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WEDDING PARTY ROLES

While wedding party stereotypes still exist, most people realize there’s more to being a bridesmaid than looking beautiful, more to being a groomsman than adding life and excitement to the reception party. But even the bride and groom might not fully understand just how helpful these roles can be, long after the train is bustled and the speeches given. With a little direction (and not that much effort), members of the wedding party can facilitate great wedding photojournalism—a favor that will elicit enduring gratitude every time you look at the wedding pictures.

WPJA award winners offer some insight on this matter:

INTRODUCE YOUR WEDDING PHOTOJOURNALIST

Don’t assume that everyone in your bridal party understands wedding photojournalism. And it’s not your wedding photojournalist’s job to spend the day educating everyone. You have picked (and paid) your wedding photojournalist for his documentary style and creative eye, so you don’t want him fielding too many special (cheesy and posed) requests from your wedding party—taking away time from the natural moments you hired him to capture.

WPJA award winner David Crane, who has had mostly positive experiences with wedding parties, attributes his good fortune to working closely with the bride and groom before the wedding day, so they understand how he works. “The bride and groom have paved the way for me to do my job,” says Crane. “They have briefed their family and friends as to how I will be working throughout the day and what to expect from me.”

Introduce the photojournalist, and if needed, give a short description of how he works. Tell them that he takes candid photographs. The goal is that the interactions between the photographer and your guests are positive through and through. And if you answer all of their questions ahead of time, there will be no need for the photojournalist to spend any energy on anything but his work.

In many cases when people see the wedding photographer, they will give their best “I’m having a fabulous time” pose for the camera. The guests may think they’re doing him a favor. But they can interfere with the journalistic style of a wedding photojournalist. Letting the guests know beforehand to simply go about the day as though he was not there is excellent advice. It’ll help your photographer capture those special, natural moments.

WHAT NOT TO DO

When you’re briefing your wedding party about the philosophy of wedding photojournalism, it’s crucial to include a list of things not to do, so your wedding photojournalist can get the best possible photos.

The list of what not to do can be long and exhausting. Keep it simple and to the point. For instance, when your guests see the camera pointed at them, ask them not to grab all of their friends for a group photograph. While fun and entertaining in the moment, these posed pictures do not make for great photography.

Another thing that can completely ruin an excellent image is when a person makes it clear by the look on his face that he does not want the picture taken. Maybe it’s annoyance or disgust that he is projecting towards the camera. Whatever it is, it can nearly shatter a lens, if not the photographer’s patience.

For many people, a camera in a room can either be a source of anxiety or great excitement, as though their opportunity to shine has arrived. Either they hide from it or they “perform” for it. Whichever direction they take results in bad photography. When you’re wedding party is instructed to pay no mind to the photojournalist, it takes the pressure off them. They don’t have to do anything.

The wedding party should also understand when it’s appropriate—and even more often, when it’s not—to give your wedding photojournalist direction.

There are those guests who helpfully direct him to a photo-worthy event that is taking place on the other side of the room. Maybe it’s a song that’s being sung by the groom to the bride or an impromptu speech that a family member is giving. On the other hand, there are those individuals who feel free to give artistic direction to the photojournalist. They can easily get in the way.

While the photojournalist is observing his surroundings, he becomes inspired. He develops a vision for what he wants to capture. With camera in hand, he attempts to bring his vision to fruition. He shoots away. And then he gets a tap on his shoulder. It’s one of the members of the wedding party, informing him that he needs to get a picture of the bride falling into the groom’s arms. This can be more than a bit distracting.

Help your wedding party understand the difference between direction and friendly forewarning—especially when a memorable and unplanned scene is unfolding across the room and the wedding photojournalist is immersed in another (maybe not as important) photo.

“I have gotten some fantastic shots because family and friends of the bride and groom have given me a heads up about a situation that they know is going to occur. With the popularity of wedding photojournalism growing, my ‘job’ has become much easier,” says Crane.

GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND

An obvious task for wedding party members is making sure everyone is where they should be for group photos. “When important people are missing from such shots, I have to spend much of my time during the rest of the day rounding up the missing people for the group shots, which the couple wanted, sometimes missing great “moments” to do so,” says Crane.

This is not how you want your photojournalist to spend his (and your) valuable time. In order to avoid this situation, it’s a good idea to give the wedding party a schedule of the group photo session ahead of time. This can be something as small as an index card or it can be an email that details when and where they need to be for the group photos. As a backup plan, appoint someone who is familiar with the members of the family and wedding party. This individual will keep track of where everyone is when it’s time to take pictures. They will herd them together and you can simply smile for the camera.

Ideally, a couple of people in the wedding party help to keep the group photos under control. But it’s often the case in which the wedding photographer is spending too much of his time trying to get members of the group to stop talking, stand in the right place, smile at the right time. The B&G usually try to take over. And by the time the picture is taken, the two of them look as stressed as ever. To avoid this scenario, make sure everyone in the wedding party knows in advance when and where the pictures will be taken. Most importantly give an approximation of how long it should take.

As the night progresses, ask one or two members of your wedding party to check in on your photographer from time to time. Water, dinner, questions, administrative needs (like handing over any checks, or requesting additional time), so you’re free to enjoy your wedding. You might even want to encourage your wedding party to invite the photographer into semi-private moments or unique settings throughout the wedding and reception. Often these gestures do something even more important than the obvious: they make your wedding photojournalist feel welcome.

—by Meghan McEwen and Lauren Ragland for the Wedding Photojournalist Association