Weddings are filled with love, laughter, and a lot of pressure. Brides and grooms put a lot of thought into every detail of their day and even the most perfectly planned wedding can encounter problems that can affect you, the photographer. There are no two weddings alike, however, there are common setbacks that can happen at any wedding or event that you may be photographing.
1. Running short on time
The photography timeline is set out so that everyone involved can stick to a schedule. That allows all of the important details and people to be photographed. Unfortunately, running late or short on time because of any reason can be a cause of stress to everyone involved.
If you are caught with less time, the first thing you should do is to assure your client that everything is okay and these setbacks are really common on the wedding day. Make sure that you mention you can make up time later and offer suggestions to the problem.
For example, if the bride has taken a little longer than was originally planned to get ready and now you only have 10 minutes for family photos, suggest to the bride that you can snap a few in that 10-minute window and also after the ceremony.
If you are waiting for someone to arrive for photos, make use of the time and photograph details, other people with the bride and groom, individual photos, or more photojournalistic photos. It’s important to keep taking photos no matter the setback, this will keep the bride and groom calm knowing that you aren’t missing any detail and it can distract from the problem.
Usually, you can make up the time later and get the photos you need either during cocktail hour or during the reception. You can photograph details, portraits, and even get some interesting lighting using flash during the reception.
2. Having too much downtime
It is rare to have downtime when photographing a wedding but it can happen. Having downtime usually occurs during the getting ready phase, waiting for the bridal party, or reception parts of the day. It’s okay to have downtime, however, there is nothing worse than seeing vendors, especially photographers, sitting down and waiting it out during these times.
Sure, it’s perfectly fine to use this time to go to the bathroom or take a snack break. Your break just shouldn’t be more than 10 minutes.
Make sure to use the downtime wisely. Prep for the next round of photos, check batteries or set up off-camera lighting. You can also do test shot in the next location where you’ll be photographing.
Even though you’re waiting for the next event to come, never stop photographing any and all of the little details. In short: there is always something to photograph and do while you’re waiting.
3. The bride is full of emotions
I will not use the term “bridezilla” because I don’t believe it’s fair to the bride. Wedding days are high pressured days and brides are usually nervous and full of emotions before walking down the aisle.
It doesn’t matter if the couple is doing a first look or are getting ready in the same room, some brides are more nervous than others.
If this is the case, don’t mention anything! Even if the bride is nervous, anxious, or even angry, just redirect the focus on something else like her dress or that she looks beautiful. Reassure her that everything will be okay and tell her to just enjoy the moment now.
As the photographer, it’s your responsibility to help the bride relax and feel very natural as the day unfolds. Always keep a positive attitude and try to transmit that same vibe to the bride and groom. If they feel like you are there for them, it will make all the difference in the photos. If you’re excited about the wedding, then they’ll be excited.
4. Family telling you how to do your job
Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been photographing weddings, you will encounter a family member or friend who wants to tell you how to do your job at least once.
When you encounter this type of setback, don’t make any negative or sarcastic remarks. Thank them for the idea they offered and move on. You can also comment that you’ve been photographing weddings for X number of years and are experienced in taking photos. Better yet, just go along with what they are saying and don’t say anything in return.
If they are asking for a particular photo, take the photo. If you already have, kindly let them know that you got the shot earlier in the day. This will keep them at bay knowing that you are taking all of the most meaningful photos.
At the end of the day, the guests will remember you more than you realize and if you make snarky or sarcastic remarks it may result in a negative view of your professionalism. You are there to photograph your bride’s day and that also means tending to the requests of her guests (they’re well-meaning).
5. When there is no planner or coordinator
If the couple has opted to not have a planner or coordinator, it is up to you to make sure to assist the couple during the wedding day.
Technically it isn’t your responsibility, however, helping with putting on boutonnieres, adjusting centerpieces, and placing the veil will always help you to capture the best photos possible.
Work with your couple before the wedding to make a schedule of the most important parts of the day that you’ll be covering. This way, everyone knows what time the family photos are happening, what time the dance starts, and what time you’ll be photographing the dress. Knowing when and where all the events will take place will give your couples peace of mind.
Having a schedule, or itinerary, will also help to move things around. For example, if the bride is late for her bridal party photos, you can take photos of the people who are there so switch to the groom’s family photos.
Photography is service based and as such, you should always strive to give your clients the best service possible. If that means acting as coordinator for the day to capture the best photographs possible, by all means, do it.
You can also have a family member or member of the bridal party to help to coordinate and fix any problems that may come up during the day.
6. Vendor Meals
There is nothing worse than working a wedding and having to eat a vendor meal during dinner. Everyone works differently, yet vendor meals can be a huge setback, especially if it consists of a sandwich and an apple.
You can prepare for this by taking snacks or even a full meal. Pack an icebox or lunch bag with your favorite snacks and perhaps a little something more just in case you will be having a vendor meal.
