Wedding Planning Tips From Your Photographer
I am sure that there is a pretty good chance that you might have already taken a peek at my guide on choosing a wedding photographer, already booked and paid your camera artist and wondering what comes next. You might be asking yourself what kinds of things they will look for? What might help, what could hinder the experience? I sincerely hope the following guide will shed some light for you and provide some wedding photography hints for the brides and the groom. Here are some tips on what exactly your “paparazzo” might be doing during the wedding day and how you might help them to achieve the best possible result.
Tip Number One – Mastering The Art Of Light
By definition, the art of photography is translated by painting with light. The photo comes from light, “graph” – paint, painting with light, whether it is natural or made by using a flash or studio equipment. The focus here is on “light”, the most important thing in photography. If you decide to ask your photographer what would be the one and only very important factor in creating a beautiful photo, whether it is a wedding one or not, the answer would always be that you need a good light. Cameramen live for gorgeous light. It doesn’t matter if it is a romantic sunset, nice and soft window light inside a rustic building, or a man-made light from a well-positioned beauty dish. It is very one-sided – gorgeous light always means gorgeous pictures. Awful light sometimes might mean awful photos, but that would usually be a beginner photographer or the so common lately – the casual “weekend warrior” or “Uncle Bob” as we call them. A true seasoned professional should be able to neutralize bad light by either using a flashgun or the universal remedy of bad light – black and white photos…Neat!
So how come knowing this is so important you’ll ask? Well for starters if we have a very hot summer day, especially around noon, with full blown summer sunshine, it might cross your mind that the setting will produce some pretty pictures. The reality is quite the opposite – people will be with eyes squinting, sweating and most likely uncomfortable in the heat. None of these things is something that you are willing to have in your final prints delivery. It might as well provide an explanation why your wedding shutterbug might ask you to move the timing of the group photos a bit earlier or later. They might also ask to move people around or decide to shoot the formal in a different location from the one planned before so you can get the best possible light after all the end result is the most important thing in wedding photography.
Tip Two – Getting Ready Photos
Documenting the bride getting ready and the groom prep and party’s preparations before the ceremony have become an utterly important part of photographing weddings. Most brides really want those important photos of their hair is done, the makeup artist doing their art, the silly giggling of the bridesmaids as they are helping with the garter. Photographers are also digging in the trend and we see more and more creative photos from the grooms and bridal prep.
Here are a few very easy photo tips which can help get the very same stunning pictures that you’ve seen in all those fancy wedding magazines and blogs, photos that you will want to look back on years after the special day.
When you start planning your own wedding you have to keep in mind where exactly you’ll be getting ready. It could be a dedicated bridal suite at the venue, small room in the church or a penthouse in some upscale hotel. You also have to think about how large your bridal party is. More often than not I have arrived at a tiny hotel or church room. It was already filled with quite a few bridesmaids, hairdresser, make up artist, the mother of the bride, sometimes even the grandma and now a photographer…If you add a videographer to the mix very often there is no room to stand at all, quite often there is chaos all around and the place looks like a bomb went off. In situations like that, it is often quite impossible to actually achieve those impeccable, stunning photos you see so often in magazines and blogs. Not when you getting ready surrounded by clutter. There is something else important to think of – there is only one washroom to share with all the ladies. Add a few kids in the mix and it might not end very well!
You also have to remember to keep a close eye on the timing. Usually, the timeline has been ironed out by now. The common rule is to try to be ready around thirty minutes prior to your departure for the venue or the church. This really helps the photographer to take a few quick snaps of you when you are completely ready and looking at your best. Getting ready too late and you might have to make some tough choices and possibly skipping these shots altogether, even miss documenting some of your guests arriving. There is a pretty good chance that you might miss the groom and the groomsmen when they arrive at the venue.
If you can stretch your budget a bit for a second photographer it might prove a very beneficial move. Whenever I work along with a second shooter I will often leave him with the boys and the groom so I can spend more time with the bride and the bridesmaids. After all what is more important at the wedding than the bride? Nothing!!!
Tip Three – Formal And Posed Family Portraits
While the most of the usual traditional posed group pictures have fallen a bit out of fashion lately, they still play a pivotal role in every wedding. Your elderly aunt that traveled all the way from across the pond will surely want a photo with the newlyweds. Your parent will most certainly desire a picture with the grandparent and the entire extended family. Your cousins might get offended if they don’t get a shot with the bride or her family. It is very helpful if you prepare a list with the preferred group of shots and deliver it to your cameraman at least a few weeks before the big day. It might be even better if discuss it together with your photographer in the final meet when you discuss the wedding timeline and the last touches.
