Being a professional photographer can be a lot of fun. Generally you’re around when fun stuff is happening and you’re celebrating with people and you’re taking pictures of people when they’re happy. They're chasing their own dream. They’re an artist and they’re making a living at being an artist.
But there are some things that get on their nerves. Most of these are things they won’t say, at least not to their clients, but they are things that can make a difference and so it is worthwhile for their clients to know.
With that slightly confusing preamble out of the way. Here are some things they won’t tell you.
Generally speaking your photographer isn’t going to be dictating what you do when on your wedding day. They spend most of the time in the background. However, there are some things you want them to capture and they want to capture and the more predictable the timing is the more likely they are to be there to capture these things.
As an example, if you want to take some portraits before the wedding make sure you’ve left enough time for makeup, prep, transportation and (if applicable) real and emotional breakdowns so you arrive at the location(s) in time for your portraits. If you plan for an hour and get there 55 minutes late you’re not going to get as many images as you saw in their portfolio. Calling to let them know where you are is a good idea too.
Photographers have a name for your family members and friends with big black cameras. They call them Uncle Bobs. (It’s a funny term in that it can be applied to your friend Nancy too - as in, “Then Nancy, this wedding’s resident Uncle Bob, started doing her own poses with the group and our timeline was completely out the window!”)
Most great photographers are willing to be more than patient with Uncle Bobs. They don’t worry that Uncle Bob will put images on Facebook. They don’t worry that Uncle Bob will make prints for you, etc. I know a few who will even lend Uncle Bob equipment. (but never ask for that because even those folks would wonder about you). What drives them crazy is when Uncle Bob gets in the way.
Ever look at a group picture and realize that half the people don’t seem interested enough to be looking back at you looking at the picture? Know where they’re looking? Uncle Bob. He’s standing next to the photographer with his/her big black camera shouting “look here.” What else are people going to do? Did you notice that there is no great shot of the kiss? That’s because when the photographer went to capture it, framed oh so perfectly down the aisle, Uncle Bob jumped out of his seat in the way and the only picture the photographer got is of the back of Uncle Bob’s head. If you know you have an Uncle Bob in the family, do the photographer a favor and just drop them a line ahead of time to say that you’ll love to see their pictures, but you’re so excited about your photographer too and could they please just be sure they let the photographer work?
(Important safety tip. At my friend’s weddings - usually my friend’s kids weddings these days - I am the volunteer thug. In this role I control Uncle Bobs, drunk guests, unruly vendors etc. I also feed photographers. But this takes me to my next point).
Food, Drink, Rest
Your photographer is likely to be chasing you around for about 7 hours on your special day. I’ve been to a few weddings since I got this job and I also had the sort of strange but also special responsibility of shooting one (by accident but it worked out ok for everyone) and I can tell you that during this day they are likely to walk, run, climb and crawl at least 10 miles.
If you’re like most people you hired your photographer for two reasons. You like their images and you like them. Try not to forget about them on your special day. It doesn’t take much, a few minutes of planning in the middle of the hours and hours of planning for these days, but you’d be amazed at the horror stories I hear of sitting out back by the garbage cans eating stale bread from the kitchen.
I know. They’re paid to be there and they are paid well. But they are also paid to be at your beck and call all day. They need a few breaks and some food and water (or other non-alcoholic liquid sustenance!) Give most of them a table in the corner to themselves and access to some hot food while everyone else (including you) is also eating and they will be prepared to kill themselves for the rest of the evening and never miss a beat!
Hey Miss Photographer? Can you take a picture of?
“Yes. No problem." It’s what they’re there for. Just know that they may be changing batteries, a memory card, checking flashes, going to the bathroom (I know - horrors!), setting up another shot, etc. They’ll be right there. A few minutes warning about when you’re going to cut the cake, first dance, etc. is all they generally need to be ready.
Frankly, they like it when you tell them what you would like pictures of -and even what you don’t. Photographers can be amazingly discreet. Whisper in their ear that Heidi would love a few pictures without Swen and he’ll never know it’s happening. Tell them you’d love some pictures of Aunt Millie and Uncle Joe together and you’ll get a beautiful set. Tell them your mom favors her right side and they’ll make sure she’s always on their left. They’re incredibly good at this. Just don’t come afterwards and say, “I wish you’d gotten a picture of ...” They can’t make time go backwards.
When you get drunk you’re going to look drunk.
Make sure all of your keeper event pictures are taken before this happens. There is not a “remove drunkness” action in PhotoShop. (though I’m quite certain Kevin Kubota or some other PhotoShop genius just sprang into action to create one).
If pictures are important to you, make sure you think about that ahead of time.
There are a lot of things you can do to make your pictures better. Think about just a few of these ahead of time and you’re paving a path to success.
Make sure the halls have just a little light. Modern professional cameras need surprisingly little. But contrary to popular belief they can’t actually see in the dark. Making sure there is just a little light saves them from having to use strobes a lot.
Check with the church. Different churches have different rules. You don’t want to be surprised when the pastor won’t let you take pictures during the ceremony. It isn’t your photographers job to know this (though many will) and it isn’t their fault when they can’t. If this is the church’s policy and you want pictures of the ceremony you may need to move it to a different church. You get my point. It’s just better to know.
These dresses are really tight. Perfect. They’re going to look great on everyone? If not, perhaps a slightly less form fitting dress, or a dress that has shoulders or straps would be a good idea. (or a wrap). No amount of photoshop can make the uncomfortable slightly heavier bridesmaid look like the size two next to her.
If you’re chewing gum we’re going to see it. By all means, make sure your breath is fresh. Have a mint. Chew gum for a minute or two. When it’s time to take pictures we’re going to see it tucked down in your between you cheek and your teeth. (Trust me, it’s green, we’ll see it).
Leave your cigarettes in your purse. The square bulge under your left breast in the bodice of your beautiful white gown isn’t flattering. Come to think of it neither is the wad of cash.
As you can see there are a bunch of things you can do to help your photographer make you look great. Most of these may seem like common sense, but I’ll tell you right now that I have seen pictures and heard stories of ALL of these things happening on numerous occasions. You can make the difference between something great and something average. Give your photographer just a little help and the work they’ll do will thrill you. I know. I see it too!
(as with all of these posts, this is free for photographers to use however you see fit. If there is a topic you’d like me to address, just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get right on it).