Preparation is Key to Excellent Wedding Photography
As I have said before, and will no doubt mention again, wedding photography preparation is so important when photographing the biggest event of someone’s life.
Many photographers don’t bother with much preparation or planning. They think that because they have shot numerous weddings at a certain venue before, they don’t need to go there beforehand.
I have arrived at familiar venues before only to see complete refurbishments going on with entire sections of a hotel being torn down. Luckily it was well before the day, but the layout had changed completely.
The more knowledge you arm yourself with, the less likely it is that something will go wrong. I find it hard to believe that some wedding photographers don’t bother to visit the venue before the big day…but it happens.
Wedding photography can be very well paid and I for one, consider myself extremely lucky to be able to make a living from something I love doing. Think of your alternative career paths and then think to yourself,
“…is visiting the venue a couple of times and preparing well really such a hardship considering what I am doing for a living and how much I am earning?”
For the larger weddings I usually do a dry run;
- One month before
- One week before
- Early on the day of the wedding
This, both ensures that I totally know what I am doing and helps to put the couples minds at rest about you.
Wedding Photography Preparation – One month before
If possible, I try and do this dry run with the wedding couple. I will usually, at the allotted times for the wedding day schedule, do a complete dry run from the bride’s house to the church and then on to the reception.
Note: Try and do it on the actual day too (like Saturday) as you will get a good idea of what the traffic is doing at that time.
If you are with the couple, ask questions, get them to feel like they are actually on their big day. Look for nice areas where you can take them for special shots and get their approval. Ask them to go through all the finer details and desires that they have for the day.
Get it in your head exactly how the day will pan out and memorise the names of the bridal party, the family, the couple and the route to and from each venue.
Wedding Photography Preparation – One week before
Assuming you have time to do this, it is quite important as you get a much better idea of what the light is doing at that time of year. If you visit the venue in the winter at 4pm to check the lighting for a June wedding, you will be in for a shock…obviously!
These pics were taken during a preparation visit. I always take a few as I normally end up using them as detail shots for the album or slideshow.
Check your most important shots such as “time out” wedding photography of the couple and the group shots. Go to where you will shot them and look at what the light is doing at the exact times. Where are the shadows? Will you need a reflector or fill in flash? What if it is overcast/raining/sunny?
Once again knowledge and preparation is King!
Wedding Photography Preparation – The Night Before
Nothing else you can do now except stay sober and get plenty of sleep!
However, what I suggest is that you do the following;
- Check all of your equipment and lay it all out to see.
- Clean every last piece of kit, even if it doesn’t need it. If anything is scratched, broken or not working you will find out by cleaning and checking it.
- Charge all batteries. For your cameras, speedlights, back-ups, torch, car…everything…power is good and you will need more than enough!
- Make sure you have petrol in your car and that it is running smoothly. Even have in the back of your head, a plan B should your car fail.
- Format all your CF/SD cards ready for the day and make sure they all work.
- Get your clothes ironed and ready. I use a fishing jacket with tons of pockets to hold all the essentials (spare batteries, cards etc). In the morning I put everything in the jacket ready to go.
- Get some water and food ready for the car. You may not get the chance on the day and you need it for energy. I shoot in the midday sun in Spain and it’s bl**dy tiring and no good for you after 10 hours work with no food or drink.
- Go through the day in your mind and make sure you have all the kit necessary to get the shots.
- Go to bed early.
Wedding Photography Preparation – The morning of the wedding
Call me crazy but I always, if possible, arrive very early to check things through. This is particularly easy if the entire wedding is in one place. Why do I do this?
- Everything should now be ready and you can take time to finalise your own wedding photography preparation and ideas.
- I like to see if all the preparations and planning were correct, tables, flowers, wedding favours, layouts etc.
- Are the venues lit correctly…how are they lit?
- I also like to take this time for some “detail” shots. Close ups of the flowers, menus, table layouts, drinks, cutlery…anything special that most couples forget about once the day is over. A nice touch.
- Get to the bride’s room early to get photographs of her dress still hanging up, her shoes whilst still in the box, the bouquet, the rings and any other fine details.
All of this wedding photography preparation goes a long way and I try not to get too “anal” about my time-keeping.
Many photographers feel the need to charge more for extra hours over and above their “call of duty”. Pah! I throw it in for good measure and goodwill and hope that it earns me more referrals.
Next Page – Wedding Day Photography