Wedding Photography Timeline – From the Photographers Perspective
The wedding photography business is a craft that will require from the photographer the skills to master any situation as fast as he/she can. The missed moments are not acceptable here simply because they cannot be reproduced.
Because of that is better if we, as photographers, plan ahead in order to avoid misunderstandings or loss of any kind for both sides, the couple and the photographer.
If everything is planned ahead than the chances of something goes wrong is reduced and if something goes wrong know what to do immediately to remediate.
3 to 8 months prior the wedding day
After your closing with the couple, and received your retainer to secure the date and did your best to become friends making the couple very comfortable with you and the way you explain things to them, start laying out what are their options and how you suggest their approach for all the events to come.
You should make notes of the number of guests, photography style chosen, special events during the day that must be registered and a list of main family members from both sides. If they want formal portraits of the families and any detail necessary to their album have amazing images.
If there are any late family members you must to know now and not while forming any formals at the church.
1 month prior de wedding day
Make contact with the couple, preferably set up a meeting to go over the notes and to find out what has changed since your last meeting, always listen to the couple, this is their biggest day, many small details to you might be a great deal for them, its important to be exactly at the same page here.
Make a list of the formal pictures to be taken and what main family members do they want on these pictures. (if you already have the list, check again with them)
Make a list of names of the entire bridal party, groomsmen, ushers, bridesmaid, everybody involved.
Check details of the venue and ask or plan with them (if they don’t have a wedding planner) the order they will enter the church, if they will have a grand entrance at the reception, and ask how much time they will give you to have a romantic session with them, its important to make sure of this time because many photographers end up with no romantic images from the couple because at the reception some couples are more involved with family and friends than worried about their wedding album.
The weekend prior the wedding day
If you have an engagement session included in your package, use this weekend to do it, although you need to consider weather conditions and move this session around your calendar, its good if you take it closer to the event, you will get their emotions and excitement for the date ahead and that will help you create great pictures.
A park, or a beach to walk on the sand are very nice and highly appropriated but try to offer something more contemporary that will mark their album as avant-garde couple for their time. You can achieve that by taking them to the city, search for bridges and try to compose a urban photography with the couple, it does come very nice and if you have the sensibility to capture candid images of the couple and also pose them artistically with a nice romantic touch, you will be creating a portrait of their personality on that time that will be remembered.
Ask what they like to do together, sports, outdoors activities anything they enjoy doing together can be used as a scenario for these images as well. The images will usually be enlarged and exposed at the entrance of the reception room and/or on a signing book for the guests.
2 or 3 days prior the wedding day
Contact the couple again and confirm all the information you have, get their cell phones numbers again and the emergency contacts (wedding planners, family, bridesmaid and etc. make your maps and properly document all this information, you will need it.
If you are not familiar with the venue where you will shoot, take the time and go for a visit, explain you are the photographer for the coming event and ask permission to look around, check the light and start exercising your imagination for the pictures you will take, check for columns, lakes, gardens or any architecture detail you can use to compose a great image with this background. Be inspired.
1 day prior the wedding day
Review all the information you have acquired, go through every detail including your notes, check the addresses, telephone/cell numbers, maps and etc.
Start charging your batteries, check and clean all your equipment, properly clean all your memory cards, take a good rest, you will need it tomorrow.
The wedding day
If you have a “getting ready” session with the bride and groom, concentrate on the bride, today is her day, the order of importance for everything must pass by her first. Brides will be extremely emotional, tense and anxious and since you will be present during most of these moments with her, be extra patient and caring with her, she is getting married and this is an important event on her life.
The wedding photographer must be as pleasant as possible and be trusted mainly by the bride.
Start using her expressions for great pictures, you will probably be in a room with many happy and emotional ladies, expect and capture lots of spontaneous tears, don’t be intrusive, they are dressing and need space for their privacy.
When you have a chance photograph the bride at the window, use some available light. Take some separate and detailed images of the dress, shoes and the bouquet if available at that time.
There are a lot of compositions to be done with the shoes by the window and the dress hanging on a door. Take lots of images of the bride getting her make up done, hair fixed and, of course if you can, photograph the bride “entering” the dress, usually a shot from above gives you a great image of the moment.
