How to Prepare for the Wedding Day
So, this particular lesson, we're going to be focusing on how to prepare your clients for a wedding day. So if you guys are following the pattern, I'm all about preparation. My mom used to say this thing when I was a child, and it really annoyed me, and now that I'm getting older, I say to myself, "I'm turning into my mom," because she used to tell me, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." And it's so true! Like, after all these years, I can finally say, "You know what, Mom? "You might've said one or two right things in your life." (audience laughs) So, having said that, if we find ourselves, if you find yourself in a situation when 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 a 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 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. So when it comes time to prepare your clients, it's important to bear in mind that the closer they get to the wedding day, the more stress is in their lives. So, I know that it becomes a huge production for them and their families, and I also know that about one month before the wedding happens, it gets crazy. There's a thousand different emails, a thousand different invoices, a thousand different bills. There's so much going on that I started noticing it's that four week marker than I have a tendency, I have the probability of losing a client, when I need her full attention. 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 the other creative team and vendors. What I've noticed is that my clients appreciate this because I know what's coming at that four week mark, they don't know what's coming at the four week mark. So if I can jump ahead of it and all of a sudden our interactions are all taken care of, I'm one less person they have to think of on that wedding day. So, from the previous lesson, you know how I prepare my clients for their engagement session. Now, I follow this same idea when it comes to their wedding, so you can kind of follow the pattern. And I keep patterns because we all, as creatives, are very busy, and so if we're going to try to create a certain wheel for one client and a certain wheel for another, we have so many multiple wheels in our life, why not keep one wheel and then apply that wheel to every single interaction? So, I send an email to the bride six weeks before the wedding happens, and it's a template email because I send the same type of email, it's a simply copy and paste into what I want to do. Now, these template emails make your inbox less daunting and in this particular email, I request as much information as possible. We're gonna walk through what that email looks like. So, here's a list of things that I request to help me get prepared for my client's wedding day. What I want is an exact wedding address. Please use the word exact. You guys know from my past experiences, you could probably end up at a different location. The exact reception address. I have received many inquiries that say, "Oh, we're getting married here," and it's easy to assume that the wedding and the reception are there, and then all of a sudden, you know, a day or two before the wedding, you're like, "Oh, so we're gonna get married at St. John's, "and then we're going here," and I'm like, "Oh, okay!" In my first couple years, I was like, "I should probably know, I should've known "that it was a church wedding," but it was my responsibility to actually do the work for the client. You want exact addresses to any other location you're expected to be at. So when bride's inquire, they will say, "Oh, I'm getting married here at this venue." And then, it might be a difficult situation for you to find out just a day or two before the wedding that she's actually preparing at her mom's house, and you then don't have enough time in your time schedule to actually get where you need to go. So, ask these types of questions in advance and then talk to her about the timeline, we're gonna get to there in a second. I also ask for emergency contact numbers. I ask for her cell phone number and her fiance's cell phone number, but then I also ask for the best man and the maid of honor. Those people are gonna be around them the entirety of the day, and if I need to contact them, chances are I will not be able to contact the bride or groom because they will be very busy. At this point in time, I'm asking for a photo shot list. Six weeks prior to the wedding 'cause this takes time. I don't want to add another thing for her to do. However, as any photographer can probably agree, we don't like shot lists. They're really limiting. So what I say to her is, "Please send me a photo shot list "of things that you would want documented. "However, what we do as creatives "and what we do as professionals is fully document your day. "I will absolutely get your first kiss, "and your dad walking you down the aisle, "I will get the exchange between parents, "I will get every formal and important photo. "What I need a list from you is things "that I might not know are important and/or people "who are important that you want candid photos of." When I get shot lists back, in the rare times that I do get shot lists after I explain, "You don't need to tell me how to do the job, "just tell me things I might not know," I get back maybe three or four shots that are important. Sometimes there was a thing that I wouldn't have noticed, like a bride had her grandmother's chandelier placed above their sweetheart table. I may or may not have shot all the chandeliers in the room 'cause there were multiples, but I needed to know that that chandelier was specifically special to the bride, and I wouldn't have known that otherwise. So, those are very helpful. At this time, I am also requesting the family shot list. Again, it comes with a explanation. "I don't need every familial combination, "you will get photos of just you and your mom, "and just you and your dad, and just your parents. "Understand that that's the dynamic of how we shoot, "however, if there are certain family dynamics I need "to be made aware of, are your parents divorced? "Is any parent deceased? "How is the relationship with in-laws?" I don't ask all these questions, but I say, "Are there any particular "family dynamics I should be made aware of?" That one question can kind of itemize exactly what you need and how the bride will give it to you. I also ask for the creative team information. This is the time that I'm asking the bride, I'd mentioned in a previous course that I get all of the creative team information. This is happening about six weeks in advance. So she will send me a list of the florist and anybody else, and then I will do homework on my backend to go to their websites, see their work, see their portfolios, catch their vision, and also get their Instagram and/or Twitter information so that I can tag them on the wedding day. Also, at this point in time, I'm asking for a timeline. I ask, "Do you have a timeline?" Now, I think