Jennifer and Matthew had their ceremony at White House Chapel in Warren. As always White House runs a great wedding. We shot around the chapel and then went to the reception venue River Crest in Rochester.
One of the last major parts of the planning conversation is a discussion about your most important images and the kinds and style of images you like. The day can be broken down into the follow photography groups. Pre – ceremony, Ceremony, Formals, Bridal Party, Romantics and Reception. In previous and following posts I have discussed the shot list for a few of the groups above. This post refers primarily to the Bridal Party and Romantics. Some of the conversation covers the Pre-ceremong and dancing photos.
Bridal Party photography is the group of shots, almost alway informal, of most of the bridal party. This often involves trips on party buses and is not often suitable for the little people. I plan to get at least 2 group shots. I look for situation where the group is spread out all standing at the same level and then move the couple in and out. I also look for a situation where there is some elevation change and I can stack people vertically, church step, stone walls and hills are some examples. Time and situation permitting I do addition shot of guys the guys and then shots of just the girls. I alway ask the party to get into amore relaxed pose. The guys can have their jackets open or off, the girls may be holding the flowers down and there is a lot of leaning and some sitting.
Romantics are the group of shot of just the bride and groom. We will have discussed images for an album cover and the cover often comes for these shots. I look for situations where the lighting, location and background are all pleasing and complementary to the couple. I then shoot from close up to far away when ever possible.
During our planning conversation I ask the couple about their thought and wished for these shots. I find a Pinterest board or a PDF of favorite shots clearly indicate what the couple wants. When looking at the shots I ask which are must haves and which shots would be nice to have. I also ask what specifically the couple likes about particular shots. It might be the pose, the way he is looking at her, the depth of field, the lighting or any other aspect of the shot. I won’t claim to try and duplicate a shot but will use the shot as inspiration for our own version.
I will also ask what are the most important shot(s) of the day. Some couple don’t know or have not come up with anything yet. No problem. Let me know when you do and if you don’t have any preconceived ideas, I have plenty to get us through the day.
I should also address here the typical shots conversation. It is way better to discuss all the shots you want with you photographer before, than to receive all your photography and realize you are missing shots important to you. I have shot hundreds of weddings and I’m familiar with what most couple want, but I don’t know for sure the shots YOU want. There is no conversation too detailed if it ensures you are getting all you want and expect in wedding photography.
The next big part of the Planning Conversation is to script out the Formals. These are the lined up, standing straight, well, formal shots of the day. The Formals are typically done at the church alter or at the place where the bride and groom stood for the ceremony. They can be shot anywhere.
My interpretation is that the bride and groom are in all the shots (except just the bride at the end). It is common for the bride or groom to step down occasionally for an “all girls shot” or “Dad and brothers”. I have developed a script for the Formals and I like to build it during the conversation with the couple, checking off their shot from their list as we go.
First shot. Do you want a shot with your priest or pastor?
Then we start with the bride’s family. A bit about family group shots. When both sets of parents are there and there are not any step parent are the simplest shots to plan. Having one or more step parents complicates the shot list, and it is all just planning, been there, done this, we will get it done. There are families where some members do not get along, let me know, I have alway been able to make it work. No fist fights to date.
A couple more things about the Formal part of the day. This part of the day can often get hurried due to schedule or other timing issues. There are a lot of people standing around that don’t know where to go and when not to go there. The couple may have told “Uncle Joe” to wait and he left, or one the bridesmaids has stepped out and cannot be found. It happens, we work with those that are there, send one person to find anyone missing and plan to shoot later in the day if people have left. As I finish each family section I will approach the couple and ask if there is any additional shot they want. Maybe a long lost cousin is at the ceremony and you want a shot, please ask, be glad to. The opposite may also happen. ”Aunt Sue” want a shot with the couple and her family and the shot is not on the list. If I’m certain the couple would like the shot, up they go, shoot away. If I’m not certain I will look to the bride and if she gives me “The Look”, I politely tell the person we cannot do that shot at this time, could we possibly do it later? I don’t want the person to be upset with the bride at all and have not problem being the bad guy.
Back to the shot list
I start with the bride’s parents, add siblings, add siblings’ family, add grandparents and then just the couple with each grandparent set. We then shoot the couple with both sets of parents. Then it is the same family groupings for the groom’s side. After all family shots I shoot what I call the Bridal set. Bride and groom with just the girls, just the guys, girls and guys, girls and guys and little people, just little people, just the bride and groom, just the bride.
