How to survive wedding photography

The silly season seems to be grinding to a halt, and now I finally have the opportunity to get back to my blog. As promised, today’s post will be about the insanity that is wedding photography.

As with family shoots, one either loves wedding photography, or go to severe lengths to avoid it. I love the craziness, the emotion and the intensity involved with shooting weddings, and I’ve decided to share my survival strategies with you.

The photographer is often one of the first suppliers booked, and may also be one of the most expensive components of the wedding. Most couples spend hours researching and looking for the perfect fit. I always recommend meeting potential clients. This gives them an idea of whether your personality will be suited to their wedding, and it gives the photographer a chance to market one on one. I also try not to take it personally if clients decide not to book my services, even after I’ve paid for their coffee:)

Over time I’ve gotten an action plan together. About one month prior to the event, I send out a detailed question list to the bridal couple regarding the wedding day. This includes all the detail of the day’s program, including what time who will be getting ready where, what time the reception area and church will be ready, and the contact numbers of literally EVERYONE involved. This helps me plan the day exactly, especially when using an assistant.  It is always good to speak to the wedding coordinator at the venue prior to the event, especially if the bridal party is not going to get ready at the venue, as they can help to reserve parking for you, and help you with good photographic spots. I always ask what time I need to bring the couple back to the reception, as this buys me a great deal of goodwill from the organizers, even though I generally ignore this and shoot until I have my shots or no more light.

It is also a good idea to either phone, or speak to the pastor/priest/wedding official prior to the ceremony. I’ve found that this little show of respect goes a long way. Sometimes the most traditional of religious officials have allowed me a great deal of freedom during their ceremony, just because I introduced myself properly and asked what I am allowed to do or not do during the ceremony.

My personal nightmare during a wedding is the group and family photography, as this is chaotic, unorganized and often distant cousins and aunts come out of the woodwork to have their pic with the couple. Personally, this wastes my time with the couple, as the photographic time with the bridal couple alone is the most important of the day. My coping mechanism therefore is to ask the couple to provide me with a detailed list of all the family shots they want. I make it VERY clear to them that these will be the ONLY shots I will take on the day, regardless of the begging or threatening I may encounter. I also ask them to nominate an assertive family member or member of the bridal party, to help me in getting all the ducks in the row. This helps me focus on the shots, as my assistant can work with this nominated herder to get the people ready, and I don’t have to turn into a screaming woman.

Depending on the couple, I like to include the best man and maid of honor when going for the couple shots. Mostly this is because they then don’t feel so exposed and they tend to relax more in the company of friends.

The next person one needs to find is the master of ceremonies. I always ask him what the program of the speeches and official stuff will be, and this helps me not to miss anything.

It is also good to bond with either the mother of the bride or groom, or some elder prior to the wedding. The couple is busy with other things, and on the day, sometimes you need information, and then it’s good to have someone on speed dial.

My last piece of wisdom may sound harsh, but I say it with love. One needs to remember that for most women, this is the first time that a whole day is dedicated entirely to them and what they want. Being the star of a big show can overwhelm and turn even the nicest people into Bridezillas. I always joke and say that I survive weddings because I understand the fundamental truth that ALL BRIDES ARE INSANE. Once you make your peace with this fact, everything goes easier, and you don’t struggle to relate to your subjects. They go back to normal again, and sometimes I can’t believe that a difficult client can be so accommodating later on.

 

I’ve decided to include some images of me working at weddings:

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Sometimes one needs to resort to bribery to get everyone to cooperate . . . .

 

 

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and sometimes you need to be a dictator.

 

On the technical side, one can never be too prepared for what the light may do. Since October and March are such popular wedding seasons, with the most unpredictable weather, I’ve invested in a Prophoto battery back. This allows me some control over light on overcast days, and it helps me to keep the bride calm if the forecasts show rain is on the way (they inevitably phone you about this!)

 

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My last pearl of wisdom, when you’re the photographer at a wedding, you’re there to work, not to act like a guest. Often I see wedding togs sit and chat at the table during the reception, instead of being ready for shots, and have missed great images. By all means, don’t be rude, but remember that you’re the help, you weren’t invited, so get up and get going . . .

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