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Episode 3: Shooting your first wedding day (& beyond)!

So you are ready to shoot your first wedding as a professional photographer?  If you have not already completed all the tasks listed in our previous articles, then you are NOT ready.  Episode 1 & Episode 2 Preparation is more than half the battle in the world of wedding photography.  After you have adequately prepared and you make it to the big wedding day, here are some great tips for shooting your first wedding!

Shooting your first wedding TIP #1 : It’s NOT all about the photography!

In my career I have photographed more than 350 weddings. I would argue that the art of the photography is only about 40% of the battle on any given wedding day.  A wedding day is a beautiful time filled with love, joy, tears, anger, sadness, stress and so much more!  Each family has its own set of “stuff”.  My mom used to tell me that every family is their own breed of crazy and now, after 15 years of wedding photography, I believe it!

Shooting your first wedding TIP #2 : Weddings are emotional.

From in laws, outlaws and ex laws, to the emotions of having recently lost a parent, a wedding day, while exciting, can be very emotional.  I found myself, more than half the time, becoming a therapist and best friend to the bride and MANY of these brides I still call friends! If you ever enter into a wedding with the attitude of “That’s not my job, I take photos…” you will fail!  Period.

Here are the “BE Attitudes” of shooting your first wedding:

Be positive! Everyone is stressed. Whether it is good stress, work stress, family stress, weather stress, everyone is stressed.  If there was EVER a time for being positive and smiling more than you feel like smiling, the time is NOW!

Become a YES man (or woman)!  We were the kind of photographers who believed that a happy bride, was an EASY bride to photograph.  We rarely said NO to our brides and if there was a problem we just fixed it quickly.  The bride does NOT want to be asked 101 questions about where the guestbook or candles need to go, make a decision and go with it.  Trust me, at the end of the day she won’t care.

Be a problem solver.  Not just of your own profession but often of others.  I cannot tell you how many times I have had to dismantle and rebuild bouquets, fix hair, sew straps on dresses, etc. One time we even had a wedding that the caterers left prior to the cake being cut (of course they were not paid to cut the cake so they had no reason to stay) and took all the plates, forks, napkin etc. with them.  As I was photographing the fun of the reception, my husband ran to the nearest gas station and cleared them out of paper goods. Imagine that, after the bride and groom cut their ceremonious first piece no one knew HOW to cut the cake so I ended up doing it while my husband continued photography.  And this was not the first or the FOURTH cake we had cut!

Be prepared for anything and everything.  We always kept an “emergency” kit in our car that included: basic first aid, Tylenol, Benadryl, bug spray, hairspray, hair pins, disposable toothbrushes/ flossers, mouthwash, oil blotting papers, a small sewing kit, basic white, black and cream ribbon, floral tape, scissors, (for fixing bouquets), an average size men’s belt, black socks, a small tool kit, towels and a cooler full of drinks and power snacks for the day.  I cannot remember one wedding that we did NOT something out of this kit.

Be in control.  Seriously our “family” photos NEVER took more than 15-20 minutes.  I would start off by loudly proclaiming that the next several minutes I would become a different person and would need everyone to see me as the general.  And I did!  I had our general shot list in my brain and I would quickly set a group, my husband would shoot the iterations, while I gathered another group.  It went fast and often “felt” rushed but once it was done, everyone was relieved.

Be fun!  It is NOT all about setting up the perfect Pinterest pose.  Most of our “best” shots were from the imagination of our bridal parties or just “action” shots of them in motion being them.  Joke around with your party, bond with them, have fun with them.

Be present and aware.  While it is okay to pull out your phone and take a selfie at some point during the day, do NOT be seen with your phone in hand.  If you have to make a call to coordinate with your assistant or partner, tell the bride “I am going to step out and talk to the assistant to coordinate your first look.”  Only take personal calls when you are on a break and AWAY from eyesight of the crowd.  In your car or the bathroom is the appropriate way to do this.

Logistics of even the simplest wedding day can be overwhelming.  In being PREPARED for shooting your first wedding, you will gain the confidence and rapport that you need to make your first wedding a success.  Things usually go wrong along the way.  The overall success of shooting your first (or any) wedding is found in how you handle the issues.

Bottom line though, even though you will be called upon to do 101 things that are not your job, you MUST balance going above and beyond, with the job you were paid to do, photography.  No bride is going to want to hear, after the wedding, that you MISSED shooting the first dance because you were helping cut the cake.  Do your job as a photographer and do it to the best of your ability. Go above and beyond when you can and at the end of the day you will have a happy bride!

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The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!