A few weeks ago, I published “Three Tips For New Wedding Photographers.”
This week I want to piggy-back on that post with seven more random tips that I think will help any wedding photographer.
1. Find out which two or three photos the bride is really hoping you will nail. Which shots will she complain about if they aren’t in the book. This is a simple thing to do and it can save a bunch of heartache later.
2. Don’t ever eat at the reception. If the wedding party says you’re invited, politely decline. Say you already ate. Say you are on a special diet. But don’t eat anything. Here’s why.
a. This is prime shooting time. While people stand in line and wait for their food, you see genuine personal interaction. You should be shooting this stuff.
b. More often than not the bride’s father is paying you and he’s paying the caterer. The last thing he wants to think about is the fact that he’s paying you to sit down and eat the food he’s paying the caterer to bring.
c. Before I implemented this rule I often got sick from eating the food at the wedding. Better to bring an ice chest and fill it with drinks, a sandwich and some snacks. Take turns with your assistant going out to the parking lot to sneak a bite here and there so nobody notices you gone and you don’t miss too much of the action.
3. Be invisible. This isn’t the time for you to show off. This isn’t your day. This is HER day. Stay out of the way. Don’t be the center of attention. Be as invisible as you can be and still get your job done.
4. Be ready for Uncle Harry. Uncle Harry is a nickname all professional wedding photographers give to the relative who – like you – has a nice 35mm DSLR and who insists on shooting over your shoulder all day or worse, jumping into your shots. There are different opinions on dealing with Uncle Harry, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way is to make him a helper. If you constantly berate and yell at him, you’ll make everyone mad. If you complain about him, you’ll make everyone mad. If you make excuses because of him, you’ll make everyone mad. So, instead, give him a job to do like hold a reflector. Make him feel like he’s part of your team.
Another approach is to let ALL the Uncle Harrys (and yes these days everyone has a camera) take their turn. Establish some simple ground rules. When you have the wedding couple in the nice light that you scouted and in front of the nice background you scouted, the wedding guests will invariably run over and try to grab their own shots. So I play a little game with them. I say, “Okay folks everyone will get a picture but let’s be fair with each other.” I’ll get the shot set up and you have 30 seconds to go crazy. Take as many pictures as you want but then, please step back and let me take my turn.
Eventually the folks get the rhythm of this and it seems fun to them and there’s no need to worry about their shots competing with yours. You have better technique, better retouching, etc. So rather than fight, just work with them. The bride will love you for it.
5. Always budget twice as much time as you need because the bride will give you half as much as you ask for. Brides are never on time. Heck – nobody in the wedding party is on time. I used to offer a $100 discount on the wedding if the bride and groom could show up on time for the formals. I never ended up having to actually pay anyone the $100. Nobody was ever on time. Relax and reduce stress by just accepting this up front and the day will go smoother.
6. Remember the camera looks both ways. If you’re upset, nervous, and disturbed, the chances increase greatly that your bride will look upset, nervous and disturbed. Relax, smile, be calm, be patient, have a good time, go with the flow. If you’re calm, the bride will be calm. The reverse is also true.
7. Photograph every single child at the wedding and do it well. These children belong to someone at the wedding and if you take time to make a nice portrait of each child you will probably build enough business off of a single wedding to keep you working for a month. The parents of those children are going to want those pictures. They may even want to hire you for a separate session. So make sure you photograph ALL the kids. To do otherwise is to fail to properly tell the story of that day and to walk away from extra dollars.
Weddings are always hard work, but done right, can make you as the photographer lots of money and can make the family you’re photographing a permanent keepsake of a special day. Be there for the bride – no matter what. Be sold out for her. I know it sounds corny but love her more than yourself. Think of her as your sister or daughter. Be committed to making that the best day of her life. No exceptions. No excuses. If you do, you’ll end up with a lifelong client. Oh yeah, and it’s never wrong to do the right thing.
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