If you’re looking to get into wedding photography or have just started out in the industry, you’re probably aware of how hectic a wedding photo shoot can be. Learning the ropes involves a lot of trial and error, which I can attest to. This simple step-by-step plan should eliminate a fair amount of hassle and ensure you enjoy your photo shoots as much as the happy couple enjoys their big day.
The first step is to have an initial face-to-face meeting with the bride and groom-to-be, preferably at your studio. This is your chance to gather as many details about the wedding as possible. As a starting point, I recommend the couple be given a questionnaire, which should answer the following questions:
- Details of the venue and when the wedding will take place
- The bride and groom’s contact details
- The wedding planner’s details (if they have booked one)
- An additional contact for the day, such as the best man
- Where the bride and groom will be getting ready
- How many attendees will be present
It’s also vital that you note down detailed timings for the wedding day itself; there’s no point preparing for a certain aspect of the day if you won’t have enough time to do your thing.
This initial meeting is also a good opportunity to request time for group shots and bride and groom shots as part of the wedding itinerary, as this is an aspect often not considered by planners. It’s also the photographer’s chance to advise the couple on what can realistically be done in the time frame provided. Preparation meetings can be arranged a year or more in advance of the big event, leaving both parties with plenty of time to agree on any changes to the original plan.
Not only will a pre-wedding shoot give the bride and groom a taste of things to come, it’s the photographer’s opportunity to get to know the couple and build some rapport. Understandably, many couples will have some nerves around getting their photos taken and now’s your chance to allay any fears they may have. I recommend taking them out and about for this meeting; it’s far more relaxing than being in a studio under the lights.
Once you’ve moved between your planned locations, taking various shots, it’s time to share any tips that the couple should be aware of. Things such as where to turn in relation to the sunlight or how to pose for certain shots. No detail is too small, as these can make all the difference in creating striking reportage photos.
Visiting the Venue
In the run up to the wedding day it’s definitely worth checking out the venue, even if it’s one you’re already familiar with. Shooting at a venue you’ve previously worked at in a different season brings certain considerations. For instance, the sun may be higher or lower, and the nearby flowers and trees will look different.
Your primary focus on this visit, however, should be to establish where you’ll be taking group shots, where the sun will be in relation to the building, and finding alternative locations just in case the weather tries to rain on your parade. In addition, select four to five locations for the bride and groom shots, as well as a wet weather plan for those, too.
One Week Before the Wedding
It’s always a good idea to have a final chat with the bride and groom around a week before the wedding to make sure no details have changed. I learned this the hard way: a groom once decided to change where he was getting ready and didn’t remember to tell us. Needless to say, it caused much unnecessary panic! Also, you’ll often find a quick catch-up is appreciated by the couple—it assures them and shows that you have everything under control.
The Day Before the Wedding
Now that your plans are set in place, all you need to do is conduct some spot checks. I always ensure the following:
- Batteries are on charge for all the cameras, including spares
- Extra disposable batteries are packed for my back-up lighting (such as speed lights) just in case there’s a problem with big lights
- All memory cards are emptied, formatted and ready to use
- Lenses and mirrors are cleaned
The Morning of the Wedding
Before setting off, I like to go through another checklist of essential equipment to pack:
- Cameras, including back-ups
- Batteries for lights and cameras
- Triggers for lights
- Memory cards and readers
- Power cables
- Waterproof sheets
About the Author
Lisa Gill is a passionate professional photographer who specializes in wedding photography. She always strives to capture those truly priceless blink-and-you’ll-miss-it emotions you will only find at weddings.
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