What To Expect When Shooting a Wedding
Now that you're ready now that you think that you've got your skills ready, you feel pretty comfortable maybe you've been assisting for awhile or second shooting for a while or just practicing on your own for a while you're ready to go out to your first wedding what can you expect when you're shooting a wedding? Well, the very first thing you can expect is the very beginning of the wedding day you usually start with the getting ready period on the wedding day and now the getting ready period is when I usually shoot things like small details and jewellery if you're looking at the getting ready portion of the day for me it's usually somewhere between an hour two two to three hours of photography coverage this is something I talk about with my client's beforehand they know exactly when I'm going to be there and how long and I usually start the day with the rings, the dress, the shoes, the tiny heirlooms that are important to the bride. It lets me sort of ease into the wedding day a little...
bit that's what I'm gonna shoot the details it's also going to involve journalistic coverage of the preparation, the bridesmaids hanging out, the bride's mom helping her get ready, the groom and his groomsmen sitting around and watching sports it's all of just the stuff that's happening it's things that I'm not dictating I'm not telling them what to dio I'm just there documenting what's happening yes man and if your coming into this room you're shooting the bridesmaids and the groom and it's super crowded weddings are always so crowded and about full that how would you even prepare for that coming into that situation or you know you're equipment and this is one of the things that this will get better the more you do it you go into these crowded getting ready rooms they can be sometimes very small they could be super super hectic you could have a million people running in a bunch of different directions at once you've got hair you got makeup you've got light coming from this window you've got little kids running down the hallway the more you do it in the more you stay calm you'll be in a better place sometimes we'll go in and meet up the room a little bit if it's a total and complete disaster sometimes there's nothing you could d'oh so if you go to your very first wedding and it's absolute chaos at this part of the day first of all that's totally normal and second of all there's not gonna be much you can do about it emotions were running really high most people even if they're generally very calm varies in people there kind of stressed out because they're in a slightly stressful situation just breathe on dh take it all in and know that you know, maybe the next time it'll be easier maybe the next time it'll be crazier. The wonderful thing about shooting weddings in the difficult thing about shooting weddings at the same time is you cannot art direct them and you cannot script them there's really nothing that you can do to effect the flow of the day especially when it's totally nuts so learning howto work under pressure, learning how to not freak out when things are totally hectic will be a very valuable skill that you will develop over time it can often be super disorganized and all I do is all I can do you know I can't take a wedding day and turn it into something other than what it is I can't make a client who's running an hour late suddenly be on time I can't take a room that has fourteen people in it when it really should only have three and throw out eleven of those people it's not my day I have to learn how to sort of roll with everything that's been thrown at me. So the sorts of images that I'm going to be taking at this point in time during the day are as I've mentioned already detail shots and the details are going to be things that are important to the bride the earrings that she's wearing her family earlier pearls, her engagement ring if she's carrying a handkerchief that's been carried for generations, these things are important. This is what I'm going to document journalistic coverage of the bride or the groom getting ready. These were things that are not necessarily set up. Sometimes they're happening so fast that you can't stop them or guide them. Or maybe you've decided that you don't want to guide them. You just want the data unfold in front of you and you document it. Another large component of the getting ready part of the day is gently guiding the bride while she's getting ready. This is when I'll stop the pure documentary coverage, and I'll say, hey, listen, you know you're about to get ready, do you mind getting ready over by this window or over in this location? That's really beautiful, but then I stepped back, and once I have placed them in the spot that I want them to be in, then there moments are their own, you know, I'm not going to say, you know, hey, kate, stand over here by the window and hold your mom's hands and smile at her. I'm going to say, hey, kate, when you get ready, do you mind standing over here by the window, because then when a moment like this occurs, it's an actual natural reald moment that they're going to look back on later and be moved by they're not going to be moved if I set this moment up because they're going to remember that I set it up but if I let it actually occur then it will be more moving to them you know when the bride's niece comes in and starts messing with