that asking for the timeline this far in advance is beneficial because if a photographer is contacting the bride, like, a week or two before the wedding asking for the timeline, a week or two before the wedding is too short of time to make changes to the timeline. It's already locked in stone. But six weeks, you can maybe wiggle out an extra five minutes or an extra 10 minutes here and there throughout the day, and then re-craft the timeline so the entire creative team can be on the same page. So, if the bride... Now, all of those questions that I had asked the bride, I am functioning on the assumption that she does not have a wedding coordinator because for years, I was in my business, not being able to work with that type of clientele, so essentially, as much as I hate admitting it, photographers become the coordinators. So everybody's nodding 'cause it's not just me, right? Like, you know that if you don't do it, the day will be a hot mess. So this is me standing in control and standing in the gap. Now, when there is a wedding coordinator, we're gonna get to that in a second. Okay. So, if she emails me and she says, caveat, not all my clients have wedding coordinators. I would love for them to. It makes my job easier, but I would say that there is a chunk of my clients who still to this day invest in other parts of their wedding day. So I am still a wedding coordinator. This conversation that I am having with you just happened with me and an August bride. I created her timeline, and I'm so happy I did. So we're gonna talk to you about how I did, okay. So if the bride does not have a timeline, I offer to make one up for her. Now, this is an ideal situation for the bride because how she feels is, "Oh, somebody is here to help me." How we feel as professionals is, "Amen, I get to "create the day so that I get the time that I need." So if I said, "Do you have a timeline?" In that first email, "Do you have a timeline?" and if she says no, I said, "Would you like me "to make a timeline for you?" If she responds affirmatively, I then send her an email and ask her the following questions. "Where are you planning on getting ready?" I need to know if she's getting ready at the venue. I need to know if she's getting ready at her apartment, at a nearby hotel, or at her parents' house. Then I ask, "How far is the prep location "from the wedding location?" And if she says, "Oh, it's a quick drive, "it should be 15 minutes," I always add to the timeline 25. Always add an extra 10 minutes, I mean, if she says she's an hour away, then I would add an hour and a half because we've been at weddings where we're literally stuck in traffic, like myself, the bride, everybody's stuck in traffic. So I like to pad the timelines. And as a caveat, all these questions come in one email. I ask, "What time is the ceremony? "What time is cocktail hour?" Now, cocktail hour could be listed at 6:30, and then it'll be a traditional cocktail hour in that it will go from 6:30 to 7:30, and then guests are seated, or it could go 6:30 to 7:15, guests are seated at 7:15 so that they're actually in their chairs at 7:30. Those tiny, small questions really change how much time you have to photograph the reception details. So in light of that, I ask her, "In addition to cocktail hour, "what time are guests being seated?" And lastly, "Are you planning, is the bride and groom "planning to have a first look?" Once I have all of those questions answered, I can then create a timeline that I feel really good with, and I know that she will feel really good with. Now, here are some of the requirements, 'cause once I have answers to the questions, I will respond to her with a timeline, and I outline my requirements. And my requirements, before I actually say, "Here's my timeline," I tell her what I need first. And the reason why I'm telling her what I need first is because I would make a timeline, and then she would say, "Oh, well, "we don't need that much time for bridal portraits. "We don't need that much time for family portraits." And in the back of my mind, I'm just like, "Based on what? "You've never been married." Like, how would you know how long family pictures should last? Because sometimes a bride will think, "30 minutes for family pictures? "No, we can get it done in 15." Well, based on our experience... So, in light of that, because we know better, I tell my clients what I need and I encourage you to tell your clients what you need. So if you want a baseline of what time I need and what I request from my clients, this is what's going to unfold. So what I need is 60 minutes for the bride and groom prep. I will be with the bride, my second shooter JD will be with the groom. I tell her that I need 60 minutes for that. I need 30 minutes for bride and groom photos. Excuse me, 30 minutes for bridal party photos. 30 minutes for bride and groom photos. I need 30 minutes for family photos. If she has a very large extended family, I will need more time, but 30 minutes is what I normally request. I need 15 minutes for reception photos, and that's 15 minutes undisturbed. I cannot be in two places at once, I need you to know in the timeline that I'm gonna be unavailable in your reception for those 15 minutes. And I need 10 minutes for ceremony decor. So once I list, "This is what I need," in the same email, I send her the sample timeline. I say, "Feel free to amend the timeline "however you so choose, but please do not "limit the amount of time that I have requested "because if you deliver on your end, "I know I will deliver on my end." Nine times out of 10, I have a bride who says, "This is great, I take it, I want it," which is fantastic. So, one thing that I want to point out is the common question is, "Don't you want more time?" 30 minutes for a bride and groom on a wedding day is not a lot of time. And the answer's yes. I always want more time. I would love more time to shoot, especially reception. But what I also know is that I have to temper my desires for more time with my bride and groom with the fact that it is not my day. That everybody is vying for time from my bride and groom. I am but one piece to this well-oiled machine, and so I can't say that I deserve more time than the coordinator. I can't say that I deserve more time than the videographer. I can't say I deserve more time from the bride and groom because they want to enjoy their party. So that is why I say, "Give me 30," and I must deliver on that end. So in actuality, happiness and managing their experience is far better than any amount of time that I can get on their wedding day. But, I'm gonna share a little secret. I request 30 minutes for bride and groom photos, and I request 30 minutes for bridal party photos, but I know, because JD and I have a system and we work fast and you will see this actually happening at The Knot wedding, is I asked for 30 and I really only need 20. So I've padded that extra time so that if mistakes happen, then I will take the full 30. If somebody's running