What do you do when you were hired to do pretty generic coverage of a short daytime event and they ask you to throw in some headshots for their website? After hiding the fact that you don't have the ideal equipment on hand, you discuss usage and payment, and then find the cleanest solid background available near a window. I won't win an award for technical perfection, but for a single light source and one minute of notice, everybody ended up happy.
As the photographers, we want you to get all the amazing pictures you're hoping for on your wedding day. Here are some tips for great wedding pictures that you can use while planning, as well as the day of the wedding to give yourself the best possible chances of getting the pictures you want.
-Know your sun - When planning your ceremony and reception times, do a quick lookup for sunset times that day. Obviously, we'll have lighting to shoot whatever and whenever, but if you specifically want bright, daylight pictures, be sure to plan your schedule accordingly. And while the schedule is usually driven by the ceremony and reception times, try to avoid scheduling outdoor pictures at mid-day. Direct overhead sunlight isn't very flattering, so the closer to sunset the better.
-Know where you are - This is tied in with the "know your sun" advice. We've had multiple times where somebody has sent examples of their favorite type of wedding pictures - say, a bride and groom in a pretty field - and then they tell us that they're getting married downtown. Or they'll say they love gritty urban scenes and are getting married at a plantation. Just keep in mind what's in the area of your wedding locations, and/or build in lots of extra time to go to any out of the way locations to get different looks. Photographers can come close to working magic with lighting and camera angles, but turning a city into a field requires tons of (expensive) Photoshop work.
-Good things take time - We want you to get great pictures and enjoy your reception time to the fullest. Doing as many pictures as possible before the ceremony helps. From the photographer's perspective, first looks are always recommended since they allow for so much more time. If you want those creative, fun shots of you and your bridal party, build in plenty of time. We're happy to help with the schedule.
-Don't be late - Ok, nobody really plans on running late, but it almost always happens because hair and makeup takes a little longer than expected, getting dressed takes a little longer than expected, somebody got lost on the way there, or any one of a million reasons. Picture time is always the first thing to get eaten up when other things run late. Save yourself some stress and make sure you get the pictures you want by allowing more time than you think you need. Worst case when you build in extra time is that you get to relax and hang out with your friends for a few extra minutes. Worst case when you don't build in extra time is that you end up running late for your own wedding.
-Know the rules - Ask your venues about the photography policies. Some venues (ahem...churches) have restrictions and the photographer will work with whatever those limits are. We just don't want you to be surprised when they you only get 10 minutes on the alter for pictures or the photographer can only take pictures through a window across the street.
-Appoint a wrangler - Recruit somebody who knows a lot of the people in the formal pictures to help gather others. Having them help and call out names can make that whole process go faster so we can move on to more fun pictures or you can get to the reception if we did other pictures earlier.
-Smile! You'll probably be doing this all day, but often, such as when walking down the aisle, people forget about faces. It doesn't have to be a big forced smile the whole way down, but look happy! Alternatively - Cry! Emotion is totally cool, just let it out. As long as they're happy tears...
-Make the first kiss last - You don't have to make out, but something more than a quick peck will let you get a couple more pictures. I want to capture the real moment, not recreate it later.
-Give orders - Grab the photographer if you think of more pictures that you want during the reception. Some people say they feel "bossy" when dragging the photographer around to get shots with their guests. It's ok, really. Don't hesitate to grab us for any pictures you want. That's what we're there for.
-Help the photographer - Everybody has a camera and they love to use them at weddings. They love to use them so much that they'll jump into aisles in front of the photographer, so instead of a really nice picture of you walking down the aisle, you get a grainy-blury one from someone's phone, and a beautiful picture of the back of that someone's head. If other people are snapping photos during formals, you end up with people looking in all directions. Some brides go so far as to tell their guests "no cameras," but we don't want that, just for you to help if there's somebody hanging on our backs or jumping in front of us all day. We'll ask people directly first, but if it's really a problem, we'll let you know.
and of course...
-Just be happy! You're getting married!
