Do you want to help assure that your wedding photography comes off without a hitch, producing the ultimate in captured moments from your photographer? Do you want the highest level of photographic quality for your money? How about a wedding day remembered as one with maximum joy and smooth logistics?
A little advanced communication and planning with your photographer can go a long way in this regard, smoothing the way for everyone involved—from the wedding party and guests, to the creative pros assisting with the festivities. We’ve asked a few of our top WPJA award winners to weigh in with their own hard-earned advice for enabling optimal wedding day photography.
Smooth sailing starts at the beginning. When hiring your photographer, get the relationship off on the best foot with a discussion of his or her working style and exactly what kind of imagery you’re going to end up with. Even within the genre of wedding photojournalism, there is a range of approaches. The photographer’s own shooting philosophy, as well as a host of other factors relating to the venue, the time of day and the style of the event, can greatly influence the look of your wedding day images and your ultimate satisfaction.
Of course, you should choose your venues according to their beauty and meaning to you as a bride and groom. However, you can make things easier for your photographer, and help assure that your wedding day pictures are the best they can be, by carefully considering each site’s attributes—layout, lighting and overall atmosphere, making sure that you share what you know about the venue with your wedding photojournalist prior to the date.
Keep in mind that natural, ambient light is held in high value by most wedding photojournalists, who prefer to work in environments where backgrounds are illuminated and flash is used in limited amounts. “If you have an option, choose a wedding venue that has more light,” recommends WPJA award winner Karen Gordon. “If there’s direct flash with dark background, that’s not good.”
“We talk to people about that a little bit ahead of time, asking them what they’re doing about ambient light-—not necessarily light that would be actively lighting the subject for us, but just as some background to add interest,” notes WPJA medal recipient Anne Almasy, who works every wedding with her husband Dan, who is also a WPJA member.
The fact is that if your wedding is shot outside in the middle of the day, your photographs will not look the same as those taken inside a dark cathedral. “People really need to look at pictures that were shot in conditions similar to what they’re planning,” Almasy adds.
Almasy combined ambient light and flash in capturing her award-winning photo. “As the bride was about to throw her bouquet, Dan positioned himself in front of her with his flash, which was connected to my pocket wizard transmitter. So when she threw the bouquet, the flash in front of her fired as I took the shot from behind, creating a backlit effect,” she notes.
Access and layout are additional key factors that should be discussed ahead of time with your wedding photojournalist, especially in regard to the ceremony. Most photographers don’t want to be stuck in the back at such a time. They need to have decent access in order to get quality photographs, and they need to be able to move around a little bit if needed. They also need to know exactly where they’re going to need to be in the room in order to get those great shots.
Yet having a photographer moving around during the ceremony may not be a desirable situation for everybody. So again, you need to communicate with your photographer ahead of time, exploring options for assuring the best possible photos.
Also consider speaking with your clergy person or justice of the peace to determine what rules or restrictions might inhibit your photographer’s access, and then negotiate and plan accordingly with all involved. (See “Dealing With Church Photography Restrictions” in this issue.)
When planning your wedding day, be sure to set a realistic schedule, especially if the events are spread out across multiple locations. Whenever possible try to make things closer to each other rather than farther.
Consider the traffic in the area where you’re getting married, and if you’re tying the knot in a place that’s somewhat unfamiliar, talk to someone locally to get a real feel of what it’s like to get around the area, as well as the parking situation. Making your photographers spend all of that time in the car could sap their creative energy, not to mention the quality photography time you might lose while they’re fighting traffic.
“We have had a couple of situations where couples simply did not allow enough time to get from one place to another—from the hotel, to the church and then to the reception site,” Almasy notes. “A lot of people think the only way to get great portraits is to go to the botanical gardens, when in reality, if you just eliminate the stress of traveling there and take the portraits at the hotel, everyone will be much more comfortable.”
However, you can’t account for serendipity. One of those car rides between venues actually resulted in an award-winning photo for Gordon.
Scheduling portrait sessions, or “formals,” is also a fact of life for wedding photojournalists, even if they work in a documentary style. (See “Surviving the Portraits” in the September/October issue of WedPix.) After all, there are shots of certain people that every bride and groom wants to guarantee for posterity. Again, advanced planning is paramount to taking care of these in an efficient manner.
“Really talk to your family before the wedding. Find out what shots your mom and dad are counting on having, and assume they’re getting,” Gordon suggests. “I usually do some formals, because most people expect that. But every now and then they’ll say they don’t want them, or they just want to enjoy the party…but much later someone will say ‘Oh, my mom’s really upset that we didn’t get a picture of me with Aunt Sally,’ and then that causes problems.”
Advise your photographer upfront on what formals you want, and organize your family (maybe with the help of a friend or relative) so that they’re where they’re supposed to be at a certain time. Pick a time and pick a place, and communicate that to all of the family members whom you want photos of that they have to be there. If you’re expecting guests who aren’t particularly fond of one another, for example, divorced parents, inform the photographer in advance as to not create an uncomfortable situation that would be reflected in the photo. If you want to assure that you get photos of elderly family members, or perhaps those with serious health problems, make sure your photographer is informed and can identify them as well.
When at long last the wedding day is upon you, remain flexible. Don’t be so set on the type of photographs you think you want as not to allow inspiration to happen. You may want to shoot in a certain location, and perhaps it will rain or for some other reason will not work out. Trust your experienced wedding photojournalist to improvise, giving him or her the room to get inspired in the moment.
“You could be in front of a red brick wall that doesn’t look like anything special,” notes Gordon. “You might not see the potential, but with a photographer’s eye, I can see that this is exactly where we should shoot.”
— by Michael Roney for the Wedding Photojournalist Association