I thought I'd share some helpful advice that I've learnt along the way while photographing weddings and having planned and got married myself. These are just my thoughts on paper (or more like your screen), so there isn't a right or wrong way, but hopefully these little points might help you out.
Bridal Preparations... Possibly the longest one to advise on so I'll start here first!
First up... Time keeping. Although it is important for most of the wedding day, it can be a silent killer with bridal preparations. Make sure you have plenty of time to get everyone ready and allow a little bit of extra time in case something goes wrong or if hair / makeup takes a little longer than you planned. If you're getting ready at your wedding service location, you might have a little extra time if needed but if you're getting ready at home or at a different location and the wedding car is arriving for a certain time, you'll start to feel the pressure if you're running really late. Don't forget, your wedding car / transport might have another job on that day so can only be late to a certain extent! You don't want them leaving you behind and then having to get a taxi to your own wedding!
As a wedding photographer I know that good lighting is everything. But this should also apply to both hair and make up also. You'll get much better results when the lighting is as natural as possible. Emma, my wife, always does her make up in front of the window in our bed room as the soft natural light you get from a window gives good results, though I'm biased as she's my wife so she always looks amazing. I rock up to a lot of weddings to find hair and make up being done well away from natural light under the warm glow of the bulbs. This always gives you an orange / warm feel to your photos and depending on other light sources can lead to some pretty unflattering colours that can't always be corrected. The easiest way to avoid this is to ask your hair and make up artists to sit you close to natural light to get the best results.
The last little section of bridal preparations brings me to the room. 'If it's in the room, it's in the shot'... So make sure the room is clean! I know the morning can be a little manic, but unless you want socks all over the floor, unmade beds and stuff everywhere in your photos, I'd advise a quick 'all hands on deck' for 5 minutes to make sure the room looks as good as it can before photos take place. "Tidy Room, Tidy Mind"... It will be one less thing to worry about and you'll be able to find all the things you need on your wedding morning.
Time Needed: 90 - 120 minutes
Family formals are a long time tradition so I understand the importance of having them on your wedding day. They're something you can share with family and friends for generations. I'm more than happy to take family formals at a wedding but always recommend keeping the list to no more than 8 shots. 8 shots can take 30 minutes depending on the guests at the wedding, some have a habit of escaping to the bar or checking into their rooms, and you'll soon realise you've missed the canapés and not had a sip of champagne! Put your list together for you. This is your wedding so it's important how you spend your time. Most of the couples I meet always say they want nice, relaxed, candid photos of their guests enjoying themselves, which is exactly my style of working. In order for this to happen your family formals must be kept to a realistic number in order for there to be time to capture the shots you want.
The usual photographs I'd recommend are:
1. All wedding party into a confetti photo
2. Brides immediate family - Parents, Brothers, Sisters.
3. Grooms immediate family - Parents, Brothers, Sisters.
4. Bride and Groom with both Parents.
5. Bride with Parents.
6. Groom with Parents.
7. Bride with Bridesmaids
8. Groom with Groomsmen
This is the top 8 that I've found to work really well. These can obviously be changed but to add more usually means you're spending longer than you want take photo after photo when you'll be itching to get back to the party!
Time Needed: 30 minutes (for shots above)
Wedding Day Portraits.
"I hate having my photo taken" ...Well that makes 2 of us! I was pretty nervous about my wedding day photos but on the day I went with the flow and enjoyed every minute of it. With a little bit of guidance and just being yourselves you'll get some amazing photos. The key is to just relax and have fun. On the wedding day you'll find everyone wants a piece of you, so it's hard to spend some time alone. Wedding day portraits are the perfect time to catch up with one another and to have a break away from the madness. I'll simply guide your toes to point a certain way and you'll fall into the poses easily and naturally from there... Simple!
If you're having a winter wedding or suspect there might be rain don't let it put you off! Plan ahead and bring some wellies or spare shoes and an umbrella so you can embrace the moment and get some killer shots!
Time Needed: 40 minutes (15-20 minute session earlier & 15-20 minute session later)
Wedding Day Speeches, When's The Best Time?!
There isn't a right or wrong with this one, so I'll give thoughts to consider for before or after the wedding breakfast.
Before: The bonus of before, means those who are doing the speeches get to enjoy their wedding breakfast more. There's nothing worse than trying to eat when nervous. You find yourself just pushing the food around your plate and not eating much of the epic meal you've been provided! It also means that the table isn't full of wine bottles, half drunk pint glasses or even stained with food... Making for nicer photos! However, you do have to consider what time you are having your wedding breakfast and factor in that if you are doing them before you'll have less time for your family formals, couples shots and general mingling time!
After: If doing the speeches after you know that your hungry guests are fed and watered so won't be watching their clocks and praying for short speeches. As mentioned above it also means you've freed up more time before your wedding breakfast to get the shots you want when the light is best. Sometimes a drink helps with nerves, so a drink during the meal for those doing a speech might help them out. Obviously this opens the flood gates for people having a little too many but if done right for those who need it, they'll feel more confident in delivering their speech.
It might be worth discussing this one with those doing a speech to see what they'd like to do to make them feel more at ease!
First Dance / Party Shots
This is only a real quick section... You're almost done! It's always nice to end the night on some fun, partying shots. It's a great way to end your wedding photos with all your family and friends throwing some funky shapes on the dance floor. The key is to get them dancing after the first dance or towards the end of it. Speak to your DJ / Band and make sure they follow up your first dance with a floor filler to get the party started. If they don't and the mood dies down a little, you might find it a little harder to get them back onto their feet again before I have to bid you farewell. You can always add extra time to your booking to have me stay later into the night to capture the party but once the evening food is served people might need a little while to sit before they start busting out their moves.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
When meeting your photographer, it's always worth asking some questions to discover more about their style, how they work, how long they've been doing it for etc! The more you know, the more comfortable you'll be! Here's 10 helpful questions to ask photographers you'll meet when planning your wedding or even myself if we meet!