The brides have special arrangements with some stylish garters and is nice to register this detail as well.
After all the details and if you have the chronological order of images taken, try to go to the groom’s room and check for the groomsmen, compose with them, check for details such the rings, use your environment and try to use the available light from the window. Be creative.
At the Ceremony
Arrive prior the bride’s limo, take shots of church and some details if you have time then go outside and wait for the bride, prepare to take images of her and, probably her father, still inside the car. Follow the bride and try to pose her with her father walking towards the church.
Go inside the church and prepare for the procession, position yourself at the center of the aisle and move backwards as the couples enter the church, try to use 2 cameras, one with a long lens and another with a “all situations” zoom lens (i.e.: 24 mm – 70 mm f2.8), capture all the couples with full body and 3/4 shots.
When the bride enters the aisle prepare to take the same shots as you did for the other couples and try to register a nice moment.
When you see the bride looking at the groom at the first time it will be a clear and spontaneous emotional moment, take this image and immediately turn back and face the altar to register the same emotion from the groom. This usually happens around the middle of the aisle and it will grant you a fantastic album composition. But remember, it’s all about them not your photography. Be sensitive.
If you have a wedding with a cocktail in between the ceremony and the reception you will have time to take as many grips amp; grins as you can, try composing the family groups first, by now you should know their names and relation to each other, if you don’t, ask for assistance and some family members will help you with the names and relation among them, that will help you to organize important and relevant group shots before the eventual group formation.
If possible try to use some long lenses in order to capture some candid images, look for the spontaneous smiles and take pictures of something happening not people only talking at the corner. Be an observer.
Arrive prior all the guests and adjust every setting on your camera according to the ambient.
Take some pictures of the cake and some other details, they will compose a great album and are also telling a story.
Here usually we start with the grand entrance, announced by the DJ and lighted up in style. At this moment you will see the bridal party entering dancing or expressing themselves with open arms but all with lots of energy, shoot full bodies and some zoom ins for great smiles and expressions. Don’t forget that you are in a party and there are people around you, if you don’t have a second shooter hired for the event use 2 camera bodies and capture the audience reactions and interaction.
Right after that you will have the entire bridal party at the center of the room ready for the first dance, the couple starts dancing their first dance and you are shooting for emotions, these are amazing opportunities even to help on your portfolio later. (but remember, it is all about them not you)
After that the parents will dance, usually the bride with her father first then the groom with his mother, you need to concentrate and move around with the couple, preferably with a long lens waiting for the emotional tears and great moments that will tell a story about what were their feelings later.
The toast is usually another opportunity for emotional images, remember to capture not only the main subject (bride, groom, toaster or speaker) but the guests reactions. Try to have a long lens and target the champagne flutes all over the room, zoom in and out to have choices for their album latter, capture those laughs on the tables while they hear the speeches.
Capture as many candid images as you can and don’t forget the group shots with family members, some brides ask to go with the photographer on each table to interact with their guest closely and for group shots, try to be alert for tears and warm hugs.
Watch for the garter and bouquet toss and go back to the dance floor for more spontaneous images.
The morning after the wedding day
Backup your cards (if not done yet right after your arrival at home/studio), look through the images and start picking some for a collage for the couple on your website, clean your camera bodies and lenses, if you have a camera the doesn’t self clean its sensor, take it to a service center to do it, by the end of the week you will have a clean and sharp camera ready for another wedding.
Within a week after the wedding day
Start your editing process as soon as you can, pick the best images for the album and edit the others for proofs.
Prepare a online slideshow for the couple to choose some images from, if you design your own albums, create a separated slide show for the album pages designed by you and allow the couple to choose from.
Contact the couple (if they’re back from honey moon) and give them the online or CD (low res) proofs or any DVD slideshows arranged depending on your contract.
Around a month after the ceremony
Meet the couple to deliver the final approved album design and any extra CDs or DVDs.
Review the high moments at the event and consolidate an amicable professional relationship with them, let them know you would be delighted be their family photographer for as long as they need.
These are facts that happens constantly on a wedding photographer’s life, the idea here is to expose these facts to those who want to become one.
Many people react differently to the sequence of facts and many religions denominations sometimes differ from each other but in the end we, as wedding photographers, are there to tell a story.