How to Prepare to Shoot a Wedding
These are the things that you do that go into the planning of the day everything from how you pack your bag toe learning more about the wedding day itself and I've alluded to how important some of these things are already but let's get a little bit more end up on them now the first thing that you should definitely do is learn the timeline of the wedding day I literally just said that I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that you know, the flow of the day whether you have input on the timing or whether it's a timeline that's just given to you knowing it is absolutely crucial the reason why it's so important is you need to learn how to advise when needed for example, what if you get a timeline where they say listen, we want to do sixty family groupings and we've got twenty minutes to do it in that's a point we're in you would need to step in and say, you know, hey, listen, I understand a lot of family groupings there's no way we can do that in twenty minutes we're going to need ...
at least an hour to make that happen that's the sort of thing that you need to advise your clients about just because they give you a timeline doesn't mean you have to take it as is if you see something in there that could be more streamlined or that is going to be a problem you as a professional or even as a hobbyist need to step in and say, hey, listen, you need more than fifteen minutes to shoot the two of you together or there's, no way you're going to be able to finish your hair and makeup and get dressed in twenty minutes, things like that? Yes, ma'am done a wedding timeline before how do you know what the client is offering you is a timeline is appropriate or will work? You have no idea and that's kind of a it's kind of one of the stumbling blocks of the first couple of weddings you'll shoot is something that might seem like it's totally normal, you realize is nowhere near enough time for something or is way too much time for something. So as you go through with shooting weddings, you'll start to know what you can advise on and what you can't, and sometimes they throw curve balls at you that you don't see coming, but for the most part it from the very beginning just start using common sense if they bring you a group of sixty grouping is that you want to, they want to do of all of their multiple family members, logic should kick in and say, I'm pretty sure we can't do that and twenty minutes or if you even think you know I don't think we can do that in twenty minutes there's nothing wrong with advising hey, I think we need more time one of the things to check on is driving times if your ceremony is ending and they want to go somewhere else for pictures and then go somewhere else for the reception look up the drive time in between the two locations and see well you know you've given us twenty minutes to do these it's going to take us twenty minutes just to drive there things like that if from the very beginning something seems a little odd at least speak up and open a dialogue about it but you'll be fine you will eventually learn what to advise on the other thing that's important is to learn what's important to them you don't want to push a client who doesn't really care about post pictures of the two of them together to give you two hours for that part of the day if someone really says I only want fifteen minutes of pictures of me and my husband and you say well fifteen minutes isn't that long and they say well I know but it's not the most important part of the day for us that's something that you need to run with okay this is this is all they're looking for that's going to be fine you will over time learn how much time it takes to do things and if you're not sure this is where having a networking group or even just having a nice facebook group of photographers to talk teo will be very helpful you khun goto a trusted friend or you can go to your facebook group and say, hey listen they've given me x amount of time to do why number of things in your experience do you think I'll be able to get it done in that amount of time and you'd be surprised how many people in our industry are incredibly incredibly willing to help advise on things like that you know I run a facebook group for people who read a blogger that I write and there are tons and tons of local facebook groups out there you just need to look around and find the place that you're comfortable in so that you could start asking questions you also need to learn when does they know when to say how much and when to say how long you know there is nothing wrong with telling a client no, this isn't goingto work you know you want to get dressed and then you want to go forty five minutes away to take a bridal portrait of yourself and then come forty five minutes back no that's not a good idea you know yes it's going to take this much time yes it's going to take this long it's going to take this much effort no, you cannot take your entire bridal party and have them drive their own cars to the park because there really is no parking lot and everyone would be parked on the side of the road and that's not very efficient. No, you should not do that. You should do it this way. Some of those things will be common sense from the very beginning. Some of those things will be things that you learn as you go on in time. Some of them will always be frustrating. Another thing that you're going to need to want to dio is to manage the expectations of not only your clients but yourself. But let's talk first about managing expectations on the client side of things. First of all, can you provide what they want? Can you do the first of all, on a very basic level? Can you physically actually shoot the things they want you to do? You know, if a client comes to you and says, hey, listen, we want ah, bunch of night portrait's on this bridge and we want them to look