late or something, I get the full 30, but in the case that everything goes well, if I can shave off five or 10 minutes from bridal party, five or 10 minutes from family, I'm picking up anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes extra with the bride and groom. And then all of a sudden, I have 40 or 45 minutes with the bride and groom, now we're cooking with fire. So that's kind of, like, how we're padding it, and so the bride can't mess around with the other numbers. So if you would like to see what a sample timeline looks for me, you will see it here on the screen based on eight hours of coverage. Our collections come with eight hours, if a bride would like to add more time to her day, especially if she's having a split venue, we can absolutely do that, but we charge an additional hourly fee, charged in 15 minute increments. Because after eight hours, if what you need is 8 1/2, I don't want to stay for nine. I will charge you for that 30 minutes, so our timeline is based in 15 minute increments. So, I don't know if it would be beneficial to walk through this 'cause this is gonna be on the screen and you guys will get these in the keynote that comes with the bootcamp, but you will see that I have listed when the bridesmaids should get dressed. Because of your acting as the wedding coordinator, you need to set expectations in advance. The bridesmaids should not be getting dressed at the same time the bride should. They should already be dressed. Mom should already be dressed, so that when the bride is getting dressed, everybody isn't in their PJs, robes, looking messy, we're thinking about those things in advance. I list when the groom should depart for the first look because I don't want the groom and the bride crossing paths, right? So I sync up with JD and I say, "The groom should leave at this time. "I will leave at this time." Then we text each other right before, I'm like, "Has he left? "Is he in position? "Great." Then, I follow out with the bride. I also list when the bride, if they have opted, in my pseudo-situation, most of my clients opt to see each before the ceremony. The ceremony, if it's slated for 5:00 p.m., I need to back up 30 minutes from that point and know I cannot work with the bride and groom because early-arriving guests. I learned from my mistake is that for me, I happened to see my husband before we got married, and if I saw my guests at our wedding, I wasn't like, (gasps) "You can't see me!" But there are brides who are so, like, conscious of that, and I learned that is was ruining their experience, so if it's a 5:00 ceremony, the bride gets tucked away at 4:30. So all my photos must be done by that time, and then that 30 minutes allows me to go down, I shoot the ceremony site uninterrupted, guests usually start sitting around 15, 20 minutes before. Like, you know, the grandparents, the neighbors, they just get there early. And so, because we get there 30 minutes, we shoot for 10, and then what we start doing is we start shooting guests as they're there. We set up portraits, we'll shoot them, we get to know are they arriving family members? Then we talk about if they want the option of sunset photos. I tell my clients in the timeline when the photos end. I want them to know, like, I'm setting the expectation, after this time, it's a party, so don't feel the pressure. Like, I want them to see the finish line because on the wedding day, because they've never experienced this before, it's very overwhelming. Everybody's hugging and kissing and they have to look their best, and it's very emotional during the ceremony. Once we get to that point, be like, "Guys, the rest of the night's party. "Just ignore us, enjoy, dance, drink." And they're like, "Great." So when they can see that, they know we're all on the same page. Then the rest of the day kind of just opens out with a listing of events, and then I also list when we leave, so that we're all on the same page. That's my timeline, it will be included in the course. Now, I want to bring this now to a real-life scenario. Because The Knot Dream Wedding is happening rather soon, I've had to have conversations about what the day looks like and set expectations. So when The Knot asked me to be the Dream Wedding photographer, I was so excited, I was so honored. I did not know the wedding date. I did not know the location. I did not know the clients, and I did not know who I was working with. I just agreed because I was like, "It sounds like fun. "It sounds like a great opportunity, so let's go." Now, in a stroke of amazing luck, and I will say that this year something has shifted in my business, I can't really explain it, but this is one such opportunity. The Dream Wedding coordinator was announced, and we're neighbors. She lives in Orange County. We have lunch together a couple times a year. We've worked on quite a few weddings together. When I saw that, I was like, (sings). Like, it's working! Like, so I was, like, she had called me the day of, the day before they made the public announcement. So they had talked to each of us independently, and she calls me and she's just like, "Hey, I have some great news, we're working together." I was like, "Oh, great, when?" She's like, "The Knot Dream Wedding." I was like, "I cannot believe this! "I cannot believe this! "Like, I trust you, and you trust me. "Now we know at the end of the day, "if there's a bride and groom, the day's going off. "Like, boom, done. "We're in it." I was so excited. Now, I don't have to give Jeannie, her name's Jeannie Savage of Details Details, I don't have to give Jeannie my requests. You know how I list 60 minutes for prep, 30 minutes for family, because we've already worked together, she knows what I need, and I know what she needs. So I don't have to have that conversation. But, because we have worked together before in the past, she sends a finalized timeline to her creative team about a week or a week and a half before each wedding. I'm anticipating the same thing to happen in this wedding. Now, on her timelines, which is what I love, she lists the entire creative team. So, for instance, this is important to me because once I see who's involved, it changes my approach before I get there. So on her list, is she including a videographer? If they hired a videographer, I know that if I get 30 minutes for photos of the bride and groom, that will be minimized to at least because I'm working with a second party, and I can't be the point of focus 100% of the time. Although, I would like to be, we have to play fair with video, so I have to give them time. So if the videographer takes first position, I take second position, JD takes third. So these are the slight modifications that we have to take and knowing that going into it alleviates a lot of stress. Secondly, I can find out if there is a band or a DJ. If there is a band, the flow of events changes than (stammers) somebody help me out. What am I trying to say? Than there what?
Than there would be with a DJ?