her wedding dress I didn't say hey, do you mind going in there and you know get up close to your aunt and play with her dress I had the bride and the right scenario because she had been there during her getting ready portion and when the little girl came in and started playing with her dress the scene had been set so that everything was as I wanted it to be and then the moment was a real moment the next thing that's going to happen after the bride gets ready in the groom gets ready and everybody's ready whether you do portrait's of the bride and groom before the ceremony or after there is going to be a ceremony at some point in time on the wedding day and ceremonies can often be really tricky because again you have no control over the scenario that you're in and you have no ability to move the players around if the bride isn't getting ready room and the room is difficult and it's crazy, I can say hey when you go to put your dress on do you mind standing over here in a ceremony? I can't say hey, do you mind standing over here because I can't change how their ceremony is laid out? So when you go to a ceremony be ready to be restricted especially when you're in churches or places of worship. A lot of times they'll have rules about where you can and can't stand and what you can and can't shoot usually the rules go a little bit like this stay in the back of the church and don't use the flash great that's fine move slowly and deliberately during the ceremony portion of the day you don't want to be a distraction not many people are moving around during a ceremony the people that are involved in the ceremony or staying up at the front and the people who are watching are sitting in the back nobody else is really moving, so unlike other portions of the day, whenever you move to change locations from one place to another, you're the only one moving so could be very easy to draw focus from what's happening to you and you want to be sure that whatever you do is very slow and deliberate so that people don't immediately turn around and go my gosh finds that photographer crawling around all over the place you want to be as unobtrusive as possible? Yes ma'am yeah you just briefly mentioned flash I'm just curious if you are given the opportunity to use flash, do you use it during a ceremony or would you prefer not teo? Usually I prefer not to sometimes I will use it during the processional in the recessional when they're walking down the aisle to start the ceremony or when they're walking back down the aisle to leave the ceremony, but during the actual ceremony itself, I don't because I think it's disrespectful and I think that it is obtrusive and with only one flash on one camera, which is usually all you're limited to during a ceremony there's really nothing that I can do to make the light interesting. I can't put another flash somewhere else so that the light is sort of coming from an angle, it just sort of lights up the whole scene and sometimes that's not really what I want with the cameras being as good as they are nowadays with you being able to push your s o up really high with the ability to work with very fast lenses, oftentimes I don't need flash and if I did the flash that I would be allowed to use wouldn't really do what I would want it tio however, that said sometimes it's very helpful, especially if the church is completely dark are the scenario is completely dark if you can use it to get those images of people coming down the aisles because they're going to be moving fast, and when it's very dark and your shutter speed is very slow, they're going to be blurry. If you try to photograph them walking down the aisle, a little flash sometimes will go a long way in a situation like that, but during the actual ceremony, when everyone's just kind of standing there almost never another thing that's very important to do when you're photographing a ceremony is toe learn the customs and traditions. Are you shooting a jewish wedding where they will be circling each other seven times and they will be reciting the seven blessings, and they will be stomping a glass at the end of the ceremony. That's helpful to know it's helpful to know that these things are happening if you're shooting a haitian wedding, are they jumping a broom? At the end of the ceremony, I'd like to know that because I need to know to be ready for that. Are you shooting an indian wedding where there are hundreds upon hundreds of customs and beautiful things that will be happening? It helps to know what the customs and traditions are with the type of ceremony that you're shooting so that you can be aware of them and you can ask your clients, you know, let me know. You said you're having a jewish ceremony? Can you let me know what traditions and customs you're incorporating into that ceremony and that way, you know, what's happening so you don't miss anything don't be afraid to ask what's going to happen, you need to educate yourself, and we're going to talk about expectations very shortly. You need to educate yourself as to what's happening on the wedding day, and especially so during the ceremony because they might throw something in there as a customer, a tradition that you didn't see coming, and if you didn't know it was coming, you might miss it and every ceremony completely different. No two jewish ceremonies are alike no to christian ceremonies are exactly alike a roman catholic