In the end, I have a shorthand list of all the requested Formal shots. Below is a typical list. I have multiple printed copies of the list and I have the document on my phone.
BG B M&D
+ 1 bro, 2 sis
+1 wife, 1husb, 3kids
+ Gma, Gma&Gpa
BG G M&D
+ 1 bro, 1 sis
+ 1husb, 2kids
+ Gma, Gpa
After you and your photographer have agreed to work together, the photographer will plan a conversation to review all the details. I like to have a real brief conversation at our first meeting just to get a sense for the day. When is the ceremony? When is dinner? How much time is there? If we see any timing that looks troublesome, we can have additional conversations.
On the One Month planning conversation, I have many very specific details I need to get and I also want to listen to your thought wishes and needs for the day. After a discussion on the day in general, I get into specifics.
I start with the schedule for the day. Typically there are 2 times that cannot be moved, the ceremony and when dinner is served. Once we have the ceremony start time, I’ll ask about the length of the ceremony and what events happen. I’ll then ask if you want to photograph the Formals after the ceremony. This gives me a time we will be done at the ceremony. I then ask what time dinner is planned to be served. I like to be finished with all the Bridal Party and Romantics photography and be at the reception 30 minutes before serving dinner. This gives the Bridal Party time to get a refreshment, gives the DJ time to organize the Party and leaves 15 minutes for announcing the party, cutting the cake and toasts.
Once we know what time we can leave the ceremony and what time we need to be at the reception, we know how much time we have for Bridal Party and Romantics. We can than plan how much drive time and how many locations we can do.
I then look at the timing after dinner. I conservatively schedule 90 minute for dinner for the dancing to start. The DJ will then coordinate the formal dancing and gets the party started. Typically the garter and bouquet toss come after the guest have danced some. I find we have enough images of people dancing and partying about 90 minutes after the dancing starts.
I then look to the beginning of the day. Typically I like to start about 2 hours before the ceremony.
That is pretty much the scheduling conversation. I review the schedule with the couple the week of the wedding and do everything in my power to keep the couple on time, letting them know as the day goes whether we are on behind or ahead of schedule. Because I like to build a conservative schedule, I find most of the day runs ahead of schedule.
Part 2 – The Fomals Shot list
4 tips to choose your best wedding photographer
Choosing the best wedding photographer for you is one of your most important decisions for your big day. Your photographer will be the primary source for remembering you wedding in the future. Experienced wedding photographers can even help you plan your day to make your wedding run more smoothly.
The four step to choosing your photographer are Images, Professional, Budget and Personality.
Images – Do you like the look of their images? For most people, the quality of the wedding images are very important, for some, just recording the event is enough. Look through the prospective photographer’s work. The website is a good place to start, that is where a photographer puts only the best images from their best weddings. Look at the albums of past weddings, and even ask to see some recent complete weddings.
Professional – Is your photographer a professional? Photographers get one chance to capture a wedding. Are they ready for the day? Are they ready when things go wrong? It is not if equipment will break it is when. While you may not need to know exactly which camera the photographer uses, it is good to know that they have backups. What if the church is very dark, or it rains? A professional photographer has the equipment and experience to deal with changes.
Budget – Is the photographer’s offer within your budget? Photography is a creative service and is difficult to price, so pricing varies widely. A national industry standard is photography is 15% to 20% of the wedding budget. Ask what is included in the offer and what is an additional cost. Get it in writing. Is there a limited amount of hours, how much is additional hours, engagement session included, proof books, online ordering, reproduction rights/DVD, album, additional photographer, additional prints. Another consideration is when you will see your images and prints.
Personality – Can you see yourself spending the majority of one of your most important days with this person? At least have an extended conversation with your photographer. Better yet meet them. An engagement session is a great time to work together and get to know each other.
Hopefully this outline has helped you to come to a decision and pick the perfect photographer to capture your perfect day.
We had a great day for Heather and Jim’s fall engagement for their 2013 fall wedding. We went to Stoney Creek Metropark in Shelby Township. I find engagement sessions a great time for the couple and photographer to get to know each other and to build a working relationship. I think Heather and Jim are very natural, obviously care about each other very much and don’t mind showing it.