As a photographer, you’ll find that you wear many hats. Sometimes you’ll be a family therapist, a money manager, a baby sitter, a wedding planner, and a communications specialist. This blog post is going to concentrate on that last hat we often wear, communication specialist. With photographing a wedding, you have to wear this hat at all times, from the first contact with the couple until the images are delivered. If communicating isn’t your strong suit, they research what other photographers do or find some local photographers that will walk you through their process so you don’t feel scared and embarrassed that you don’t know what to say or do at a first meeting with a potential bride.
Collections and Pricing
One of the first things you need to do if you decide to photograph weddings is create your collections and your pricing. Then it’s a good idea to have that printed up and easily available for when a bride (it’s usually the bride that makes contact) calls you up and says she’d like to talk about your wedding collections and what you can do for her. I never seem to store this info in my head, so I keep it in my planner which is always on my desk, by my house phone. I don’t give out my cell phone number until someone is a paid client.
I will give pricing over the phone, but in today’s world of technology, I get most inquiries via email, and that’s how I prefer it. When a potential bride emails me, I try to email them back without giving pricing until my second email with them. Even though they ask for it, I like to email back and get a little bit of information first. Where will the wedding be, when, what style of wedding, how did they meet, how long have they been dating…these types of questions allow you to get to know her as a bride right away and you’re showing interest in her. If it came down to you and another photographer that charged the same, she would most likely choose you if all the other photographer did was a quick email back with the pricing and was straight to the point. When booking a wedding, you are forming a relationship that starts at that very first contact.
Once the bride decided to meet with you and is hopefully ready to sign the contract for their big day, you have to decide how you are going to handle that first meeting. For me, I like to do it at my home so that they get a feel for who I am as a person and not just a photographer. I have large canvas wraps on the wall and a large wall of framed prints of my family when you walk in to my home. Right away, people see that photos are something I treasure and want displayed. Another reason I like meeting with couples at my home is because my son bakes them fresh chocolate chip cookies. No joke! He loves to bake and the house smells so warm and inviting when you have cookies in the oven, who won’t want to sign on the dotted line after a few warm cookies and a small glass of milk!
Once the contracts is signed, it’s usually several months before we see each other. Most of my couples schedule their engagement session when we sign the contract, so there’s that to look forward to. We try to do this session about 3 months prior to the wedding. That way I have time to edit them, send them the files and they can use those pictures for any part of the invitations or reception. It’s important to make sure that you are in contact with the bride about the engagement session. Send her a reminder a few weeks before the scheduled date for the session and make sure to give her ideas on what to wear. I also encourage my couple to bring a change of clothes so they can have a different look.
Timeline and Shotlist
Two weeks before the wedding, I get together with the couple and we go over their timeline and their shot list. Other than your contract with the couple, these are the most important pieces of information you will gather. While the couple is doing a timeline with you, you’ll find that they are also doing this with the DJ. These two timelines have to match. I try to get mine done with the couple before the DJ because there have been too many DJ’s that don’t know how to schedule time for pictures.
HERE IS A SAMPLE TIMELINE FROM A RECENT BRIDE
- 10:00 Girls Arrive at Old Sugar Mill; Hair and make-up begins
- 12:00 Guys arrive
- 1:00 Photographer arrives; photos of girls getting ready, photos of guys getting ready or wine tasting
- 2:30 First Look and Bride/Groom photos in Boiler House; maybe a wine tasting photo, (finish bride and groom photos during cocktail hour)
- 3:00-4:00 Wedding Party Photos
- 4:00 Vendor set-up begins; non-family wedding party goes to help with set-up
- 4:00-5:00 Family Photos
- 5:00-5:30 Photos of wedding party and family helping with set-up or bride/groom photos
- 5:30-6:00 Guests arrive; hide wedding party to freshen up for Ceremony
- 6:00-6:30 Ceremony
- 6:30 All of wedding party heads from aisle straight into boiler house for champagne toasts and pictures; Bryce and Lisa signs marriage license
- 6:30-7:15 Cocktail Hour in courtyard in front of boiler house/Bride and Groom photos; guests fill out top ten cards; wedding party makes sure guests have escort cards, and have signed the wedding tree guest book.