Yes, than there would be, thank you. You guys! Man! Wow, I was like, "Help me finish my sentence." Than there would be if there was a DJ. Case in point, traditionally if there's a DJ, and I'm talking about, maybe this is specific to geographic locations, but in Southern California, at a lot of the weddings, or the weddings that I happen to shoot, they will do the bridal party entrance with the DJ, then they will do the grand entrance with the bride and groom, then they will go directly into the first dance, the couple sits, father of the bride or an officiant will say a prayer or a welcome. That's the flow if there's a DJ. Now with a band, the band likes to party, they like to set the tone in a very different way. So the bridal party enters, the bride and groom enters, they do the first dance, and then they go into a 10 or 15 minute set. And that changes where I am and what I do and the lenses that I carry. So knowing that in advance really helps set the tone. Also, if I find out on the timeline that she sends if there's going to be a grand exit. If there is going to be a grand exit, I then must inquire of the coordinator or the bride, "Do you want that grand exit documented? "And if you do, this is how much it's going to cost." So based on that timeline alone, that's why I find them very valuable, to be getting them from a coordinator. Now, in Jeannie's timelines, she also includes the flow of the ceremony, and this is information that I might not get otherwise which I find very valuable. So she will list things that I find valuable, like the parents' names. It's nice to call them by their first name. Oh, you know, when I shot Mikaela's wedding, she's here, talking to her mom, it was a first formality just because I was grown that way, to talk to other people's parents, by a Mrs., so Mrs. Barkman, but then at the end of the night, it was Risa. It was really nice to kind of have that first name basis, and that relationship, if it can start earlier, is always better. Also, it also lists how many people are in the bridal party. That is helpful because I know how many people I'm working with in advance. And lastly, I know how traditional this ceremony will be if on the timeline, she says, "Officiant does a candle lighting ceremony, "they release doves, they take communion, "they do, you know, seven different prayers, "the bride walks around the groom." If it's a Jewish ceremony, there's a lot of different things, and having that timeline itemized is always so helpful. So, now let's talk about how this plays out for me in relation to The Knot Dream Wedding so that I'm bring you guys along with me. So, I should probably note that the wedding location has been announced, it will be in Sonoma, California at St. Jean Chateau, but you know, like, when I read it, I was like, "Saint Gene Chateau?" Like, so, for now we'll call it Chateau, oh, it's Chateau St. Jean, Saint Gene? Sahnt Gene? Whatever. Whatever. We'll say it's CSJ. Now, I don't have all of the information yet, but based on our experience, so JD and I have been fortunate to shoot weddings in various locations and we're very familiar with the Sonoma/Napa area. I love Northern California, I love shooting weddings in California, it is amazing, it is my target market. Now, based on that experience, we know that because Sonoma and Napa are so filled with vineyards that hotels have been relegated to outskirts and into certain points. So I know that I'm going to be, from my hotel, about 20 to 25 minutes from the venue. It's a safe guess, it might be farther. Now, what I wanted to do is get to the venue before so that I can walk the property. Now, we do this for all our weddings, but I had emailed Jeannie, and I said, "Hey, I'm going to CreativeLive, I was just, "I'm trying to get things ready for the course. "Do you by any chance know "what time the ceremony will start?" And she said, "Yes, it's going to start at noon." I was like, "What? "This must be a typo. "She must have meant five and wrote noon." And so, I followed up and it made me a little bit nervous because what I was thinking was, "Of course, they're gonna want beautiful photos." Like, that's what I was like, "Isn't this about the photos?" which is so wrong, right? But I was just, I'm saying that that was the weak part of me. Like, you're putting on this free wedding for this couple and the thing that they would walk away with are their photos. But then I was struck with the realization that for The Knot, it's not about the photos. For The Knot, it's about the live broadcast, and if they do the live broadcast at noon, it hits more time zones than if they were to do it at a later point in day. So, what does that mean for how all of this changes? 'Cause you all, up until this point, am I not talking big game? So we do sunset photos, they walk in, yeah, yeah, yeah, okay. So let's change it. Okay, so now that I know the time of the ceremony, this changes everything in relation to light. So my first thing is I can no longer fly in one day early, I must fly in two. And this is a personal decision that I am making on my own because a lot is on the line. Here's why. If I wanted to walk the property at noon in Sonoma, I am flying that morning, but the problem is the first flight that I can take puts me in Oakland. You can fly into Oakland or SFO. I chose to fly into Oakland because SFO has crazy fog and sometimes you get stopped or delayed, so I am, like, O-town all the way. Flying into Oakland, I can get there at 10:30, but I have to get a rental car, and I have to get my luggage, and that's not accounting for any sort of delays. The airport is about two hours from Sonoma. If everything goes well, I leave, you know, let's just say we land at 10:30 and I'm out at 10:45, which is not realistic, I will get to the venue at 12:45. In all reality, we will probably not be able to get to the venue until 1:30. I will have missed the time that I need to be there and walk the property. I will not know what the sun is doing. So I talked to JD, I spoke to the crew, I spoke to The Knot, and said, "I want to fly in two days early, "and if it's at any cost to me, I will eat that "because I want to be prepared for what's in store." Now, second thing that I am taking into consideration now be that it's a noon wedding is that there won't be a first look. I'm not going to push for a first look because I know Samantha has 12 bridesmaids. They're starting their day preparation at close to five o'clock in the morning. If they did a first look, it would be even earlier, like, I'm not gonna request a bride on her wedding day, "Can you wake up at 3:30 to start zhooshing?" Like, you know, it's like, well, we're talking about experience, that is not it. So if the bride and groom want to do it, I will oblige, but I will not push it because there are so many moving pieces. Another thing that I have to take into consideration is that if the ceremony is at noon, and if they do not have a first look, bridal party pictures, family pictures, and bride and groom pictures must take place, because it's a live broadcast, under 60 minutes in the harshest light. Sonoma in June at one o'clock is ruthless. I haven't been to this venue, I'm Googling. I'm, like, living on Google, like, on Google, and I'm following