Have you ever wondered what it would be like to shoot a wedding?
Weddings are a serious matter—the real deal—and I don’t get any second chances. That’s why I need to be prepared, organized, and know my stuff!
So, lets set the scene: you have booked the wedding a year ago, regularly communicated with the me throughout the year, had a pre-wedding shoot and now the time has come, tomorrow is the wedding day!…
Day before the Wedding
There is a little bit of work that needs to be done before the wedding day, not much, but just enough so I can wake up stress free and ready to rock. :)
Here is a little checklist that I do the day before EVERY wedding!
Text the bride telling her how excited I am to be shooting her wedding and basically just checking in (so she knows I'm 100% coming!).
Gather all my gear and make sure camera batteries are charging, flash batteries are charging, quickly clean my lenses and clear all my cards.
Double check the schedule and refresh my memory about where I'm going and what I'm doing. These days 90% of the time I find I have already shot at the locations or venues so this does not require much prep, but back in the day I used to plan out the whole shoot, shot by shot, pose by pose.
Check the GPS so I know how long it takes me to get to my first destination. I always like to rock up 5 mins early as I feel it just sets me up for an awesome day!
Make sure the car has petrol in it. I don’t like stressing about this on shoot day.
Morning of the Wedding
Alright, we are up, super excited and it's time to get moving! I usually start the day with a massive breakfast to keep me as full as possible for as long as possible. Ok, time to get moving! Last checklist before I'm on my way:
Gear is packed and in the car. Double check that everything is there and batteries and cards are back in the camera bag and not still charging in the house!
Groom Coverage (45 mins – 1 hour)
It’s time to put my game face on and nail the groom coverage. The second I walk in the door, I'm smiling, I introduce myself to everyone, make sure the groom is happy and relaxed, and start building rapport with everyone important, inc Mum, Dad, and bridal party. Half the job is making sure everyone feels comfortable around me. If I can nail that, then taking the pictures will be sooo much easier.
Although photography is a very creative industry and some photographers like to just ‘wing it’ on the day, I personally like to stick to a very specific, systematic shot list that I've developed to make sure all my bases are covered and nothing important is forgotten. Especially because 9 out of 10 times I'm shooting to create a wedding album, so I need to make sure I have the coverage so I can fill the album and hopefully more, :) You can find a copy of my shot list here
So, back to it, I always start with the details: rings, cuff links, etc. This gives me time to chill out, suss out the surroundings, and it gives the boys a little extra time to get ready. Once the details are done, I find the prettiest room in the house with the best lighting and least distractions in the background (photographer with their back to a window) and the fun begins! In a nutshell, I always shoot the following:
Boys getting ready
Combos with groomsmen and individuals
Spend a little bit of time getting portraits of the groom
A ‘cheers’ with some beer, scotch, or whatever their poison!
Family shots, all different combos
Fun shots of all the boys trying to be cool!
Portraits of the groom
Bride Coverage (1.5 hours – 3 hours)
The beauty of shooting the bride coverage is that it is very similar to the groom coverage. 80% of the same rules apply except the images will be brighter, more colourful and a little more playful.
As before, I always start with the detail shots (engagement ring, flowers, shoes, etc.) which gives me time to relax and get a feel for my surroundings and gives the girls time to finish fluffing around with the final touches of hair and make-up.
To break down the shots, I basically follow the same regime as the boys’ coverage:
Details on the bed or coffee table
Girls helping the bride get ready
Combos of the bride with her bridesmaids and individuals, too
Get some beautiful portraits of the bride near the window and on the bed
A ‘cheers’ with some champagne
Family shots, all different combos
If I have time I try to do a few more portraits of the bride.
That pretty much covers the bride coverage, so it's time to hit the road, re-hydrate and make my way to the ceremony!
I hate to start on a negative, but I have to tell you, even after 10 years this is one part of the day that can still be a little stressful. If the wedding is all in one venue then it's never a problem, but if it's a city wedding and there is a significant drive involved from the bride's house to the ceremony, I'm often a little worried about traffic, parking, and getting to the church before the bride! Luckily this has never happened yet.