- 7:15 Introductions into reception
- 7:25 Dinner begins
- Read top 10 cards during dinner
- **Sunset pictures
- 8:15 Toast each table
- 8:45 Toasts
- Cake cutting
- First dance
- Father/daughter dance
- Mother/son dance
- Bouquet/garter toss
- 9:15 Dancing Begins
- 10:30 Sparkler send-off
- 11:15 Last dance
- 11:15-11:30 Wedding Party loads up supplies into cars
- 12:00 Afterparty in Old Sac
This bride was the first bride I have ever had that wanted to do all of the photos before the wedding and I have to tell you, it was wonderful! So much less stress after the ceremony and the couple was able to really visit with their guests. The typical timeline needs to include:
- Bride/Groom getting ready
- First Look?
- Cocktail Hour (I usually have the second shooter do this)
- Family Photos
- Wedding Party Photos
- Bride and Groom Photos
- Being Introduced at Reception
- Cake Cutting
- First Dance
- Father/Daughter Dance
- Mother/Son Dance
- Bouquet/Garter Toss
- Dancing Begins
It’s important to remember to get candids and detail shots of everything! I use my second shooter to get photos of the groom getting ready, cocktail hour, different angles at the ceremony, the detail shots and different angles of other activities.
The shot list is a must have. I actually address this in my contract. Each bride MUST provide me with a must have shot list or they are not guaranteed photos of certain people or shots. For example, her grandparents flew all the way here from Japan and they were in the large family photo but she didn’t get a shot of just them with her. She emails me after receiving her gallery and is upset that this photo is missing. I can say with confidence that it wasn’t on the shot list, email a copy back to her of her shot list and sleep well that night. However, if the photo was left off and it was my fault, then I feel horrible and risk bad reviews and no good comes from a sad bride. I also remind brides that if their shot list is full of Pinterest photos, I won’t guarantee any of them. Depending on the light, the venue and the space I have, I may not be able to replicate those shots. Once I am done with each shot, I have my assistant mark it off.
This was my bride’s shot list from the wedding timeline above:
Must-have photo list:
- Bride with each of bridesmaids
- Groom with each of groomsmen
- Bryce and lisa with each parents
- Bryce and lisa with all parents
- Lisa’s side- 6 kids
- Lisa’s side- 8 Nguyens
- Lisa’s side- all Nguyens
- Bryce’s side- Artellan family photo
- Bryce’s side- Geigle family photo
- Both families all together
- Bryce with bridesmaids- carrying him
- Lisa with groomsmen- carrying her
- Bridesmaids and groomsmen
- Flower girls and ring bearer
- Lisa and Bryce with officiant
- Bryce picking lisa up
- Bride and groom holding hands and walking away (backs)
- Funny pictures
- Pictures in different location of Old Sugar Mill
- Bridesmaids first look of bride
- Hubby wife gift exchange
- First look, first dance, parent dances, bouquet and garter, cake cutting, walk down the aisle,
- Soil ceremony, exchange of rings
- Candid shots
- Dancing shots
- Detail shots- venue, outfits, etc.
- Bridesmaids bouquet in vases
- Bridal portrait
- Groom portrait
- Shoe shots
- Dresses- lisa and all bridesmaids
- Girls getting ready
- Boys getting ready
- Wedding party playing corn hole
- Parts of wedding party wine tasting
- Champagne toast of wedding party after the ceremony
- Lisa and Bryce signing marriage license
As you can see, we fulfilled the candids and details from her shot list! This wedding was a dream come true for any photographer. Now that you have all you need to stay organized for the wedding day, we've got a special download for you to help you even more!
Click on the link below to download a 6-page Wedding Detail and Shot List courtesy of Amy from On The Phippside Photography!
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Amy Phipps is the photographer behind On the Phippside Photography, located in Stockton, California. Amy has been married for 21 years and has 4 children. When she’s not trying to decide between which of her 43 black shirts to wear, you can probably find her sipping on a Dr. Pepper and walking around any day of the year in flip flops.
Visit her website.