In case you have an unusually large family then you may want to limit a bit the number of groups and how many formal photographs will be taken during the session. If you have to take time off in between the ceremony and the following reception just for family photos, then my advice would be to try to keep those to the sanitary minimum in between. There is always plenty of time for group shots later in the day or even at the reception. It is best to focus only on the important ones like the ones of the immediate family and the bridal and groom’s parties. It is best to leave lots of time for the artistic photos such as the bride and the groom photos. The mistake that I see so very often is the one couples make thinking it is an easy task organising the group portraits. It is quite time-consuming and there is always somebody lost and wandering around when they are needed the most. Then all of a sudden there are only a few minutes left. The wedding planner is starting to get nervous with the timeline, the reception food is slowly getting cold and the photog is now left with just a few precious minutes to try to get those gorgeous fine art photographs that you will want to frame and put above the fireplace or have a full spread in the album.
It really helps if you can appoint one or even two people who are familiar with most of the guests and relatives. You can just give them a list of all the groups and ask them to help with organising the people for pictures. It is hard for the lensman to remember all the family members and help with calling the and keeping order is highly appreciated. Those helpers can be fetching people for every frame and really help organize them before each photo on the list the next shoot allowing the photographer to focus on creating the best possible version of the pictures they can. Five minutes per group usually is plenty enough. Any more than 5 minutes and the portraits session can start really dragging and cut well into the bride and groom portraits time and I`m quite sure nobody wants that…
Quite often there is a long period of time when the breakfast is finished and the venue staff is working on getting the room done for the evening activities and the disco. This is the perfect time to get with the photographer to finish up the rest of the group photos that you couldn’t finish earlier if something unplanned came up or you remember that photo you saw in that particular wedding blog a few months ago while planning the big day. But you have to keep in mind that the main shooter cannot be held accountable in case any of the guests decide to wander away at any particular moment during the wedding formals shoot and we can not document them being at your special day.
Tip Four – Bride And Groom Portraits
This is the part that can make or break the whole feel of the wedding photos and also the crucial part for the style of photographer you choose. You have to be extremely aware when making the final decision deciding who exactly will the photog be at your wedding. You really have to let them do their thing and let them shoot you how they like in order to get the best prints possible from your memorable day. In case you have in mind an interesting or unusual idea, by any means feel free to chat about it with us. Of course, you have to remember that if you are about to get hitched on a gloomy December eve in England, even with the best possible intentions in mind, no shutterbug in the world will be able to capture anything close to those beautiful California sunshine pictures that you might have favoured on your wedding Pinterest board.
The most important advice that I can offer here is to make as much time as possible. When you are creating your own schedule try to dedicate a time interval in the schedule specifically for to shoot some amazing couple portraits. You can even plan a short trip to a memorable place or a picturesque park nearby specifically for the couple`s session. These portraits will be probably the ones that you will desire to frame, show off to friends and close family, cherish them and why not even use them on a card to mail to say “Thank You” to the ones that made it to the wedding. The more time you allow for the two of you session, the better the result, in the end, should be.
Tip Five – Wedding Speeches
Whenever you are designing the floor plan for the reception room, have a thought about where exactly the wedding photographer will be positioned. It would be best if you leave us a bit of space in front of the newlywed’s table so we can be able to maneuver around the room so we can document the important moments from several different angles. More often than not you will want to position us somewhere towards the back of the reception hall using a long lens or sitting or crouching near the front using wider angle lens. This is mostly because if we are standing up during the speeches, then we would be interfering with the view of the wedding guests, who would want to see who the person is exactly giving the speech. They don’t just want to listen to it and staring at the back of the “paparazzo”. Try to keep in mind when positioning the bride and groom’s table to keep it away from a backlit window if possible. If you are not able to avoid such placement please let your photographer know prior to the wedding, especially if they haven’t shot at this particular venue before. Such window light can cause many different lighting problems for the photog, especially if they are not the most experienced ones. You can have a chat with your tog in advance so they can offer some advice about how to work around the window positioning or they might be able to shoot regardless of it and not be a problem at all.
Tip Six – Working With Video Operators
Nowadays many couples choose to have both photographers and video men to document the big day. It is a great idea on paper be but more often than not the two artists can really get in the way of each other as they battle for the best possible placements to record those precious moments. It is a pretty popular joke in the industry that shutterbugs and video operators are a bit like Road Runner and the Coyote.
I think the best advice here is to talk to your photographer and ask if they can refer anyone that they have worked with before with good results or maybe even work together on hiring a decent video guy. That can help tremendously in a way that you get two wedding vendors that know and trust each other and there won’t be any drama on your big day. I am sure the very last thing that you want to do on your wedding is to takes sides in an argument between the two vendors who are supposed to work together in documenting your special day.
Tip Seven – Planning Surprises
If you are planning any sort of special surprise, whether it is a special thing during the speeches, special dance or anything at all, please let us know in advance so we can be prepared. You, or a family member, can email us, for example, if your hubby is not supposed to know or let us know in some way. We can be prepared with lenses and cameras that are the most suitable for that particular situation. Very often we will not have the time to switch lenses or cameras if there is a sudden change in the wedding. For example, if you plan a wild move during the first dance we have to be prepared with a wider lens to capture the whole thing and maybe even the reaction of the crowd.
