Prepare with a Wedding Photography Checklist
So this particular lesson, we're going to be focusing on how to prepare your clients for wedding day. So if you guys are following the pattern, I'm all about preparation. Um, 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 have said one or two right things in your life. 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 re...
sponsibility. 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 that 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 wanna get a jump start 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 that same idea when it comes to their wedding, so you can kinda follow the pattern. And I keep patterns because we all, as creatives, are very busy, and so if we're gonna 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 simple copy and paste into what I wanna do. Now, emails, 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 in a different location. The exact reception address. I have received many inquiries that say 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, they'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 have 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 brides 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 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 fiancee'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 for 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 the 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 aware of, or your parents divorced, is any parent deceased? How's the relationship with in-laws? I don't ask all these questions, but I do 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 had mentioned in a previous course that I get all 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 back end 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 recraft the timeline so the entire creative team can be on the same page. So if the bride, now, all of those questions 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 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 in 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 wedding where we were literally stuck in traffic, myself, the bride, everybody's stuck in traffic, so I like to pad 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 will be a traditional cocktail hour in that it will go from 6:30 to 7: and then guests are seated, or it could go 6: 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 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 my clients, this is what's going to unfold. So what do I need is 60 minutes for the bride and groom prep. I will be with the bride, my second shooter, J.D., will be with the groom. I tell her that I need 60 minutes for that. I need 30 minutes for bride and groom photos. I, 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 one 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 is yes, I always want more time. I would love more time to shoot, especially reception. But what I also know is 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 J.D. and I have a system and we work fast, and you will see this actually happening at the Knot wedding, is I ask for and I really only need 20. So I've padded that extra time so that if mistakes happen I will take the full 30. If somebody's running delayed 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 eight and a half, I don't want to stay for nine. I will charge you for the 30 minutes, so our timeline is based on 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 boot camp, but you will see that I have listed when the bridesmaids should get dressed. Because if you're acting as the wedding coordinator, you need to know, set expectations in advance. The bridesmaids should not be getting dressed 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 J.D. 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 other before the ceremony. The ceremony, if it's slated for five 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 form 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, oh, you can't see me! But there are brides who are so, like, conscious of that, and I learned that it was ruining their experience. So if it's a five o'clock ceremony, the bride gets tucked away at 4:30. So all my photos must be done by that time, and 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 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 early-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 is 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, and 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 have 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, ahh, like, it's working! So I was like, she had called me 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 request. 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 with the bride and groom, that will be minimized to at least 20, 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, J.D. takes third. So these are the slight modifications that we have to take and knowing that going into it alleves 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, 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'll 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 the 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 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 Mikayla'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 the 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 bringing 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, St. Jean Chateau? Like, so, for now we'll call it Chateau, oh, it's Chateau St. Jean, it's not, St. Jean, St. Jean, oh, whatever, whatever. We'll say CSJ. Now, I don't have all of the information yet, but based on our experience, so J.D. 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 is so, 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 Creative Live, I 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, isn't this about the photos? Which is so wrong, right? But I'm just 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 the day. So what does that mean for how all of this changes? 'cause up until this point, am I not talking a 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: 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 J.D., I spoke to the crew, I spoke to The Knot, and said I wanna 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 that we know 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 judging? Like, if 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 don't 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 living on Google and I'm following hashtags in 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 don'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 Creative Live we'll be doing the walk-through, 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 four 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 can still salvage the experience with the bride and groom by shooting them later in the day in the vineyard, because they're getting married in a vineyard, I don't want to shoot at a vineyard in 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 (sighs) in the room, I'm so glad you feel how I feel, okay? Because 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 did all right. And I'm like, but do you guys know? Do you guys know what I had to go through? Do you guys know I'm shooting family portraits at one o'clock in the afternoon on a vineyard in June in Sonoma? Then you guys might be 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 clients 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 jasminestar.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.
Uh, 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, 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 stationary 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, it just has my logo at the 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 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 if you're on Twitter or Instagram or if you're really looking at the timeline. Yes, so we have a question there, and then we'll pass the mic back.
