You wouldn’t think there would be too much planning to do before the wedding, as far as photography is concerned but there are definitely a few things you can do in advance, to make sure things run smoothly on the day.
In my article about choosing a wedding photographer I talked about some of the things you’ll want to run through with any potential photographers, to make sure the way they work on the day is a good fit for you and the style of photography you want.
On the day of the wedding I work almost entirely candidly, aside from portraits with the couple and some (laid back, low key!) family group shots. Having said that I still need a schedule to work to, so that I can be aware of when the most important parts of the day are and to make sure enough time is set aside for portraits and group photos.
I contact my clients three months before their wedding date to provide their final invoice and my planning form. The planning form covers the schedule for the day and also asks for all of the other information I’ll need.
Once I receive the form back from my couples I arrange to meet them for a chat over a glass of wine or a cup of tea. We run through the format of the day and discuss any logistical issues and how to resolve them.
I also ask for input from in terms of any particular shots that are important to them, however while I’ll always try to get these shots (usually something like ‘a shot with me and my dad/best friend/niece/dog!) I don’t work from a set shot list.
It’s more important to me that I capture the story of the day as it unfolds, rather than looking to tick shots off a list and potentially missing brilliant, spontaneous moments that happen. Within that though there are a number of shots that you know you need to get and most of the shots people ask for when they provide a list are things you’d capture anyway.
Discuss photography with your ceremony official
During my pre-wedding planning meeting I always ask my couples whether they have discussed photography with their ceremony officials.
Vicars/Priests/Registrars/Celebrants and other ceremony officials all have different requirements when it comes to what they will allow during the ceremony.
It’s fairly common to be asked not to use flash during the ceremony, which is fine unless you’re getting married in a particularly dark venue.
I have, in the past, been asked not to photograph during any point of the service other than the hymns.
I have also been positioned behind a post, where I was unable to see the couple at all, and told not to move. I know photographers who have been kicked out of the ceremony all together without ever taking a single picture.
Have this discussion with your ceremony official early. I will always follow the rules imposed upon me by ceremony officials as, personally, I believe that trying to take sneaky shots against their instruction only makes things harder for the photographers who work with them after me.
Find out exactly what is allowed during the ceremony and be warned! I have worked with a number of ceremony officials who have told my couples that photography is fine and then on the day I am told something completely different.
Another thing to think about is whether to have an unplugged ceremony. An unplugged ceremony is one where your guests are all asked to switch off their mobile phones and to leave their cameras in their bags.
During an unplugged ceremony you see a sea of your guests adoring faces, watching you exchange your vows, instead of a sea of iphones and SLRs preventing your guests from being truly present.
As well as guests not focussing on you and your wedding ceremony, when there is a sea of cameras it can have another negative impact on your wedding photographer’s ability to do their job.
I had a wedding last summer where a guest dived out in front of me, in the middle of the aisle, just as the couple were walking back up. By the time I had leapt towards them and asked them to move the moment was lost.
Here are some thoughts on the benefits of an unplugged wedding.
Uncle Bob (or your wannabe photographer mate)
Uncle Bob is a little nickname wedding photographers give to those guests at weddings who have a SLR and aren’t afraid to use it. And by use it I mean rapid fire at the couple/dive in the aisle/stand on pews/try to shoot over our shoulders/get in the way.
I am not sure where the name came from but it’s a phrase that’s used by wedding photographers around the world because being “Bob’d” can be pretty frustrating.
This doesn’t apply to everyone with a camera. Most guests are respectful/mindful and do their upmost not to get in the way.
There is usually a Bobs at most weddings though!
My worst Bob stood on a pew during a church ceremony, resulting in the priest taking me to one side for a telling off afterwards, because he assumed that Bob was my assistant. Thanks for nothing, Bob!
I have had people follow me around/shoot over my shoulder/ruin my exposures with their flash/tell me how to do my job/tell me their camera is better than mine. It’s a sign of the times and most of the you just avoid Bob as far as possible whilst smiling and getting on with it.
If you do have a friend or family member who is likely to play Uncle Bob at your wedding it might be worth having a little word with them though, just to make sure they don’t get in the way too much.
Of course on the flip side there are always those people with SLRs who love photography and who you can have a bit of camera chat with. I don’t mind that at all. It’s just the ones that prevent me from doing my job that are a little trickier to deal with.
Consider an engagement shoot
Some photographers don’t offer engagement shoots or they don’t think they’re important. Personally I think they’re a great way for me and my couples to get to know each other a little better and they also work really well to remove the fear of being photographed, so that you feel relaxed on the day of the wedding.
You can read more about why I think a pre-wedding shoot is a great idea here.
These are my main pre-wedding planning items. What do you think? Are there other things that should be agreed/planned for in advance of the wedding?