So much will be happening on your big day (and it often goes by so fast) that the photographs you have of the event will be something you’ll treasure and look back on for the rest of your lives. It’s important to prepare properly, to get the best out of your day and your photographer.
Here are my 101 steps to perfect wedding photography:
1) Look at all the photographers in your area (use the internet for this)
2) Ask your friends for recommendations
3) Look at friends wedding albums
4) Bookmark the photographers you like (don’t think about money at this stage)
5) After getting a feel for the photographers, decide on your budget (you’ll now have a good idea of who you can afford)
6) Create a shortlist of photographers
7) Call each photographer to check availability (we often book up fast, so call early to ensure you end up with a list of available photographers!)
8) Check out reviews of these photographers through Google / other online review sites
9) If you’re looking for other services (like a band / caterer etc…) ask your photographer, they often can get youdiscounts with other vendors in the industry
10) Decide on what kind of style of photography you would like for your wedding
11) Compare that style to your shortlist
12) Collect some images that really resonated with you. Create a mini gallery of what it is you’d like your photographs to look like
13) You can keep this gallery electronically, or print it out.
14) Meet with the photographers (if possible)
15) Show them the images you’ve collected
16) Discuss how to achieve your goals
17) Consider doing the main Bride and Groom shoot the day before / morning of / day after the wedding (many couples are now choosing to do this to allow time for many impeccably lit studio-style shots with zero pressure)
18) Discuss your other photographic needs (how many formal shots will you need?)
19) How many locations will you want to shoot in?
20) How long do you want to be apart from your guests after the wedding?
21) Ask them about their strengths (film / black and white / photographic styles)
22) Ask them what style of photography they prefer
23) Do they work with another photographer?
24) Do they work with an assistant?
25) Consider meeting their assistant or fellow photographer
26) Ask them if they’re flexible on changing styles to meet your needs
27) Inquire about their re-touching skills (can they cover up any blemishes that may appear on your big day)?
28) Ask them how long they will spend on re-touching each one of your images? (good photographers will often take 5 – 45 minutes on EACH image they create for you. I often say 40% of the work is in taking the image, 60% is in post-production.
29) Ask for references
30) Ask for a discount!!! (if you’re willing to make a decision quickly, many photographers will offer you 10% – 15% discount for booking early)
31) Create another list of your photographers (in the order in which you like them)
32) Sleep on it for a few days
33) Think a lot about which photographer you like as a person
34) Choosing the right person for the job is about choosing a person you’re going to want to spend a fair amount of time being close to on the big day – so make sure that the person doesn’t annoy you!!
35) Watch how photographers work at weddings you attend – or remember ones you particularly liked, what is it about them that you liked – do these photographers have the same qualities?
36) Compare quality of your top 2 / 3 photographers, versus price
37) Make your final decision
38) Ask for a contract
39) Read the contract carefully
40) Ensure the contract has the correct date
41) Check that the contract ensures you’ll be getting the photographer you expect (and that they can’t change the photographer for anyone else at the last minute)
42) Check that there is a “Statement of work” or something to that effect in the contract (detailing how many hours will be spent on photography / how many images to expect from the day) etc…
43) Some photographers include a model release as part of their contract – decide whether you’re willing to sign one
44) Discuss copyright with your photographer (this can be a complex issue, and one worth reading up about)
45) You’ll only need to buy the copyright from the photographer if you’ll be selling on the images from your big day. If you think you’ll want to do this at some point, discuss how much it would cost to buy the copyright from the photographer.
46) Ensure any copyright agreements are entered into the contract
47) Feel free to ask for changes to the contract if there’s something you’re not happy with
48) Sign the contract
49) Give the retainer to the photographer (often 15% – 50% of the total cost)
50) Ask for a receipt
51) Have your photographer estimate when you will be getting the post-production photographs. You may be anxious to see them quickly, but good photographs take time to produce.
52) Will the photographs be in digital format only or will prints be included in the price of the package. Ask for samples of their printed books to see if you like the style.
53) Begin to create a shot list (Bride with Mum, Bride with Cousins, Groom with best men etc…)
54) Assign a groomsman or bridesmaid to liaise with the photographer on the big day
55) Make sure the groomsmen and bridesmaids are informed on what to organize for the photographer – this ensures you don’t have to worry about a thing (like gathering family members for photographs) on the day. You can focus on looking wonderful and being happy!