Past brides - If you have any advice you'd like to add, feel free to send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whenever I talk with somebody about their wedding schedule I ask the question "So are you doing a first look?" Some couples giggle and say "Yes!" Other couples do that thing where they look at each because one person wants to and the other doesn't so they say "we haven't decided yet." Some people just look at me with panic in their eyes like "What is this first look? I've got so many details to plan and I keep discovering more things I need to do and omg, why didn't I go to Vegas?" For those in group one - high five, you're all set. Group two - I don't want to start any arguments, but read on if you want the perspective of somebody who has seen things done both ways a bunch of times. Group three - relax, I'll explain below. And there's still time to go to Vegas, but take me with you. What is a First Look?
Tradition has it that the first time that the bride and groom should see each other on their wedding day is when she appears at the end of the aisle and makes her way toward him. When she makes it to the alter there is literally an unveiling. I'll let you do your own research into all the symbolism behind this... Anyway, after they see one another they might have another hour or more of mass, ceremonial exits, and greeting lines before they (maybe) get a moment to themselves. More than likely, they'll jump right into pictures and then head off to the reception without a break.
A first look is a newer tradition. A private location will be chosen where the groom is taken to wait for his bride. There isn't a room full of people here, just the groom and the photographer (and occasionally videographer or a close friend or two). The bride will walk up behind the groom and tap him on the shoulder so he knows to turn around and see his lady in her gorgeous dress for the first time, and she can see her guy (probably looking cleaner and better dressed than ever before). The beauty of this is that it's just them. There is no ceremony to jump into. No room full of eyes on them. No having to try to focus and repeat words. Just let things happen. Hug, kiss, smile, laugh, cry. This is the best time for it. It's also a great time to exchange personal letters or small gifts. If your wedding is like most, you won't get another private moment until after the reception is over.
In addition to what always turn out to be more intimate moments, there are practical elements to doing a first look. Just listing off a few things -
-You see each other when hair and make up are freshly done.
-It's unscripted, so you get to react and do whatever you want. (Not so much an option in church ceremonies) Hug each other. Do a little "we're getting married dance." Whatever, this is the time for it.
-More time for pictures! Seeing each other before the ceremony allows you to build in more time for some of the great creative portrait shots you're probably hiring me for. We'll also get more time to do the fun and creative pictures with your bridal party.
-You get more time with your friends and family. You've probably got lots of people that have come together for this party that you've spent a ton of time planning. I want you to spend time with them! Besides, if you know that there are a bunch of people enjoying your party without you then you'll probably be distracted and won't take as good of pictures anyway. If we've done pictures beforehand, then you get to spend more time with them and just having fun.
-Did I mention that it's more private? I can't stress enough that between first looks and the more traditional "first look at the ceremony," the private, pre-ceremony interactions tend to be incredibly more genuine and touching. People are simply more "real" when there's nobody watching.
The decision is ultimately up to you. I'll work with whatever you want to do, but since this will come up when we talk, I wanted to put something out there to give you some background on what it is. Be it in private or in front of your friends and family, the first time you see each other will always be great!
Congratulations, you're engaged! Now you get to go out and take some beautiful pictures to commemorate the occasion. When we talk about engagement sessions the one question that comes up about 95% of the time is "What should we wear?" Well, it all depends. My whole philosophy is that I want to capture who YOU are as a couple, so I don't want to pose every joint in your bodies and I certainly don't want to rifle through your closets to dress you. If you want the short answer - Take what you'd normally wear, and find a nice version of that.
Simple enough, right? For most people that's not very helpful at all... I'd give a few basic directions but even those are open to a lot of different interpretations. So, Jenny and I took the liberty of taking my basic recommendations about what to wear and made a few example photos for you. I'm warning you ahead of time, we're not fashion experts, we're not going to tell you what's right and wrong, and we're rather serious about not being serious. You asked, so here are some examples of what to wear and what to avoid.
My basic directions:
Bring two outfits - one casual and one dressy. Wear your favorite one first; we might not get to both.
