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As wedding photographers, we love to think photography is the most important element of a bride and groom’s wedding day. Surely they want fabulous wedding photography, so certainly they will give us all the time in the world to create beautiful images.
But it doesn’t really work that way. Weddings are busy. Often you are scrambling to get all the images you need really quickly, leaving no time for the fun, romantic images you really want to create for the couple. Worse yet, someone springs a pose list on you that you weren’t expecting, or changes the location everyone is meeting for family portraits.
The easiest way to make sure you have enough time for all the photographs you want to create on the wedding day, is to know how much time you need and to be prepared.
Depending on their style and process, every photographer needs a different amount of time to take photographs at a wedding. As well every wedding is different, with unique locations, bridal parties, and families.
If you are not certain how long it takes you to create the images you need, time yourself. When you know your own process, you will be better able to help the bride and groom accurately schedule enough time for all the photographs.
Can you travel to the beautiful park the couple wants to use for photographs between the ceremony and reception? Or did they forget to allow for the time it actually takes to drive there? Do you need 20 minutes to photograph the family, or is it really more like 45 minutes when you include the set up of lighting equipment?
Look for open pockets of time in their schedule during the day. You may not get all the photography time together in one block, but when you know how long you need for each session, you can schedule it to work within the couple’s timeline.
Have a pre-wedding consultation. A final consultation one to two weeks before the wedding is a perfect time to go over details. Discussing the timeline with the bride and groom before the wedding will let you see where photography will best fit into the day. It will also help them see how much time you need to do your job well. This is close enough to the big day that they should know all the details, yet far enough out that they can tweak schedules, if need be.
Ask about other wedding vendors. Find out how everyone from the florist to the caterer will also fit into the couple’s day. The follow questions may help you:
Knowing when the other professionals need the attention of the bride and groom will help you know when it’s your turn.
Plan for family portraits. Many photographers balk at the “dreaded pose list,” but capturing family photographs is an important part of wedding photography. To make the process of organizing family portraits easier, find out who’s in the their families, and what groupings are important to the couple. When you set the time for the wedding photographs, have the bride and groom inform everyone of the timeline, so they will be ready when it’s time to start.
Remember to add in travel time. Often the ceremony and reception are in different locations, and sometimes the couple likes to stop off at a third spot just for photographs. Make sure to add in the time that it will take to drive to these places into the schedule.
Know the sunset time. Whether you want to make sure you have enough light for evening portraits or for sunset images, knowing beforehand when sunset is that day, lets you plan accordingly.
Pre-scout your locations. Go to the wedding venues a day or two beforehand, to look over the locations for possible photography backdrops. If you can’t scout before the wedding day, plan to arrive early at the venues to find the spots you will use for photography.
Have the bridal details lined up beforehand. Let the bride and groom know if you’ll want to photograph cufflinks, rings, shoes, jewelry, and such details before they get dressed. Having these together and ready saves time.
Consider a “first look.” If your time between ceremony and reception is tight, it can be hard to get all the photographs done. Allowing a special moment for the bride and groom to see each other for the first time at the beginning of the day, can open the couple up to the idea of doing photographs before the ceremony.
Know how to pose people. Brides and grooms are usually not experienced at posing themselves for photographs. If they aren’t sure how they look, it can take longer for them to get comfortable in front of the camera. When you already have a variety of flattering poses in mind, you are able to quickly move through the session.
Avoid backtracking. Whether you need to set up lighting equipment, gather family for portraits, or go to a cool location with the couple and the whole wedding party, do it only once. When you consolidate, you save time and hassle for everyone.
For example, it’s much easier to ask grandparents, or small nieces and nephews, to attend just one photography session on the wedding day. Pick a time when both the bride and groom will be ready for photographs, and plan to do all the different combinations you need to do at once. There’s no need to ask Grandma to arrive two hours before the ceremony for one photograph, if she needs to stick around after the ceremony for one more.
When the couple does a “first look,” before the ceremony, it can work well to take all the family portraits at that time as well. Otherwise, immediately after the ceremony is a good time to do them, before people wander off to the reception and start mingling.
Work down from the biggest groups to the smallest groups. When you have large, extended family photographs to organize, get those done first. It allows people that only need to be present for one or two photographs to leave, letting you focus on the smaller groups with less chaos.
When you look at all the elements that go into the schedule on the wedding day, you can be prepared. When the bride and groom see how the photography fits into their schedule, they can make sure they have allowed enough time for you to do your job.
Do you have other tips to add? How do you carve out enough time for photographs on the wedding day?
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