56) Begin thinking about makeup
57) Start practicing your smile
58) If you’re still thinking about a makeup artist – ask the photographer for a recommendation – photographers will normally recommend wonderful makeup artists – ones that help make you and their photographs look even better
59) Practice your smile
60) If you’re camera shy, practice your smile in front of a point and shoot camera with your other half behind the lens (this could be fun for the both of you!!).
61) When you think you can’t smile any more, practice again 😉
62) Think about which of the details of the day your planning you’d like your photographer to focus on (I once shot a wedding where the bride, groom and priest were all drummers. “Please get some fun shots of the drums Chris”)
63) Consider having an engagement shoot with your photographer
64) You can use the photos from the engagement shoot for the invitations – or use them online / with facebook etc… to remind people of the up-coming event!
65) Use the time at the engagement shoot to get to know your photographer
66) Consider the photographs as you look at venues for your wedding
67) Think of the areas of the venue you really like
68) Communicate these preferences with your photographer
69) Ask your photographer whether he’s willing to go to the venue with you to discuss the photographs
70) Ask whether he’s planning to use ambient light or artificial lighting
71) Consider what the weather is likely to be (in Arizona, you’re likely to have Sun, if your wedding is in the West Country in England, you’re probably in for rain)
72) How will adverse weather affect your plans (and therefore your photographs?)
73) Practice your smile again
74) Decide (with the photographer) how much time you’d like to spend on each part of the day
75) Decide whether you’d like to get shots of the preparations on the day (getting dressed / makeup / champagne breakfast etc…)
76) Decide time what time the photographer will arrive on the day of the wedding.
77) Assign someone in the wedding party to meet and greet the photographer.
78) Has the photographer scouted the location before the wedding day or will he/she simply arrive early on the big day?
79) Is this time factored into the total cost of the wedding package?
80) Make sure a member of your wedding party has given the shot list to the photographer either electronically or in person.
81) If you are not ready to start being photographed when he/she arrives, have the photographer start doing shots of the venue, details of the wedding rings, flowers, etc.
82) If you decide to take all of your pictures before the wedding ceremony make sure to schedule the photo shoot long before guests start arriving. You probably won’t want your guests seeing you in your wedding dress before the ceremony!
83) If you insist on only seeing each other after the ceremony choose two private locations in the venue for both sides of the bridal party to be photographed. This way you can avoid an accidental encounter!
84) Tell the photographer how much time you have for the photographs – this way they can help keep you on schedule.
85) Have fun! This is your big day so be relaxed and enjoy all the flashing lights and attention.
86) Keep an open communication with the photographer. Be polite, but don’t be afraid to express what you need. They are working for you.
87) After the photography session, factor in some time to rest and refresh yourself before the ceremony begins.
88) Be very clear with the photographer what photographs will be taken during the ceremony. You want the most sacred part of your day documented, but not intruded upon. You’ll probably want to remember the look in your lovers eyes, rather than the filter the photographer had on his 24-105 L Lens
89) A tip for photographing a beautiful kiss (To have an elegant looking neck line): The Bride should not strain her neck allowing the Groom to do most of the work. Both should turn slightly towards the camera. You can practice this one a lot at home! (especially useful for couples with a height difference)
90) You’re married! Smile and look at the camera. These moments are often printed and framed so be conscious of your facial expression. This is where all of your practicing comes in useful!
91) Gather your shot list to either finish the family pictures or to begin the Bridal Party photo shoot.
92) Be silly and have fun. People often like the less posed pictures so just let loose.
93) Decide how important it is for you to stay on schedule. This is a once in a lifetime event so don’t be afraid to take that extra half and hour to get what you actually want. However, dinner is waiting on you, so have a member of the bridal party watch the clock so you can just enjoy yourself.
94) The most public part is over! Give your partner a kiss.
95) Set your photographer free! Now it is time to get those fun candid shots that can be so memorable and fun.
96) Feed the people working for you – they’re often there for the whole day. From the photographer to the band, a well fed worker is a happy worker (and it will show in their performance)
97) Will there be a first dance? Give the photographer a heads up if anything unusual is going to happen (like dancing on roller skates) so they can prepare and get the best pictures possible.
98) Once you’ve eaten and had a glass of champagne it’s hard to remember the details including how long your photographer has been on duty. Just make sure you have the toast, speeches, and the cutting of the cake whilst your photographer is still on duty.
99) After your honeymoon, you’ll be able to work with the photographer to choose your favorite photographs from the big day. You’ll receive your printed images soon after.
100) Share the online link of your wedding photographs with your friends and family.
101) Now simply enjoy your photos and your new life together!
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