There's good dressy and bad "dressy."
There's "We're relaxed" casual and then there's "I just pulled this from the bottom of my gym bag" casual.
Colors are good! Unless you're part of a theater's stage crew, I don't encourage wearing all black.
Coordinate, don't match:
Would you wear the exact same color or outfit as your fiance any other time? And no, Halloween doesn't count.
If the pattern could be confused with a Magic Eye poster, please don't wear it. Most patterns are ok but my rule of thumb is to leave tie-dye at music festivals, Hawaiian shirts on cruise ships, and animal prints on animals. This picture exemplifies a big "don't" for patterns, but notice the color coordination with my pants and her shirt, her pants and my shirt, and the flower in her hair with the flowers on my shirt. It takes conscious effort to make bad look this good.
Pick something you like, try not to fret over it, and have some fun. We'll take great pictures regardless of what you're wearing. I actually encourage you to be creative and different with your session. If you want to dress like hipsters and take pictures with cats, I'm more than happy to oblige.
Steve & Jenny
Lighting for some people is scary. There's all sorts of talk about color temperature and ratios and a million different light modifiers. The hardest part is just getting started. My approach has always been that of continuous experimentation. The idea is to start with one light setup and make small adjustments little by little until after an hour of playing you're doing something entirely different than when you started. This morning's fun started with me using a couple of umbrellas to test light falloff and feathering, and as usual, it was 10am and I was too busy playing with lights to care about things like showering before pictures.
Anyway, from that starting point, I slowly added one background light, then two, then dialed down the main lights, then colored the background lights, then eliminated the front lights all together, and ended up using bare speedlites filtered to create an ever changing mix of colors.
Lesson for the day - Incremental changes can yield drastic results. Go experiment with something!
Carrying a camera around can be both a blessing and a curse at times. I've found that if you have a big, important looking camera and lens and then you take on an attitude to match, you can talk your way into some areas that might normally be restricted. Conversely, sometimes if you're taking pictures in perfectly acceptable areas of perfectly acceptable things, people will try to hassle you. I'm a law abiding citizen and I'm not one to get belligerent to prove any points about photographers' rights, but a recent encounter did strengthen a few beliefs of mine. The situation - I had scouted areas to take a wedding party for pictures like I always do. One good spot was around a state owned building that is open to the public. There should be no issues in bringing a wedding party here - public property, legal gathering, legal activity. Surely enough, when I show up with the gang on wedding day and start positioning and posing, a security guard comes out to inform us that the director of the facility said we had to leave since this was state property and we hadn't cleared the "event" with.... some unnamed/untitled person there. Disappointed sighs flow from the group as they make their way toward the exit. I was about to walk out the gate when I did one of those head shakes, like "no, this isn't right."
I dropped my gear and told the group to hang tight for a second as I went inside the building to look for the director. The security guard took me right to him so I introduced myself and explained the situation. He tried to make the argument that it was state property, we didn't have prior clearance, and somebody could get hurt. Without sounding like a complete smartass I made a couple of simple points - (1) You said yourself it is public property, (2) All the other tourists walking around the property did have prior clearance? (3) You want us to leave the grounds and walk onto the sidewalk, which is also state property carries equal if not greater risk of injury (these New Orleans sidewalks...)
The people in this case tried to pull a "I don't want to deal with them so kick them out." Fortunately, I have a good general understanding of what I can and can't do and I'm pretty reasonable about arguing my case. I got to walk back outside with my head held high and tell my wedding clients that we could do as we planned. We got a couple of my favorite pictures of the day by staying and shooting there.
A few points to take home from this -
(1) You owe it to yourself and to your clients to study and know your rights. If I had walked out that gate, it would've ruined a good portion of my planned shoot, affecting the quality of product my client received. Why? Because some guy didn't want to deal with us. Sorry, not an acceptable reason to attempt to limit our rights. There are plenty of resources out there to educate people, and knowing your position is the first step to arguing for what's rights.