Try asking the couple if they are okay with you taking an empty seat during the reception or getting in line for the buffet at their event. Most guests won’t mind because, by that time, they will have seen how hard you’ve been working all day. Luckily, most couples now invite their vendors to eat dinner or make sure that they’ve had something substantial.
In any case, take your snacks and water because you’ll need them throughout the day, whether you get a vendor meal or real dinner.
7. Little time with bride and groom
Sometimes, wedding day timelines can get a little compressed leaving less time for the most important photos (next to the ceremony). However, you can create stunning photos of the bride and groom all in one spot without having to move them to different locations.
To achieve this, download 10 of your favorite poses for couples onto your phone and photograph each one from different angles. Take individual photos of the bride and groom, including details of their wardrobe.
When you take advantage of posing in one spot, you can get lots of different photos from different angles in less time. Subtle changes to posing like facing the bride toward the groom and then facing the bride away from the groom can offer more variety.
Using one location can maximize the time you have for photos because moving from one location to another can often waste time. This way you can focus on them and getting great expressions.
For example, pose the couple in front of a plain wall, facing each other, hands around the bouquet. Take one photo of them in this pose full length. Take another mid-shot asking the groom to kiss the bride on the cheek while the bride smiles and looks down at her bouquet; that’s two photos.
In this same pose, get close and take a photo of the kiss. Next, go behind the couple and photograph mid-shot. Still in the same pose, get a close-up of the groom’s hand around the bride’s waist from behind the couple; the makes five photos without moving the couple.
After you have worked through one pose, choose another and work through it until you have all possible photos. This technique will ensure you get the most photos out of each pose in little time, without moving the couple.
Depending on where you live, what time of the year you’re photographing, and weather conditions, it could be that you get hit with rain on the day of the event. If this does happen, maintain a positive outlook and always try to help find solutions to work around the rain.
Change locations for photos. If you were going to do the family photos outside of the church, try moving the family inside the church or better yet, to the reception location. Look for options where you have awnings, covered walkways/breezeways, and inside a home or venue.
You can also take advantage and get creative with the wedding photos. Ask the couple if they are willing to pose in the rain under an umbrella. You might be surprised how many are willing to get something a little different!
9. Drunken guests
It’s not uncommon for wedding guests to want to start the party early. Work with the coordinator or the bride and assign a family member to take care of the drunken guest. If they are part of the family, try and keep them away until it’s time for them to be in photos.
Try as best as you can to be nice and not comment on their state of being. Drawing attention to their behavior can upset the couple more and ruin the time you have for photos. Be really direct in posing and communication and always stay positive.
10. Clashing with the wedding coordinator/planner
Although it is rare when vendors don’t see eye-to-eye during an event, it is really important to stay close to the couple. If you need something particular make sure to run it by the couple first. They have the final say on everything that goes on during the day.
Always maintain a high level of professionalism and make sure that you aren’t seen being rude or speaking rudely to the other vendors. If the clash worsens, tell the bride that you and the coordinator/planner have differences and suggest options to help maintain order.
Communication is key and it’s always best to go to the couple if you experience backlash or trouble with another vendor.
11. Other photographers/weddings at the same portrait location
This is probably the most common setback in the wedding industry. Many couples tend to choose the same locations for the portrait session.
If there are other photographers at the location before you arrive, simply introduce yourself and let them know that you’ll also be photographing a wedding. Ask them if they plan on using another location for photos and if they’d be willing to switch it up after a certain amount of time.
If there are a lot of photographers and events, simply choose a spot at the location that is free of people. Staying clear of other photographers’ background and watching out for people walking into your frame will keep the portraits clean.
12. Guests taking photos during the ceremony
Keep in mind that the wedding guests are an important detail in the couple’s day. Each was given an invitation to share and be a part of the wedding.
Having said that, some guests will take it upon themselves to take photos of the most important parts of the day, namely, the ceremony.
When this does happen, gently tap the guest on the shoulder, with a smile and motion to them that you need the spot in order to take a great photo of the couple. Most guests will move out of the way and not be bothered by this gesture.
This also asserts that you are the main photographer while staying positive and professional with guests. This non-verbal gesture also works with other vendors like videographers.
It’s also a good idea to let the guests take their photos first and then position yourself to take the profession photos afterward. This way, you’re letting guests take and share their own shots but also letting them know that you need to take these important photos as well.
The more photos the couple has of their day, be it from your camera or from their guests, the better. They’ll appreciate you for letting guests enjoy themselves by taking their own photographs.
Wedding photography is the most important take away from a couple’s wedding. However, it is not free from mishaps during the day of the event.
Each wedding can have one or more setback, it’s up to you the photographer to work around them and find solutions quickly. Maintain a positive attitude and always reassure the client that everything is photographing beautiful.
Have you experienced any of these or other setbacks at a wedding you photographed?
Table of contents
- 12 Tips for Overcoming Common Wedding Day Setbacks
- ADVANCED GUIDES
- CREATIVE TECHNIQUES