I recently had the opportunity to photograph a wedding for a lovely couple I’ve known for years. I’ve shot a few weddings as an assistant but quite frankly I was terrified, despite being a friend! Sure, I’ve seen a few weddings and I knew how they generally go, but I had never been the sole, hired, big time photographer with all the pressure on my shoulders! What if I missed a scene? What if my memory cards died? What if aliens abducted my camera ten minutes before the wedding? A night full of hot sweats and a migraine later, the morning of the wedding proved extra petrifying as I flopped out of my super minivan and wobbled towards the horrifying audience of best friends, best men and women, closest relatives, etc.
However, a few ibuprofen, a last minute breakfast, a delayed wedding schedule and a few pats on the back from one of my best buds, the grooms brother, and I was breathing like a living human again. Despite my worries, I had what I needed to start shooting, and a few test shots on my camera calmed the nerves. As the day progressed, this family proved as chill as I had suspected and provided nothing close to the “Bridezilla” stories I’d heard of. I had an incredible time and throughout the day I was able to shoot a very successful wedding; I have a few things to share that I learned from this riveting and rewarding experience.
Communication is key.
It is extremely important to communicate and ensure you are on the same terms as a client. One of the things that put me at ease from the beginning was that I knew this couple in advance. Getting to know a bride and groom is important when shooting any wedding I believe, whether you know them before or not. Before I agreed to shoot the wedding, I knew it was going to be a style that I’d be interested in photographing and I knew the expectations of the families involved. For me, a stylized, interesting, and relatively laid-back wedding is one of the few I’ll accept. I was excited the event would take place outdoors at a historic mill, and I knew the experience would be as low-stress as weddings come. Those were selling points for me accepting this job.
As the wedding approached, I was sure to get lists of the family names, schedules, and any other details and requests that would keep the family happy.
Quality is better than quantity.
Often one of the hardest topics to communicate on with a client is quality v.s. quantity. One of the reasons I’ve never agreed to weddings before is that I was concerned with the level of work that is crammed into one small period of time, with a seemingly unrealistic expectation of quantity. I’m definitely a quality person when it comes to creating; I’d rather deliver a small selection of amazing images than tons of mediocre images. With a wedding, you have to expect to deliver at least a few hundred images to cover all the important moments, but I’ve heard so many people saying they deliver upwards of 1000 images, and that just seemed crazy to me! I decided that around 300 images seemed like a realistic amount of images to keep the work load reasonable, while also satisfying the client. Within that 300 I chose about 25 images as more artistically selective and gave them more perfected edits.
All of this was communicated and agreed upon in advance, and I ended up with happy clients after making those expectations clear.
Bring the backup!
Whether it’s a second shooter assisting you for all or part of the day, or a second camera, you absolutely must have some sort of backup! Not to mention lots of extra memory cards at hand! For this wedding I didn’t have a second shooter, I discounted it a bit for my friends and wanted to save that money, but if I were charging full price I absolutely would have hired a second shooter.
However, like I mentioned this couple was extremely laid back and I was able to capture all of the important moments by simply having two cameras ready with the right settings at all times. I had two Canon Mark II cameras, one with a fixed 50mm 1.4 lens, and another with a 24-70mm 2.8 lens. Having a super shallow fixed lens (50mm) allowed me to take lots of quick shots in my style when the ceremony was moving rapidly and I needed close-ups; however the 24-70 allowed me to change my focal length just slightly in the slower parts of the ceremony, and allowed me to get fuller perspectives of the event. During slower in-betweens of the service, I’d re-check my settings on both cameras to ensure the images were turning out spot on.
At different points throughout the day, I’d also switch memory cards (pre ceremony, ceremony, family stills, reception, after reception stills) so as to ensure that I couldn’t possibly lose everything from a card corrupting.
A little extra is special.
At the end of the day, its always nice to give it your all, and then some. There are two things I did for this wedding that are out of the ordinary from what I’ve heard most wedding photographers do. For one, I attended the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding. Above any other form of preparation, this was by far what made this job the easiest. Being present with the family ahead of schedule allowed me to start forming bonds long before the stress of wedding day. Establishing myself as a familiar face allowed for further comfort with the family during the big day, and ultimately better photos.
As a show of my appreciation to the family giving me business and making my job as easy as possible, I also did some extra couple stills. For any wedding I shoot I’d expect to schedule in a set of stills either between ceremonies, after, or the next day; however I really appreciated everything this family did to accommodate me, so the groom’s brother and I planned an extra special shoot. Not only did we shoot stills at the historic mill where the wedding was hosted, but we followed the couple out for a few bonus shots with their classic car after the wedding. Needless to say, they loved the extra treat and I’m sure they’ll cherish those photos forever!
All said and done, I’m so happy I accepted my first wedding client. The experience wasn’t nearly as scary as I’d imagined it to be, and seeing how happy I made that family with my contribution was priceless. I definitely learned some useful tips and tricks to apply to any client situation and I’m excited to see where this experience leads. Again, congratulations to Kelly and Brian, I’m also thrilled to see your beautiful marriage blossom and grow!
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