What happens at the ceremony is totally out of my hands and out of my control, so my job is simply to just capture what goes on to the best of my ability. Apart from being technically challenging, as churches are notorious for being dark and yellow, I find it fun and always love hearing the couple say their vows, especially if they make them up themselves. :)
Some key shots to get here are:
Bride walking in—and almost more importantly, the groom's reaction!
A nice wide angle shot of the church from the back.
Close up of each of them saying their vows.
A close up of the rings going on the finger.
Keeping a close eye on the parents; if they shed a tear, I'll be sure to make sure I get it!
THE KISS! In 10 years of shooting, I have only missed the kiss once! It just happened so quickly and unannounced and was over before my camera even had a chance to focus
Get some shots of the signing.
Lastly, I love walking out (backwards) with the bride and groom taking shots as they walk through the cheering crowd.
So, we are outside (weather dependent) and all the guests are flooding out of the church or ceremony area towards the bride and groom. There are a few shots that I really like to get here:
general wide angle shots to show the atmosphere and size of the crowd
close ups of the couple being congratulated by their parents and siblings
and then I make an effort to run around the crowd and get photos of people in groups as a family or a group of friends.
Then usually 1 of 2 things will happen that I need to keep an eye out for! People will slowly start to leave or disperse OR I'll notice the bride is starting to get a little fed up with all the hugs and kisses. If I notice either of these two things happening, I'll grab the couples attention and check if they are ready for the group photos!
I find this is usually a part of the day where the bride and groom can get a little frustrated and impatient, so it's my job to step up and take control of the situation.
Time to get up on that trusty ladder and put my public speaking to the test! So I usually crack a few jokes and get everyone laughing, and take a few different combos of photos for variety.
And we are off again! To my favourite part of the day, THE PHOTO WALK!
I love this part of the day, it's just me and the bridal party. Generally the mood is a lot more relaxed, the ceremony is over, beers come out and everyone chills out. But, while the bridal party is relaxing, this is the part of the day that I find challenging!
In a nutshell this is what I need to remember and need to do:
* get heaps of beautiful photos of the couple that are worthy of putting up on the wall
* in a variety of different locations
* using a variety of different compositions
* getting them to do a variety of different things
* while making the whole experience super fun
* without repeating any of the same shots (ideally)
* and make sure I keep track of time
* and getting to 2 or 3 different completely different locations
* while being challenged with traffic, lighting, backdrops, parking, and even random people in the backgrounds
*AND… lets not forget the bridal party photos and photos of the transport (exotic or vintage cars, etc…)!!
We've made it! The last part of the day is upon us and I can totally relax. I find the reception very similar to the ceremony in terms of difficulty. Everything just happens and it's out of my control, so I'm just there to capture it to the best of my ability.
I usually stay at the reception until the first dance. I personally find that everything up until the first dance is super important and afterwards just becomes repetitive.
This is what I do:
Get plenty of shots of the guests
Shots of the venue
Details, including the cake, table settings, name place cards, etc.
The bridal party and couple being announced
Some shots of the couple and bridal party at the table
During dinner I generally chill out :)
Then (usually) the cake cutting is done as well as the garter and bouquet toss and sometimes games are played.
Then first dance begins and I finish off the night by getting plenty of photos of the couple and then (usually) the dance floor is opened to everyone with some final wide angle shots of a dance floor full of people with the couple in the middle.
After the Wedding
Ha, just when you thought the day was over and I could go to bed, not quite. There is one more thing that MUST be done. This is my 100%, unbreakable, must do, golden rule for every single wedding no matter what my plans are that night!
As soon as I get back home I ALWAYS UPLOAD ALL THE CARDS AND CHECK THEM ON MY COMPUTER before doing anything else!
Once I know the photos are uploaded and safe, then I can finally relax. Or, if I'm shooting again the next day, I put everything on charge, clear my cards, and get ready for round two tomorrow!