1. What is your photography style?
Knowing your photographers style is real important as it needs to suit you as a couple and also your wedding day. Some photographers will have a traditional approach and will shoot a lot of staged shots and family formals, while others will take a photo journalism approach and capture natural moments as they unfold. A lot of my couples book me for my photo journalism approach and are happy with only a handful of family formals as they want to capture the natural moments, but each photographer has their own style so it's important to know what style you want and to ask your photographer of their style so you know what images you'll be receiving and also their approach on the day.
2. How many weddings have you shot? Have any of these been at my venue and are similar to what you have planned?
Knowing how many weddings your photographer has done will let you gauge how experienced they are in their field. Don't get me wrong, everyone has to start somewhere and people took a gamble on me when I was just starting up. It's important to look at a full wedding and not just a 'best of' portfolio so you can see consistently throughout the day and throughout their work, and if you're happy with this and happy with how they are then you're onto a winner! If they've shot at your wedding venue before then that's also handy to know as they'll already have a great idea of how the venue works and the lighting situation they'll be faced with! Hopefully this all adds up to better photos for you!
3. Will I receive a contract to confirm our booking?
Super important to know what you're signing yourself up for with your wedding photographer and super important to read the small print. I can't imagine any wedding photographer will have something in there that's going to screw you over but it's worth knowing the details for if you need to cancel or if they even need to cancel! Most will have a clause to cover them for loss of earnings if you cancel your wedding within a certain time frame as it's very likely that they've had to turn away other couples for your date. Ask about this before hand if possible and even ask to see a sample copy so you can read the terms and conditions before you make your final decision.
4. What happens if you're ill? Do you have a backup plan?
Knowing that your wedding photographer has you covered if they're super ill is read important! I've been in this situation once before when I was in hospital for weeks and had to find a replacement photographer. I'm part of some amazing wedding photography groups even one that is for wedding emergencies only! So if anything was to happen with illness or even something so simple as car trouble, I'd be able to find someone to rush to the wedding and cover me until I arrive! Ask this question as it's better safe than sorry!
5. Do you have insurance? What kind?
Though I'm sure all photographers have insurance it's worth checking what kind they have. Covering your equipment is one thing but what about public liability in case they cause an injury or even damage to the venue? What if they fail to deliver what you've paid for because of equipment failure? It's worth checking to see if they have equipment cover, public liability and professional indemnity to cover all bases in case anything goes wrong.
6. Does the package include an assistant / second shooter?
Some people like to shoot alone while others like to bring someone along to help them out. It's worth asking in case you plan on feeding your photographer, you don't want to plan on one meal and then be surprised that they've brought someone else, and so you're not surprised when an extra body turns up. Ask what it is they help out with also so you know what to expect from them on the day. An assistant might take a few photos during certain parts of the day but is also there to help out with arranging shots, carrying swapping gear and ticking off a check list. A second shooter would cover the grooms morning and would usually shoot more candid shots while family formals and couples shots take place.
7. Do you correct the images?
There are some wedding photographers, usually depending on budget, who will shoot a ton of images and pretty much hand them over instantly without any editing. I personally delete all the photos I don't need (duplicates, eyes closed, out of focus etc) and then get to work on editing every single photo. That way I know the colouring is correct, they're cropped nicely and they have the look I want all my photos to have. I'm pretty sure most wedding photographers will do this but I have seen examples where this is the case and have read plenty of horror stories! It's a quick question to ask and a quick question to answer!
8. What type of equipment do you use? Do you have backup gear?
Now...If they're in the wedding game they're going to have professional equipment! This question could be geared more towards those who use a lot of artificial lighting or those who love to use natural light like myself. This can be important depending on the look you'll want from your photos. 95% of my work is natural light and my flash gun usually only comes out during the cake cut / first dance or if it's to get creative during the winter months when it goes dark later. I shoot with Sony equipment and also have back up cameras, memory cards, batteries, and lenses in case of emergencies!
My gear: Sony A9 (2 of these), 28mm f2, 35mm f1.4 and 85mm 1.8 and a bunch of flash guns!
9. What happens if our wedding runs longer than the package we booked? Do you stay longer if required?
A question to ask in case your wedding photographer vanishes at the end of their time and you've no idea where they vanished too. My package is for 2-3 hours before the ceremony until 9pm with the option for extended coverage until 10:30pm. Check with your photographer as some might need to be home for family reasons by a certain time. You should always know the amount of coverage you’re getting.
10. How long will the images take to be returned? Do you post any previews during the editing process?
If you're wedding photographer has a lot of editing to do then this can take a while and will be worth the wait. Most will take between 4-6 weeks to turn around a wedding but can deliver sooner if they have a clear schedule. It's worth asking this so you're not left in the dark wondering where and how long your photos will take. Asking if they post previews is nice also so you know where and when to look out for images. I like to share photos as I'm editing as it helps build the excitement and is always nice to see professional snaps instead of a sea of mobile phone photos. Some photographers like to share, others don't, ask the question so you know what to expect. The more you know the better!
I hope these questions will help you out when you're looking for your wedding photographer! If you have any questions at all for me then just head over to my contact page and give me a shout!