As a full-time wedding photographer, having spent over 5 years taking wedding photographs in varied locations; I am fascinated by how couples plan and execute weddings to reflect their peculiar lifestyles, honour their parents, nuclear and extended families, and show their love for each other – to be witnessed by their friends and all invited guests. Everyone at this kind of event is comfortable and has maximal fun. It takes a lot to put this kind of event together. Whether the wedding ceremony is at the Intercontinental Hotel Banquet Hall or in the backyard of the bride’s father’s house I believe it should be the most beautiful and memorable day of the couples life. This requires proper planning - not necessarily expensive - and attention to detail. It is my joy to capture the beauty and emotions of such a day and help preserve the celebration for good memories. Proper planning makes the job of a wedding photographer stress-free and I would like to share some thoughts on planning as it relates to capturing moments from your wedding day.
Have a vision:
Sounds like a cliché right? You will be amazed at how many couples I have worked with that tell me, ‘Just take the picture, we’re running late, this part is not important, people are waiting for us!’. They have no specific notion what they want their wedding photos to represent. After the event they return to me with comments like, ‘You didn’t get pictures of my work colleagues and I’ or ‘We don’t have enough pictures of ourselves!’, or ‘my cake designer and decorator got the colour we wanted wrong, it’s supposed to be royal-blue but she made it sky-blue, can you please fix it in Photoshop?’ Wedding Photography is not magic! Beautiful pictures of the couple, the bridal train & party, couples introduction and turn-ups don’t happen by chance. You need to know what you want from your wedding photographer; discuss it with your wedding coordinator; parents, siblings, bridesmaids, groomsmen and obviously the photographer! Try as much as possible to get ready at a hotel and have a room to yourself. If you want to get ready at home, make sure the room is not cluttered, the beds are well made and you have privacy. Make out time for family formal pictures as well as the couple with bridal party pictures after the wedding ceremony. Know what aesthetic value you are looking for in your images as well as the album layout. In the end you will be happy with the all pictures you get.
Find the best wedding photographer within your budget that can bring your vision to reality:
Look for the Wedding Photographer that can meet the aesthetic needs you have. Note, Wedding photography is two pronged; there’s the service part and the product part. The service aspect is the taking of the pictures and the products aspect refers to things like the photo-books, albums, enlargement, frames and other memorabilia on offer. There are thousands of wedding photographers within your locality. Look for a photographer that has a personality that you are comfortable with. Remember it’s your day and you will be spending the day with the photographer. Wedding photographers have different artistic and documenting styles. Ask to see a gallery of past and recent work. Do you like the ‘look and feel’ of the images? Did they do a good job in telling the story of the day? Ask to see the final product - the photo book or album, enlargements and frames. Are the prints quality, do you like the layout, creativity and design styles of the pictures in the photo-book or album, does it reflect your personality, does it look durable? Photo-books come in various sizes, designs/layout styles, look and feel, packaging and also come at different costs so ensure you ask to see samples before you hire the photographer for your day. Same goes for all other memorabilia. It’s pertinent you ensure your wedding gown suits you perfectly. You wouldn’t simply ask your bridal gown designer to bring a dress off the rack, would you? I’m sure you would have it tailored to suit you – just the way you would love it! This same principle applied to wedding photography.
Book your photographer ahead of time:
Book and meet with the photographer to go over your plans and photography vision before the event. Discuss timelines; schedules (in conjunction with wedding coordinator if applicable) that will allow for plenty of time to bring your vision to reality as efficiently as possible. If you have looked for the photographer of your choice based on your style, aesthetic value and budget, you probably know what you will be getting artistically and style wise. However you may have your preferences. Discuss ceremony and reception venues, peculiar family situations (Step-Father/Mother, late Father/Mother etc.), peculiar traditional rites that you want documented, details of your gown, shoes, rings you want captured, details of locations, weather and have a PLAN B in case PLAN A doesn’t work. Inform your Wedding Photographer of specifics you would love captured or not captured from the day for example; sequences on your wedding gown, details of your shoe, ring and other accessories. This is important.
Get one Wedding Photographer for your wedding:
I believe this is every Wedding Photographers nightmare. Arriving at the venue and wondering if you just gate-crashed Kim and Kanye’s wedding with tons of paparazzi, not to talk of numerous well-wishers who want to catch a glimpse of their favourite celebrity couple. At some events you see photographers struggling to capture those moments that should matter the most. You hear the couples photographer trying to exert his dominance saying, ‘I AM THE OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHER!’ and other photographers will give him that look thinking, ‘As if we aren’t official photographers as well’. One thing couples must understand, especially in this part of the world, is that it’s not just their wedding. To their parents, it’s their daughter/son’s wedding; to their siblings, it’s their brother/sister’s wedding, too. These people have their guests and photographs are important to them as well. They might want to hire theirs who will focus on their own guests. I understand this perspective since most of the time the couple’s photographer focuses mostly on the couple. I will advise couples to ask their wedding photographer if he\she can come with his team and brief them on the importance of getting pictures of all guest of parents, siblings etc. This will obviously come at an extra cost. The advantage of this is the photographers won’t get into each others way and those beautiful moments won’t be lost in the process of struggling with other agency photographers. You can get the money that would have been used for other photographers from your parents and siblings and add it up to meet other needs. Also advise your MC to plead with guests to enjoy the ceremony rather than simply trying to take pictures. The truth is most of those pictures don’t get to leave their devices and a picture not shared is as good as a picture not taken.
Trust your photographer:
I believe if you have gone through all the above to get your wedding photographer and you are paying well for it, you must have made the right choice. Trust his/her judgement. Listen to his directions (except in situations where he is asking for something that seems fashionable but not long-lasting). There will be people who think they know how to pose couples better and will always get in the way of the wedding photographer. Tell them to allow the photographer do his job (unless he/she asks for their assistance) after all that is why you have paid handsomely for the service.
Get a planner or coordinator:
This is a very important point. I have been in situations where the bride and groom were tense and worried because their guests were not being taken care of. Guess how their photographs came out? They had long and sad facial expressions and it didn’t look like a celebration. If you can’t afford a professional planner, delegate the authority to a cousin or friend and involve the person in the planning process. They should have met with all your vendors and if possible close family and friends who know your entire guest list. This gives you peace of mind and allows you enjoy the ceremony. This leads to the last point…
Participate in the event:
You might be wondering and saying, ‘of course we will participate!’ Most couples are engrossed with other activities and do not actually participate in the ceremony, especially the reception. Listen to the MC, Chairman of the ceremony, the toast and forget about every other thing. Let the coordinator/planner do the worrying about food, drinks and the guest. Listen to the words and let them touch you. Cry if you want to cry, laugh if you want to laugh and have a great time. During processionals and recessionals, look up, smile and wave to your guest. During couples introduction look up and dance also, encourage your bridal party to dance as well It’s your wedding so participate and enjoy your day!