I recently answered a survey online about what I do. It wasn’t specific to wedding photography so some of the questions didn’t exactly mesh but it elicited some interesting answers nonetheless. The question that made me think most was about the stress level of my job. Considering each wedding is unique, it’s hard to give an answer that would cover all the situations I run into each weekend. That said, I realize that one of the biggest reasons many photographers loath shooting weddings is the perceived high level of stress.
I say perceived because stress is a matter of perspective. While it helps to have tons of experience under your belt, you can alleviate stress by realizing a few simple things about wedding photography.
First of all, you can help yourself immensely by laying the groundwork for low stress very early on. From the first meeting with a prospective client, your entire focus should be in selling them on your style, personality, and experience. Of course not everyone has these things in equal amounts, so highlight what you have and minimize what you don’t.
What you don’t want to do is to paint yourself into a corner by promising to deliver certain shots or talk about shots you do all the time. You want to reassure them they will get the same style and quality they’ve seen in your portfolio (and make sure you can deliver on this) and before that, you want to make sure your portfolio reflects only the types of shots you want to do. If you don’t like to do very formal, posed group shots, don’t put that one good one you have in your portfolio.
It’s not necessary to prove you can do all kinds of shots, only that you can do what you do very well. If they’re concerned, they will ask about things that seem to be missing from your image set. Then you can pull out that group shot.
Once you’ve established that you can and will deliver the style and quality seen in your portfolio—and you’ve avoided committing to any particular shot(s)—you’re well on your way to a lower stress wedding day. The clients may indeed want you to get shots from a shot list or confirm that you will indeed get the rings, kiss, etc. Reassure them you will get all the usual shots (and you really do have to get these, but if you can’t… well, that’s for another article) and you tell them you’ll do your best but can’t promise anything. Most of the time they will be OK with it. You can also add that you will use their list to inform them of what you may not get on the wedding day so they won’t get any surprises.
Remember, there are only a handful of shots that you must get as they happen. Those are mostly at the ceremony and some at the reception. The rest, well, trust me when I tell you they won’t miss them if you don’t get the shot.
Now you’ve laid the groundwork so your clients feel totally confident that they will be getting fantastic photography on their wedding day. All you have to do is deliver on that. Just do what you do and stop worrying about getting all those “must have” shots. Steve Jobs had it right when he talked about people not knowing what they want until you show it to them. All your clients really want is lovely photographs made from their wedding day. If you dazzle them with your talent, the specifics of what was shot will not matter.
In 7+ years of covering 25+ weddings annually I have never had a client ask me for an image I didn’t provide to them. Maybe that’s because I truly did cover every minute of their day, but more likely it’s because I delivered great images that I was able to make because I was less concerned about artificial demands on what photographs I took and more concerned with relaxing and letting the creativity flow.
About the Author:
This article was written by Robert McClory, he has been a professional photographer of some sort for the past 18 years. McClory started out in high school and college shooting professional skateboarding and then decided to get a formal education in photography, which he did at Daytona Beach’s Southeastern School for the Study of Photographic Arts. Spending nearly 4 years there, he was trained in every aspect of photography and has since put that training to good use.
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