Tip Eight – The First Dance
When the first dance is in question very often the couple can be a bit shy. Anyway, the majority of people just can not dance properly and have so many onlookers watching can be quite embarrassing. To be honest – it shouldn`t be at all! The first dance is all about the two of you. Just enjoy the moment and embrace it. You can try to stare into each other`s eyes lovingly and forget about it all. Remember to give your hubby a big kiss and savour the moment, enjoy every bit of it! We, as artists, live for these moments. We document them for the generations to come. They look great in the album and you can show the future children how loving their parents were. On the other hand, if you restlessly pace around or chat all through the dance and look intense then your photos will definitely not be the very best they can be from the day.
Tip Nine – Guests With Cameras
Ok, it’s time to talk about the dreaded guests with high-end cameras and lenses, even guest photographers, beginners or not. A wedding photographer worth their salt cannot be outshined by any guest holding a camera. The real problem comes when some of the guests with cameras try to get in the way of the main photographer, who is there to document the big day and is getting paid to do so in the best possible way. It is very helpful if you can ask your registrar or the church vicar to announce in public that no guest photos are permitted during the ceremony, especially using sizable tablets or smartphones with the flash setting turned on. At the end that is the only reason why you are there and paid as the official wedding photographer. Ideally, you would prefer that your family and friends share your moment with you instead of spending their time staring at their camera or phone display. Otherwise, your guests should be allowed to take as many photos as they like during the wedding, just there are a few moments when they can really get in the way and it`s best if they refrain from doing so. An experienced photographer will already have plenty of experience in working with the guests and allow them to take some shots during the group portraits, the cake cutting and the first dance without too much obtrusion.
Tip Ten – Food
That is the part where clear communication is preferable. I’m sure most vendors are happy to arrange their own meal, I included, but it is always better to know beforehand. Of course, a nice meal is much appreciated, but it is definitely not a compulsory thing. If you decide to include us in the meal plan, we would appreciate it we are not seated with the rest of the guests. The reason for that is not at all any sort of antisocial behaviour, but the fact that we usually use the time to review some of the work we’ve done so far, move around some gear so we are ready for the speeches and the following entertainment, recharge some of the batteries and put a fresh memory card in the camera. Most of us would be happy with a quick meal at the bar while doing some work. Of course, that is completely at your discretion and you don`t have to feel at all obligated to feed me!
Tip Eleven – Special Requests
Again, clear communication comes to mind here. If you have something in mind then by any means talk to us. Just keep realistic about what is possible and what is not. There are no problems at all in requesting a small blemish or scar removed, just let us know in advance. As a general rule I usually remove only temporary thing like spots or something like that, but in case you have in mind a full blown beauty or feature editing out then we might or might not be able to do so. We just have to have clear expectations. Adobe Photoshop definitely is a more than capable photo manipulating instrument but it still has some limitations when it comes to major interventions. If for example, your grandma was absent during the formal portraits then it will not be possible to edit the photo to add her from another picture taken at some place else.
Tip Twelve – Complaints
What? Complain? Oh no!!!
Unfortunately, it happens even to the best of us. Each year I hear of many brides who in fact didn’t really like the photos from their weddings. Before you decide to complain please take a minute and read some of the questions below that can help me understand your complaint better and find the best possible solution for the situation:
What exactly is it that you don’t particularly like? For example – is something wrong with the picture itself or is it something that is inside the framed picture? A prime example is that if you are getting ready in a messy and unorganised environment your photos will show that and there is really no way around it. If the picture is out of focus or the colours are off then it is totally different matter. You can make a list the things that you don’t like it to help us solve the problem quickly and efficiently
Is there a significant difference in shooting style between the wedding portfolio and the pictures that you received? Talk to your photographer if they decided to take a different approach to your photos or is there any different editing technique that you don’t really fancy. Might be a problem in editing and that is easy to fix.
Take your time and read the contract that you signed. Many photographers will cover most complaints and explain what the liability and the complaint process is. Make sure you know your rights and the complaints timeframe after the delivery of the final product.
What are you trying to achieve? As a wedding photographer, I will surely take a blow if you, in fact, told me that you didn’t like the photos from your wedding. This is our art and it is our expression as artists. An immense amount of time is spent culling and editing wedding photos to make each one unique and carry the stamp of our work. Actually, the wedding day is only the beginning of our work, a lot more time is spent on editing and culling photos in front of the computer than the actual time spent on your wedding, be it even a full day one. In case you must complain about our work it would be really helpful if we are told in advance the exact things that are bothering you about the work that you received. A list of the things that are not perfect can help us both out immensely. We can definitely easy fix some of the issues, but there are the ones that we can’t do anything about so try and talk to us, more than anything we want you to be happy!!!