I’ve been photographing weddings since 1984. I still remember the first–probably largely because it was the wedding of a childhood friend. We had lots of fun and, even now, I’m happy with the way her photos turned out, which is not the case with some of my other early work. I actually remember nearly all of the brides and grooms I’ve photographed because we’ve created a bond with most of them. It becomes even more fun when we get to watch their families grow or come back and photograph the weddings of their siblings and friends.
Over the last three decades, I’ve learned a lot, met some crazy brides, met some really great brides (and grooms), dealt with a VERY few Bridezillas and Momzillas and learned a little bit about what makes weddings–and wedding photography–fun, and what doesn’t.
So, let’s talk about a few of those things that will really drive your photographer crazy–and, believe me, if it’s driving your photographer crazy it’s probably not making your wedding day any more fun either.
1. Not planning enough time for photography.
Most brides and grooms who come to see me and decide to have me photograph their wedding tell me that photography is really important to them. But then we find out that they already have their entire day set in stone and there’s no time in there to have any photographs made. One bride and groom planned their 30- to 40-minute wedding ceremony for noon and their reception to start at 1 p.m. at a country club 25 miles away. Another couple could only rent the venue they wanted for three hours (plus 30 minutes for set-up and 30 for clean-up), so they scheduled their one-hour wedding ceremony and reception to for those three hours but they had a large family and large wedding party and wanted portraits of themselves all over the grounds, in addition to eating, serving cake and dancing at the reception–and they were adamant that they not see each other before the ceremony.
Obviously, the wedding ceremony is unquestionably the most important part of the day and should be planned first, with everything else planned around it. This is where choosing your wedding photographer early in the process will be helpful. Experienced wedding photographers can listen to what you want in the way of wedding day photography and can give you a pretty accurate estimate of the amount of time they will need to give you what you want. Yes, good wedding planners can be helpful in this department, but every photographer varies and every wedding varies and this is information you really want to get right from the source.
If you want to have time on your wedding day for portraits of the two of you, and photographs with your family and wedding party, you need to allow enough time. This is probably the number-one wedding day frustration for both wedding couples and photographers at the wedding.
Oh, and that couple who forgot to allow ANY time for photographs after the wedding? We solved the problem by photographing them the night before. They ended up with beautiful evening portraits on the grounds of their wedding venue without the bright mid-day sunlight or the crowds of people usually present during the day AND they got sunset portraits at a nearby beach that were both gorgeous and romantic.
2. Trying to be a photo director instead of a bride
You hire a wedding photographer presumably because you like what they do and you trust that we can do the job. So let us. We really do know what we’re doing–well, most of us do and you were smart and hired an EXPERIENCED wedding photographer whose work you like. Trust our artistic judgment and our knowledge of lighting and posing and allow us to arrange you, your wedding party and your family in the most flattering way. While most of us welcome requests like, “I love the way that looks. Can we take a picture there?” or “Can you take my picture with my 27 best friends from kindergarten?”, when you feel the need to tell us exactly how to pose you and light you and how to arrange your groups, it makes it harder for us to do our job.
Relax. Enjoy your day. You’re in good hands with a professional photographer. You don’t want to spend your day telling your photographer which lens to use and which angle to use and where every photograph should be and who should be in every photograph and when. That’s not what your day is about. Your day is about celebrating the beginning of your new life together.
3. Giving the photographer a long, specific shot list.
We know there are photos that are important to you on your wedding day. We do want to know what those photos are. But do you really want this most important day of your life to be full of artificially staged, manufactured moments? I photographed my first wedding in 1984. Back then, most wedding albums were 12 to 20 pages of carefully scripted, posed portraits, and most albums were nearly indistinguishable one from another. And they were boring. Thankfully, today we get to spend more time focusing on you and telling the story of your day, capturing natural and spontaneous emotion and recording the special moments of your day as they happen.
But if you give us a long list of “must haves” then we all have to spend our day creating artificial moments, instead of telling your story and capturing the moments that really make your day memorable. Things like “dad putting the bride’s garter on” and “mom adjusting the bride’s veil” or “bride gazing into the mirror at her reflection” aren’t the real story of your day. We do want to know that it’s really important to you to have a photograph with Great-Aunt Margie or that this is the first time in 10 years all your mother’s siblings will be together (because we’ll do all we can to make sure those requests happen). We KNOW that it’s important for us to photograph you in different poses, alone and with your new spouse, that part of the wedding day is making portraits with your families and with your wedding parties. That’s why you hired us–because we KNOW what needs to be photographed at your wedding.
4. Expecting the Photographer to be a Mentor
You hire us to photograph your wedding. When you ask us on your wedding day if we mind if your cousin/niece/brother/aunt follows us around with their camera because they want to learn to be a photographer, we really want to ask if you’ve lost your mind, but we’re usually too nice. You hired us to do a job, which involves focusing on you and your day. Do you really want us to divide our attention and spend that time that you’ve likely paid us well for teaching someone else photography?
While I personally am happy to give instruction to people who want to learn what it takes to be a photographer, I don’t want to do it while I’m in the middle of a job for someone else, especially when my divided attention might result in missing a moment that can’t be repeated. There’s also the problem of your cousin/niece/brother/aunt dividing the attention of the photo subjects while we’re photographing or ending up in the way of our photographs and thereby diminishing your wedding album.
There’s a reason our contracts specify that we are the exclusive photographer. It really isn’t because we’re selfish and want to have all the fun for ourselves (well, it might be, but we’ll never tell you). We know that the best way to give you the wedding photographs you want and deserve is to be able to focus all of our attention on you and have your attention not divided by multiple people with cameras. It also makes the “formal” photography part of your day go much more quickly, which is always a good thing.
5. Not communicating with your photographer
This one is the quickest path to frustration and insanity for everyone involved in the wedding. Most photographers not only want to meet with you initially when you contract their services for the wedding, but we want to meet with you again during the week or two before your wedding. Things often change during the planning process. If those changes involve locations or timetables, your photographer needs to know that as soon as possible. If your date changes, call us immediately. We really do want to photograph your wedding so please don’t make it hard for us. The more we know about your day and your wishes, the easier it will be for us to do our job and give you what you want.
If there is something specific you want or don’t want in your wedding photography, you need to let us know. Try as we might, most of us just haven’t developed the skill of reading minds yet (I thought maybe it would be useful, but I’m thinking I really don’t want to know what’s going through your head all the time). If you have some challenging family dynamics or interesting personalities, let us know. That way, we can deal with Aunt Martha’s refusal to stand near Uncle George in the family photo and you won’t have to.
When we meet with you the week of your wedding, we want to know all about your day, what your schedule is, who the most important people are, what you have planned, what is most important to you, what other vendors you’re working with, if you have a wedding coordinator, what restrictions there might be on photography at your venues, where you’d like to be photographed–especially if it’s outside the wedding or reception location, what parts of your day you want photographed. When you blow off this meeting because you’re “too busy” you are really shortchanging yourself. If we know all this before your wedding day, then we come prepared to give you the very best we have to offer.
And that’s what we’re all about. We photograph weddings because we love weddings. We know all about bad wedding photography (if you come to see me I might show you my really bad wedding pictures–and I mean from my wedding. They suck. Big time). We know all about good wedding photography. We are happy to show you the really good wedding photographs we’ve made. We want your day to be fun, we want it to be easy, we want it to be stress free for both of us. Avoiding these five pitfalls will help make your wedding day special and your wedding photography wonderful.