ceremony is different than a methodist ceremony over the years, as you gain more experience as you go to more weddings as you see more things, you'll be able to roll with the punches a little bit better. I get asked a lot, you know? Do I go to rehearsals? And I don't go to rehearsals anymore because they don't need to, because I've seen so many ceremonies, even if they're going to throw something crazy indifferent at me, I'm going to know how to react, and my first couple of years of being in business, I did go to rehearsals. Because I wanted to know what was going to happen, and I had no frame of reference to know how the ceremonies were going to go if I hadn't seen them beforehand. So if you feel like going to the rehearsal is going, tio help you on the wedding day it's going to make you shoot the ceremony better? By all means go, you'll eventually find that at a certain point, you don't need them anymore, so you know, every ceremony is completely different. Sometimes you have an indoor church ceremony where the light is frightening and sometimes you're outside, but it's overcast and you're under a hope a and everyone's under the hopeful with them in the family and the friends or close by. Sometimes you're at a ceremony and it's outside and it's bright, and you're dealing with the bright light, you have to figure out how to do that. Sometimes you're in a ceremony where people sit in around and they go all the way around, sometimes your outside of a barn or sometimes you're in the middle of a field, every single wedding ceremony is going to be completely different, so I know that you're going to have to sort of roll with the punches and have very little input as to how that goes and just be ready for it. Another thing that you're going to have to shoot on the wedding day are going to be portrait of the bride and groom portrait's of the bridal party and family formal images for some weddings they're going to want to see each other before the ceremony, and you're going to do these images, then for a lot of other weddings, they're not going to want to see each other before the ceremony, so you're going to do these portrait sse after the ceremony happens, and we'll talk about managing those expectations very shortly. So for portrait's and family formals, you have to stay organized and you have to stay cool. This is a kind of chaotic part of the day, especially if you've got large families, especially if you've got huge, bridal, party's everyone's running around everyone's going in different directions, everyone's talking to each other, you have to stay cool because the second you get frazzled or flustered, they're going to get frazzled or flustered also, and when the timelines fall apart, this is the part of the day that suffers, you know there's a huge trend right now about first looks the bridegroom seeing each other before the wedding ceremony, I don't like first looks, the reason why I don't like first looks is because if anything runs late, I'm going to be the one that suffers so if the bride is supposed to get dressed it noon and she's supposed to see the groom for the first time in twelve thirty and we're supposed to have an hour and a half to shoot the two of them until two o'clock and then we have to go immediately to their ceremony, which is it three o'clock? What happens when here and make up runs late and the bride doesn't get dressed until one thirty I've lost an hour ah whole hour on I know you're probably sitting there thinking, well, how often does hair and makeup run late? I'm going to tell you guys the time it runs late all the time and it's not anybody's fault people just start talking and then the bride goes to the bathroom and then they stop and they have a sandwich and then somebody shows up and they take ten minutes to do something else in the next thing you know, all these little five and ten minute breaks you're ninety minutes behind and the worst thing is to have a bridegroom see each other for the first time and then to say, hey, listen, we were supposed to have ninety minutes, we've got twenty minutes and then you show them the images later and they're like where the rest of the portrait's we had all this time and I said but you were late it's a very awkward position to be in I would rather have everything crammed into the sixty minutes between the end of the ceremony and the end of cocktail hour because we all know what to expect there if I'm going to have fifteen minutes with them in between ceremony and reception they know it's fifteen minutes that expectation is set, but if we thought we had two hours beforehand and we have fifteen minutes that's a much more awkward position to be in yes, ma'am typically how much time do you set apart for yourself when you are shooting family and bride and groom? Is there a set standard or you just kind of play it by ear? You know there's not a set standard there's the amount of time that I asked for and then there is the amount of time I usually get um what I usually ask for as I asked for an hour with the bride and groom and in forty five minutes to an hour with the family in the bridal party. Now when we're going to talk about managing expectations very shortly, the family formals are going to be one of those expectations that we're going to need to manage because I need to know if we're just photographing your immediate family or if you're bringing every aunt, uncle and cousin