This post has been in the back of my head ever since my best friend asked me if I could be the wedding photographer for his sister-in-law. Now that I’ve completed my first wedding I can share my experiences from the preparation stage to the point where I can proudly hand over the finished wedding book.
This post is starting to have the proportions of a book so I’ve split chapter II as well, nobody likes to “read” a photo blog.
I. The decision to be a (wedding) photographer
II. Preparations, building up to one perfect day: schedule, shot list & gear.
III. The wedding day
IV. Post processing & the wedding album
II. Preparations, building up to D-Day
Let me tell you, I got really nervous after that call from Roosje & Jelle. Sleepless nights kind of nervous. I had 3 days to finish my training, and yoda wasn’t around.
For me a good preparation is being (over)prepared. Know the couple’s schedule, I have to be able to mentally step trough the day.
In normal situations I’d plan a meeting with the couple, preferably at the couple’s house, it helps you build up a more personal relationship with the couple. I will be part of their day but I want them to consider me as the friendly crazy guy with a camera … not Mr.Photographer. Because that is who I am, I’m Tom. Meeting at the couples house lets you scout the location as well as chances are this will be the home where the groom picks up the bride. For Roosje & Jelle the rundown was done over the phone.
– What is the schedule of the bride (hair stylist, make up artist). Who will be with her ?
– Where is the groom preparing?
– Where will the rings be? Once the couple says “I do” I don’t want to ask the couple to take them off for a while because I didn’t take the shots yet. The best time for rings & other details is when the bride is preparing and you got those shots done. There is no need in spending a full hour with her during make-up.
– Will there be a “classic” pickup?
– Is there time for some more-official family shots. Personally, I know this is not one of my strengths, I need ways to make them different and give them a personal touch.
City Hall and/or Church
– Schedule, Addresses
– Bridal suite?
– What kind of transport is arranged: A horse-carriage will give me more time leaving behind and arriving before the couple at city hall than a Ferrari Enzo. With a limo you have room to take some extra pictures from the inside, with a BMW Isetta , well … not so much…
Some extra guidelines can be given here, if the transport has windows I’ll ask to have them rolled down before they arrive or leave at the venue. This way I can exclude myself from the reflections in the window and I can capture the real emotions, I don’t have to interfere. Practical: Are you driving yourself? Can you hitch a ride with one of the family members or with your second shooter for the day?
The advantage is you can have your camera at the ready and hop out ‘anywhere’ before they arrive.
Official wedding shoot on location
– How much time is there and do they have a location in mind? Personally I love an out-of-the-ordinary location but also feel there should be a connection to the couple or the wedding day. There is no point in doing the official shoot on a boat in full sea if they don’t have any affinity with water and their wedding venue is located in the forests of the Ardennes. However it would make perfect sense if the couple loves sailing.
– Give the couple some homework, let them work on some ideas for the location. Is there a backup location in case of rain ?
– Maybe they like some extra pictures with close friends or kids. When the bridal suite boys & girls are coming along for the shoot make sure they have an adult joining them. I love working with children but you don’t want the bride & groom to be distracted.
– Can the special transport be used for the official shoot (how long is it available)
Reception & dinner.
– Schedule, Addresses
– Most venues have a website with pictures, and if they suck, you can try and sell them better ones 😉
It also helps to google and see if there are any potential locations for shoots in the vicinity.
– How long do they want you as a photographer to stay (reception vs opening dance) or make clear how long you are willing to stay.
Family situation & friends
– Divorces or deaths? I don’t want to remind the couple of any bad memories. The bride should only cry of happiness. (give me lots of tears please)
– Some families have issues, I don’t want to be the one having verbally started the fight by asking two uncles to hug each other for a picture.
– Write down the names, a small family tree. Friends that deserve special attention ?
Be sure to talk over what the couple expects of you as a photographer, make clear what you can & will deliver. If I’m being me, I have a style, I can’t go super traditional. Let them understand how you work: Posing is bad, directing is good (more about that later). To make the pictures they expect, sometimes you need some extra cooperation.
So know I know the “one perfect day” routine, I planned my routes to & from the venues and I had the time schedule (this can & will change).
All this information already gave me some inspiration (house, transport, location) but I had to create some more routine, I didn’t want to risk forgetting any important (expected) shots.
to be continued ….
If I forgot important things when you go over the schedule or if you have thoughts and/or suggestions, please hit the comments.