hashtags on Instagram because I want to see people's perspective that I can't see until I'm there. How many trees are there? Is there a nearby field? Like, what are my plan A and plan B? And I won't know plan A or plan B. Ideally, I would have open shade during that time for family photos because it's just so warm. I don't want the family to be unhappy. It makes my job harder and it makes them resent the process of it. So I will have plan A, I will have plan B. When the cameras are there with us for CreativeLive, we'll be doing the walkthrough, so hopefully, the team, all of you all will know exactly what we're doing and why we're making those decisions. So, because I know that, and because I'm just like, "Hey, guys, isn't it all about the photos?" I asked The Knot and I asked Jeannie if it was possible, so, the wedding technically ends at 4:00 p.m. The broadcast will end a little bit before that. So if the wedding ends at four, I said, "Do you think the bride and groom "would be okay to shoot photos after?" I'm waiting to hear back. I really, really, really hope that that's what they opt for because then I know that I can deliver what I deliver. I will try my best for family photos and bridal party photos to look and feel reflective of what I do. I am praying for some sort of shaded area. That's what I'm hoping for. And if those photos aren't the best photos, but I could still salvage the experience with the bride and groom by shooting them later in the day in the vineyard because they're getting married at a vineyard, I don't want to shoot in a vineyard at one o'clock in the afternoon. I can, but it's not really what I do. So, if I can push them towards that, then that's what I'll do. I will keep you guys posted as things progress. Now let's move into homework. What I want you to do, based on everything, now, I feel like the energy kind of went, like, (groans) in the room. (audience laughs) I'm so glad you feel how I feel, okay? Because, like, sometimes it's nice to know that it's not alone, and it's nice to know because in the back of my mind, what I think of sometimes is people say, "Okay, so Jasmine was nominated "to be the Dream Wedding photographer," and then what they see are the photos and they're just like, "Eh, she's all right." And I'm like, "But do you guys know? "Do you guys know what I had to go through? "Like, do you guys know I was shooting family portraits "at one o'clock in the afternoon, "on a vineyard, in June, in Sonoma?" Then you guys might feel like, "All right, she did a lot better." So now that you guys know what we're dealing with, and how we deal with those situations, I feel a little bit better. So what I want you to do is I want you to create a calendar reminder to contact your client six weeks before the wedding, and make that a pattern in your business. I want you to create an email template to request the information that you need from those clients so that you don't have to do it again and again. Now, if you would like to check out and see and download my personal client preparation email, you can find that at jasminestarstore.com. Now lastly, I want you to create a sample wedding timeline to help inform your clients so that they feel assured and that you get the time that you need. Now having said that, you now know how I prep my clients. You now know what I am facing for The Knot Dream Wedding. Do you have any questions in that regard? Yes, let's get a mic here, we'll go back there, and then we'll take it back third. Thanks, boo. Okay, we'll go one, two, and then we'll pass it back. Awesome.
So my question is when you're at the wedding and you're going over the timeline, do you print that out or are you viewing it on a cell phone? 'Cause I'm always concerned if I'm on my cell phone, I'm looking disinterested.
Great question. I print it out, I actually, I'm so old-school, I write it out. I do. But yes, I have a piece of my stationery that I just, like, rip off. I actually just had a notepad printed at, I'm not even gonna say the company, just simple company, I get my logo, drag and drop, I buy the pad for maybe, like, $7.99. Just has my logo up top, and then I just write down the times so that if that paper were to fall, it still looks like it's branded, it's not like some Post-it or, like, the back of a bill, right? So, I take that, and I think sometimes if I'm looking at it and people are just like, "Oh, that's your gas bill," or my address on the back, it's still branded. I write it out, but yes, printing it out or writing it out would be very beneficial because the last thing you want, everybody looking at you doesn't know that if you're on Twitter or Instagram or if you're really looking at the timeline.
Right, thank you.
Yes. So a question there, and then we'll pass the mic back.
So I think we've, a couple of the audience members have talked about this, but usually, like, the family group portraits are, like, the most painful part of the day. How do you make that go easier, quicker, and people still like you at the end of it, and enjoy that part of the day?
Okay. Thank you. I start setting expectations and prepping my clients during the initial client consult, and if I didn't touch it in the initial client consult, I will definitely touch it in email. So if I were to role play with you and I, and you were the bride, I would say the following 'cause I can explain it, but I could just talk through it easier. So when it comes to family photos, we want to make this as quick and easy as possible for what's your husband's name?
Nick, okay. I want to make this as easy as possible for you and Nick. So instead of you, you know, standing at the altar for an hour and missing out your cocktail hour, you listen to the photos that I propose to you and if you approve of them, I can guarantee that I would be done in 25 minutes. We start off with you and Nick and all of your family. We're talking about godparents, cousins, great-grandparents, parents, siblings, everybody's there, and then what we do is we approach it like an onion. We start peeling people away in layers, so we have that big group family photo which is what I call the legacy photo. That's the photo that will be shared on Facebook, that will probably be printed by your grandma. Then what we do is we remove godparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, so that we're left with grandparents, parents, and siblings. Then we remove grandparents and we have parents and siblings, then we just shoot just siblings, just parents, just grandparents. And then, side note, photographer to photographer, I've already shot the bride by herself with her dad, and the bride by herself with her mom during prep, or candidly at another part of the day. I don't want to put that when everybody's just waiting there for pictures during cocktail hour. So if she says, "Okay," and then when I say, and then I get both sides of your family, I get both parents and siblings and you guys, then your entire family is done. They can go to cocktail hour. We're gonna do the exact same pattern for Nick's family. Now, if there are any other combinations, you can let me know, but that would take me about 25 to 30 minutes. 9.5 times, they're just like, "Yeah, let's just do that." And then we're done.
