the Milky Way in all its glory, New Zealand is a definite go-to if you're after dramatic wedding portraits amid Mother Nature.
And who better to ask than folks who've been there and done that. Here are some tips I gleaned from the couple, Kallie and Alvin:
#1 Do your research & plan your route well
"We signed a package with a Singapore bridal salon, which has a studio and photographers based in New Zealand. It's best to choose the exact locations you want to shoot at. Different locations can be hours away. Our package allowed us to choose four locations for the day time shots, and one for the night shot.
Once you know the type of scenery/locations you want, it's easier to choose suitable gowns. If not, convey the type of scenery you want to shoot with to your photographer - he or she might even be able to recommend locales you can't find on the Internet. Ours sure did."
#2 Note the time and season
"Spring starts in September, so you'll get to see cherry blossoms in bloom as well as snow-capped mountains sans the freezing winter temperatures. We chose this period, but would have opted for a later date if not for work commitments. It's still pretty cold from the start to mid of September, with temperatures from 9 to -3 degrees Celsius.
Or if you want to take snaps with the famous Lupin flowers, the best time would be from late November, for about six weeks.
To make sure we had the best chance of nailing that Milky Way shot, we checked the moon phase calculator (we used this: www.timeanddate.com/moon/phases/new-zealand). You'll want a moon-less night for this - the stars and Milky Way are most visible and shine the brightest then."
#3 Don't get down to the shoot immediately
"Especially if you're shooting while the weather is still chilly. Give yourself a few days to get acclimatised, well-rested and more accustomed to the surroundings.
This is particularly so if you (the bride) are wearing a thin or sheer gown! Alternatively, go for fur stoles, or A-line gowns that allow for heat packs and thermal wear to be worn underneath. There can also be a sudden drop in temperature as the sun sets."
All wrapped up, with thermal leggins under the gown!
#4 Have at least one dramatic, voluminous gown
"Whether a long train, big skirt or bold colour, dramatic gowns are evocative of the majesty of the landscape. Sure, it might be a bit of a pain to pack, but a smaller or fitted gown might be lost amid the surroundings if your photographer goes for wide angled shots."
#5 Brace yourself for the cold. And heights
"Get throws/shawls and hot drinks in thermal flasks at the ready. (Tip: We lined our blanket with heat packs and had hand warmers). For the long exposure shot we wanted with the starry skies, we had to stand completely still for 20 seconds for each picture. And the whole process took over an hour in the freezing cold and near-complete darkness!"
"There were also certain locations that required us to stand on ledges and cliffs that were slightly perilous (you can skip this if you're terrified of heights, of course. But the payoff is absolutely worth it)."
"If you're driving and renting a vehicle, ditch the camper vans if you can. Some locations are accessible only with cars or smaller vans. You'll also need to make sure your vehicle is suited for rough terrain."
#7 Take plenty of behind-the-scenes shots
"Since we had two of our bridesmaids together with us on this trip, they helped us with taking plenty of pictures and videos while we were getting our portraits taken. The pictures taken by the wedding photographer are gorgeous, but it's really the candid behind-the-scenes that drew plenty of laughs and moments we'd like to remember."
All images were taken behind the scenes on writer's phone camera.