Professional Photographers Guide to a Wedding Day
As a wedding photographer I get asked a lot of times for opinions, ideas and help when it comes to the planning of a wedding. I thought I would try to distill the last 12 years of experience into this guide for you.
The Great British Weather?
At the forefront of many happy couples worries are what happens if it rains /snows/windy etc? This is obviously something you can only have some form of plans for. However, some simple questions to ask the photographer can make the stress, far less. Such as:
Are you comfortable using flash or do you only use natural light?
If the weather turns bad, we get the flash guns out and use it to our advantage!
A lot of inexperienced photographers claim to only use natural light - often because they hate flash! This can pose a problem if all your pictures are indoors or the weather turns nasty
Some things to think of to help deal with the issue of the weather:
Does the venue have an area big enough for group photos indoors should the worst happen?
A photographer should be able to work in any environment or be adaptable. The staircase in a venue makes a great place to photograph groups or the balcony in a church.
Do you have umbrellas available so you can still have pictures outside?
What are your photographer's plans?
I recommend the couple has an umbrella on hand if they are expecting bad weather - a photographer can then use this as a prop and get some amazing photographs in the rain!
I like to have a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. I have a portable photography studio that I can set up anywhere. I can turn the most poorly lit room into a photography studio, bringing out the best in your wedding venue. I love to work in challenging conditions and sometimes the weather will play its part and a bride in the rain looks amazing!
What is your style of photography?
This is probably the most important questions a bride can ask. What is your photography style and what is your personality like? The photographer is with you for most if not all of the day. You should feel comfortable being around them. The photographer should be trustworthy and make you feel at ease. If you have a personality clash - that is all you will remember when you look at the photographs in years to come!!!
The style of the photographer should match your expectations too. Ask to see complete weddings, it is easy to show you the highlights from several weddings, but can they produce images you would be happy with time and time again? Do you want to enjoy the day and party hard or do you want more traditional photography? Do you want a fashion / high-end photoshoot? Do you want your photographer to be approachable or do you want to be directed? Your photographer should match your taste and style.
I love photographing real emotions, in a documentary way
Bridal Prep Photography
A lot of brides are nervous about the thought of a photographer invading their personal space and photographing them in their underwear. Bridal prep photography is not this, it is a chance to capture the little details in your flowers, rings, shoes - the details that make your day unique. It is a chance to capture the emotions of people as they see you in your dress for the first time. Most importantly it is a time to allow the most important guests on the day to meet the photographer, check them out and then to feel comfortable with them. This allows much more intimate photography to happen all day as people are comfortable being around the photographer.
A professional photographer is not challenged by a venue. I like to work with my venue to capture the big day. I will use photography techniques to make backgrounds blurry (hiding cars etc). You chose your venue because it felt right and my role is to work within that environment. I have flashes that can light areas up, I have the very best in equipment for low light when I cannot use flash (like during the ceremony).
Using this approach means I don't require to have been to the venue before, nor to have over planned your wedding.
The 1st wedding I ever did, we (the couple an I ) planned the wedding to within an inch of its life! The group shots would go here, we will do this at a certain time, etc. This meeting was in August. The wedding came along and it was now December and the venue and placed Christmas trees at every location the couple wanted to use, and the ceremony was late, leaving me with barely enough time to do everything. It was a very stressful day for me and the couple.
Lesson learned - be prepared but not over prepared!!
Timeline for the wedding day:
Expect the ceremony to last approx 45 mins - 1hr.
The wedding breakfast usually happens approx 1.5 hrs after the ceremony and the meal to last approximately 2hrs.
The 1st dance usually happens 1 hr after the invited arrival time for the evening guests.
For example for a 12 o'clock wedding
10:30 Photographer arrives for Bridal Prep
11:30 Photographer to leave to go to the Wedding Venue
12:00 Wedding Ceremony
13:00 Travel from the Ceremony to Reception
15:00 Wedding Breakfast
19:00 Evening Guests arrive
20:00 Curting of the cake / 1st Dance
What do you want to do with the final images?
What you want to do with your wedding pictures can have a big impact on who you choose to cover your wedding day
Do you want all the pictures taken?
Do you want a selection edited?
Do you want to print them?
Do you want to share them online?
Do you want to have a wedding album?
Every photographer works differently, some will not allow you to share them online unless watermarked, some will insist on buying a wedding album from them, some will offer you a selection, some all images but unedited.
I don't offer restrictions unless they are to be used for commercial purposes.
All my packages come with the following:
All images that were taken on the day
Copyright so you can share, print and make your own albums
Online sharing website - you can link to through Facebook, Instagram, etc.
The 1st dance can be a challenge to photograph. Lasers, moving lights, low light, and movement make the job harder. Let your photographer know the choice of song and how you expect to dance. If you have a fun first dance planned let them know so they can be prepared. Speak to your venue/DJ to ensure the lighting is how you and the photographer would like it to be for the pictures.
Are you having a band, a magician, photobooth? Let the photographer know so they can capture what has taken you time and money to plan for. The more the photographer knows about your planning experience the more personal the photography should be. It is amazing to look back in 10 years time and see the little details that you have spent months planning - most people forget about all the intricacies over time!
Children at weddings are great! They can add real energy to the day, whether it is on the dance floor, during the bridal entrance or just when you're not expecting them! If children are important to your big day ask your photographer about their experience of working with children. Are they DBS checked?
I am also nursery photography on weekdays, so I am DBS checked and I am used to working babies up to under 5's. I love to get them involved and as a part of the day, I have even given a child a camera at the wedding to help them overcome shyness during the important group photos. It also helps if the children have met the photographer during the bridal prep when everything isn't too manic, this again puts them at ease with the photographer.
What we can and can’t do
There aren't many things I won't do during a wedding, but there are a few things that I can't do!
Photograph if the vicar/registrar says I am not allowed to
Photograph the signing of the register (data protection act will not allow this - so every picture you have seen is a reproduction)
Get in the way of the registrant/vicar etc
Force you to do something you are not comfortable with - i.e pose if you hate having your photo taken
"Say cheese/smile etc!"
Stage cheesy shots
Number of guests/guest photos
The scariest part of the day for the photography is the formal guest shots. 100 people looking at you, all waiting for your direction and they just want you to hurry up so they can have a drink of prosecco! The process can take longer than most couples plan for. Expect to take approximately 5 - 10 minutes per group photo. To get everybody into one place, looking in the right direction and move everyone around so they can all be seen, takes time and depending on your guest's willingness. If you are having between 5-10 group photos, expect this to take about 1hour. A bridesmaid or groomsman who knows both sides of the family can be helpful here. This is also a time when the photographers' personality can make or break the session. If they are not commanding, yet approachable they can come across as rude and put off your guests. We've all been to a wedding with a grumpy photographer, who made everyone feel awkward!
The photographer's role is to record the emotion of the day. They need to be prepared for anything!
Experience has shown that if the couple has been kind enough to order food for me, I will always get fed last. This doesn’t leave me any time to eat and be ready for after dinner speeches or action. I always suggest for couples to not request any food for me. I feed myself on the day so I am ready to record the surprises - however, a cold coke/lemonade is always welcome as we get hot and tired too (but never have the prosecco!)