you've ever had and third cousin and extended cousins and cousins once removed did you give me a list of twenty family formals? Did you give me a list of one hundred family formals? Those things were going to kind of change the timing of the day. I ask the bride and groom for an hour, I usually get about half an hour. I'm not the kind of photographer who wants three hours in the middle of the day to do a huge formal section because that's that's just not the type of work that I usually d'oh, so you get us much time as you possibly can, and you do as much as you can in the time that you have. So I recommend getting family's done quickly. If you're doing family formals first, get the family's done quickly so that you can spend more time with the bride and groom and these air good examples of bridal party pictures, family type pictures, family formals don't have to be boring. I used to dread them now I don't mind them. I take time during this time to shoot the groom alone and to shoot the bride alone and to shoot the bride and groom together in a different variety of sorry owes both inside and outside, depending on their location, depending on the time of day, depending on whether it's raining or overcast. Every single day is going to be different and it's going to dictate how I'm going to shoot it now the last portion of the wedding day that you're going to have to deal with is going to be receptions and when you're looking at a wedding reception you're looking at something that it's fast and crazy and loud and exhausting but also amazing see to find out what events are going to happen at the reception are they doing the first dance? Are they being introduced into the reception along with their bridal party? Are their parents being introduced? Are they doing parent dances? Is someone going to get up and give a toast during dinner or a speech? And if so, who and how many it's very important for you to learn the timeline of the reception because every reception goes differently and you have to be ready for anything so for example maybe I'll go to reception in the timeline goes something like this they introduced the family and the bridal party they immediately go into the first dance they then immediately go into the parent dances and then they sit down they have a blessing, they have two toasts, they have dinner, then they dance than they cut the cake then they dance some more maybe it goes like that maybe they introduce people in and then everyone immediately sits down and they have a blessing and then they, of course, and then they do the first stands, and then they eat, of course, and then they do two toasts, and then they eat, of course, then they do the parent dances, because every wedding is not going to flow the same way. It's helpful to know exactly how the wedding your shooting is going to flow, and you're going to shoot things like first answers and toast and bouquet tosses and garter tosses, and that whatever that wass and whatever that is, you know, you never know what's going to happen at receptions, especially as people get a little liquid courage. As the reception rolls on, entertaining things start happening, you might document some things they never want to see again, but it's always a really fun close to the day I very much enjoy shooting receptions. I think they are a very entertaining part of the night, and when you're looking at managing expectations with your clients, one of the things that you're going to want to discuss is how long they want you at the reception, the hours that you're there on the wedding day, my wedding packages started eight hours, sometimes I'm there for nine, sometimes I'm there for ten I shot weddings where I was there for fifteen hours before it really depends on the individual wedding and when you're planning out the timeline with the clients before the wedding, you'll figure out what time you want to start and how late they want you to be there. If they're receptionist four hours long, do they want all four hours covered? Or do they just want three hours covered? Or do they just want you to stay until the cake is cut? These air questions that you'll start learning toe? Ask your clients and don't be surprised when you have clients who want you to help plan the timeline with them and that's something that I do a lot about two months to six weeks before the wedding. Inevitably someone will email me or call me and say, hey, I know the wedding's coming really soon. We need to go over the timeline and I'll say great let's, go over the timeline start talking about when the ceremony starts. What time are you getting ready that will help you understand? In what order these parts of the wedding? They're going to come in? Maybe. It's getting ready. Ceremony, portrait reception maybe. It's getting ready. Portrait's ceremony reception. How much time are you going to have for each what locations are you going to go to for each those are all of the things that are incredibly important. For you to need to ask. And then you'll be able to go into the wedding day and move from getting ready to ceremony, to portrait's, to reception with ease. Because when you have the knowledge of how the day is going to break out and what traditions are goingto happen during the day and what customs were goingto happen, then you don't have to ask. I wonder. What's going to happen next? You're just going to know what happens next.