Um, so I think we've, a couple of the audience members had talked about this, but usually 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 roleplay with you and I and you're the bride, I would say the following. 'cause I could 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?
Okay, I want to make this as easy as possible for you and Nick, so instead of you standing at the altar for an hour and missing your cocktail hour, you listen to the photos that I propose to you, and if you approve of them, I can guarantee that I will 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 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 a 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, because, and then sidenote, 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 on 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 what I say is 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 going to 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. And here's the thing, my daddy is a Marine. Well, he was a Marine, but in my dad's vernacular, you know, once a Marine, always Marine, like, hoo-rah, right? 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 an issue. Most of the time, when J.D. and I walk into a situation, people always assume that J.D. 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 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 are generally taller than me in heels, so I'm just like, Jolly Green Giant. I have to kind of just make, wonderful, ladies, can I have everybody over here? Everybody, I wanna 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 group, 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.
Um, 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 anybody else.
You know, um. I got an email from a photographer who was so frustrated because the coordinator didn't let her have an hour for shots about the bride and groom, and she went on to say how frustrating that 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 J.D., this is where the first look will happen. This is where bridal party pictures will happen. Tell family members to meet on the upper patio at three p.m. What you guys will see is a very driven and focused quasi-mean person. And that embarrasses me a little bit. But J.D. knows that the person I become is not the person I am in totality. I'm less with my please and thank yous on that day. Get that bag, flash, go. I need you in 10, can you please, I. And there are times that the camera will probably catch me, if you are my second shooter and you happen to be in J.D.'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, that was 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, so honey bear, can you get? Okay, 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 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 in that sample timeline that I listed at two 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 writing 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 are 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 are, you find your cadence. It is not a loss to the business. You're playing the long game at that point in time Awesome. Uh, we'll go, 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, it's actually going to 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 stick or those wipes, and tape. Yeah, yeah. Oh, we're gonna pass the mic here, we're gonna 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, 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 for 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 going to 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 for 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. I'll 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, J.D. 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. Um, 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 on behalf, quite honestly, it's a wonderful marketing experience. It's gonna be great, and I believe that good begets good. So I wanna 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 saying, 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 as 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're okay with it, this is what's gonna happen. Just those two situations. Awesome, we'll go there.
Really simple question. Does J.D. 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 kinda 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. 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 overpreparation. I would email whoever, and 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 J.D. and I work together. When I asked to see if I could bring Creative Live 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 Creative Live 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 Creative Live 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 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 said, 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, J.D. 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, J.D., 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 a 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, J.D. is second. You will be an assistant slash third if needed. The vision will be casted by me, the vision will be corroborated by J.D. 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 wanna 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. Like, I mean, this is not cool. That's not cool, it's, to me, that's like a level of disrespect. Like, they didn't hire you. If your ideas are so great, they would have hired you. But I have to say, maybe somebody is just so comfortable and they're cool and they're 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 it 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 J.D. had relayed something to her and she ran up to me, and I'm with the coordinator and the bride and I'm shooting them, and she says, oh, J.D. said X, Y, and Z. And I was like, okay. And then we shot it and I walked through the hallway, and I said, any time J.D. 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 have told her this far in advance, and I learned a valuable lesson. That's the long answer 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, do you have any tips for that? Somebody you haven't worked with. You mentioned you're going to be working with your friend or colleague.
Yes, yes, 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 this same marketing protocol and tips that we've discussed in a previous lesson. I will reach out to her initially after the engagement session, 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 and be 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 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, this is usually how it works. We'll be arriving the day before, here's my cell phone. On a side note, I'm a gluten free vegetarian. If there are any combinations that could be made to accommodate that, combinations? 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 could 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 wanna make sure that I'm sharing same-day images and sending you sneak peeks. 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 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.
Great, if you really want to up things, send a hand-written note. Just say hi, like, I'll see you in August, I just wanted to introduce myself. I'll be shooting their engagement session in a few months, and if they're not, then whatever. But a hand-written note actually just changes the dynamic. Send out good vibes initially, and it always ends up just being like 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 look forward to seeing how you guys prepare your clients in the future, awesome. (audience applauding)