Our 4 year wedding anniversary recently passed, and it got us thinking about our big day and especially the photography from our wedding. See, it was really our wedding photos that helped inspire us to pursue a new direction with our own business, to begin photographing couples and weddings. Some of the things we think about when we look back at our day now, as wedding photographers, are the aspects of the day that impacted the overall energy and the flow of our day. We've decided to share a little bit of our insight with you today in hopes that it will help our current couples and prospective clients have a seamless and amazing experience with photography on their wedding day.
1. The Timeline
Although you may hire a coordinator for your wedding or the venue you book may include a day of coordinator, your photography timeline will be a pivotal part of keeping the day running smoothly and ensuring that you get all of the fabulous moments from your day captured. Your photographer should schedule a time with you-- usually a couple weeks before the wedding-- to plan out a specific timeline for all of the photos you want captured on your special day. This really helps keep the timing on track and allows for brides and grooms to allot enough time for various details of the day.
It's one of the most difficult parts of the wedding day, though. Hair and makeup take a little longer than planned, the ceremony site finishing touches may not be completed on schedule, or a groomsman from out of town could be running late. These things happen, and the important thing is not to stress when they do. One of the things I think about when I reflect on our wedding day is that we were about 30 minutes behind the prescribed schedule because we took a little longer than expected at the salon. It stressed me out because I'm a very punctual person, but our photographers didn't skip a beat. They quickly caught us up and still managed to get all the shots we wanted (and more) from our day. Experience plays an important role in this. As wedding photographers now, we learned very quickly that timelines can't always be followed to a tee, but it is important that you try to maintain some sense of the schedule. A strong photographer can generally still get all of the shots that you want and can easily make up the time lost, but being realistic about how long set up, hair and makeup, and all the important preparations take, is key in having a stress free day. We have photographed enough weddings to know how to create a sensible timeline, so trusting your photographers to do so will help the day run as smoothly as possible.
2. The Coverage
Our poor photographers! That's what we think now when we look back on the amount of coverage we expected on our wedding day. We wanted our photography team there from the beginning of the day at the salon and the guys hanging out at the venue to the end of the reception. When we look back at our photos, though, did I really care that much about my silly jacket that said bride across the back or getting shots of my hair disheveled without makeup? Not really, but I did love the shots of Jason and his groomsmen hanging out and putting on their bowties, and I adored the photos of me getting into my dress. These are the shots we usually start with, what we call "the finishing touches," when we shoot weddings. We look back now and think we expected a little much, but we are grateful that we do have a glimpse of the entire day celebrating our union.
We always aim to tell the story of our couple's day through our photography, and you want a full picture of the day to do so. Some couples want every moment captured, and others only want the highlights; however, booking your photographer for a determined period of time is one of the most important decisions you will make. Budget generally comes into play with such decisions when a photographer offers a lower priced package for fewer hours of coverage, but it is important to consider other factors when determining the hours of coverage right for you. 1) How many family members will be included in photos? If you have a large family and plan on doing photos before or especially after the ceremony, you will need to account for that. We generally recommend that you only include immediate family for these posed photos (parents, grandparents, and siblings), but this is a personal decision. For example, I have a super small family, but Jason's is huge. We chose to do all of our family photos (aside from a couple quick shots with parents, grandparents, and siblings prior to the ceremony) at the rehearsal dinner. There are always options, but the bigger the families, the more time it takes to photograph individuals and smaller groups. 2) How big is your bridal party? We had 7 on each side, which is a pretty good sized bridal party. Throw in 2 ushers on top of that we wanted in photos, and you're talking 18 people. Although we work super quickly, we also like to get shots of the bridal party as smaller groups, as a whole, and individually with the bride and groom or couple. With that said, it's a good rule of thumb to include a little more coverage if you have 10 people on each side of the aisle than it is with just a maid of honor and best man or a couple of friends.
Although when we reflect as photographers ourselves 4 years later and think that we may have gone a bit overboard, each couple has to decide what they really want to see in that album or gallery down the road and exactly how many hours to book their photographers in order to achieve that vision.
3. The First Look
We frequently have couples who are undecided on doing a first look. The deciding factor for those who choose not to do a first look is often that one person wants that traditional, storybook moment of seeing the soon to be spouse coming down the aisle as everyone's eyes fill with tears. Others, however, choose to do a first look, and this is what Jason and I decided was best for us on our wedding day. See, we didn't want to have to take any photos other than candid, natural shots throughout the evening as we celebrated with our guests. We also didn't want a large time gap between the ceremony and dinner due to the need for more photos. The decision to do a first look is frequently one that goes hand in hand with the timeline and how a couple anticipates their day progressing. The main benefits to choosing a first look are having a private moment between the couple, allowing for more immediate couple's photos (and sometimes a less rushed series of shots), and the possibility to have most if not all of the photos completed prior to the ceremony. The first look does create an opportunity for the couple to share a moment at the beginning of the day that is just about the two of them, a sacred bit of time to see each other alone and maybe even share gifts (like we did...a bracelet for him and some new earrings for me) or just some raw emotion together. The couple's photos are typically immediately after, and this usually means that there is sufficient time allotted to capture several photos without feeling the rush to get to the reception after the ceremony.
Whether our couples elect to do a first look or not, we always discuss the idea in relation to what exactly the full picture of the day is for the two. We usually have about a 50/50 ratio on the first look, half of our clients choosing to do one while the other half elect to see each other initially at the ceremony, and regardless of the hours of coverage, strong photographers can make the timeline work with whatever the couple chooses. The day is, after all, completely about the newlyweds. When appropriate for the time of day, we like to offer for our couples (with or without a first look) to sneak from their reception for a few moments to grab some sunset photos. That way, they have even more photos together but do not have to spend a ton of time away from the party and their guests. This also has the added benefits of optimal light for gorgeous pictures and some alone time for the couple after a hectic day.
4. The relationship
Yes, we met with and inquired with other photographers before we selected ours, but there is a reason why we chose the husband and wife team we ended up using, Joe and Kathleen of JoPhoto. That was the connection we felt with them. They were personable, and they wanted to know about us as individuals (what we like to do together, our hobbies and interests, and our vision for our wedding day and wedding photos). We enjoyed spending time with them, and we felt comfortable talking to them and trusting them to help outline our day. These are super important factors to consider when determining who exactly to hire for photography. After all, they will be following you around paparazzi style all day.
We always strive to get to know our couples better from the initial inquiry; we include a complimentary engagement with all of our packages just to get to spend some time with the couple prior to the wedding day, time that we all use to get to know one another. These are just a few of the things we like to do build a meaningful relationship with our clients, who often become much more than that. We can't even begin to discuss how many lifelong friends we've made just because we photographed their wedding, and we are grateful that so many individuals have allowed us to not only be a part of their special day but also remain a part of their lives. It's this connection that means the most to us, and we like to think that this reflects in our work.
Although we could give advice on even more particulars, these are just a few tidbits that could have a tremendous impact on the flow of the day and the photos themselves. We hope you've gleaned a little knowledge from our personal wedding experience as both the bride and groom and now, as photographers, coming from a completely different perspective. Best wishes, and happy planning!
Part 2 of our tips series is coming soon!