Photographers who don’t like to shoot weddings tend to give imaginative excuses for their non-affinity. They tend to avoid situations where something can go wrong. If you do it often enough Murphy’s going to get you. But you can avoid any of these pitfalls if you plan ahead. As wedding photographer Susan Stripling puts it in this video, when it comes to wedding photography, there are really two kinds of problems—the avoidable and the unavoidable:
1. Not Managing Client Expectations
This is probably the biggest reason for a client/photographer relationship souring. Understanding client expectations is a top priority for the photographer.
Stripling sends out a questionnaire to her clients six weeks before the wedding day, asking what the couples’ expectations are and, most importantly a list of the family formal shots. This usually results in a discussion and curtailing of the list down to something manageable.
2. Who’s in Charge?
Finding early who your go-to person is on the day of the wedding can help you avoid a number of pitfalls. Not having a contact person is a recipe for disaster if something goes wrong. The last thing you want is to keep going to the bride or the groom to clarify things, or worse still, assume the role of the coordinator yourself.
3. Changes to Schedules
Flexibility is thy middle name. After all it is the wedding couple’s day, not yours. Having said that, you have to know the price of that flexibility. One of the biggest pitfalls is schedule changes. They happen often and put the photographer in a soup. You can either smile and say OK, which means you’re aware of what it means to you or demand that you be given an audience to discuss the implications. In the latter case, make sure that the bride/groom are OK with the implications of the schedule change. Spell it out if you have to!
4. Things Running Late
An events running behind schedule is something that you have to learn to work around. What you shouldn’t do, however, is try to push things back to schedule. Phrases like, “hurry-up” or “we’re running late” can stress out your clients (and they’re already stressed!). However, when you sense things are running late, communicate in a calm, composed, and extremely professional tone. It makes things easier to comprehend and most importantly ensuresthat your clients don’t feel as if they are being pushed.
5. Broken Gear!
What would you do if your camera or lens slipped out of your hands, dropped on the ground and was damaged beyond repair, right in the middle of a wedding? That’s the worst case scenario. You have to have backup gear. A wedding photographer with a single camera and lens is like a disaster waiting to happen. Having insurance is a must, too.
6. Not Having a System
Having a system can be an umbrella phrase to mean a lot of things. At the most basic, you should have a planning and packing session before heading out to an event. As Stripling explains,
“We carry two camera bags to every single wedding and we know what goes in every single slot. So, if I open up my camera bags and I look down in there and there’s a slot that’s empty, I know what’s missing.”
7. Handling Awkward Situations
Just being able to shoot great photos isn’t enough when you are covering a social event. How you handle yourself at such tight-knit social events both professionally and socially does have a bearing on your image. How you dress at an event, how you speak, how you interact with other guests and with your colleagues—everything counts.
8. Skills to Handle Challenges
Difficult work situations are just a way of testing your skills as a photographer. It’s important to have the know-how and the flexibility to handle whatever comes your way.
What other pitfalls have you experienced as a wedding photographer?
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