Guest post by Chris & Allie Bartelski of The Reason Photography:
Photographing the couple portraits is, hands down, our favorite part of a wedding. That being said, there’s a lot to think about before getting started, and not everything is under your control. Here are four potential hurdles that photographers may have to overcome when shooting wedding portraits, and some of our best strategies for making it all work out perfectly - for both you AND your clients:
1. “Rain, rain go away…”
The weather: It’s one of the few things you simply can’t plan for ahead of time. You should absolutely always have a backup plan in place before you need one.
So what are your options?
(a) Take pictures outside, in the rain, with a wet bride (good luck with that!).
(b) Take pictures inside, and deliver images that look nothing like the ones in your portfolio.
Option B isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you can’t expect to have a completely satisfied client. Imagine you go to your favorite pizza place and order your favorite pizza with all of your favorite toppings. 15 minutes later, the waiter brings you the most delicious bowl of clam chowder. Would you be happy?
Sure, the soup was incredible, but it wasn’t what you ordered, nor was it what you expected. If your portfolio is mainly golden hour outdoor shots (as ours are), then chances are, that’s what the client hired you for. So with that in mind, I believe the next two options are the only way to go:
(c) Find a pocket of time when the rain stops (as is usually the case during most rainy days) and run out ASAP to get what you need. At least you’ll know the lighting will be nice if it’s overcast.
(d) Tell the bride you will come back another day (tomorrow, a week, or a month) after the wedding and that you'll retake the couple portraits when the weather is cooperating. We’ve made this a standard policy and will even mention it (if the client asks about rain) when the client initially inquires with us.
You’d be surprised what a selling point peace of mind can be.
Not only does this make you seem like a hero, you also get to be certain that the client will get what they hired you for. If, on a wedding day, you can take the weather-related stress away from the couple and their family, you’ll ensure that their feelings of stress doesn’t come out in the rest of their photos.
Besides the romantic couple portraits, any other wedding photo will simply look more romantic and unique with a little bit of rain. Wedding photography has two parts: portraits and candids. In the worst case scenario, portraits can always be done another time. Candids (the real wedding) only happens once.
2. “Did the venue aerate the lawn?”
Make sure to reach out to your client before the wedding day and talk about shoes. Heck, think about your own shoes too. I know everyone wants to be stylish, but walking in heels on grass isn’t a good idea for anyone. I know this seems like a really simple thing, but asking the bride to bring some flats to walk around in makes her life (and yours) a lot easier.
I believe this is where the real value of the engagement session comes into play - for both the client and the photographer. If you have the chance to walk the couple through how, where, and when you shoot during the engagement session, some of these problems can be smoothed out before the wedding day.
A bride who wore heels during the engagement session (and then struggled to walk around) is going to remember, or at least be more receptive, to the suggestion of bringing better walking shoes.
So much of portrait photography is making the client feel comfortable. So sensible shoes (of which they can change in an out) is one simple logistical problem to solve, but it doesn’t end there. Think about how you like to shoot, then put yourself in the client’s shoes. Remember: They haven’t done this before.
Maybe the venue is huge, and you should arrange for a car or golf cart to drive you around. Is it a hot day? Pack some ice cold water for the bride and groom. Empathy is the key to keeping a client happy and genuinely smiling.
3. “How am I going to get the bride and groom outside during the golden hour?”
The last hour or two before sunset is, put quite simply, MONEY. If you’re lucky, the schedule has been perfectly aligned to make sure the magical couple shots happen at exactly the right time…but that's only if you’re lucky.
It is crucial for us to have an honest conversation with our clients during the planning stages about the importance of the golden hour. If they chose us based on our online portfolio, then they made their decision based on a lot of golden hour photos.
I urge all photographers to make their case early in the planning stages to ensure they have the ability to capture images in the type of light the client hired them for. Sure, this can’t always be done, but any effort in that direction will do nothing but benefit you and the client.
That being said, not all photos need to be taken at golden hour. For us, we really only care about taking a portion of the couple shots during this time. Photos of the family, the wedding party, and even some of the couple shots can be composed in any light, but your goal should always be to give your client images consistent with your portfolio.
To keep the day moving (and to not tax the rest of the vendors), the best time for a few “extra” photos (these are usually are the money shots) is when everyone else is eating. Where we live and work, this is usually the right time to take amazing pictures.
The bar is open, the guests are eating, and you can control exactly when you want to go outside to take a few more photos. Just ask for a 5-10 minute mini-session in the usual one-hour window allotted for eating.
If it’s better to start right after dinner is served, then go right ahead. If the sunset isn’t quite there yet, hold off for a while. A big thing to remember here: Communication with the wedding coordinator is key. All vendors want the best possible photos to promote their business, so everyone’s usually on board.
4. “How can I help make today perfect for this couple?"
Wedding photography has become a big deal over the last two decades - a much bigger deal than I imagine it used to be. The rise of Instagram, wedding magazines, blogs, et cetera has only increased our clients’ exposure to great photography. Their expectations are high.
And this is why they hired you. You’re a great photographer. How do I know you are a great photographer? Well you got hired, didn’t you? They must love something you’ve done.
You’re talented. You’re an artist. These are all great things, but in my opinion, so many wedding photographers can benefit from a shift in perspective before heading into the wedding day.
Think about it: We are in the service industry. We are here to serve. I believe it’s hugely important to always remember that the client comes first. It’s their day, and our “performance” is all about the way we posture ourselves the day of.
Through that lens, our only goal shouldn’t be to just get great photos, because great photos with bad memories behind them aren’t going to be good photos in the eyes of the client. If you take an insane amount of time to set up one amazing shot, fumble with equipment you don’t know, or let people stand around without something to do, it really doesn’t matter how good your photos are; the client probably won’t recommend you to their friends or family in the future.
Make sure to check yourself throughout the day and make sure you are not making the day about you or your portfolio. It’s someone’s wedding, not a styled shoot. Great photos are a big deal, but taking them shouldn’t be.
Below are some quick things to consider to help make picture taking efficient and painless for your clients:
- Know your equipment. A wedding is not the time or place to experiment.
- Communicate early in the planning process about scheduling with both the client and wedding coordinator.
- Stick to the timeline to avoid being the reason why anyone is late.
- Consider hiring a second shooter (if you don’t already shoot with an extra photographer).
- A wedding is also your audition in front of every bridesmaid/groomsmen who has yet to get engaged. If you can get great photos, keep it short and fun, and then send them to the bar or to go get food, you’ll have clients for years to come.