Awesome, thank you.
And here's the thing. My daddy is a Marine, well, he was a Marine, but in my dad's vernacular, if, you know, once a Marine, always a Marine, like, hoo-rah! Right? Okay. So, I have that personality, and I'm also Puerto Rican. And so, I just don't take it from anybody. Like, I will talk louder and faster and move people with grace so there's never, there's never an issue. Most of the time when JD and I walk into a situation, people always assume that JD is the lead photographer. It happens, it's a gender thing, and so in order for me to kinda take control, it's always me staying one step ahead. So we walk in, we're like, "Hey, everyone. "Nice to meet you, my name is Jasmine." Do I raise my hand? Like a fool, absolutely. I'm shorter and I wear flats, and ladies generally are taller than me in heels. So I'm just like Jolly Green Giant, I have to kind of just, like, "Wonderful, ladies. "Can I have everybody over here. "Everybody, I want to get you to cocktail hour faster. "The more you start drinking, the nicer you think I am. "Can I have everybody move over here? "Can I have a big, large..." I am talking the whole time. Don't let anybody meander, kind of just keep it light, and then move on. You'll see me do it at the wedding. (laughing) We're going back to that third question.
So my question is, like, looking at this streamlined process that it seems like you guys have to where your timelines are pretty tight and you both are so confident that you can get all the shots that you need, with all the diversity, for all the vendors and everything. So I was wondering if you could just talk about the process of getting to that place. And yeah, and what that was like, and maybe any advice for everybody else.
You know? I got an email from a photographer who was so frustrated because the coordinator didn't let her have an hour for shots of the bride and groom. And she went on to say how frustrating it was because isn't it about those photos, that that is what the day is about, and at the end of everything, if they don't have photos, they don't have anything. And I read the email and my thought was, "Well, yeah, we all want an hour, but we don't get it." There are times that I literally get 20 minutes. And so, to answer the question of how do you get better? It's unanswerable, other than, you get better. Like, if you were given 20 minutes, you must make it work. Like, the more you make it work under those really harsh circumstances, the easier it becomes, but I won't say it's ever easy. I don't know why, I don't know why, but I have this feeling that something is going to happen at The Knot wedding. Something's going to shift in such a way that I'm going to have to adapt in a way that's going to make me physically ill. I don't know why, I just suspect this. So you will be able to see how that is not an anomaly. Something like that happens every single wedding. And so, for you to say, okay, you get the shots. Well, you have to work faster. You have to know what your plan is going in which is why we arrive early on the wedding day, we create a photo map, I tell JD, "This is where the first look will happen. "This is where bridal party pictures will happen. "Tell all the family members to meet "on the upper patio at 3:00 p.m." I, what you guys will see is a very, very driven and focused quasi-mean person. (audience laughs) And that embarrasses me a little bit. But JD knows that the person I become is not the person I am in totality. I'm less with my pleases and thank yous on that day. "Get the bag, flash, go. "I need you in 10. "Can you please..." And there are times that the camera will probably catch me. If you were my second shooter and you happened to be in JD's situation, I will give you a look of death. If you're not doing what I need. So it's like, "Family." That right there, I know, everyone's like, "Whoa!" When I say that, because I have to understand that I am still a reflection of my brand, I can't be like, "Um, so honey bear, can you get..." 'Kay, I can't be that person, but at the same time, I can't be like, "Um, why are you talking? "I need help," right? So it has to be the very subdued, "Family?" Like, that means get the family, you're not working fast enough, we're running late, and he knows that. When it comes to actual applications, in your mind, this timeline for prep. An hour for prep is very tight. I go in and I arrive 10 minutes early, that's my norm because I don't want to use 10 minutes of my precious time with saying hello, getting the things that I need 'cause that's going against the bride. So I will arrive on my own time to say hello, get what I need, so that I am starting my shoot and that sample time that I listed at 2:00 p.m., I'm arriving at 1:45, I drop my bag, I go in at 1:50, I say hello, I say, "Please give me everything that you need photographed." I go in, that gives me about 25 minutes undisturbed just for details. I come back in, I say, "Ladies, can you please get dressed?" When I'm shooting the details, I know that I need three to four frames of her shoes. I need three to four frames of her dress. I need to shoot details independent and then together. Independent because I don't know if she wants the handkerchief, purse, and her bracelet all in one frame, but that would work for an editor, right? An editor's not gonna print three photos when she can print one. So I'm having a list in my mind of what I need to shoot before I need to shoot it. And so, that's why the homework was make a shot list. It is so less daunting going in knowing, okay, in the prep section of my personal shot list that you can download, it is, everything's listed. And so if you were to say, "I have two minutes for this. "I have two minutes for this. "I have two minutes for this." It all of a sudden lets you breathe a little bit more. I don't think that that's the answer you're looking for and I don't think it's a very good answer, but it's kind of like, "Let me talk to you "about riding a bike. "Let me talk to you about riding a bike. "I will explain the theories of riding a bike." But girl, until you get on that bike and you ride it a long time, that's when you start picking up the pace. Now, taking a step back. If you're hired for eight hours and you know that you're like, "That is stressing me out," on your own time, arrive early, leave late. Add time so that you find your cadence. It is not a loss to the business. You're playing the long game at the point in time. Awesome. Great, so we're gonna pass the mic here and then we'll go back, awesome.