like this and they show you a picture. If you can't shoot that, you need to tell them that, you know, hey, we can totally go to this bridge, and we could give this a shot but I can't make this a lot of times I'll get given I'll be given things from, like, vogue magazine, and they'll say, can you shoot this? And I say, well, yes, we need a budget of one hundred fifty thousand dollars toe, toe light the entire space another thing that happens to me often I shoot in a place called castle and it's, where taylor swift shot her video blank face and there's amazing light in this video. Amazing! And it is like I have never seen at a hiccup before that does not exist in the world ever there. So a client will say, hey, listen, we want that shot where taylor's coming down the stairs and the lights coming through the windows, and I have to say the light is never actually on that side of the building. Yeah, the light that's coming through that windows is fake, and if we want to do that, we'd actually rent actual three theatrical lighting and have it coming through the windows, and then they say, don't find yourself, don't get yourself put in a situation where you know you're going to fail. This is the thing you need, clients don't know. They don't know that the light never comes through that window and that there is never fog antarctica ever, and there are no horses just wandering through the ballroom like in the video, you have to tell them I can't provide you what you want in this situation, whatever it might be. Yes, and similarly, if I've never actually shot a wedding before, do should I make that explicit and clear on something? Okay? And that's something you never want to mislead anyone, and it might be very frustrating. It might take you a little bit longer to find that first client that will trust you, but it's a lot better to go into a situation knowing that they know your experience level instead of going into a situation where you sort of fibs your way into it or lied by not necessarily disclosing information, and then they find out later that you were very inexperienced, you will find someone who will I trust you and that's way better than being scared all day long because you know you're in a situation that you can't handle, and eventually down the road you'll be able to handle any situation it will come, um, the other thing is, can you provide what they want in the time they've given you to do it? This is back to that timeline question. If you want to take pictures on this bridge, do we have enough time to get there? Do we have enough time to go to this park? Do we have enough time to do all of these family groupings? And then do your clients understand? And do you understand? The lot of this will come with experience? I am much better at managing my client expectations now than I was five years ago, or even ten years ago, because I've seen hundreds and hundreds of weddings by now. This is where being very honest about your ability level. This is about where being honest about, maybe not knowing, hey, guys, listen it it seems like you want to take thirty minutes to go to this park and go do pictures. Now, I've never driven this exact route before, but it seems like we might not be able to do that in this amount of time, and if you are new air on the side of needing more time to do things, if you have more time to do things, you will have more time to experiment and fail and try again, then, if you're really pushed to go very fast, which is a very frustrating and kind of terrifying thing, when you're very new at this and just be very honest with yourself if a client asks you to do something, if they ask you to do something in a very limited amount of time or in a very difficult situation, you need to understand your own abilities. Your clients need to understand those abilities, and you just need to be honest, I know this might sound daunting. It might sound like you're never going to get it and it's always going to be hard. You will be shocked how much you learn at every single wedding that you go to every wedding you go too, especially in the very beginning you will learn so much, and then the next wedding, you're going to double what you know, and then the next thing you're going to double what you know, and eventually, after you've been doing this for ten years, you'll start picking up tiny things here and there, but the growth at the very beginning is so fast and so rapid, these things will start to become easier to you very quickly, and if they're not there's, nothing wrong with asking other photographers for help. Keep calm. This is we have two rules, my assistant and I when we're shooting a wedding day rule number one is don't be a jerk, I know that that sounds kind of foolish, but no matter if you're stressed. No matter what's happening no matter if a guest is being rude to you no matter if you're having a situation that's very difficult in someone's not treating you very well don't be a jerk always be nice rule number two is always stay calm and that is a very hard one when you are in a situation that is super stressful when you're running an hour late when you're trying to do family formals in the bride's brother is not there yet or the groomsmen are lost and things are starting to unravel you have to stay calm and if you are not calm you have to learn how to fake being calm and again I know that sounds ridiculous but I could be literally dying inside because something is running late or someone is being rude but my face is totally calm that's part of the job of my assistant is if I start looking stressed she tells me you're starting to look stressed because if they're stressed and then I'm stressed it's going to feed their stress which is going to be my stress and no one's going to win in the end if you stay calm you will be fine and my husband who is also a wedding photographer says a very wise thing when he