jasmine star photography tips
Photo: Jasmine Star

In a recent blog post, lifestyle engagement and wedding photographer Jasmine Star wanted to make one thing clear: Wedding photographers work hard and plan carefully.

“If I’ve given the impression I simply show up at weddings and things unfolded perfectly and effortlessly, my apologies to the reader,” she wrote.

Because, says Jasmine, even though the wedding day photos may look spontaneous, a truly successful wedding photographer knows that they are the result of planning, planning, and more planning.

“I’m all about preparation,” she explained in her CreativeLive class, The Complete Wedding Photography Experience. Because, while the bride and groom will be doing everything they can to ensure a smooth wedding day, this is also (most likely) their first time going through this experience. But you? You should be an old hand by now.

“If you find yourself in a situation where you’re dealing with clients and you’re not getting the results that you want, or you always feel like you’re playing catch-up on the wedding day, I would venture to say that it’s less of your client’s fault, and more of your own. Because you have been to do and done more weddings than the bride. She will have one or maybe two in her lifetime. So give her grace and bear more of that responsibility.”

To prepare both yourself and your client for the wedding day, start well ahead of the actual date, says Jasmine. The closer you get, the more stress there will be.

“It becomes a huge production for them and their families…and about one month before the wedding happens, it gets crazy,” she says. “Because of this, I now decide to handle all of my business six weeks before the wedding. I want to get a jumpstart before all of the other vendors.”

To simplify the process, Jasmine says, she uses what’s essentially a form email, or a template, at the six-week mark. This not only saves her time, but ensures that she’s getting all of her notes and questions out of the way well in advance. That email includes a request for “as much information as possible,” she says.

In the email, she requests the following information:

–The exact address of the venue.
–The exact address of the reception.
–Emergency contact names and numbers.
–The creative team information.
–A photo shot list.
–A family shot list.

Jasmine admits that a shot list can often be very limiting, which is why she asks her bride to send her an idea of what they’d like included, but makes very clear that it’s not an exact menu. Yes, she says, she’ll get the first kiss and the walking down the aisle, but what she really wants is the things she might not have noticed.

“I will get every formal and important photo,” she says, “I need a list from you for the things I might not know are important.”

Similarly, she says, this is why she asks about family. “Are there any familial dynamics I need to be made aware of?” she asks.

To ensure that things run smoothly, too, Jasmine says she also often volunteers to help with wedding coordination, including asking after a timeline. If the bride doesn’t have one yet, says Jasmine, she’ll offer to create one. Because even though that’s not technically her job, it can help the entire planning process and day run more effectively and effortlessly, which means her clients are happier and her work is easier.

Though it’s easy to assume that everyone on the big day will be worked out by the bride and her family, the truth is that as a wedding photographer, you probably have more insight into how the actual process works than the people doing much of the planning. Don’t be afraid to offer to help when you see potential gaps in planning — and definitely don’t be afraid to do it well before the day is getting stressfully close.