So what kind of secret things do you keep in your bag, like double-sided tape, or bobby pins, or things that you've had to use in a pinch on a wedding day?
That's a great question that's actually gonna be a great lead-in for a future course 'cause in the future course, we're gonna talk about our gear and we're gonna talk about what goes in our bag. So I'm gonna answer it in that section, so can you ask me that same, or you might not have to ask me that question 'cause I'm gonna show you what goes in the bag. But a short answer would be water bottles if it's a hot day, bobby pins, safety pins, a Tide pen, a Tide stick, or those wipes, and tape. Yeah, yeah.
We're gonna pass the mic here, we'll take this question, and then the mic will be passed there, awesome.
Okay, so I am getting to do my first destination wedding. I'm really excited. The wedding is at 11 on the beach, which is really exciting, but my one issue is sometimes with destination weddings their packages come with an hour worth of photography. And in this situation, she has a venue photographer that'll be there for an hour, and she can't contact them. They don't talk, they don't speak, they don't have timelines. So I'm hired there as a photographer, so how do I, I guess, do I just provide my timeline and roll with it when I get there and then just have them follow my lead, or how do I fit that in?
Yeah, I mean, okay, yeah. Exactly. So your guess is as good as mine, but if I was in your shoes, this is how I would deal with the situation. Because we cannot contact, and this has happened to me before. We shot a wedding in Mexico and they had their photographer, and it was an amiable relationship. Like, he was hired and he was getting paid by the venue. Far be it from me to be like, "This is my rodeo." Like, I introduced myself, I said hello. Now, the best part is if he's showing up to shoot the ceremony, that's probably a great time to have a third shooter. They're probably not gonna be in your way, as long as you say, "Wherever I'm standing, "can you just make sure that you're not in my line of view? "And when it comes time for the first kiss, "can you just remain either on the side, or if you shoot it, "can you just stand right behind my left or right shoulder? "That's the only thing I ask from you." I made two requests. People can deal with two requests. Now, if you went in and said, "X, Y, and Z, "and I need this, and I need that, and I was hired," I think it'll create bad blood. "All I ask, don't be in my way, "don't be in the line of the first kiss." And then we all rotate, so we stayed out of each other's way, and I brought a second shooter. JD was with me, so it was three shooters, and we still managed just fine. Treat them with respect, make two or three requests at most, and I think you should be okay.
Okay, thank you.
Awesome. Yeah. There was a question, oh, no, we'll go here, and then the mic goes there.
So I've always been really nervous about having the bride and groom pictures last 'cause I would worry that my time would run out. Can you talk about your thinking about that as far as the schedule of the day goes?
Absolutely. Well, let me take a step back to be 100% transparent. I am not getting paid for The Knot wedding. Everybody who's participating is not getting paid. We're doing it on behalf of a great couple, and behalf, quite honestly, it's a wonderful marketing experience. It's gonna be great, and I believe that good begets good, so I want to do something good for somebody, and I believe that at some point it will come back to either me or somebody that I love. So that is why. On a regular day, you have two options. You can just explain that the photos that traditionally are seen in my portfolio are not done in full sun, bright light, and so I will try my best, and then I will leave it, the decision will be the client's. Now, in this particular situation, if I had been paid and if I had a camera crew and it was a learning experience, I would stay beyond what I was commissioned to pay for. Now, as you're starting your business, it might be more advantageous for you to stay an hour on your own time and dime so that you complete your portfolio, so that in the long run, you're getting pieces that really push you forward instead of just by principle staying, "I'm staying here eight hours. "I get what I am paid for." Okay, but there are opportunity costs by you leaving early. So in this particular situation, if I was getting paid, I would stay on my own time. Maybe in another situation if I felt like maybe I wasn't valued as much or maybe they just didn't care about photography, I might just say, "This is what you're going to get. "It is not my typical work, but if you are okay with it, "this is what's gonna happen." Just those two situations. Awesome, we'll go there.
Really simple question. Does JD help you pick out the locations of where you're gonna shoot, or do you, is it all your own vision, or how do you kind of coordinate that with a second shooter? 'Cause I'm not lucky enough to have a spouse that shoots with me, so I have different second shooters, and sometimes they throw out their vision, and it's great, but it's so not what I'm going for. Like, how would you manage that?
