Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Get the Job Done: Wedding preparation tips

Even though this weekend's two-fer wedding events won't be my first wedding, I think preparing for it as if it were will help me "stay frosty" as they say in the marines, alert and anticipating every moment. This list of wedding photography survival tips I found on the Digital Photography School site is filled with great ideas, and the comments from fellow photographers that follow the post offers even more real-world insight. As I was reading through the list, it was extremely reassuring to know that I had intuitively done many of the things suggested. I think I'm on the right track and that feels good:

Find a local bookstore with a large selection of photography books. Take some time to look at books from Bill Hurter and Amherst Media. These resources will give you an incredible amount of information to walk you through the wedding photographer’s experience.

I would add that it's a good idea to take advantage of the internet, as I've done for this week. Wonderful pages about how to improve your photography on that special day abound. Plus, being able to look through other more experienced photographer's work is always a great source of inspiration. This week, I've been inspired by Mark Hayes Photography, a friend and fellow photographer in the Colorado wedding market whom I admire. I saw this unconventional bride and groom portrait pose an another photographer's website and loved it so much that I tried it at my first wedding last year.

As a wedding photographer, your job involves more than capturing the events of the wedding day. You must have the ability to do so in the style that signifies the bridal couple. Are they traditionalists? Are they contemporary? Do they want color or black and white? If they aren’t sure what they like, take the time to go through a wedding magazine with them to find clips that match their style. Once you know what they are expecting stylistically, you can shoot to capture just that!

I asked my first couple I will be shooting on Saturday to look through magazines and pull out images they liked so I could have a better sense of what they were looking for in their own wedding coverage. I was surprised when she told me she definitely wanted candid, unposed portraiture as well as images with selective colouring like this one that showcased the special hair accessory pieces she made that her flower girls will be wearing.

Meanwhile the couple I will be shooting on Sunday told me that this following shot was one of their favorites on my website because it made them laugh. I knew right then that they too would appreciate candid moments and lighthearted, fun photography to compliment their laid back style.

Arrange a pre-wedding meeting with the bride to plan out a 15-minute incremental schedule of the wedding shoot. This should include wedding preparations, bride portraits, bride and bridesmaids portraits; the groom and his groomsmen, the full wedding party, the family portraits, and the bride and groom. If you aren’t experienced shooting weddings, plan for extra time so you won’t be rushed or distracted by the time pressures.

Be sure to get the phone number of the wedding coordinator, the best man, and the bride’s personal attendant. If (and when) the wedding schedule gets off, you will want to be sure that the wedding coordinator is in the know. And when the time comes to hunt down rogue bridal party or family members who are missing out on the shoot, these numbers are handy for extra help.

Shooting a first wedding is best done with another primary shooter, or at least an assistant. An assistant will help you keep track of your shot list, schedule, managing the individuals for large group photos. In the very least, an assistant is available to carry equipment, keep track of the cell phone, and holding reflectors.

I am so lucky to have help from numerous people I've meet from the Mile High Digital Photography School Social Group I created. I will have two assistants on Saturday and four on Sunday when we are expected to have that wedding be mobbed by more than 300 guests! You just can't be everywhere at once. While I was trying to run around the church and follow the couple outside, my assistant Jason Peckovitch of Illusive Dreams was able to capture this great shot that I surely would have missed while in transition:

The bridal couple will undoubtedly have shots they want. Generally, the couple will stress the importance of photos with family members attending, and the bridal party. Once you have this initial list, you can build a more detailed list for your own reference. A shot list will keep you focused and on top as you go about the 5-8 hour shooting day. As you refer to your shot list throughout the day, won’t have to worry about forgetting anything.

This list on the 50 must-have wedding photography shots is a great basic list to get prepared. However, if you read the comments, there are several people who claim that this list is too rudimentary for the demands of today's modern wedding. I agree with posters who said it may be better to spend time with the bride and groom to have them help you refine your list of must-haves.

Arrive at the venue at least an hour before you are to begin shooting. Once you are on location, map out your location flow. Where will you start out and what shots will you take in that area? Where will you go next? What distractions must you watch out for in each location? Where is the light? Have a flow plan for your shoot and both you and your clients will stay relaxed through the day.

I would add that you need to be aware of not just the actual structure where the wedding will be held, but also of the buildings and scenery that surround it. This unforgettable shot shown of the bride and groom rushing from the church after the ceremony for a quick moment alone is made all the more better by a wide angle lens that takes in the city in the background. It creates a storytelling moment of this couple's new path in life, taking on the world together.

It was a lot of fun to go out to each session and hash out plans with my assistants who are all very talented photographers in their own rite. It was good comraderie to be able to speak a similar language and share a vision for the wedding. Attending the rehearsals will be even more beneficial.

Remember that no matter what happens on the wedding day, there will be a plethora of uncontrolled variables. Your role is to take the unexpected happenings and run with them! If you are the picture of calm and the voice of reason, everyone else will be ok! The mark of a good wedding photographer isn’t a perfectly planned and executed shoot but rather a wedding shoot in which the photographer was able to adapt to each scenario and still capture the beautiful moments of the day.
No matter how much reading and research time you put into preparing, there is a large degree of learning that will come from that first experience. Above all, set your mind on enjoying the experience no matter what comes your way. While the pressure is on, so long as you can take nervous pressure and channel it to anticipated excitement, you’ll be just fine.

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