Wedding photography part one.
Pressure what pressure?
I’ve been saying for a long time that I should write a blog about wedding photography. After all these years, photographing weddings has become a big part of my professional life and I even run short courses in Wedding Photography to help others learn from my experiences.
As I think about it, I realise that what I want to say falls into two categories.
The planning and preparation and getting it right on the day and that both of those phases are fraught with pressure.
So I’m starting blog number one all about getting the planning right.
Why is there so much pressure?
Across the whole world every culture has ceremonies for two people making a life commitment to each. Since the early days of photography, people have chosen to capture images of their ceremonies, rituals and special moments. These images will become a vital part of their family life story, on display in their homes and shared with family and friends. The event is for the most part live, and the photographer truly gets just one shot on the day and it has to be the right one.
I covered my first paid wedding for a friend when I was 17 years old, in the days of film cameras and true image processing in my own domestic dark room. I’m certain that there was less pressure to produce something perfect and I worked alone. Today, many years later I really enjoy covering weddings and I fully understand the demanding aspects of the job, brilliantly supported by my wife Jeanette.
Wedding photography isn’t just about being talented, the photographer needs to have confidence to cover a wedding and some serious planning skills.
I believe that the best planning starts by meeting the couple to find out exactly what they want from your photography and what they have planned for the day.
To provide a complete service you are going to provide a combination of Tradition, Reportage (documentary) and Contemporary images. The couple will have their own ideas and it is their day, so explain the options then listen and take good notes. You want to get some agreement from them about who and what they want you photograph as well as the schedules and locations.
I have found it works best if they come to meet you to reduce any distractions. Don’t just dive straight in. Start by getting a feel for their relationship. As an ice breaker, ask them how they met. This will help them to relax, feel comfortable and become quickly focused.
A lot of couples today feel that formal traditional family shots are old fashioned, but it’s your job to explain that part of the photographers value is in documenting and reporting on the occasion so that by organising and agreeing certain shots in advance, they will end up with something important that records all the people they love with a mixture of family and friends who will probably never all be in the same place again.
Having agreed a list of shots, which you may need to prompt them to include often important elders for example, Grandads or Grandmas, to help this part of the shoot to flow very quickly, establish the services one of their more confident guests. This person will know the people attending and can help you to get them organised. By going through this process, you will also become aware of the family dynamics where relationships have changed, of loved ones have been lost. This knowledge can save awkward moments.
Now you have an idea what the couple require you can move on to your schedule planning.
Where at all possible, visit the venue ideally with the couple when they are meeting with site staff. This is particularly important if it’s a venue you have never worked at before and it will ensure you know exactly where you are going on the day. Staff will tell you where photographers have captured the best images and you will be able to become familiar with both the building and ground layout. You can also research the venue’s website to see what other photographers have posted as locations around the site.
If you are covering a church wedding with a couple who expects everything about the service to be captured, you need to talk together with the couple and the vicar in advance to establish the views of the vicar and rules of the church on photography. This will save any awkwardness on the day. You might be able to join in the church rehearsal. At the rehearsal asked them to move well-spaced out and slowly in the processions and to let the ’first kiss’ linger a little, so that you can get a clear shot. A vicar once looked me straight in the eye and told me there was only one person here who is important and that is God! In general, a civil ceremony tends to be more straight forward, permitting the photographer to roam around the venue. Typically, the registrar will say “it’s their day if I get in the way give me a push”. Although it is no longer a legal requirement. At the end of the ceremony some Vickers and Registrars often still ask you to wait until the signing is complete before taking photographs. It is important that you check with the vicar or registrar beforehand to establish when you can take the photographs and if you can get your posed shots after the legal document has been removed.
Make a schedule of the day(s) events from hair and make-up to the evening party, to ensure you know exactly what is happening, when and where you need to be. If you are lucky you may be asked to cover rituals from other cultures and their preparations in the days leading up to the ceremonies and the relaxed activities afterwards.
If the couple have rehearsed a dance ask to see a rehearsal video beforehand. If there are other evening performances or planned activities add them into your schedule.
Make sure you have a copy of the wedding plan with useful names and contact numbers for all the locations and key people. Anything that can go wrong, just might!
Map the locations and the check the routes to the venue(s) to eliminate traffic jams and road works. Allow more time than any Sat Nav recommends. The wedding will not wait for you if you are delayed.