I was prompted to write this article after seeing a distressed bride complaining about their wedding photographer on http://www.hitched.com. It was so sad to hear how distraught she was, so I thought I'd explain some of the things I do to avoid ruining your wedding and put your mind at rest...
I speak with the client
It makes your skin crawl when a photographer asks a wedding couple to do something silly when they want something more traditional. Similarly a client who wants something a little more fun or even crazy might be bored with a traditional approach.
I meet every client before they hire me. I want to know what style you do and don't like and what you've seen before that you'd like to try. I want to know what's most important to you about your wedding photographs and who the most important people are in your wedding party.
When I know what you want it helps things go so much more smoothly and quickly on the big day as everyone understands what's happening.
Engagement sessions are a great way to get comfortable with your photographer and get used to what photographs you do and don’t like.
Scout the venue(s)
If your wedding venues are local I generally scout it with the bride and groom about a month before the wedding. Even if I've been there before, I still do it because things change at venues all the time and every wedding is different.
If your wedding is further away then I’ll always arrive well before the time I’m scheduled to take photographs so I can get prepared.
I’ll discuss things like where the group and romantic photographs will be taken and thrash out the finer details of the schedule.
I create a plan A, B and C.
Plan A is if it's sunny and there's harsh light that will create nasty shadows and squinting if I don't position people correctly. I tend to photograph people in the shade or with the sun behind them so they’re not squinting and getting nasty harsh light and shows on their faces.
Plan B is for a cloudy day. When it's cloudy I have more options because there are no harsh shadows and if I face people towards where the sun would be they won't be squinting - in fact their eyes will sparkle beautifully.
Plan C is for rain. I'm looking for undercover archways and winding staircases so I can photograph large groups of people while keeping them sheltered from the rain. I also bring a step ladder so I can see everyone in the group - even the shy ones lurking at the back.
How I visualise photographs before I've created them
When I'm on my scouting mission I'm looking for very specific things that will help me create the best photographs possible. Firstly I want to see where the light is coming from. Great lighting is the cornerstone of a beautiful photograph. Window light is always stunning. I'm looking for trees that will provide shade and if they have over hanging branches to frame the photograph then that's even better.
I look for things that will create depth to the photographs. Something as simple as a winding pathway or a fence that leads your eye into the photograph will give the image a three dimensional feel.
Textured backgrounds work really well too.
I've asked couples to stand next to a rusty old gate or even a porta-cabin because the texture and lines work well in photography. It can raise an eyebrow or two at times. However, we've often discussed the idea in our scouting mission anyway so it's rare I'm looked at like I'm completely bonkers!
On my mobile I have a big wedding photography mood-board containing loads of different styles.
On the scouting mission I get the couple to remove the photographs they don’t like which leaves me with everything they do like. I also store shots of all the different locations I intend to use.
On the wedding day I then match the poses, styles and ideas along with the locations and BOOM we've got great images quickly and easily.
You’re relaxed because you know what's happening and I get the photographs done more quickly so you can go back to enjoying your wedding.
I love life
I'm not sure how else to explain this X-factor part of the photographic process. I like people and the beauty that's all around us. I mentioned that rusty old gate earlier. But it's not just a rusty old gate, it's a collage of texture and colour. Anything can look beautiful in the right light and with the right composition.
As a wedding photographer I get to see families laughing and crying together - it's a privilege and a pleasure.
When you love life you see the beauty in it. Similarly, if you're a sour-faced misery then you'll struggle to create great wedding photographs.
We've all heard stories about the wedding photographer who shouted at the kids to get out of the way, or the one who got angry because half the guests were taking photographs over their shoulder. Don't worry, I'm not precious and I'm only a small chap, so I couldn’t look threatening if I tried. By the way that’s NOT me below (although I’m not much bigger!).
I did give him one of my cameras so I could create this shot though.