teaches he says clients are not going to remember the exact details around an experience but they're going to remember how you made them feel so maybe the family formals were running two hours late but you were calm and you were cool and you were collected and you did them the best you could they're going to remember that you made them feel good and that even though things were running late you were calm and cool you could be running ten minutes late and completely lose your mind in the super stressed out the clients are going to remember wow she was really frazzled and she made me feel really unsure you always want to make them feel very comfortable so this is where it dovetails into managing your own expectations you need to know when to take breaks and you need to know how long you been take breaks when I was very new into wedding photography I was afraid to stop I was afraid to stop shooting I was afraid to sit down I was afraid to go to the bathroom I was certain that if I walked away from the scene I was going to miss something now I know that there are very specific parts of the day that I can rest if I'm driving from one place to another the ten minutes right before a ceremony starts a couple minutes after the ceremony ends while they're trying to clear the space out before we start formals I know that there are chunks during the reception that I can sit down and breathe I always take a break when the guests are eating if nothing else is happening if they're not doing a toast or a dance or something when the guests sit down to eat and the dance floor is clear that's when I go in the other room and sit down no one wants pictures of themselves eating they just don't you need to know when to eat and again I know that sounds completely silly no one knowing teo eat that's weird but when you're looking at a wedding day it could be eight ten sometimes twelve sometimes mohr hours long you've got to eat something right? You don't pass out halfway through the day should you at should you put that in the contract that your client should feed you kind of a weird question but you know sometimes I wonder as photographers and we're at a wedding is that something that also goes in a contractor's right and that's actually not as were the question is you would think this is something that as you delve into the facebook world of photography this is something photographers like to argue about very heated fashion's actually some people do put a meal clause in their contract where it says you have to feed me a hot meal just like the guests or I get a break to go get a meal I don't have that in my contract and after years of experience I'll tell you why first of all let's say you do have a hot meal in your contract and the clients forget to tell the maitre d where they forget to tell the venue or they tell the venue on the venue doesn't really care because let's be honest the venue is not out to make your job easier sometimes they're downright unfriendly so what happens when they serve dinner and you don't get your aforementioned hot meal what do you do do you go to the bride and groom on their wedding day and say hey guys I was supposed to have this meal and nobody fed me this meal I want my meal now or I'm going to go home there's no way that you can handle this situation that doesn't make you kind of look like a jerk and that violates rule number one don't be a jerk so I don't have a contract clause that says that you have to feed me I do however in my questionnaire have a quick line item about it I sent a questionnaire to my clients about six weeks before their wedding day and it details things like what time are you getting ready? Where do you want me to start? Here's your list of family formals at any other ones you want it's a very detailed day off timeline and one of the things that says towards the very end is will a vendor meal be provided for myself and my assistant and if they say yes, awesome if they say no, we know we need to pack some food and we always pack food anyhow because even if they say yes, that doesn't necessarily guarantee that you're going to get it so we always bring a lot of food with us. I have protein bars, I bring a little cooler with me and I eat whenever I have a chance to eat maybe it's a handful of trail mix here or a protein bar there, but I get angry if I don't eat if I get really hungry so I know that I sort of have to fuel myself up here and there sometimes it's a two second bathroom break before the ceremony starts where I shovel in half of a protein bar, but it'll get me through the next hour so you have to remember to pace yourself you have to remember to go to the bathroom you have to remember to eat food. I know that sounds completely crazy, but when you get deep in the moments of a wedding day, these were the things that you will forget you'll forget I need to drink water you'll forget him to go to the bathroom and the worst place to be is in the middle of a park with a bride and groom and you're an hour away from the the reception location and you have to go to the bathroom well, you should have gone before you left the charge, and I don't mean to spend a long time talking about food and basic hygiene, but these were the things that you forget when you get caught up in the actual day to day wedding insanity, you'll get halfway through the reception and think, oh my gosh, why do I feel like I'm gonna pass out? Let's been nine hours since I've eaten something? Pace yourself a day of work flow, everyone needs a day of work flow. I don't care if you're two minutes into this industry or twenty years into this industry write it all down and what do I mean by day of work flow? I mean, all of the things that hafta happen physically before you walk out the door and go to a wedding for me, I actually used to write down everything that goes in my bag now, I don't write it down anymore because I have