(2) Don't be afraid to challenge "authority." The authority figure in this case ran the joint, but power doesn't mean you're correct. If there's value in arguing a point, go after it. Even authority figures are human and can be wrong. The caveat, though, is that some things just aren't worth arguing. If I had spent 45 minutes battling my point, I would've just looked like an ass to my clients. I'm probably as stubborn as they come when arguing "principles," but even I recall the concept of the Pyhrric victory.
(3) Don't be a dick. Make it a point to smile when confronting people you disagree with. Extend a hand. Be courteous. Win them over with unrelenting reasonableness. I've seen plenty of encounters with police or similar figures that were unnecessarily escalated to dramatic proportions because one side knew they were right and was intent on proving it despite the cost. I'm no civil rights leader, nor do I want to be. I just want to get my way the easiest way possible.
I got to visit Longwood in Natchez, MS, a massive octagonal mansion on which the construction was halted with the outbreak of the Civil War. With only the lower level finished, the upper floors remain in the same state they were in over 150 years ago. Apparently the deal between the current and past owners required that it remain unfinished, giving visitors a rare glimpse into the past. The workmen's tools are still laying around. A few of the shipping crates, including a massive one for the house's piano, serve as the only furnishings on the first level. In it's unfinished state, you can stand in the center of the house and make yourself dizzy looking straight up through the next six stories worth or lumber and rafters. I can't think of a better setting for a ghost story; something where you can hear workers' saws and civil war gunfire after the sun goes down. I'd stay there overnight... I swear.
You're probably reading this because you either have questions about second shooting or have already talked to us about working for Shoot 2 Studios. Every photographer does things differently so the goal here is to answer the majority of the basic questions and give you the essential directions for second shooting with us. If you've got more questions, just ask! Second shooting = Assisting +
You'll be carrying light stands, raising and lowering light stands, being a voice activated human light stand, and so on. If I'm not shooting it means I'm either chatting briefly with a guest, in the bathroom, or doing something that you can help with. Being a wedding photographer means running your ass off for ten hours every Saturday and I take that to heart. I'm normally sweaty with at least one piece of torn clothing by the end of the night... so just run with me.
You're representing Shoot 2 Studios
This should go without saying, but be nice, smile, laugh, cry with them if you must, but keep working. I'll give you business and event cards to carry and hand out if asked.
This is not for your portfolio
In the past I've hired people in the "I'm just starting/learning" stage and let them use their images for their portfolio with few restrictions. Unfortunately, that doesn't give me the consistent, high quality images that I aim to deliver to my clients. That, and a few bad apples would do things like post their pictures on social media before mine, or give their images to other vendors instead of mine as if it's their wedding. So I don't do that anymore... At the start of the wedding day, I'll give you memory cards to use and you'll return them at the end of the shoot. You've already got a good portfolio, otherwise I wouldn't hire you.
If the clients have specified a time for us to eat, then great! We get a break. If it's a buffet, then grab a plate after all the guests have eaten and have a bite, but keep an eye on the action. If it's a sit down dinner and we haven't been given a meal, then I hope you brought snacks. We'll usually get something, but always bring something just in case. Also, I have a one drink rule. If offered, we can have one drink with the bride/groom/bridal party (some people get downright offended if you turn down a drink). After that it's polite jokes about how more alcohol will make you forget to take the lens cap off.
The general rule is dress pants, long sleeved button up dress shirt, and dress shoes for guys. Ladies can wear either pants or dresses so long as they can comfortably crouch and bend, and whatever shoes you can move around in all day without killing your feet. Both guys and girls should wear black or dark colors. If there's something else that would be more appropriate for a particular wedding (a suit, Converse, etc.) I'll let you know in advance.
If you've got questions during the day, just ask. There are times when we might be across the room from one another and can't communicate verbally so try to interpret my hand signals as best you can. They basically include pointing at something (i.e. photograph what I'm pointing at), and the finger across the throat sign (i.e. stop what you're doing because it's ruining my shot or something).