Great. Initially how I would manage that would be, first and foremost, to set the tone. You all know how much I love email and over-preparation. I would email whoever I, and, okay, let's apply this in a real-life situation. The Knot had requested, it was contingent, that I would shoot, they asked me to be the photographer, and they know JD and I work together. When I asked to see if I could bring CreativeLive to merge with The Knot endeavors, they said yes, but they want to make sure that they are covered and the clients are covered. They said, "We want you to bring a third photographer." And I said, "Absolutely." So all of a sudden, I'm just like, "Oh my God, oh my God, "oh my God, who am I gonna bring?" Now, I bring somebody I trust, more than I bring somebody who I think will provide these amazing portfolio pieces, even though I think as a byproduct they will, I'm not gonna bring just any Tom, Dick, and Harry. I know that 14 cameras, 40 cameras, we're still gonna do what we do because CreativeLive is not my priority, The Knot is not my priority, Samantha and Taylor are my priority. I know we're gonna deliver. But, to offer assurance to The Knot, I will bring a third shooter. Now, I invited a girl that I actually met, she was a student here on one of my CreativeLive courses, and she was quiet, and she went under the radar, and she was about to leave, and I saw her getting a jacket, and I said, "We've just spent, like, three months "as part of this restart process." And we had, she had emailed me before in the past, and I said, "We've spent months "and I haven't spoken to you and you're gonna leave?" And she's like, "I just didn't want to interrupt you." We started talking, and we have since developed a friendship, largely online because she's based in Chicago. When I thought of somebody I wanted, JD and I shot a wedding in Chicago last year, and it was snowing and cold and completely out of my element, and I was just like, "JD, I want somebody with us." It was a really large wedding for a very affluent family in Chicago. I said, "I want a third just to actually hold my gear, "to say this is where we're going. "When I take the bridal party outside, "I want somebody to hold the jackets for everybody." The better experience I create, the more they like their photos. So I reached out to her and have since developed a really good relationship and I liked the way she worked. When it came time to pick the third shooter, I said, "I want to work with her. "We're gonna fly her in on our own dime to this wedding." I emailed her and I sent out, "This is what I expect from you. "I'm lead, JD is second. "You will be an assistant/third if needed. "The vision will be casted by me. "The vision will be corroborated by JD. "We don't need somebody speaking into that. "I will send you the timeline when it's needed. "These are the expectations. "If you do shoot, how can you use the images, "when can you use the images, who they belong to." This email was so detailed because at a later point in time, I do not want to come back and have her dislike me, me dislike her, or feel like she had the bad end of the deal. In your situation, if somebody's like, "I really see us climbing this hill," and there's this bride and groom, and they're offering ideas to you in front of the bride and groom, I would be like, "I'm about to shank you." Right? I mean, this is not cool. Like, that's not cool. To me, that's like a level of disrespect. Like, they didn't hire you. If your ideas are so great, they would've hired you. So, but I have to say, maybe somebody just feels so comfortable and they're cool, like, "Yeah, yeah, let's do this." If you didn't prepare them in advance, to say, "I need less talking, more shooting. "If I need your opinion, I will ask for your opinion." Does that sound mean? Well, yes, but I would rather outline the terms of that relationship than having to do it in front of a bride and groom. One time we had an assistant, and JD had relayed something to her, and she ran up to me, and I'm with the coordinator and the bride, and I'm shooting an image, she says, "Oh, JD said X, Y, and Z." And I was like, "Okay." And then we walked, like, we shot it, and I walked into the hallway. I said, "Any time JD says something to me, "do not repeat it in front of anybody. "That conversation needs to be away from my clients. "They do not need to know what you told me." And she was like, "I'm so sorry, I didn't think about it." These are uncomfortable conversations, but it was my fault, I should've told her this far in advance and I learned a valuable lesson. That's the long answer. (laughs) To a very simple question. Set expectations, outline them in detail, do it either in a contract or a very detailed email.
So my question is if you were to work with a new wedding coordinator, how do you, do you have any tips for that? So somebody you haven't worked with, you mentioned you're gonna be working with your friend, or your colleague.
Yeah, yeah, that's wonderful. So if I had, well, this happens quite often. This happens quite often. I will be working with a new coordinator in July, so when that happens, I will follow the same marketing protocol and tips that we've discussed in a previous lesson. I will reach out to her initially after the engagement session, um, before the engagement session, and say, "Hey," by this time she knows that the client has booked a photographer because she's her coordinator. She knows those things. So if I were to email her, I'm like, "I'm going to shoot the engagement session. "I'd love to stay posted." As a complete stranger just emailing her, saying, "I want to send you photos," it's already creating the tone and, like, a pleasant working relationship. Then I send her photos from the engagement session. Okay, six weeks before the wedding, I email the coordinator, "I need 60 minutes for this. "I need 30 minutes for this. "Is there anything you need from me? "I work with my husband, we're a husband and wife team. "We'll be arriving the day before." If it's a destination wedding, this is usually how it works. "We'll be arriving the day before. "Here is my cell phone. "On a side note, I'm a gluten-free vegetarian. "If there are any accommodations that could be made "to accommodate that," accommodations, "accommodations that could be made to make that happen, "that would be fantastic, if not, "I will bring snacks as a side, but just let me know." I'm not telling her I'm a gluten-free vegetarian a day before, there's nothing she can do, but she could still accommodate the menu at that point in time, and I always say, "If there's anything that I can do for you, "I'm more than happy to oblige, "and please know if I can get the Instagram handles "'cause I want to make sure that I'm sharing same-day images "and sending you sneak peaks." People are usually pretty, like, open when they receive an email like that. I meet them on the day of, and immediately to put things at ease, I just bring them in for a hug. "Thank you so much, I'm so happy to be here. "You let me know," and then after that, you give them their images, and they're really happy, and you prove yourself. I don't know if that's the answer that you were looking for, but that's all I have.
Up until now, I've primarily been doing some of the coordination myself, and this summer I have some bookings with clients that have a wedding coordinator. So, things are changing and I'm just, you know, wondering if there was anything I needed to think about.
If you really want to up things, send a handwritten note. Just say, "Hi, like, I'll see you in August, "just wanna introduce myself. "I'll be shooting their engagement session "in a few months," and if they're not, like, whatever. But a handwritten note actually just changes the dynamic. Send out good vibes initially and it always ends up just being, like, a really, a really good thing.
Cool, thank you. I like ending it on that note, I appreciate it. So thank you guys so much, I appreciate it and I look forward to seeing how you guys prepare your clients in the future. Awesome. (audience claps)