two bags to go with me to a wedding, and every single bag has a slot for something, so I opened up my bags and if something is missing, if there's a slot that's empty, I know something is not there if everything is neatly put in, I know I haven't forgotten anything, but we have had instances where I've walked out the door without things. I went to a wedding one time without my batteries for my camera had to have someone drive them to me, it was a very awkward and terrible situation that I hope never happens to me ever again ever in the world, but you never know. You start doing this, it starts to become a routine, and then inevitably you're going to forget something, so there is absolutely nothing wrong with writing down. This is the list of everything that goes in my bags, cameras, lenses, flashes, batteries, battery chargers, my checkbook to pay my assistant gum, you know? And I mean, every single thing that you for us earplugs. I always take your plugs to a wedding reception because I don't wanna go deaf. We have our bag of compact flash cards if I take it out to download some cards, and I forget to put it back in, I'm totally toast the next time I show up to a wedding, so write down everything that goes in your bag and then methodically go through and check it off, and then, you know, you've got everything with you. What else do you need for me? I always need my timeline, and my timeline always includes the questionnaire that I've sent to my clients that they've completed any other notes that I've written down about their wedding day, any desires any last minute thoughts any? Hey, we had a phone call three days before the wedding, where the bride told me that her dad really isn't talking to her sister because they're having a fight and I don't need to put them together in a picture I want to print that out and bring it with me so I don't forget because especially once you start kind of upping the number of weddings that you shoot, they will start to sort of blur together and the last thing I want to do is find myself up on an altar putting family formals together and think, oh my gosh, is this week's wetting the one where I don't put the sister next to the dad? Or is that next week's wedding? I'm just gonna look at my packet of information with me and I will know so it's my timeline, my questionnaire, any notes that I've written down and maps I have a gps in my car, I have a gps on my phone, we always print out google maps directions from one location to another, just in case you never know I have pertinent phone numbers, these are all things that are in my questionnaire, but they're things that you might need the bride's phone number, the groom's phone number, an emergency contact phone number on the wedding day if I have to reach somebody location's addresses times phone numbers of the church, a phone number to the reception venue so on and so forth all my contact info, all of that goes in a stapled itinerary that it's a physical printed itinerary that we bring with us to every single wedding, all the details of the wedding day all goes with me, it's all written down on paper that way, if my assistant needs to grab it and look something up it's there that way if I need to grab it, look something up it's there we don't liketo look att information on our phones partly because I have to call it up every single time after opened my phone and put in my password and go to them bring it up that waste time partly because sometimes guests don't know that you're looking up information on your phone and it looks like you're playing around on facebook or you're texting and I don't ever want there to be any confusion as to what I'm doing I always keep my phone in my bag unless I need it I'd rather have that paper dossier of information that I can look at and do you have someone to help you? Some photographer's work without second shooter's some photographer's work without assistance? I always work with an assistant at every single wedding that I go to I have an assistant with me she's the same woman that's worked for me for six years she's with me at almost every single wedding and she helps me in a multitude of different ways she holds my light for me she parks the car she changes batteries in things when batteries die she picks up camera body is when I put them down and wonder away from them she helps me get the family formal groupings together and keep them organized she shoots a very little bit I could not do the work that I do without an assistant at a wedding I simply couldn't it's a very valuable part of my day I don't work with the second shooter I've never worked with the second shooter every once in a while I hire a second shooter in for a job that is especially big or especially complicated but that's a cost that I'm going to pass on to my clients this is never something that I'm going to pay for on my own but I don't regularly go to a wedding with a second shooter sometimes perspective clients don't like this they want me to have a second shooter that's why I have the option of hiring one on but I always have an assistant with me so if you do decide that you want to start taking weddings a little bit more seriously consider having an assistant with you you can have an assistant with you it's not a very expensive thing on the wedding day, it's. Not a very high paying job. You don't need to pay thousands of dollars for an assistant, but it does help to have a physical person back up there, just in case of emergency. It's. Also nice to have a friend with you, hon, the wedding day to keep you company, and also to keep you saying, when things go a little bit nuts. So if you do have an assistant, or you do have a second shooter, make sure you check in with them. Make sure they have all of the details that you have. Make sure they know everything that's going to go into the day so that you both go in with the same knowledge.