Before we get started on wedding day
We'll either meet before shooting begins the day of, or if you're showing up after the event has started we'll talk at some point before you arrive. We'll go over the schedule and specific plans for the day. There are also a few camera setting details to get straight. Doing this up front makes my life a lot easier when I process your images.
-Synch our camera times
-Shoot large RAW
-No Auto WB. I don't like getting pictures where every WB is different and none of them are right... it doesn't tend to work well with my post processing workflow.
-Format memory cards
-Check radio trigger channels (if we're using the same type of triggers).
After all that's done, we're ready to go to greet our clients.
What do I want you to shoot?
My focus is about 80% on the bride and groom, 20% on everything else. Your focus should be more like 50/50. This obviously isn't an exact science, but I want more crowd reaction shots, detail shots, friends and family pictures, table pictures, etc. from you while I'm working with the B&G. The overall rule is don't shoot the same thing from the same place at the same time. Other than that, be creative and have fun.
Where do I want you?
I'll give specific directions if/when I have them, but the general rules include - (1) stay out of my shots, and (2) don't stand right next to me and shoot the exact same thing.
I'm usually all over the place at weddings, so keep an eye on where I am and move if necessary. I.e. If I come stand right next to you and start shooting it means I want that spot and you should move. Sorry. Feel happy that you picked a good vantage point. :)
I aim to have my second's pictures styled consistently with mine so they blend in and are a seamless part of the final wedding day story. I use off camera and bounced flashes, so we'll set yours up to be consistent.
Questions and ideas
Definitely feel free to ask any questions you have come to mind during the wedding, but try to do so when we're not directly working with the clients. I also like to hear other's ideas about what they would have done differently, but not when I'm actively working on my idea.
After we're done
Hand over the cards, get paid, and that's it!
Questions? Things I should add? Let me know; this is a living document that I'll change from time to time. Hopefully you'll have had a great experience and gotten some fantastic pictures.
As always - Shoot 2 be awesome,
For those of you interested in getting albums but haven't been able to meet with me in person, I've uploaded a few pictures to show you a little bit about them. First, there are two basic cover types - Photographic and Leather. You should be able to figure out which is which in the pictures! The photographic cover albums are great because we can design custom covers using your images.
Bindings - These albums have a lay-flat design with a very small center seam, so they can sit fully open without damaging the book.
Page counts - Base albums have 20 pages for images, which equates to roughly 50-60 pictures. Additional pages can be added two at a time if you'd like to include more pictures.
Pages - The pictures are printed onto thick board mount pages so they don't bend (unless you force them) and won't tear (unless you really go after them). The albums pictured have been to multiple wedding shows, have had cake and champagne spilled on them, and had thousands of people flip through them and still look like new.
Spines - The photographic cover can have custom text added. The leather albums can only have text added to the front cover.
The leather albums can have custom text embossed onto the front cover.
Jenny, the designer half of Shoot 2, likes to exercise her creative muscles by taking figure sculpture classes in New Orleans at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts. I got asked to take some pictures of the class in action. Having witnessed a few years worth of these classes, I can appreciate Michelangelo's feelings on sculpture (recognizing he was working with stone). I think I'd cry if I spent three months working on a sculpture only to have parts of it explode in the kiln. Most of Jenny's have survived so now we've got at least five little naked figures hanging out in our house.
I recently photographed an event for an entrepreneurship organization, at which Mike DeLazzer, founder of Redbox, gave a talk. Being a small business owner myself, it's always fantastic to hear stories from people that were able to turn ideas into successful businesses. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Grab it and run with it when you see it.
Jazzfest in New Orleans is known for its great musical lineup every year, but even if you're not into music, it provides for some amazing people watching opportunities. Here are a few little lessons that are pretty applicable toward every day life. Enjoy.
Turn around once in a while. What you need might be right behind you.
Some days will be longer than others. Pace yourself accordingly.
You won't please everybody. Just keep dancing.
There's a lot of competition out there. Know where you're going and get going early for the best results.
No explanation needed.